Car chase video games - are they impacting young drivers?
An important part of this blog - apart from letting you know what we at Frankston and the Mornington Police are doing - is to generate discussion about issues. I have something I want to raise with you, and it flows on from my first blog about inexperienced drivers. I am interested in your views on the matter.
On the weekend I visited a mate of mine who has a 15-year-old son. When I got to his house I could hear engines roaring and sirens wailing. The deafening noise was coming out of my mates 'home theatre' room.
I went into this high tech room and saw my mate’s son, Jacob, playing a video game. He was playing the game on a popular gaming system. This room has a huge 60” HD flat screen TV on the wall with an in-built surround sound system, which dishes out incredible sound.
The game Jacob was playing was a driving game, from what I could see. I won’t name the game, but it is very popular all over the world. The graphics on the screen were amazing and, combined with the surround sound and ‘subwoofer’, I realised that this game and the hardware around it was really a driving simulator in the home.
I asked Jacob what was happening.
“I’m in a high speed pursuit with the coppers,” he replied.
I sat beside him watching the game. Even from my position, I got a sense of speed and motion. I was in the passenger seat and Jacob was fleeing the police!
I felt my left foot pushing to the ground by habit, trying to brake as Jacob sped through the city streets. I looked at the display - Jacob was travelling at 200kph!
We rounded a sweeping bend and we were confronted by a wall of stationary and slow moving traffic. Jacob swerved left onto the footpath to try and get around the stationary traffic. He crashed into a building at about 180 kph.
Game Over! At least, that's what you might think.
I said, “Well mate that’s it - your dead.”
Jacob: “Nah, watch this”
A timer appeared on the screen, counting down from 30 seconds. Jacob pushed a button and the pursuit was back on – he was back in the game.
The realistic nature of this game got me thinking. We have a generation of young drivers who have grown up and are growing up playing games like this, on hi-tech systems, in the home. I did some research over the weekend. The game Jacob was playing was first released in 2001, so a 15-year-old male who played that game in 2001 is today about 26 years old. This game has also evolved in style, content and technology since then to become the realistic monster it is today.
Are these games having an effect on our younger drivers?
Are our young drivers - after spending, let’s say, conservatively three to four years using these home driving simulators before they get a license, crashing at high speed in the game, then pushing a reset button to go again - getting into their own cars and reliving that experience for real, with often fatal and tragic consequences?
Now, I’m not saying these young drivers are all necessarily reliving the “fleeing from the coppers at high speed scenario”. But, are they? When, perhaps, affected by alcohol, drugs, peer pressure or just youthful stupidity, planting the foot on the accelerator, speeding and hooning, just like in the games they can spend hours on, with all too often fatal and tragic consequences?
I don’t know the answer. What do you think? I would be interested to hear your views.
This topic of video games is not something I have personally heard spoken about much, if at all, in the media. That’s not to say it is not being looked at or studied, I don’t know.
Some further research I did revealed that in about 2009, some of these games had TAC advertisements placed in them, like messages about speeding on billboards that were part of the city landscape in the game. The game I saw Jacob playing did not appear to have such ads, although he was going that fast I may have missed it.
Like I said at the beginning of this post, a big part of this blog is to generate community discussion and hopefully from that discussion ideas can flow into the community.
All I know for sure is that in 1984 when I turned 18 and got my license, luckily I did not have to contend with these games. I am sure Pac Man, Space Invaders and pin ball machines had no influence on my driving, but like all of us I did have to contend with alcohol, peer pressure and a big dose of youthful stupidity.
Somehow I think life is a lot more complex today for the Jacobs of this world.