Tetris Beats Nazis: Video Games & Worry

This week I have two stories about video games, one that causes worry and one that effects it.

The first, worrisome, one concerns white nationalism, video games and propaganda. For as long as we have had Nazis, Aryanism, or White Nationalism, we have had its propaganda. Art is one of the most powerful medium that propaganda gets disseminated: Paintings by Erler and Feuerbach; film by Leni Riefenstahl; and music curated by Axis Sally were all examples of how the art form was used to convey Nazism. It should surprise no one that 21st century art mediums such as video games have their own share of deplorables.

One example, which I won’t link to, from the early 21st century was “Ethnic Cleansing” which came out in 2002. Since then there have been games like “Muslim Massacre” and “Zog’s Nightmare.” The games primarily target, Jews, Blacks, and Latinos, and are often on or linked to Nazi sites. Meanwhile, young people may find themselves being solicited online, where low-to-no moderation servers and bulletin boards like Discord and 4Chan provide a safe place to foster white supremacy.

Today, NPR came out with a story worth your attention, on the rise of recruitment efforts by white hate groups in online gaming environments. Now please don’t blame Fortnite. Most video games, even the violent ones, do not blatantly pedal nazi propaganda. The few that do are pretty explicit about it. What we need to worry about is how disillusioned and disenfranchised young men are vulnerable to being recruited by domestic terror groups, and of course they will be doing recruitment where youth are, including video games. My recommendation? When hate crimes or white supremacy comes up in your family discussions please ask your kids if they ever here things online that sound like hate speech or stereotypes. Assure them that you are more interested in hearing about what they may be experiencing than pulling the plug on Call of Duty, and that this is just one thing that people need to keep an eye on in online communities.

If anything shows up in their chat, consider taking screenshots and sending it to Discord or the chat platform you are using to let them know about the hate speech or recruitment. Both things are violation of TOS, and if your child doesn’t send it and someone else does they be banned themselves. Above all, keep an eye on gameplay, the content and the chat happening while it is happening. You don’t have to be Big Brother all the time, but let family members know that occasionally the games and chat need to be without headphones so you get a sense of who their “friends” are, just like you would if the friends were visiting your home in body.

Now that I have you worried about something new, go play some Tetris. That’s right, a recent study published in Emotion, a psychology journal, found that Tetris helped distract people from worrying by helping them achieve flow experiences. I have discussed before how distraction gets a bad rap and is actually evolutionarily adaptive. Here is some more research to support that theory!

So, now that I’ve made you worry, go play a little Tetris. You can do that here. Then, tomorrow, go vote.

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