December 1, 2004 -- Posted 4:00 p.m. CDT
Jonesboro, AR -- Video games have come a long way. Forget the days of Pong and Pacman, today consumers are buying into more realistic games, most of which are arousing considerable debate over violent content.
One of the latest video games on the market that's creating quite a controversial buzz is called JFK Reloaded. Its' a computer game from Britain that asks participants to re-enact the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. You get points depending on how well your shots match the original version of events. You lose points if you shoot Jackie Kennedy, the President's wife. Makers of the game say they created it in hopes it would encourage a younger generation to take interest in American history. The President's brother Senator Ted Kennedy, calls the game despicable.
"Children who play the video games and become the first person shooter are more likely to become aggressive with their behavior, with their thoughts and their emotions," said Alexis Smith with St. Bernards Behavioral Health in Jonesboro.
In addition, Smith says children tend to become addicted to these games, which have long-term effects on their development.
"Children in the junior high age range, if they play a lot of video games, then later on in college and high school range, their grades can be lower than students who did not play a lot of video games," said Smith.
If you want an idea of how far video games have come, just take a look at the game Blood Reign. A violent villain takes matters into her hands, killing people throughout the game. This character looks so real, she's even made it in Playboy, as the first computer generated model to grace the pages of this magazine.
"Parents just become aware of what kind of video games your children are playing," said Smith.
Some game designers say people have it all wrong. They say only 12% of the games on the market are rated unsuitable for children, and the average user today is 29 years old.
Take for example, 27 year old Thomas Duckworth of Jonesboro, who's been playing video games since the 80's; a passion that started when he got his first Atari.
'Then when the Nintendo came out, that was it for me, I went through a Nintendo phase," said Duckworth.
This video game fanatic is now the proud owner of 15 systems. He's got 2 Segas, 2 Ataris, 2 Super Nintendos, X-Box, Play Station 2, and systems some people haven't even heard of.
"The main reason I got into it is because whenever you go out, you go to the flea market and you find games for a dollar, and you don't have the system and you can't play the games, so you have to get the system to play the games," said Duckworth. "I play the violent games and I play the kid games, I like them all."
Despite the violent games Duckworth signs onto, he says he's got the sense to distinguish right from wrong, and the right maturity level to go with that.
"You just got to know what you're getting into," said Duckworth. "I don't think it has an effect on my behavior."
Duckworth says video game users must be self-aware.
"I don't go on a killing rampage, I think it's a person to person level," said Duckworth.
Now keep in mind Duckworth is the proud parent of 2 children, .4 year-old Rebekah and 1 year- old Zander. He's already spreading his passion onto the next generation of video game users.