We have examined violence found in videogames on several occasions (e.g., “The Situation of First-Person Shooters“; “The Intersection between Tort Law and Social Psychology in Violent Videogames“). Bruce Lambert of the New York Times has an interesting story today on nine-year-old Victor M. De Leon III, better known by fellow videogame players as Lil’ Poison. Lil’ Poison is the world’s youngest known professional videogame player. He has earned thousands of dollars in tournaments across the globe, playing and excelling at games like the violent first-person shooter Halo 2. His success has drawn him much attention, as he has appeared on 60 Minutes, hired a publicist, and, in recent months, been the subject of a filmmaker’s documentary–all of which can be read about on his official website. Lambert’s story reflects on the possible pressures Lil’ Poison faces and examines the role of his father’s enthusiasm. We excerpt portions of the story below.
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Victor’s aptitude for video games surfaced at age 2, as he begin mimicking his father’s play. Mr. De Leon, 31, who markets and sells warehouse equipment, was an early adopter himself, having started at 8 with such quaint games as Pac-Man.
But Halo is a violent, shoot-’em-up game, the type that has stirred much debate about effects on youngsters since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School, where the killers were frequent players of the computer game Doom.
Many researchers caution that excessive gaming displaces exercise, socializing and creative play, and that video games like Halo can promote aggressive feelings and actions. “It’s not enough,” said Joanne Cantor, a professor emerita at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, for “a parent to just tell a child that the video violence is not real.”
Anna Akerman, a developmental psychologist at Adelphi University on Long Island who specializes in media and children, said that it was not that simple to disentangle cause and effect, and that some violent people might be drawn to gory games because they are already predisposed to violence.
To critics who suggest that he is ruining Victor’s childhood, Mr. De Leon shrugs like his son, and notes that when not training for a specific competition, his Xbox time averages about two hours a day. Away from the screen, he said, Victor is a typical third grader who likes to bike and swim and plays the violin.
“If they don’t live here, they don’t know what we do,” Mr. De Leon said at his home here. “I’m not overdoing it, and he’s not overdoing it.”
Although Mr. De Leon helps manage his son’s career and accompanies him to contests around the nation, he insisted he is not the digital version of the archetypal stage mother. Victor’s mother, Maribel De Leon, runs a day care center and shares custody with his father.
Before Victor enters a competition, his father said he always asks, “Do you want to do it?”
Mr. De Leon said he never pushed his son to play video games in the first place, but welcomed his interest.
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To read the rest of the story, click here.