Jay Slosar, author of "The Culture of Excess," has written a guest blog about his book to share here.
The exploitation of their children by the balloon boy parents points out the changing reality of child development today. The parents wanted to be on a "reality" show. Reality is now defined within a technological and digital world of screen media, programmed for a new type of “success”. We become lost in this new reality and it takes over our judgment, decision making and behavior. And it starts early.
More than 80 percent of teens play online games. More than 50 percent download music and more than 75 percent get their news online. More than 40 percent have made purchases online. Multiplayer online games (MMORPGs), role-playing fantasy games in which players “connect” with others using fictional characters and adventures, are the rage. World of Warcraft (WoW), considered the most popular MMORPG, has 11 million subscribers worldwide. Countless other games are available with huge followings. The industry continues to grow, despite the economy, and in 2008 topped $21 billion dollars in sales.
James Cameron’s much awaited film, Avatar, is reported to cost about $300 million, and is described as so alluring you can’t tell what is real or what is animated. Experts have pointed out the addictive capacity of online computer games. But it is big business and that makes it a credible field of study. The University of California at Irvine has just announced a new major—an undergraduate degree in “game science”. This new major is offered despite dramatic cutbacks and tuition increases amidst California’s budget crisis. It is hard to understand how all this time spent in online virtual worlds and “gaming” cannot detract from our psychological development, a sense of who we are in relation to others and the world, and affect our external capacity for self-control.
These are issues I address in The Culture of Excess.