'Video Games Do Not Cause Violence,' According To Former FBI Profiler

from the political-ax-grinding-to-continue-unabated dept

The national discussion about links between video games and violence continues. Unfortunately, most of the loudest "discussion" seems to be taking the form of proposed legislation that takes the view that the connection is a foregone conclusion. There's a wealth of misinformation to draw from, especially if one wants to believe that video game violence leads to real life violence, and many of these pundits and politicians have already found all the "evidence" they need to justify their push towards video game regulation or flat out bans.

One of the voices sure to be ignored in this debate is one with actual experience with violent individuals. Former FBI profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole had this to say about the subject during a panel discussion hosted by CBS News.

"It's my experience that video games do not cause violence," O'Toole told CBS News. "However, it is one of the risk variables when we do a threat assessment for the risk to act out violently."

"It's important that I point out that as a threat assessment and as a former FBI profiler, we don't see these as the cause violence," she added. "We see them as sources of fueling ideation that's already there."
O'Toole's statement echoes what many others have noticed while researching video games and violence. Violent video games don't craft new killers. However, they may encourage pre-existing tendencies. The push to censor or punish violent video games in order to prevent violence ignores the source of the problem, opting instead for an easily-accessible scapegoat.

As another panelist pointed out, violence statistics simply do not track with the rise of the video game industry.
Texas A&M International University psychology professor Christopher Ferguson pointed out that youth violence had recently declined to the lowest level in 40 years at a time when video games had become more violent.
As Ferguson sees it, this backlash against video games is nothing more than another moral panic; a periodic societal reflux that has attempted to lay the blame for societal woes on various handy villains in the past, like rock music, pinball and Dungeons & Dragons (among others). Ferguson point out the "attention" paid to comic books in the 1950s, which Congress and psychiatrists blamed for everything from juvenile delinquency to homosexuality.

Tragedies often lead to instant reactions and moral panic as legislators and special interests alike seize on parts of culture they distrust or misunderstand. This leads to a lot of "working backwards," as we've seen in a number of bills that have been introduced post-Newtown.
"We're in a mode of worry about — or panicking about this type of media. We may do some putting the cart before the horse, and we may see some people sort of starting with a conclusion and trying to assemble data in a very selective way to try to support that conclusion."
Fortunately for gamers, the Supreme Court has already taken a firm stance against the government regulation of video games, viewing this as a violation of First Amendment rights. This, combined with studies that have failed to show any direct link between violence and video games, helps keep legislators from doing much more than making a lot of noise about the subject. But they'll still keep trying, at least until the next bit of blamable culture comes along.




Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Jeff (profile), Mar 1st, 2013 @ 7:57am

    Don't blame video games....

    Blame Canada!

     

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    G Thompson (profile), Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:02am

    But they'll still keep trying, at least until the next bit of blamable culture comes along.

    I pick that they blame Trolls. Patent, Copyright, and Techdirt Trolls!!! I'm not fussy ;)

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:08am

    Confirmatory bias by ardent game player, n'est pas?

    Time spent engaging in acting out fantasy violence could surely be better spent on some productive hobby, but you kids reject that as "moral panic". At the same time as you reject following a moral code yourself, you demand that gov't and Big Media be scruplously moral in safeguarding your rights. -- Short version of how societal decay spreads and accelerates.

    The morality of the whole country starts right in your own head. Don't expect others to be moral when you reject it.

    Catchphrase for short attention spans: Violence in, violence out.



    Take a loopy tour of Techdirt.com! You always end up at same place!
    http://techdirt.com/
    If you like yapping ankle-biters, you'll love Techdirt!

     

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      Gwiz (profile), Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:19am

      Re: Confirmatory bias by ardent game player, n'est pas?

      Time spent engaging in acting out fantasy violence could surely be better spent on some productive hobby, but you kids reject that as "moral panic".


      What "productive hobby" would you suggest, blue?

      Most of my youth was lived prior to video games existing. I spent plenty of days playing make believe "cowboys & indians" or "army man". How is it being on a computer screen all that different?

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 9:18am

        Re: Re: Confirmatory bias by ardent game player, n'est pas?

        If it is something productive wouldn't it be called a job? A hooby is something that you spend time and money on because it brings you enjoyment.

         

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          CK20XX, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 9:55am

          Re: Re: Re: Confirmatory bias by ardent game player, n'est pas?

          And hobbies can become jobs. The people who start out by tinkering in their basement have a penchant for becoming innovative leaders.

           

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        Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 9:33am

        Re: Re: Confirmatory bias by ardent game player, n'est pas?

        Pyrotechnics. Clearly more productive to someone with violent tendencies.

         

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        Mr. Applegate, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 10:03am

        Re: Re: Confirmatory bias by ardent game player, n'est pas?

        "Most of my youth was lived prior to video games existing. I spent plenty of days playing make believe "cowboys & indians" or "army man". How is it being on a computer screen all that different?"

        Well, since you asked, I think the major difference is playing video games, spending a lot of time on the internet... doesn't teach kids how to behave in society.

        When you played cowboys and Indians or army man you were interacting directly with other children. You were learning a lot about social interaction, learning to read people, learning what was acceptable and what was not. There were other adults around that you observed. Today a lot of that doesn't happen. Interaction over a computer or video game is not the same as interaction on a playground or at a park, or in the woods.

        So while violence in video games isn't really a direct cause of violence in real life. Video games, when played to excess (much like anything) can be detrimental to social growth.

        I am not saying there shouldn't be video games, just like everything else, parents need to, well, parent and control how much time is spent in a dark room with a controller in your hand.

         

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          NA Protector, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 10:27am

          Good Point, But

          You make a good point but, you left something out.

          Today, not all video games are played solo. For example, World of Warcraft is an "multi-player" game where you can meet other people playing the game. Now, I will admit, meeting a digital elf is not equivilant to meeting a real person but it is more than nothing.

          Now that is one out of many examples. For me, I thought video games as a healthy alternative. If I'm upset with the world and would like to rip someone's head off, I'll play Mortal Kombat. If I feel like stealing stuff and running over pedistrians, GTA X. Or, if I want to connect with my family and have fun when we live in different cities, states, or countries, an online interactive game is the best way to communicate because just talking can be boring without an activity to tie it together.

          The answer to this problem they are trying to solve is not gonna be as simple as banning violent games. Besides, they do not believe what they are saying in the first place. If they did, you think they would make games that focus on happy things, how to behave in society, obey the laws, or simply how to be an obedient mindless sucker.

           

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            Mr. Applegate, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 10:51am

            Re: Good Point, But

            Exactly, even WOW doesn't teach you how to 'be social'. Even MMOs or even playing games side by side isn't like social interaction needs to be when you are young.

            I am not saying there is anything wrong with games themselves, but much like TV or anything else, it must be in moderation.

            I have nephews that are limited in how long they are allowed to play, and another nephew that literally will play WOW 10 or even 14 hours a day or more. Care to guess which one has trouble in groups of kids his own age.

            Computers (games by extension) make it very easy to become an introverted sociopath and many parents are unwilling to drag their kids away from the games so that they get the needed interaction with society while they are young.

            Some years later, we are starting to see the fruits from the garden.

             

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              JP Jones (profile), Mar 1st, 2013 @ 1:46pm

              Re: Re: Good Point, But

              @Mr. Applegate: Citation needed.

              WoW teaches you how to be social *online*, which is used in the vast majority of businesses today. Nonverbal communication is not the only form of human communications (and this is completely ignoring the typical use of emotes in games and online communication).

              TV and video games are very different from the perspective of the one participating. TV requires no input from the viewer; you passively accept the story or actions as they happen. Video games require input, reflexes, critical thinking, and social interaction (depending on the game) in order to be successful. You may want to read about "gamification" and how turning traditional passive learning into active "video game" learning has improved retention and application of real-world skills.

              I agree that parents need more interaction with their children, but I would argue that it's better to do so by engaging with your children in the video games themselves, not by discouraging them from having fun. You can't fix bad parenting by outlawing video games, music, TV, books, or whatever scapegoat you decide is "destroying the country" today.

              Oh, and if the fruits of the garden are our reduced violent crime rates among children, then that's awesome news!

               

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                Mr. Applegate, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 3:16pm

                Re: Re: Re: Good Point, But

                I think you are, at least to some degree, missing what I am saying. I am not at all against online gaming.

                "WoW teaches you how to be social *online*, which is used in the vast majority of businesses today."
                My experience with nearly all on-line gaming is that there is not a lot of social to it. If I treated my business clients on-line like people are treated on WOW I wouldn't have many clients.
                TV and video games are very different from the perspective of the one participating. TV requires no input from the viewer; you passively accept the story or actions as they happen. Video games require input, reflexes, critical thinking, and social interaction (depending on the game) in order to be successful. You may want to read about "gamification" and how turning traditional passive learning into active "video game" learning has improved retention and application of real-world skills.


                I agree! I am not saying gaming (violent or otherwise) has no value or is intrinsically bad, I am saying just like everything else in life. In moderation it is fine, this is especially true for those who are growing up and learning how to interact with people. I don't blame, TV, games or books for "destroying the country".

                I can offer no citation (well I am sure I could google something up), as I am only expressing my opinion based on anecdotal evidence, as a result of my observations of many people, including family members, whom I have watched raised since birth over many, many years. Many of the people that play games excessively (not all children) are socially awkward and some are extremely introverted. On the other hand those that don't game excessively, even when raised in the same family, don't seem exhibit the same problems.

                Again, I am not saying gaming is evil or the root of societies problems, but like any other thing, when taken to excess it is not good for you.

                 

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                Bob, Jun 4th, 2013 @ 12:24pm

                what Eva you are on about i don't know why you would put it on the internet

                 

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      Colin, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:23am

      Re: Confirmatory bias by ardent game player, n'est pas?

      So on a scale from 1-10, how would everyone rate the irony of blue saying that people don't spend their time productively?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:29am

      Re: Confirmatory bias by ardent game player, n'est pas?

      Because her experience as an FBI profiler has absolutely no bearing on the relevance of her findings, just like Monique Wadstedt's antipiracy enforcement club membership.

      Were you the kid who wrote "The cake is a lie" when asked the question "What is 2 + 2 ?", or did you not do well at Big Mathematics as a child?

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:36am

      Re: Confirmatory bias by ardent game player, n'est pas?

      Nah - I reject your 'reality' and substitute my own.

       

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      CK20XX, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:43am

      Re: Confirmatory bias by ardent game player, n'est pas?

      Actually, pretty much everyone who engages in fantasy violence also engages in productive hobbies. Just because little boys have a knack for turning every mundane object into a weapon doesn't mean they never grow up to be productive workers or upstanding citizens.

      Also, a basic reason video game violence doesn't lead to real-world violence is because the player can and will die too as he or she learns the game. It's not a fantasy where a player is rendered invincible so he or she can spill as much blood as desired, but rather a scenario where the player's repeat failures lead to learning and experience, and even humor in retrospect.

      Case in point: this death montage video. (Warning: contains violence, obviously) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_V5kIV3eCrY

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 9:26am

      Re: Confirmatory bias by ardent game player, n'est pas?

      The majority of video game players are adults.

      The majority of the voices in OotB's head are children.

       

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    Bas Grasmayer, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:09am

    I blame lobbyists and politicians that want to distract us from more important issues or have an interest in preserving the status quo which leads to the actual causes.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 9:01am

      Re:

      Indeed, Videogames are the new NRA scapegoat to prevent any new gun regulations from passing.

      Others have used Videogames as a scapegoat in the past, but the recent wave the last few months in the news has been entirely pushed by the NRA.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:12am

    and it took an FBI profiler to state this? all we need to do now is convince the attention-seeking politicians of this and have them concentrate on something serious, like stopping the locking away of people for years, making them bankrupt and having their lives destroyed on the whims of the entertainment industries because they shared a music track. that would be worth doing something about, but then they wouldn't get any campaign contributions for that, would they!

     

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    johnjac (profile), Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:12am

    So Says CBS News

    Until they are in a lawsuit with this guy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:32am

    Video games don't cause violence...

    Lag does. Instead of censoring video games, the government should work on providing better internet speeds to the country.

     

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      Joe, Apr 29th, 2013 @ 12:14pm

      Re: Video games don't cause violence...

      Amen to that, AT&T needs to get their Sh*% together!!

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2013 @ 1:20pm

      Re: Video games don't cause violence...

      true I l;agged out of an important match where I was doing the easter egg on black ops 2 zombies I finally got to the end because I couldnt before because either we died before or it got glitched and wouldnt pass it but we finally did and then we lagged out I have spent two months trying to get that and after that I screamed and broke my controller then called my internet company for a fix to lag.they just said give me muneyz and I will give 3 percent less lag(they didnt actually say that but that is what it sounded like)

       

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      lucasharing, Dec 17th, 2013 @ 7:02am

      Re: Video games don't cause violence...

      Dont blame violent video games blame lag,lag makes people frustrated.

       

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    identicon
    Androgynous Cowherd, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:38am

    Statistics and critical thinking need to be part of general education.

    Statistics and critical thinking need to be part of general education.

    Most hostility towards video games isn't even rising to the level of mistaking correlation for causation, but instead merely assuming "monkey see, monkey do".

    Even your own article notes that the FBI profiler saw what sounds like a positive correlation between violent video games and violent acts, while not blaming the games but rather a preexisting predisposition on the violent person's part, while citing Ferguson pointing out what sounds like a negative correlation; what it doesn't do is suggest the likely reason for this seeming contradiction: the positive correlation was observed in a biased sample, namely, "people who come to the attention of FBI profilers".

    Tragedies often lead to instant reactions and moral panic as legislators and special interests alike seize on parts of culture they distrust or misunderstand. This leads to a lot of "working backwards," as we've seen in a number of bills that have been introduced post-Newtown.


    This fallacy is an unfortunately very common one, and not solely on the part of those being intentionally dishonest. Well-meaning but biased parties may commit it as an honest mistake. There is much more at this link, which (along with much else at the same site) should probably be required reading in high school:

    http://lesswrong.com/lw/js/the_bottom_line/

     

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    identicon
    Androgynous Cowherd, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:52am

    Site defaced!

    Someone has perpetrated a page-blanking attack on Techdirt's homepage. The individual articles still exist on the site, as I can retrieve ones I've bookmarked, but, as this image shows, the site's front page has been largely deleted:

    http://s23.postimage.org/7fvbdlgkb/techdirt_deleted.png

    This needs to be fixed urgently, lest people get the idea you've closed up shop or something.

    That means restoring the front page to normal and figuring out how whoever did this got in and plugging the hole.

     

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      Gwiz (profile), Mar 1st, 2013 @ 9:02am

      Re: Site defaced!

      I've encountered that in the past.

      Usually it's because you've requested access to the story database at the exact same moment it's being updated (ie: adding a new article).

      Wait a couple of minutes and refresh your browser and that usually fixes it.

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Androgynous Cowherd, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:58am

    Comment deleted???

    I posted a comment to this story, and it was successful. Then I checked the front page of the site to see if there was anything new and discovered the site had been defaced! When I checked a bookmarked article page, I found it still existed (only the front page had been partially deleted) and posted a comment reporting the situation. The site claimed success ... but when the article page reloaded, not only was the "succesfully posted" comment reporting the defacement not there, but the previous comment I'd posted had been deleted.

    As I don't believe the first comment constituted spam or any kind of violation of the rules I want it reinstated immediately. As for the second one, I'll consider its having been intercepted or deleted as evidence that someone in a position to act on it has read it, which means it served its purpose. Do with this only-meta-on-topic comment as you see fit, but please reinstate the first, fully-on-topic comment. And fix your site's security issues.

     

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      identicon
      Androgynous Cowherd, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 8:59am

      Re: Comment deleted???

      Huh. Either you work very fast or you reinstated the first comment (and the second) on your own while I was composing the message asking you to.

      In either case, thank you. Now about that security hole ...

       

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    •  
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      Wally (profile), Mar 1st, 2013 @ 10:41am

      Re: Comment deleted???

      It was likely the simple fact that you had a proxy or VPN set up to look like multiple AC's. I got a similar message myself a moment ago but did write in explaining (while signed in) why I had a VPN in the first place. All I had to do was tell them the Location of the VPN and they likely confirmed my claims with the IP addresses...all traffic of which the VPN traffic was routed to and from my house and the several nodes at her office. My mother is at my house visiting...she is working at my house and the heavily encrypted VPN which has a lot to do with her job in insurance auditing.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 9:33am

    I think fantasy violence in the games I currently play make me want to go out and use magic on my real life enemies!

    That and equip myself with a Giant Hammer three times my own size and find some Orcs to put down.

    See how ridiculous that sounds? That's how ridiculous it sounds to me when these clowns say its the games causing real world violence.

     

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    Wally (profile), Mar 1st, 2013 @ 9:41am

    "We see them as sources of fueling ideation that's already there."

    Spoken like a true psychologist :-)

    The ideation is a huge problem in most cases. This is the reason why parents should actually pay attention to the ESRB ratings system. It has not changed one iota since its standardization.

    I will however, once again, blame the MPAA for jading us with any lack of reliability towards any other ratings systems.

     

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    Robert Doyle (profile), Mar 1st, 2013 @ 9:43am

    I believe the most common causes of violence are objectionable governments...

     

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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Mar 1st, 2013 @ 12:49pm

    All this is, is the modern version of book burning.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2013 @ 1:22pm

    Don't you people know the best thing to do after playing some GTA is to go out and murder 500 or 600 people with 15 guns a tank some napalm all conveniently stored away in your pockets.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    54c, Mar 13th, 2013 @ 7:55am

    g8

    gaRujhnnnnnnnktftytuhy

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    Icandoanthiniwant, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 12:31pm

    Vidio gams r edukAtIoNAl

    dIs Is wack dOG i nEEd A HoT PoCKeT

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Tobuscus, Mar 25th, 2013 @ 6:58pm

    I love braging

    If you can find my three posts on Techdirt email me the three phrases I use in the posts
    1. Blackness then redness then whiteness

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    corey, Apr 30th, 2013 @ 9:52am

    I think its the people who did it's fault. You control your actions not anyone else. and video games don't cause you to do stupid stuff.

    I blames stupidity!!!!!

     

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    identicon
    corey, Apr 30th, 2013 @ 9:53am

    I think its the people who did it's fault. You control your actions not anyone else. and video games don't cause you to do stupid stuff.

    I blames stupidity!!!!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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    identicon
    corey, Apr 30th, 2013 @ 9:54am

    I think its the people who did it's fault. You control your actions not anyone else. and video games don't cause you to do stupid stuff.

    I blames stupidity!!!!!

     

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    identicon
    Bob, Apr 30th, 2013 @ 9:55am

    I blame global warming

     

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    Cayla, Apr 30th, 2013 @ 10:04am

    video games don't cause it

    MY boyfriend would go crazy if he got bo2 taken away. the only thing causing this is stupid people!!!!!! who else to? Thanksfor you time a goodbye and god bless

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, May 30th, 2013 @ 1:02pm

    WTF

    WOW he really said about "that the kind of thing that happens when you have a video game that lets you shoot a cop walk up to him the urinate on him"what game is that as far as I know that doesnt exist ok GTA you can shoot cops and other games and saints row has the nudity even even if it is censored and the genital slap but you dont urinate on a cop on saints row as far as I know

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Howard bruce, Aug 7th, 2013 @ 3:48am

    Mad den

    I think you love to participate one of the greatest game ever released named new Madden 2025
    to download
    Click here

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  •  
    identicon
    Mr Poohead, Nov 6th, 2013 @ 4:25am

    What's the point in blaming video games when there's no conclusive evidence?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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