Should Violent Games like DOOM be on the OLPC Wiki?

   
   
   
   
   

While I love me some DOOM on the XO, it is a violent game and might not be right for One Laptop Per Child's target audience: children.

Bryan Berry doesn't think DOOM should even be on the OLPC Wiki


Free DOOM on my XO laptop
I feel very strongly that violent games should not be associated with OLPC. Albert Cahalan points out that games like Doom can teach geometry and other skills. There are ways to teach those skills w/out involving violence.

I work in Nepal, a country recovering from an 11-year civil war. Exposure to more violence, real or virtual, is the last thing most Nepali communities want…

We can debate forever whether violent games cause violence. The fact is many those people (esp. outside the US) whose support we need for OLPC, think that violent games are damaging to kids. We need to respect that sentiment.

He brings up a valid point, but his actions in response to his opinion, removing DOOM from the Wiki, brought about a lively discussion. Let's have Noah Kantrowitz explain the basic rebuttal:
I understand your point, however this is the case, the government in Nepal should simply decide not to include the offending material on their software image.

OLPC is not in the business of censorship or content classification, and you have no right to try and remove thing from the wiki just because you dislike them. If you are worried children will find distasteful things on the internet, perhaps you shouldn't give them a laptop.

A little less radical is the compromise struck to keep a wiki edit war from happening: Jameson "Chema" Quinn made a subpage called Activities/unendorsed to host DOOM outside of the OLPC Activities page.

Do you think its enough?

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41 Comments

In my opinion a real vital part of learning in a technology-enabled manner is learning what is and is not appropriate for a particular setting. Just like many traditional learners learned to not draw in their textbooks and to not remove pages, OLPC enabled learners will learn to stick to appropriate content.

Doom presents fantasy violence which may or may not be appropriate for every student at any particular time. If OLPC were to make a yahtzee activity or a blackjack activity might these be received as inappropriate due to the gabling aspects of cards and dice?

To make the XO a "boy in a bubble" system will cheapen the educational experience of the user. If we take this too far we will be calling for the removal of the RSS reader because someone might not agree with a particular feed - let's not go down the road of what one might see on in the browser activity.

If the project is about education, the education process needs to include proper tool use. Learning what is and isn't appropriate in a particular setting is one of the most valuable technology-enabled lessons available.

Pulling Doom from the OLPC wiki does not constitute censorship, or removing the child's ability to learn what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. After all, Doom will live on other websites. But removing it will accomplish two things: it will remove the perceived endorsement of violent software by the OLPC foundation and the community at large. This may be important from the perspective of parents, administrators, and even kids. It also allows schools to block access to Doom without blocking access to OLPC foundation websites. For those of you who find this distasteful, I would like to remind you that you are not responsible for the upbringing of these children.

As for the link between violence and games, yeah there are contradictory studies. Yeah, some kids will see and reject violent games outright (I rejected Doom as a teen in the early 1990s, so did the friend that I downloaded it for). There are also studies that point out that violence in the media may not induce violence, but it certainly affects our attitudes towards violence. It is a messy issue, and we certainly should respect a parent's right to determine their child's up bringing when that complexity and ambiguity exists.

Doom-I can't tell you how the mention of the name of that software makes my skin crawl. I am sure none of you are interested in the playground incidents, the stories of how the kids discuss how cool it is to see blood shoot out.. and the rest. That being said-the fact of the matter is..I have no control overwhat is put on their home or neighbors computer. Once the laptops are in the hands of people, any people they will be used for a variety of purposes. In the case of the XO with Open Source software most children will be using and exploring the pre-loaded software.

Since the laptops are not shipped with Doom on them- no one is encouraging anyone to play DOOM on a XO. The fact that someone has figured out how to get Doom on an XO was bound to happen. Taking the reference to it off the wiki will not make the facct that it is possible to put the program on the XO go away.

So let's just hope that lots of other software is made to work on it as well. I can tell when my XO comes (Yep I am still waiting right here in the USA), I will NOT be tweaking it for Doom. I just don't like the darn program. Just my humble opinion

Perhaps a land mine disarming activity might be more useful.

On one hand I can understand the sensitivity of the Nepalese. They have seen some horrible, Doom enacting violence in the very recent past.

But on the other hand, it is not in playing cops and robbers in any form that children become violent. Given the number of children involved and the amount of time they spend in front of a screen, the simple fact that it is so difficult to find any effect is telling. If these games were really that dangerous, why are we still alive? So, any effect must be small and selective.

I thinkt the introduction of a "Unendorsed" area is a very good compromise.

Given the many cultures the XO will be send to, there will be many requests of features from one destination that are abhorent to others. For instance, any art history course used in the West will be censored in large parts of the world. And these regions will doubtless find things they want that we don't want our children to see.

Winter

> Pulling Doom from the OLPC wiki does not constitute censorship, or removing the child's ability to learn what is appropriate and what is inappropriate.

This is definitely censorship. And censorship on wikis is an essential part. Otherwise it becomes a spam billboard.

But removing all the information from the OLPC wiki, that a game named DOOM even exists, is the wrong way to go. Just design a warning banner "This program is neither educationally nor technically necessary and contains guns - you are advised not to use it if you are sensitive to these issues"

That does everything we need, without drowning the wiki in a completely unhelpful sea of political correctness censorship.

When I was a kid learning about computers on old Apples at school normal computing tasks took a back seat to playing games like Oregon Trail, Odell Lake, Spectre and Bolo. While these games weren't violent (most were vaguely educational) they did really stimulate my interest in computers. I agree with the concept of having games on the Wiki, but I also agree that DOOM may not be appropriate for a very young student.

I don't see any issue with DOOM being removed from the Wiki so long as it's available elsewhere. I'm sure older, more computer savvy students will find their own way to find the game anyway (a good internet learning experience perhaps?). I know that my friends and I were always finding new games and trading them amongst ourselves.

Ahh, enforcing Christian morals to the thirdworld once again. How wonderful.

Stop with the Christian morals, nonsense. Use common sense. Is this the reason xo was created? Is this conducive to the message and the mission of olpc? I did not donate money so that kids in a third world country could play a violent game. Remove it from olpc wiki.

"Ahh, enforcing Christian morals to the thirdworld once again. How wonderful."

Search for the recent history of the royal family in Nepal. You will see why Doom will NOT be recieved well there.

And I know few civilized societies that welcome bloody violent play in children. The USA seems to be an exception.

Winter

The XO is a computer, it's not a game console or a iPod on which people are only allowed to play or buy music. To me, the best game is to install, use and customize any software, including violent video games (to a certain extent) because they can be used for something else, like art and animatrix. But not everybody are like me; they want to use their software as is.

Doom is about dumb politics. Doom teaches to shoot first. In Doom, being killed is not a problem because a single individual with many lives is like an army. Doom and other violent video games are inappropriate games for all kids and most adults.

A soldier simulator that can run on little green computers is not funny. I'd rather use some other software to learn and teach about geometry.

IMHO, violence is not bad "per se".

Violence is something we all have for protection against aggression. If I had wife and children and someone wants to rob,or violate them I will be very violent, and I thing this is good. If I use this violence for aggression against others then is bad.

To close your eyes, cover your ears from reality is not a solution. The most aggressive man I know was educated that way, without sex and violence education. He discovered it as a teenager, and liked the power it gave him so much.

To be overprotective could be counterproductive.

@ Jose Hevia : what you're saying is that a violent education can reduce our capacity to protect ourselves against real agression. I agree. Violent video games (and other conservative educational tools) can have this pervert effect. Sadly, preemptive agression is an important industry.

@ Jose Hevia :
"If I had wife and children and someone wants to rob,or violate them I will be very violent, and I thing this is good."

You will, of course, like all of us. In such situations morals will restrict only few humans.

What helps in such situations in not violence per se, but a good training in conflict management. That is, being able to defend yourself with martial techniques, armed or not, is less than half of the story. Being able to prepare evasive action, defuse conflicts, and simply flee are more effective in almost all situations. And in an armed conflict, civilians only rarely have a real chance, armed or not.

@ Marc
"Violent video games (and other conservative educational tools) can have this pervert effect. Sadly, preemptive agression is an important industry."

Indeed, in all societies, it is the weak children and old that are least likely to be a victim of violence. It is the strong young men that are the most numerous victims. The more violent they are, the earlier they tend to die.


Winter

DOOM is an awful choice for children. 3D games can however be fascinating and interesting for kids. Pangeasoft had some great games for the Mac where the tasks were to locate and open acorns, find a way around a lake faster than swimming, bring a map to the chipmunk, etc. In one game there were bad bugs coming after you, but the game had a "kiddie mode" where the bad bugs would just wave & flap. My son loved running past them when they were harmless and I was always amazed at how quickly he visualized each world in his head (better than I did anyway).

DOOM wasn't ported to the XO for the benefit of the target audience (children). It was done by techies, for techies, because of the ever-present "But can you play DOOM on it?" query that attends the announcement of new hardware.

I can see why the suggestion was made to segregate DOOM and any other such software from the activities that are unquestionably suitable for young children to use.

That goes double for some of the places where the XO will be deployed, which have recent histories of *real* violence and atrocities being committed. Some of these children, and/or their parents, have very possibly witnessed enough bloodshed in real life to last for several lifetimes. :( If they don't feel the need or the desire to see more of the same on their computer, I wouldn't blame them.

Setting up a subpage of "unendorsed" activities, and hosting DOOM (and any other violent games) on a site that doesn't belong to OLPC, is a viable compromise. It keeps the activity relatively easy to track down for the G1G1 techies, but also distinguishes it from the child-friendly software that serves the purpose that the XO was originally designed for.

With all the worries about resource depletion at least we don't have to worry about any shortage of moral posturing.

When kids with an XO, or any computer, get access to the Internet they'll download what suits their fancy and there's not a damned thing anyone at the OLPC wiki or on this board can do about. Further, emoting all over the countryside about an issue over which control is inherently problematical, perhaps impossible, indicates less a desire to solve a problem then to proclaim a position.

To the extent that anything is do-able about kids downloading dangerous software a major part of the solution lies in making certain that the people most likely to care - parents - are sufficiently familiar with the dangers that they can take such precautions as they deem appropriate.

"To the extent that anything is do-able about kids downloading dangerous software a major part of the solution lies in making certain that the people most likely to care - parents - are sufficiently familiar with the dangers that they can take such precautions as they deem appropriate."

That is a truism. However, making sure that the parents, any parent, can immediately see that a program is suitable for small children is part of that.

Unendorsed is a very neutral term.

It can contain anything that is not of interest to small children (theoretical physics or number theory). Not only obscene or violent material, both of which terms are too fluent to be of practical use.

Remember that Saudi Arabia has censored a scene where Mickey Mouse kissed Minni Mouse. Racial and gender discrimination is one other area where cultures differ greatly in what they accept and what not.

Winter

Kids are generally a lot smaller than all you old people on the computer. I'm not convinced that anyone born after 1995 will be impressed or desire an 8bit alien shoot-em-up. This is the non-event, non-controversy of the century. Reminds me of watching political debates between christian conservatives and Northeastern Liberals.

Thanks for wasting my time.

Look, this isn't about keeping kids from surfing the net with their XO and finding all the porn sites.

The fact of the matter is that DOOM is *ENCOURAGED* to the child, it's "in your face", because the built-in browser has a "Find Activities" menu option that goes right out to the wiki, and Doom-1.xo is available as a bundle right where the rest of the educational Activities are provided by OLPC.

You can cry "western christian censorship" all you want, but I don't see any bundles for Poker, or Blackjack, or ebooks for the Kama Sutra or any of that out in the "Browse Activity" section.

Sure you can find all those things in public Library, including Playboy, but they aren't on the showcase when you walk in the door. So a little sensitivity to *APPROPRIATENESS* would be appreciated from those that claim to be mature adults. Most parents, regardless of culture, would prefer that their six-year-old not be encouraged to install an activity that has graphic blood spurting out of heads of even "fantasy monsters" when killed by the friendly shotgun.

Sheesh.

Just to add my two cents...

When I was in 7th grade, my family got an 8086 computer. It had 2 5.25" floppies, a 16 color screen. I played some text only game about some post-apocalyptic Earth were only robots survived. From there is was a slippery slope into learning Basic, 2400 baud modems, BBS's, faster computers, more games, Word processors, spreadsheets, more programming, mroe games (including Doom), etc.

Now I am 31 years old. A college educated software developer. I love what I do. I love my XO. I don't play games any more (I just lost interest). I've never killed anyone or even got into a fist fight. I feel I am very successful.

Would I be where I am today if not for violent video games? I can say with 100% confidence I would not be where I am today if it hadn't been for ">shoot robot".

7th grade is a lot different than 1st grade.

I'd wager that most children by 7th grade 1) Don't believe in Santa Claus, Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy, and 2) Still have most of their baby teeth and 3) Would prefer to sleep with a night-light -- at least in western, privileged culture.

Must we always be so quick to break the bubble of childhood innocence?

Sure, Grand-Theft-Auto and even network TV are a LOT worse than DOOM. But must we encourage this just because we've been desensitized to blowing monsters away in graphic detail with those great "groans of agony" sound-effects?

> But must we encourage this just because we've been desensitized to blowing monsters away in graphic detail with those great "groans of agony" sound-effects?

I don't think mentioning its existence is "encouraging".

So the obvious question is: Must we discourage this?

Heng,

I guess that's the crux of it. Some would view having it under the games section of the Browse Activity complete with a .xo bundle is more than just mentioning its existence, it is providing it, ready to run, some might say, "encouraging" its use. Since the OLPC target is ages 6-12, some might view the graphic violence as inappropriate for the low end of the target audience.

Of course, I just may be a person who "shielded" my 6 year old more than others, heck I had a problem with Disney trying to market directly to my child. But I suppose it's trendy to shield those young people from the machine of wanton consumerism, but not from graphic fantasy shoot-em-up games.

I dunno, I just think having it on the wiki page where the Browse Activity sends you when you want to find more OLPC software, is promoting it as an entertaining activity. And it is an entertaining, educational activity.

But not for a 6 year old.

That's my two cents, thanks for considering it...

I posted in the Support discussion:
http://olpc.osuosl.org/forum/viewtopic.php?p=11714#11714

couldn't figure out which place was the right one for the discussion. :D

Interesting post, KayTi.

But there are some issues:
- The activities page does not list OLPC endorsed programs. Moving one out to a special not-endorsed section might give this impression.
- Where to draw the line? If you divide the activities into endorsed and not endorsed, you have to make this decision for every activity. What is the criterion here? As soon as somebody says, that should go into "not endorsed", will it be moved there? Probably not.
- Doom is not violent. Doom is a game engine, that is normally used with violent content. (Actually, there was a version distributed with some cereal, that was completely pre-school safe. Edit: I just looked it up: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chex_Quest ) So will ebook readers and media players be next, because they could be used with violent content?
- Bryan Berry seems to want to remove any mention of Doom from the wiki. So the discussion wouldn't stop with just moving it to a different page.

So, I guess, what I want to say is: It's not that easy.

Gaa! long post lost in the ether because I didn't remember to do the human validation test. Annoying! :S

It'll keep me more brief, I suppose. First, I want to make sure I'm clear that I didn't call Doom violent, though I thought the available install was for a version of the classic first person shooter, no? Umm, that *is* violent, right? Not that the engine is always used to create violent activities, but I just want to be clear what is currently available on the activities wiki.

The question you ask about what criteria would be used to categorize content is a good one. This is generally the first step in any kind of content engineering work - something the laptop.org wiki is in need of due to its size and the speed with which it has grown. It has become somewhat unwieldly, it's hard to find what you need and there are redundancies and contradictions throughout. There's a project going to start soon to revisit the overall structure of the wiki, which should address some of this. The very first thing that should be done is to figure out how to decide what content stays and goes, what content is at the highest/first entry-point level, etc. To do that, criteria are established and documented.

I wonder if there is a simple answer to this. I see the doom engine (and any instantiations of the doom game using the engine to create first person shooter or shooter-like activities) in a different category than activities focused on literacy, phonemic awareness, numerical literacy, and simple logic puzzles. Perhaps the solution is to create a set of categories that help organize the activities page into relevant ages (this is probably just one index by which people might wish to search the activities list...truthfully a database is the more likely structure - maybe there's a way to make a wiki act like one, I'm not a wiki expert - but a db with multiple indices such as learning objectives, target age, subject matter, work alone vs. collaborate, etc. Just off the top of my head.)

I can imagine categories such as: All Ages, Under 6 (pre-reading), Under 9, Under 12, 12 & Up. Would there still be objections if that type of categorization schema were used? Would it be a problem if the categories up to and including Under 12 were on one page (since that is the audience for the OLPC project) and those for 12 & up were located one click further?

I think we need some inputs from original authors of DOOM regarding this topic. This entire topic is partially a First Amendment issue, and should not commence without the authors.

@NickyD: Remember that the First Amendment has to do what the US GOVERNMENT is and is not allowed to do. [[Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.]]

Shifting a link to software to a new wiki page, because of questions or concerns regarding said software's content, does not involve the US Congress making a law regarding a religion, prohibiting free speech, preventing peacable assembly, or forbidding the petitioning of the Government to right a wrong.

Having said that: please be sensitive to the fact that some of the countries where the XO will be distributed have gone through real-life tragedy and bloodshed. Google the words "rwanda genocide" and you'll see a long list of links describing the massacre of over 800,000 people. If Rwandan parents, especially those who survived the brutality, do not want their kids playing first-person-shooter games, who are we to question them?

I have no problem with making a distinction between child-oriented XO activities and mature-content XO software that was designed with adults in mind. If that means setting up separate download pages for the software that was indended for different age groups, so be it. That's probably a preferable solution, compared to lumping all the software together or completely eliminating links to mature-content activities.

Donna,

>Remember that the First Amendment has to do what the US GOVERNMENT is and
> is not allowed to do.

Yes, you are very correct and comes to the very heart of this old question: If the First Amendment cleary states what US GOVERNMENT aren't allow to do, then would that automatically imply that WE CAN ?

Call me naive, but for me, removing DOOM from Activities page without any form of acknowledgement from its authors, sounds no different from Nazi's book burning stuff. I'm just surpised that Mr.Berry and others didn't even take time to think "Let's ask the authors of XO DOOM to kindly move its link to another designated page."

NickyD,

Godwin's law. You lose.

Actually, putting stuff not unsuitable for children on a different page is not equivalent to burning books by people who also burned the writers.

Winter

>Actually, putting stuff not unsuitable for children on a different page is not >equivalent to burning books by people who also burned the writers.

Then am I to understand that the authors of XO DOOM have already concurred ?

"Then am I to understand that the authors of XO DOOM have already concurred ?"

Sorry, my English seems to be insufficient. I must to have missed some of the discussion as I have no idea what you want to say.

As I have relatives who experienced first hand what WWII occupation meant (and explained it extensively), I might appear over sensitive when OLPC Wiki moderators are compared to mass murdering war criminals.

Winter

It has been shown through numerous psychological tests conducted on players of computer games that so called 'violence' in computer games has a big affect on their aggression.

http://www.apa.org/releases/videogames.html

Children that play violent games have a much lower response to real world violence.

http://www.spine-health.com/news/depression/art534230.html

So far, comments from people here have very little in the way of facts and more on their own belief system.

I personally believe that the child will only play violent games if their upbringing has been in a violent situation, essentially its what they are used to.

If you have doubts about violent game psychology it might be worth googling some information so you are equipped with some facts.

Robert, I only read the first half of the first article you posted. But it really is so obviously based on flawed and biased "logic", that I didn't bother to read on.

And I don't even want to start debating these articles.

People should inform themselves about these issues and make their own decisions. In the case of underage children, probably aided by their parents. But I don't think it is the mission or the right of a wiki to make this decision for the world.

And I think, that's what we are talking about.

@NickyD: [[Donna,

>Remember that the First Amendment has to do what the US GOVERNMENT is and
> is not allowed to do.

Yes, you are very correct and comes to the very heart of this old question: If the First Amendment cleary states what US GOVERNMENT aren't allow to do, then would that automatically imply that WE CAN ? ]]

What a private organization or private person chooses to allow or forbid can be very different from what actions the US Government is permitted to take by the First Amendment.

The US Government may not pass laws restricting the freedom of speech. An individual, however, is perfectly free to tell a guest, "Get out of my house!", if said guest insists on speaking in ways that are offensive to his/her host. Anything that's privately owned, including internet sites, may move or remove content according to their own wishes. They have that right, because it's THEIR website, the same way that a homeowner has the right to ask an obnoxious visitor to leave.

The First Amendment would only apply here if the US Government were trying to dictate the content of the OLPC wiki pages. They can't do that. The owners and operators of the wiki pages, on the other hand, have every right to monitor and moderate content as they see fit.

OK folks, I've played it. It's not a kids game. It's a standard first person shooter - nicely done and works fine on the little XO. Does not belong on a page with kids games.

Also, whoever did the port needs to go through and remove the "Ralph has Haxoed this page" - I don't know what that is but it looks like someone is having some fun. It appears when you try to read the "read this!" file and during the initialization routine.

Donna,

>They have that right, because it's THEIR website, the same way that a homeowner
>has the right to ask an obnoxious visitor to leave.

When you have an obnoxious guest in your house, then the host would probably first try to discuss with him/her about it wouldn't they ? Or would you just choose to kick him out of the door without any warning, like they did in this particular incident ?

[[

Donna,

>They have that right, because it's THEIR website, the same way that a homeowner
>has the right to ask an obnoxious visitor to leave.

When you have an obnoxious guest in your house, then the host would probably first try to discuss with him/her about it wouldn't they ? Or would you just choose to kick him out of the door without any warning, like they did in this particular incident ?]]

That depends on what exactly the offensive guest has said or done, and the host's own demeanor. The fact remains that the host has the right to evict a guest for inappropriate behavior, with or without a prior warning to the guest that such behavior is unwelcome.

Website owners have the same right to add, move, or remove content from their pages, according to their own discretion regarding whether the material is appropriate content for their page. If the owner of a website decides to request that particular content be hosted elsewhere, and provide a link to it on its new location, rather than host the content on their own site, that's their prerogative and there is no wrong being done.

The install on the Activities page right now has a hoax hack in it. It has caused some users errors. I'm uncomfortable with having a downloaded piece of software that has this hoax bit in it (a graphic comes up with an image of a guy and a cat and something like "This page has been Hoaxed" or something...I have no idea the extent of the hack, and whether it might contain other malicious software.) So - if someone has an idea for how to contact those who did the port or .xo pacakaging for this app, I'd appreciate a pointer. This issue should be addressed and changes the subject a little. What should be done with hacked software, and how can that be prevented?

Back in the 80s, unregulated horror movies were seen as such a threat that people were sent to prison for copying or distributing them. According to the tabloid press, the country was awash with filth that would twist our children's minds and turn them into killers and cannibals. When hauled before the courts, titles as harmless as The Evil Dead fell foul of the Obscene Publications Act, and, judged as likely to "deprave and corrupt". If you play a showreel of gory moments from Driller Killer and Zombie FleshEaters to middle-aged juries, they will of course be shocked. Yet a horror fan would tell you that the Evil Dead is actually a comedy (with blood and guts standing in for custard pies) and Driller Killer an art movie about creeping social anxiety. Says the research paper team online

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