Can't Blame The Video Game For This Killing

from the responsibility-on-the-actual-killer dept

It appears the strategy of blaming Grand Theft Auto for a crime has failed again. It’s the strategy that lawyer Jack Thompson trots out every time there’s a crime involving a kid who plays video games, despite plenty of evidence that video games don’t increase youth violence. And, of course, it’s not just Grand Theft Auto. Thompson is quite worried about the negative effects of such dangerous games as The Sims. Of course, the real issue is that Thompson is trying to take the responsibility off of the individual who actually committed the crime — and that is a real disservice to society. People need to take responsibility for their actions, and Thompson is trying to remove the responsibility and put it on companies he doesn’t like. So far, however, that strategy has pretty much backfired everywhere it’s been attempted, and in the latest case, it looks like it’s failed again. Instead of blaming the video game, the actual criminal who killed three police officers has been convicted of the crime.

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Comments on “Can't Blame The Video Game For This Killing”

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dorpus says:

Odds Ratios

For a given case of lung cancer, we can blame the smoker instead of the tobacco industry, but did not the tobacco industry increase the risks of lung cancer for the population as a whole?

For a given case of a prozac user going psychotic and killing 3 police officers, should we blame the patient or the prozac? Did not the prozac maker increase the risks of psychosis for the population as a whole?

In logistic regression, where the outcome is a “yes” or “no”, e.g. “kill someone” or “not kill someone”, we consider contributing factors that affect the probability of a “yes”. If a hundred people go to a Techdirt party, and 70 of them develop severe food poisoning, it’s quite possible that the other 30 ate contaminated food but still didn’t get it. We would take a tally of all the foods people ate at the party, and perform a logistic regression to determine which food has the highest odds ratio for causing a food poisoning outcome.

Cloaked Mirror says:

Re: Odds Ratios

…And for every given case of someone using statistical analysis to prove a point, we can blame the math teachers. But didn’t the whole point of scientific study get thrown out when we decided to ignore the totality of the data and only use the data that supports our theory? After all, the rest is just due to some anolomy that was probably caused by some stupid human.

dorpus says:

Re: Re: Odds Ratios

Good statistical methodology is used in obscurity, at university and government research labs. The recent SARS epidemic, H5N1 influenza, none of this could have been identified or controlled without rigorous statistical methodologies. Even in the private sector, better companies understand the importance of statistics and how seemingly freakish events can be expected to happen regularly. Biotechnology, chip manufacturing, automobile manufacturing would not be possible without it.

Newob says:

Re: Re: Re: Odds Ratios

And a rigorous statistical analysis of video gaming and violent behavior would yeild no association between the two. Statistically, few people claim that video games made themselves violent, or blame their behavior on video games. But, those people belong to a large population of people who blame things other than themselves for their behavior, which has happened since before video games. Clearly, poor thinking is not caused by video games either.

dorpus says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Odds Ratios

Still, there is solid research that shows people are influenced by what they see. People will think more violent thoughts after watching a violent movie or video game. There have been many sickos who imitate exact scenes in video games or movies they saw, and I could post them here, but then people would get violent about how I am “posting off-topic trolls” and would want to kill me.

Pete Austin says:

Re: Re: Re:3 One more time...

a) People play violent computer cames
b) People commit crimes
This does not show that “a” caused “b”. Without more evidence, it’s even possible that a smaller proportion of people (a) commit crimes (b) than those in the population of a whole, making violent video games A Good Thing. We just don’t know.

Jack says:

Re: Re: Re:4 One more time...

Normally I would agree that playing video games dosn’t increase the odds of commiting a crime. I have, incidently, just completed GTA SA and I certainly don’t feel like killing anybody… or car jacking a taxi to drive fares around the city.

I have, however, just seen a docu on National Geographic. It seems that during WWII only 25% of all soldiers actually fired their weapons and only 2% effectively tried to kill the enemy. Most soldiers were simply killed by artillery, bombs, machineguns or disease and such. The natural aversion against taking a life is simply too much for most people.

The same pattern is reported about earlier wars like the American War of Independence and the Napoleonic wars. Some weapons collected after battles would contain upwards of 23 loads of ammonution. The soldier would keep loading the weapon for show but would never actually fire. In the napoleonic wars regiments of a thousand men would fire volleys at close range and actually kill only 10-15 of the enemy…

But… this of course dosn’t really work in a modern army so training methods have been changed accordingly to make soldiers more “comfortable” with the whole killing thing. First of all the circular bulls-eye targets have been changed to targets more resembling humans, since no bulls-eye targets have been known to attack anyone in recent years. Secondly more realistic training involving simmunition (hardcore paintball x 100) has been implemented so you get as close to the real thing as possible. It’s not kill or get killed – it’s hurt or get hurt – the next best thing.

When all is said and done the number of troops who actully tries to kill the enemy is almost up to 100% today. Ye!

My point is this – maybe playing realistic computer games can “train” you in sort-of the same way as the military is doing. The guy in question did shoot all of the officers in the head which kinda signals a sort-of cold bloodedness.

But again – in Western Europe about as many people play GTA as in the US. We don’t really have the same amount of mass-murderers over here. Culture seems to be more important – but maybe games can train potential killers better…

Pete Austin says:

Re: Re: Re:5 One more time...

Jack, do you have a Web reference for this? An alternative explanation occurs to me…

Probably most soldiers didn’t “effectively” try to kill the enemy because this is risky. While you are e.g. watching the enemy, trying for a good target, they are probably doing the same to you. The safest thing is to keep your own head down and fire approximately in the right direction.

The training you describe sounds likely to make soldiers more comfortable with risking their own safety, and hence more willing to fight effectively. It is not proof that they become more “comfortable with the whole killing thing”.

It would take careful analysis to separate these effects (and other possible explanations) and it doesn’t sound as though the National Geographic program attempted this.

To return to real life, if game players become more willing to take personal risks, this need not increase violence. Just general low-level crime, disorder, and acting like punks. But as teens behave like that already it might be difficult to prove anything.

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