Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Computer Gaming and Me.. and a 12 yr-old.

To actually be in “vacation mode”, I must resist the compulsion to hammer out a new article everyday. And so today I am re-posting an article that I enjoyed writing, some time ago, and I hope you will enjoy reading today.

When I first started writing Tech–for Everyone way back on the 8th of June (56 how-to articles ago)[update: today is #741], I wondered how long I could go before I talked about computer gaming. I think I did fairly well at delaying the inevitable. Two things triggered this post: a user with a pre-teen boy, and my mood. I’ll look at the latter first.

This week I got into a foul mood. I became short-tempered, irritated, antsy. I was definitely ‘out of sorts’. I was not a Happy Camper. Part of this was due to the fact that I had several back-to-back days of too-much-to-do/too-little-time (can anyone relate?). I felt a bit less than “in control”.
I managed to keep up with demands, and my time-spent was successful. I not only kept afloat, but I succeeded. However, this didn’t lighten my mood.
Finally, by staying up a little longer than I should, I was able to take a break and play a conquest map of Age of Empires III, The Warchiefs (naturally, I won). Amazingly, I was calm, refreshed, and happy. I was a Happy Camper again.
Why? I realized that it had been several days since I had played a game, and I had subconsciously “missed it”, like a smoker during a long flight, or a dieter walking past the bakery. And that once I got my “fix”, I was returned to a normal psychological state. This realization has caused me to wonder if I (me! myself!) wasn’t developing a gaming “addiction”. Wow.

There have been several news stories about computer gaming; ranging from the couple who suffered financial ruin by devoting their lives completely to the online game World of Warcraft (a couple of nut-jobs, if you ask me), to the medical ramifications (carpal-tunnel) of too much controller/mouse/keyboard use … especially in children.

There is a real belief in “gaming addiction”, and there’s a doctor who’s gone so far as publicly stating that as much as 40% of all WoW players are clinically addicted to it. (Read the article) Consider that there’s at least six and-a half million people subscribing, and you realize that that’s a LOT of people … and that’s just one game. It is my belief that these news stories will only increase in number; that as our society becomes more and more of a shut-in society, and more of our interactions take place online, topics along this line will only grow. Google “World of Warcraft+divorce” and you’ll see 747,000 results. WoW.
If your friends are telling you you’re an addict, please … don’t take it as a compliment. Take a serious look at yourself, before you lose everything.

That said, I do play computer games; and if you’re curious, I like the WW II FPS titles (Call of Duty, Medal of Honor), air combat simulators (Lock On, Il-2, Microsoft), and civilization games. And good-old Solitaire. I play a couple of games a day, to “unwind”. I think I’m alright… I haven’t, as yet, spent real money on ‘magic armor’.

The second topic I mentioned was the lady with the pre-teen son. She keeps having “weird pop ups”, and her machine is “always so slow.” I had installed a security suite, and the full gamut of protections onto her machine, and yet she keeps having these issues. She asked me, “why does this keep happening?”

I asked her several questions and looked over her logs and histories. She told me she has a 12 year-old son, and that as soon as he gets home from school he goes straight to the computer to “do homework” … that he spends quit a bit of time on the PC. Well! I was once a 12 year-old boy, and I remember well how much time in the afternoon — freshly released from scholarly confinement — I spent on homework. None. Zero. Nada. (At least, not willingly.)

Sure enough, a look at IE’s browsing history (read how to do this here) did not reveal any instances of National Geographic, The History Explorer, Encyclopedia Brittanica, or “math help” (or anything else even vaguely homework-related), but revealed endless explorations of Flash games, online games, and “cheat codes”.

I looked at his download history and found plenty of “demo games”, magic swords and shields, and other “bonuses” he’d earned playing his online games. Could one of those ‘magic swords’ (or demo-games) have contained spyware??? Does spyware slow down your machine? Cause pop ups? Well … (duh) YES!

Tip of the day: Here’s the thing most folks fail to fully grasp — when you let your child run under your User Account, he’s running with full administrator privileges and can install programs unrestricted and when you click on “download this file”, you’re bypassing your protection. (It has to be this way, or you’d never get anything done) You are telling your anti-malware apps, “it’s OK. I know what I’m doing.” A 12 year-old boy, caught up in the excitement at having just “triumphed” and earning himself a +2 Sword of Sharpness, probably doesn’t know what he’s doing, and he will click “download your prize now!”
98% of the time, it’s harmless fun. How can you tell which demo game or ‘magic shield’ is safe, and which one’s contain spyware? You can’t. Sorry. Like I said, 98% of them are safe.

If missed my series on protecting your kids from the Internet, you can learn how to remedy this — creating a Limited User Account, and cranking up IE’s security, etc. — by clicking here.

Today’s free link: Today’s free link is a light-weight (small and efficient) 3-D chess game. It will run easily on older machines. You can adjust the difficulty level from Beginner to Club, and improve your game. Pawn 2

Copyright 2007-9 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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July 15, 2009 - Posted by | advice, computers, Gaming, Internet | , , , , , , ,

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