I know it is considered by some “politically incorrect” to talk about technology which teaches “the wrong values,” but I am not going to apologize for my normative stance on this issue.
According to a San Diego NBC affiliate, racist games like “Border Patrol” (available online for free) are outraging people across the world, especially those concerned about human rights. Educators and parents should be concerned. According to the article:
The game is called “Border Patrol,” and it challenges players to kill as many illegal immigrants as they can. The computer game puts the player in charge of guarding the border with a loaded gun. The goal to kill as many people as possible, including pregnant women and children. Pedro Risol and other immigration rights activists are outraged.
“It’s sole purpose is just to offer violence to the immigration question,” Risol said. “It truly is disturbing.” The site plays up the racial overtones of the immigration debate. Those killed during the game are called “wetbacks.” The game is part of a Web site called “The Insurgent.” Information on the Web site says that it is based in Temecula, Calif., just north of the San Diego-Riverside county line. The site claims that Tom Metzger, the head of White Aryan Resistance, is responsible for the content.
Video games ARE a form of reality. We are defined by our perceptions, which shape our behavior and our habits: both habits of mind and habits of action. As human beings, we should not want people of ANY age to become desensitized to the killing of people of any ethnic background or socio-economic class. In these self-proclaimed “racist games” focusing on killing pregnant Mexican immigrants, Arab Muslims, or African Americans, the activity and goal is the same: provide an opportunity for users to virtually kill others based on their race, creed, or socio-economic status. This way of thinking and websites which encourage this way of thinking are totally unacceptable.
Of course US school district web filters will, if they do not already, soon block these sites. But that is really not the larger issue. We need to be engaged in ongoing discussions with our students about issues like human rights. Recent debates over immigration policy in the United States provide outstanding “teachable moments” to address the wide variety of issues raised through protests and other forms of civil discourse.
We should be outraged that these games are online, and that people are playing them. Just like pornography, however, unfortunately unscrupulous people are going to put stuff like this “out there” on the Internet. Our abilities to stop inappropriate behavior on a largely unmanaged global network are inherently limited. That is why we need to focus on EDUCATING USERS, educating students: not just saying “don’t go there and play those games” but also talking about WHY no one should be playing those games. This is not a justification to ban the Internet and keep all students off it. It should be viewed as a clarion call to conversations inside and outside the schoolhouse about digital ethics, digital citizenship, global citizenship, and universal human rights.
Games can have a powerful influence on people’s perceptions. These types of games represent the exact OPPOSITE influence we should want students exposed to in the world of ideas. The solution is not just banning the sites. The solution lies in conversations that must be ongoing about what is appropriate and inappropriate to do online and in real life, and the reason why these choices need to be made. This is at the heart of digital ethics, which should be part of a digital citizenship curriculum taught in every school worldwide.
We need to champion games like Peace Maker (a video game teaching about the Middle East conflict and its peaceful resolution, from the Carnegie Mellon Entertainment Technology Center) rather than these racist games. Video games are not inherently evil, but like any other technology tool they can be used well or poorly, to serve noble or evil ends. We need to choose the former options, and encourage our students, our children, our families and our neighbors to do the same.
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