American cinema has kept the culture of cars and racing alive by making many films about the subject. One such addition to the long line of car racing films is The Fast and the Furious franchise that was responsible for reigniting public interest in street racing across America. At the time of the film’s release back in 2001, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported street racing to be a factor in 135 fatal crashes in 2001 (nearly double from the numbers of 2000). The spread of risk taking behavior among teenage drivers caught the attention of researchers who started investigating the effects of media, especially video games, on teenagers. Studies on the effects of films like the one mentioned above and car racing games for kids were widely undertaken by researchers.
The dark side of gaming
Thorough interviews with young male drivers involved in illegal street car races reveal that ‘racing’ video games play an important role in shaping their socialization techniques in connection with street racing behavior.
The graphics used in new gaming systems, like the Play Station and X-Box series, have been greatly enhanced. For instance, videos games such as Grand Theft Auto and Need for Speed include car chases, street races, running over pedestrians, and escaping from police, all in the most realistic maneuvers possible. The addictive experience that such games provide has taken the idea of car racing for teenagers to a different level.
The commercial influence of media cannot be ignored when studying the impact of content shared through the media on audiences around the world. The negative effects of violent films and video games on teenagers have been well documented but no research can truly be considered as the final word on this issue. For instance, the short hair of Audrey Hepburn in the romantic comedy Roman Holiday influenced women as far as Asia to copy that particular hairstyle. Some pretty looking mean racing machines can have the same effect on young racers if the visuals can get their adrenaline pumping.
The bright side of gaming
The greatest advantage of films is that they provide people with the opportunity to shy away from the realities of everyday life by opting for two to three hours of escapism. Video games are almost the same as films, with a few added advantages.
People who play action-based video games show marked improvement in their visual abilities, which means increased awareness of their surroundings, as well as possible improvements in certain forms of visual impairment and even enhanced military training (Green & Bavelier, 2003).
Moreover, video games have been found to keep old people mentally active, prepare people for dangerous situations, and ‘might’ even be beneficial in preparing future leaders and thinkers. Really, who knows? Research in this regard is ongoing and it is still early to take sides as far as this issue is concerned.
For now, parents can regulate the gaming hours of children and involve them in the process of selecting an appropriate movie for the weekend. Keeping yourself updated about the latest movie and video game trends will make things easier for you. Parents can no longer restrict their teen children from using technology but they can certainly help them adjust sensibly to the fast changing times around them.