One of the major uses of computer is for the playing of computer or video games, which occupies a considerable proportion of young people’s time.
In the Young People New Media (YPNM) survey conducted in 1999 in United Kingdom, it was found that one-third of young people use a computer for purposes other than studies during their leisure time (Livingstone, 2002, p. 62). With personal computers, teenagers that frequent games arcades are now able to play the games in front of their computer screens in their own bedrooms.Also, with the introduction of RealAudio and other streaming audio softwares, videos and music are now easily accessible on one’s computer. To some youths, they engage in computers, seeing that it is a convenient way to kill time as well as having a certain degree of freedom from adult supervision. The computer medium offers youths the chance of creating identities for one’s self. They can take on multiple identities, switch genders, appearances and other aspects of the public self as a means to invent new personas.This can be seen in the virtual reality technology and computer games such as Nintendo, GameBoy, PlayStation and Sega that provide arenas for communication and interaction.
It was said that learning how to play a computer game is a “process of learning a distinct semiotic structure” (Steven, 1995, p. 74). When one is playing the game, he or she takes on the role of an explorer and explores the game with his or her control. The game thus offers youths the image of personal autonomy, a space to explore and role play.Another illustration of virtual reality is Multi-User Domain (MUD) seen in the computer environments. In the early 1970s, a role playing game called Dungeons and Dragons was popular among the youths.
It is where people are able to create characters and role play complex adventures. MUDs are social virtual realities where players logged on from all over the world at their individual computer, joining communities that only exist in the computer (Turkle, 1996, p. 156).They act as tools for the expression of players’ imagination where players could communicate with one another, fight against each other or create new objects that others could interact with in the game.
Beyond character creation and role playing, players have the opportunity to build their virtual world where they can find comfort with no constrains. Using simple programming languages, they can make ‘rooms’ in the game where they are able to position the stage and define rules.An example shown was in an 11 years old player who built a room that she called “the condo” which is beautifully furnished and friends are invited to the house for parties and chats (Turkle, 1996, p. 157). This may not be possible at all in real life.
With this, it can be seen that MUDs offer youths the possibility of becoming masters of self-presentation and creation in which they can take on new roles and experiences that are hard to come by in the real world.Not only so, analysing electronic games can also allow youths to develop fruitful insights about the meaning of interactivity. The most significant and extensive use of the computer is that of the Internet. By the mid 1990s, the Internet, said to be the “new era of the contemporary society” (Holmes, 1997, p. 33) emerged as the global computer network. In Australia, data shows that 57% of households with children have an Internet connection and people aged 18-24 years old are the largest group of Internet users (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2000, p.3).
Young people are characterised as Internet users, using it to build identities. The Internet is a primary source of how youths perceive the world. Take for example; most of them have minimal idea of how a place looks like or what the culture is for a certain country. Such information is most likely to be gained through the Internet where information and pictures are available for one’s access.
On top of that, young people can now stay at home and get entertained with online movies, videos and music instead of going to the pubs and cinemas.