Juliette Bains: Is gaming revolution giving lessons in digital destruction?

Grand Theft Auto V screen shot.
Grand Theft Auto V screen shot.
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RACING AROUND a driving track at top speed, flinging bananas out the back and zooming through glittery boxes was how I spent most of my university life.

If you haven’t guessed, I’m talking about playing the legendary computer game, MarioKart.

Proudly sporting a bright pink dress and a gold crown, my chosen character – Princess Peach – ruled that race track.

She kicked Bowser’s butt, walked all over Wario and gave that little toadstool guy a good run for his money.

But has the game actually influenced me as a person?

According to a new study, quite possibly.

American researchers have found the way gamers represent themselves in the virtual world of video games could affect how they behave in the real world.

I’m not sure that 100 per cent applies with Mariokart, as I’m not often spotted in a princess outfit, hurling fruit out the window of my car.

But I do get a bit of road rage from time to time.

Not proper road rage – I’m not the type to get out and yell at people.

Instead I do the decent thing and sit there muttering obscenities under my breath like most other people would whilst gesticulating wildly from behind the steering wheel.

Can I really blame that on little Princess Peach?

Well, according to the study, just five minutes of playing a computer game character could influence your behaviour.

A group of around 200 students took part in the experiment, which saw them play as either Superman (a goodie) or Voldemort (a baddie).

Afterwards, they had the choice to give a treat of chocolate sauce to the next participant or a horrible plate of hot chilli sauce.

Students who played as Superman poured out nearly twice as much chocolate than chilli sauce. And the naughty Voldemorts poured out twice as much spicy chilli sauce.

It was a small experiment but still shines a light on the potential impact these games might be having on us.

Take Grand Theft Auto, or ‘GTA’, for example.

The new 18-rated computer game sold a whopping 32.5m copies in just a matter of months last year.

It’s an incredibly popular game that sees players take on the role of criminals in America’s dark and seedy underworld.

I’ve seen it being played and wasn’t impressed.

There’s a fair bit of violence and drug use and annoyingly, most of the female characters are either prostitutes or lap dancers.

Not great, and not appealing in the slightest to someone like me, but then I’m guessing I’m not their target audience.

But for those who do enjoy kicking back with a bit of digital car-jacking in their spare time, it doesn’t exactly send the best message.

And 18 certificate or not, the fact is many of those players will be young boys who will have gotten hold of a copy one way or another.

What kind of attitude to women does a game like this give them in their formative years?

Princess Peach certainly wouldn’t have been caught giving her fellow racers an eyeful on Rainbow Road.

Recently, a headteacher from a school in Wales hit the headlines after writing to parents about pupils acting out scenes from GTA in the playground and talking about drug use.

I’m not sure whether to blame the game companies or the parents, but it’s not for me to point fingers.

Yet the study, and the headlines, still raise interesting questions.

It’s worrying that science could be starting to prove the virtual world may have a bigger impact on our lives, and children, than we think.

Make-up masterclass proves to be quite an eye-opener

LOOKING back at an old photo I found tucked away in a dusty drawer last week, I saw my spotty, greasy-haired self staring back at me.

The childish clothes and out of control eyebrows are cringeworthy.

And that was at the not-so-tender age of 19.

The thing is, no-one ever sat me down and told me how to ‘do’ make-up.

Celebrities have their own make-up artists, and often their own make-up ranges.

But they don’t pull us girls to one side at school and teach you that stuff, you know.

Somehow, you’re just meant to know.

I didn’t, and still don’t.

It doesn’t really bother me but I’ve always been curious to know the difference between primer and plumper and learn what the hell all those teeny brushes in my make-up bag are meant to be used for.

So when my friend and I were invited for a make-up makeover, we jumped at the chance.

I had an over-the-top, ‘night time’ look at Urban Decay whilst my friend went for a more natural look at Bare Minerals in Debenhams.

I didn’t realise, but when they say ‘paint your face’, that’s literally what it can mean.

The lovely man on the make-up counter had an arts degree and compared doing make-up to creating a ‘work of art’.

Afterwards my friend and I proudly strutted through the White Rose Centre with our new looks, only to realise it was Monday and we had nowhere but Nando’s to show off our make-up masterpieces.

Nonetheless, the experience was definitely an eye-opener.

Awkward dating show is now my new trash TV habit

WE’VE ALL been there.

You’re sitting nervously waiting for your date to arrive, hoping you don’t fall over, choke on your food, or say something entirely inappropriate.

So what better premise for a TV show than to broadcast these awful, awkward experiences to the entire nation.

First Dates on Channel Four is a Big Brother-style look at the dating world and spies on singletons (who have obviously signed up to the show) as they bravely go to dinner with a blind date, in front of millions of viewers.

I’ve endured a couple of horrendous dates in the past, from one guy turning up to a Leeds bar in his football kit and flip-flops, to another who spoke about himself constantly during what seemed like the longest date of my life.

So it’s comforting, and most definitely entertaining, to see other people go through the similar things.

The show is a mixed bag of typical Essex-types (one of whom rocked up with her tiny chihuahua under her arm), cougars, cocky men, and just painfully shy people – all the perfect ingredients for an entertaining night in!

Victoria Gate in Leeds.

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