Dismantling The Research Being Used Against Video Games

from the it's-got-problems dept

Two of the pet peeves we have here are all of the studies that claim to show a link between violent video games and real violence, and the obsession (or, perhaps we should say “addiction”) researchers seem to have with calling just about any new technology that people use frequently an addiction. Neither one tends to hold up under scrutiny — though, the press rarely digs into any of the claims and usually reports them as fact. Of course, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the “blame the video game” crowd is now adding the “addiction” element to their case against video games — which of course could make for typical vapid press coverage. NewScientist apparently had just such an article lately — with scary graphics and plenty of weak or unsubstantiated claims.

So, kudos to Business Week for ripping apart the NewScientist piece while digging deeper into the research concerning the impact on real world violence as well as the addiction issue. In both cases, the research again comes up lacking. Most of the research concerning video game violence impacting real world violence comes from one source (or is based on his original work). The article notes that the interpretation of the data is often clearly biased, as they leave out perfectly reasonable explanations for the data that have nothing to do with making people more prone to violence. There’s a good example of a study that claimed violent video games “desensitizes” people to real violence based on how video game players’ brains didn’t react as much to violent images — but a similar study of baseball players showed how good baseball players’ brains reacted similarly to seeing a pitch being thrown at them. No one says the batter is “desensitized” to the pitch, but everyone simply recognizes that they need less cognitive power to understand the situation and know how to react. Yet, the video game study makes no similar suggestion. The addiction research has similar issues, as we’ve seen repeatedly with almost every recent claim of “tech addiction.” Coming just as we have another batch of stories trying to link a crime with the video games the deranged killer played, it’s nice to finally see the media digging into the research. Of course, we’re still wondering why almost no one in the media reports on the fact that, as violent video games have shot up in popularity among kids, incidents of youth violence have continually decreased. If these games are such an influence to violence, wouldn’t you expect the opposite to happen?

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Comments on “Dismantling The Research Being Used Against Video Games”

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ScytheNoire says:


As a 30 year-old male who has been gaming since the days of black and green monitors, why do I always feel the sudden urge to become violent whenever I hear people who have never even touched a video game talk about them as though they actually have a clue what games and gaming is all about, and declare them to be evil and the root of all of societies problems these days?

I mean, I seriously want to become violent against these people. Now I’ve never acted out on these, and haven’t actually gotten into a physical fight with any one since grade nine, but I still feel the urge to become violent when these people anger me with their ill informed speeches.

Of course I usually resort to simply hopping into Grand Theft Auto (whichever is the latest one) and running over people, but I still feel these violent tendancies.

I guess the world was a much less violent place in the days before video games. I would guess that people who don’t play video games just never get angry and have never became violent.

Why, oh why, did we ever create video games? This is the whole reason wars have just started happening since the creation of video games, because before this time, no human had ever violently harmed another human.

F’in’ nitwits… 🙂

Big #1 says:

Re: Your so clever!

I just love the way you had me going that you wanted to get violent with people who say video game play correlates to violence. Than WHAM!, you switched it around and made your point.
You must be some kind of genius, because I didn’t see that coming at all!
It all really made up for the lack of any evidence contrary to “scientific” opinion.
And to close with the foreign-language thing mixed with an insult…wow…just brilliant! I’ll bet you have a 12th grade education at least.

DestinyRose says:

Re: BUT...

Violence is not a new concept. Passion is not a new concept. To imply that your video game use and the aggression you occasionally feel are in direct corrolation with each other isn’t quite fair to your body, or evolution.
As a human, which I assume you are, (heh) you are designed to feel emotions. Anger is an emotion, and it’s related in a lot of cases to violence; but you made the very important comment toawrds the end of your post. When you’re frustrated, you hop onto GTA and run people over. In this way, your gaming can be seen as a way to get out your frustrations, not build them (unless you’re lagging hardcore or keep dying.) There are studies to show that playing video games increases your ability to understand emotions like fear and anger, and deal with them more effectivley.
You get frustrated with the people who say that, not because video games have made you violent, but because you hold your own opinion, with information to support it, and they are making irrational claims based only on what they have been told as opposed to what they have experienced.
In the perfect world, no literature would be biased, but not only would that be boring, it would also be too easy. People want to be right. Articles will be lined with false claims and exagerated statistics because people want to be right.
“One day the world will ask you who you are. If you do not know, the world will tell you.”
If you think games are going to make you violent, then you’re subconciously going to let yourself lean toward violent tendancies.

Clifford Edward VanMeter (user link) says:


This isn’t a new phenomenon. Back in the 80s I was working in the paper and dice game field as an illustrator, game designer and later as a publisher. We saw these same kinds of reports about everything from D&D to BattleTech. Remember that Tom Hanks classic Mazes & Monsters?

I grow increasingly convinced that the whole idea of addiction is simply bullshit. Its about people not being willing to tack responsibility for their actions. “Its not my fault, I’m addicted.”

Stu says:

my 2 cents on why

Those who put out bogus issues do it for the publicity. Whether what they say is true doesn’t matter. They know that, among their constituents, their stature will be enhanced.

There are votes and/or contributions, or subscriptions (in this case) involved. Look at the publicity that this publication has received, at very low cost.

Those that do this sort of thing know that the laziness of the mainstream media and the dumbing down of the population gets them a free ride, more often than not.

Politicians thrive on that tactic.

It’s only notable that the WSJ took them on because it’s so rare that anyone does.

Two quotes:

“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”
An idea known as ‘Hanlon’s Razor’ by Robert J. Hanlon

?Never attribute to stupidity that which is malice.?
An idea known as Howard’s Scissors from my brother Howie

Both are indispensable insights.

dorpus says:

Master Race 2

On the other hand, we do not see the video game industry making games like “Master Race 2”, where the object is to firebomb Mexican families and watch the children burn alive in anatomically correct detail. There is an invisible line of what kind of games the video game industry does make, to avoid having mass murderers frequently claiming to be inspired by particular games.

Sanguine Dream says:

A new scapegoat...

thats all video games are now. Mind you rap, rock, and religion are still commonly used scapegoats for violence. But hardly anyone will go after all the reasons, just the ones that have the most buzzwords (at the time) and will get the most attention. Weren’t the Columbine shooters picked on and harrassed by bullies and no one would help them with they tried to seek help?

sjamiso says:

Turn about is fair play

We can also turn this about on the news media for showing us graphic images of wars, murders, crime scenes, police chases, shootings, bounty hunters, etc….
The news media is just as culpable as video games based on the addiction and desensitizing effects and they have a much BIGGER audience.
Why isn’t there legislation trying to limit what the news media is showing us……oh I almost forgot that’s called censorship!

Ryan (profile) says:

correlation is not causation

these stories always leave out the fact that just because 2 things are related one doesn’t cause the other.

How do they know that it’s not the other way around? Children already capable of commiting a violent crime like to buy violent video games.

That seems way more likely to me than a violent video game causing a child to commit a violent crime.

Rational Beaver says:

Tech addiction is clearly rampant in our society. Take cars for example. I’m totally addicted to my car. I mean, I use it at least twice a day, sometimes many more times than that. In fact, I have been known to put off eating, sleeping and peeing in order to use my car for excessively extended periods of time. I’ve even heard of some people living in their vehicles (often near a river). Oh the humanity.

Stu says:

Yo enloco, help me understand.

“Religion is not, and never was, a scapegoat and it shouldn’t be lumped in with the other things you listed. Religion has been the basis for wars, not an excuse for people to want to be violent.”

Religious war is not violent and is acceptable?

Bombing innocent women and children in restaurants, on trains, at weddings, at funerals, kidnapping, hostage taking, throat slitting on video tapes, bombing mosques, synagogues and churches are acceptable non-violent activities – when done in the name of religion?

I have no idea what religion you follow – nor do I want to know; but you have a very strange definition of violence.

Anonymous Coward says:

What it comes down to is if you were instilled with any kind of basic morals as a young child. I have been exposed to these voilent video games for years. They do not shake my moral foundation. If you have no underlying sense of rightness, or you are just plain screwed up in the head, you are predisposed to follow along with what is presented to you. We need to be shown how to rationalize as children. Even as a child I knew that Roadrunner tricking Coyote into fallin off a cliff does not equal a good idea for real life. I would agree that being exposed to modern games can train you mentally for dealing or reacting in violent situations. Being able to cope does not equal desensitization.
What needs to happen is an overview of cultural trends.. By responsible parents with a mind to raising good children. You go to the source. The upbringing of a child into society with a mind to guiding them past dangers and pitfalls. Unless your child is developmentally disabled, a strong parental presence is really the key.

Beth says:

Anonymous coward makes a good point

That wowdetox.com website is amazing. People letting a game take over their lives. I suppose it happens with all kinds of “hobbies.” But it seems to seems that video game–I will use the word “obsession”–doesn’t seem to leave you with much time to execute violence.

Maybe violent behavior is something they take up after they quit.

denizengreen says:

video game

There has never been any significant correlation between violence and video games. It’s not the game but the person who refuses to take responsibility for their actions, and blames the game for their bad behavior. But being a gamer myself, I certainly can see people becoming addicted to video gaming. Like drugs, or cheeseburgers, or shopping; video games can take away ones valuable time. For most, it takes an act of will to put down the controller and get some fresh air.

Larry says:

the REAL problem

the REAL problem is that so many researchers are doing research on all these violent video games, yet they clearly are not giving the public the whole scoop. researchers are withholding whatever technology it is they are using to keep their own researchers from becoming murderers.

that’s right. if a researcher is playing so many violent video games, why are their research labs not breeding ground for psychopaths? Obviously they have some antidote to video games, and they are not telling the general public about it, or else every now and then we’d hear about another researcher who got loose and murdered his neighborhood.

i say that the video-game antidote obviously used by researchers should be made publically available and for free, without any license or royalty given to the research lab, and quickly to prevent any more deaths caused by un-immunized video game players worldwide. it’s in society’s best interest this be done quickly… for the children.

ωя??ђ says:

An Escape

The primary argument is that youths play these video games, and become addicted to them, effectively withdrawing themselves from the ‘real world’, and that from submerging themselves in constant violence portrayed in the games, they become homicidal.

Yet the answer, as I believe it, has been stated by all of you – each stating that it made you mad and you wanted to go kill innocents in various games!

The affect that a video game has on a person’s psyche is no different than that which going at a punching bag for an hour would be. The number of times that I have gotten upset by something, taken my car out and drove like a complete dumbass is countless!

Question: presumably, a mortician reads books and watches documentries on performing autopsies and such. Is his/her desire to be a mortician derived from watching/reading these texts, or do they read these texts due to their desire to be a mortician?

When I read a book, or watch a movie, or play a game, I immerse myself in the world present to me by it. I imagine that I am one of the characters portrayed by it. Yet, at least last time I checked, I wasn’t going around telling everyone that I was Belgarath the Sorcerer, several millenia old, and known as ‘the Eternal Man’ in the Mrin Codex!
Ref: The Belgariad, David Eddings. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belgarath

When I read a book, I do it so I can, at least temporarily, effectively ‘leave this world’, and all the concerns that bother me, and become someone else, someone not troubled by my own concerns. I may be alone in this, but without that, I probably would have cracked! Am I addicted to books?

eric says:

blaming video games is a bunch of bullshit. there were violent video games and wars before video games, and just because a few crazy people play GTA for 3 days straight then go out and steal cars and shoot ppl doesn’t mean its the game producers fault. video games are an escape from realiy, and anyone mature enough to play them should know right from wrong

eric says:

video games

blaming video games is a bunch of bullshit. there were violent people and wars before video games, and just because a few crazy people play GTA for 3 days straight then go out and steal cars and shoot ppl doesn’t mean its the game producers fault. video games are an escape from realiy, and anyone mature enough to play them should know right from wrong

blackoblivion says:

i think every one is right video games are not to blalme. i mean with the two kids in the colmbine shootings. these two where making all of that shit in the gargue or however u spell that. i mean if i was there parent and i heard fucking power tools being use at three in the morning i would sure as shit go out there and whoop some one ass. i mean really where were there mothers and fathers. and there right when they said these two where bullied where in there hell where they when they need help.

R.P.G. says:

load of crap

im sorry but in my opinion games are nothing more then a form of entertainment, how we play and what we do after we play is all dependent on our personalities…which means the game has nothing to do with it, our personalities were determined when sperm hit the egg and no sort of video game can change that, so dont blame a game for the irresponsible actions of the user outside of the game

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