Dan Brown: Video Games Lead To Violence

from the another-example-of-poor-research dept

You’ll of course remember Dan Brown as the author of The Da Vinci Code, a book based on a poorly researched work of non-fiction largely built on the fraudelant claims of anti-semite Pierre Plantard. I mention this only to remind anyone who forgot that you couldn’t ride a bus, a train, or sneak past the office water cooler in the early part of the millenium without someone breathlessly rushing up to tell you how amazing the book was and how terrific a researcher Dan Brown had proved himself to be. Dan Brown’s book and the book off which it was based have since been judged to be the sort of drivel normally reserved for terrifyingly hysterical conspiracy theory websites. History, it seems, does indeed tend to repeat itself.

I’m speaking of an article to which Dementia alerts us. The entire thing is bizarre, honestly, from a report that Dan Brown may now be joining the punching bag of conspiracy theorists, the Freemasons, to his assertion that Freemasonry is not itself a religion. That last one seems to stretch the definition of religion entirely, considering the group has lodges (churches), rituals (sacred rites), and requires the belief in a supernatural deity (God), which all sound like religion to me. All that said, the article took an even stranger turn mid-prose, when Brown suddenly began railing against video games.

“I think video games are very dangerous,” he said. “The quantity of hours that people play these first person shooter games. It becomes a reality of some sort, and that’s a part of it. It really comes down to educating schools and parents. To say ‘you know what, you can;t play that, sorry, I’m just not going to let you do it’.”

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: an exhaustive look at the research into the question of violence and its relation to video games should probably be labeled inconclusive, with a nod to a ton of research that says there is simply no link. I can’t say for certain that Brown is simply shooting from the hip, here, without really researching what he’s putting out for public consumption, but I will say that he’s demonstrated the ability to do so with his books.

If you think about his quote above, he’s basically saying video games are dangerous because of the quantity of hours people play shooting games, which are violent, and suggests that people are getting lost in those games, embarking from reality. In other words, the games are dangerous because they fictitiously propel people into a world which doesn’t actually exist, and gamers come out of that world changed into believing something or acting in a way they had not previously. Are you seeing the problem? One might have said that The Da Vinci Code, which wasn’t lacking in violence, by the way, is dangerous for the exact same reason. People read that book and came out of it believing in a reality that didn’t exist. So perhaps Brown wants to explain why it should be different for his own books?

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Comments on “Dan Brown: Video Games Lead To Violence”

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95 Comments
out_of_the_blue says:

Techdirt staple: Timmy feeding the gamers again.

Right, Timmy, there are NO secret CIA prisons run by the US. An illegal Iraq war, knowingly based on absolute fantasy of WMDs and “mushroom clouds”, didn’t happen: no one was bombed or killed or civilians shot from a helicopter gunship. There are no police beating people to death. — It’s easy to correlate the increase of ACTUAL violence by gov’t agents with video games, and reality should not be set aside merely because in your opinion this nutty author is nutty on everything.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Techdirt staple: Timmy feeding the gamers again.

ootb is refusing to take whatever medication he has for his schizophrenia and obsessive, pathological hatred of everyone who writes on this particular site. Thus creating a situation where he has to write an angry screed attacking people no matter how stupid and delusional.

It’s simple cause and effect.

DavyD says:

Re: Re: Re: Techdirt staple: Timmy feeding the gamers again.

Wars can not be legal or illegal. It’s a fuckin’ war. For a war to be deemed legitimate it would require the agreement and cooperation of the entire planet. What may be legal in one nation may not be legal in another.

“Illegal war”… Grow up

Donglebert the Needlessly Obtuse says:

Re: Re: Re: Techdirt staple: Timmy feeding the gamers again.

Mind you, your argument that the UN Genocide Convention mandated the invasion of Iraq has about as much validity as one of OOTB’s usual rants.

The convention says that “any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations.” Any invasive action is only legal under the UN Charter if such an invasion has been sanctioned by the vote of the UN Security Council.

The resolution to invade Iraq was considered almost certain to be rejected by the UN security council, so it was withdrawn. So the invasion of Iraq was not sanctioned, and so was not carried out under the Charter of the United Nations, and so was in breach of the UN Genocide Convention.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Techdirt staple: Timmy feeding the gamers again.

Yes. You are correct. There was no violence by any government prior to the introduction of video games. The Crusades? Myth. Actions against the Native Americans? Never happened. WWI, WW II, Vietnam, Korea… Yep. Those were just minor disagreements.

“It’s easy to correlate the increase of ACTUAL violence by gov’t agents with video games”

There may be some truth there. To get into any government service job, you need to get past the first 3 missions in Call of Duty. That is a fact truth.

“reality should not be set aside merely because in your opinion this nutty author is nutty on everything.”

To which nutty author are you referring to? The author of your completely nonsensical rant? Or Dan Brown?

Donglebert the Unintelligible says:

Re: Re: Techdirt staple: Timmy feeding the gamers again.

Ummm…found by who in Syria? Where’s that reported?

You’re saying that’s it’s been confirmed that any sarin used in Syria was sourced from Iraq after the UN disarmament resolution. Wow.

Do they have the long range missiles that were never found too?

Dark Helmet (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Techdirt staple: Timmy feeding the gamers again.

That’s actually been the suspicion for some time. It’s based off of US/Israeli intelligence in part, and also on claims made by former Saddam military men. I don’t believe it’s confirmed at this point, but there is significant reason to believe it’s likely….

http://news.investors.com/ibd-editorials/071912-618875-syria-chemical-weapons-came-from-iraq-.htm?p=full

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I eat ghosts and beat up giant apes with ease

Don’t feel bad, I still kill cows with my sword and sometimes I use my nova superpowers. On days I am busy I just hire the Asians to do it for me.

Damn you Diablo 2 why did you have to be so addictive?! It’s good that 1.10 ruined the game “for me” or I might still be hooked all these years later.

PaulT (profile) says:

“It really comes down to educating schools and parents.”

Yes, it does. Try starting with things that are proven to have a link to real problems rather than picking a convenient scapegoat. Abuse, neglect, lack of education, poverty, etc. are not going to go away just because you pointed in a different direction.

It might also help not to be a hypocrite (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Da_Vinci_Code_(video_game)). OK, he seems to be concerned with FPS games specifically, but he’s really railing against the whole medium. I’ve not played the Da Vinci Code game personally, but the reviews seem to mention a number of scenes depicting violence, use of dead bodies, etc.

Meh, I hope nobody takes him seriously, but he has his fans and I’m sure some people have viewed his books as more than a bunch of poorly written thrillers that latch on to hysterical conspiracy theories for their framework.

Rob says:

Re: Re:

Try starting with things that are proven to have a link to real problems rather than picking a convenient scapegoat. Abuse, neglect, lack of education, poverty, etc. are not going to go away just because you pointed in a different direction.

Good luck. Just try to do anything about poverty or quality education for all in this country and you’re a socialist-commie-leaching-freeloader.

So instead you get politicians, pundits and publicity whores bashing Dungeons and Dragons, suicide-inducing heavy metal, explicit record lyrics, video games, Cap’n Billy’s Whiz-Bang, and pool tables for fun and profit. Much to the approval of bed-wetters across the political spectrum who will eagerly buy your books, vote for you, “think about the children.”

Lurker Keith says:

He has a TROPE named after him

This coming from the guy TVTropes named the trope about “lying about the work being factual” after: Dan Browned.

Can’t we hand his rant to Congress as proof that there is no link between gaming & violence?

I’ve played games pretty much my entire life (my parents had an Intelevision II). Many have been violent. I do not commit crimes in general, much less of the violent sort.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: Re:

This is true actually.

I was visiting an exhibit at a local museum, and it had a picture of the iconic Last Supper painting resized by 10000% as one of the background wallpapers for the exhibit. As I stand there looking up at it, I hear a man five feet to the left me say to his girlfriend. “See that woman on Jesus’ right. That’s his wife.” I turned and asked him where he got such a strange idea, and the man claimed that it was true, and said his reference was the Da Vinci Code.

I wanted to fucking punch the man in the face for being such an idiot, but restrained myself since I have no interest in getting charged with assault over someone else being a complete and utter moron.

madasahatter (profile) says:

Video Game Violence

Is anyone old enough to remember playing “Cowboys and Indians” or “Cops and Robbers” as a kid with toy guns? This argument that violent games produce violent adults has been around before video games.

My opinion is the two main factors affect whether a child grows up to be violent: what moral upbringing was the child given and the mental stability of the individual. People who have not been given a good moral grounding are likely not to have good morals (murder is bad, etc.). And some individuals unfortunately suffer for mental illnesses that mean do have a good grasp of reality and their actions are based on a false premise.

These problems preexisted video games or toy guns because they are inherent in problems with one raising a child and the fact some have a very grasp of reality.

Blaming video games is convenient because is absolves those who have a parental type responsibility (not just the parents) in a child’s life from any blame for either not teaching morals or not paying attention to the signs of mental illness. I know both are difficult.

The problem is eliminating violent video games, guns, etc. will not stop violence. The flaw is not dealing with human frialties when you see them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Video Game Violence

“Blaming video games is convenient because is absolves those who have a parental type responsibility (not just the parents) in a child’s life from any blame for either not teaching morals or not paying attention to the signs of mental illness. I know both are difficult.”

In the 1940s it was pulps and paperback books.
In the 1950s it was comic books.
In the 1960s it was tv shows.
In the 1970s it was movies.
In the 1980s it was videos of tv shows and movies.
In the 1990s it was video games.
In the 2000s it’s been console and on-line games (with side trips to movies, cable tv shows, and graphic novels).

ChrisB (profile) says:

Re: Video Game Violence

I disagree with the moral grounding. Everything flows from empathy. Teach kids to empathize with people, and you will get moral adults. For example, show a picture of a kid getting picked on, and ask them how he feels.

The problem with just telling kids “murder is bad” is that is abstract. Dawkins, in one of his books, tells of Israeli school children who though genocide (the Battle of Jericho) was okay. When the same story had a Chinese setting, the kids realized it was horrific.

Empathy training is much more effective than abstract commandments. If you kid steals, have him think about how he’d feel if the roles were reversed, don’t tell him God is mad at him.

Lowestofthekeys (profile) says:

Re: Re: Video Game Violence

“The problem with just telling kids “murder is bad” is that is abstract.”

It’s more effective to tell a child why something is wrong and help him understand it then to just tell him it’s wrong.

I see that issue happen all the time with friends of mine who have kids. They just wag the finger and say “Stop doing that” instead of taking the time to sit down and help the child understand why it’s a bad thing or the effects it can have on someone else.

Fickelbra (profile) says:

Re: Video Game Violence

What always gives me a sad chuckle is that these people that point to video game leading to violence act almost as if these types of video games are being pushed onto people. Want to know why so many video games exhibit so much violence? Because historically those games sell very well. That’s why there are also tons of violent movies, books, and music. The other big point I try to see pushed is that video games are different because you control them, hence you are interacting on some new dangerous level. I contend that a child is just as prone to mimic a violent movie as they are a violent video game. Just depends on if you’re more of a gamer or movie goer.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Video Game Violence

I like the cowboys and indians argument. I used that one and the ‘football’ argument a while back when I wrote my representative. If you’re not familiar with the football argument, I’ll summarize:

You have two groups of people who are against each other strictly because of the color they wear. They attempt to get the other group’s turf using violence. What activity are they participating in? Football.

I’ve found that to be the most apt analogy of how violence stems from everyday activities, but that may be because I live in Texas.

gorehound (profile) says:

Re: Video Game Violence

I am 57 and we played lots of Cops and Robbers, Army Men making War, or Cowboys and Indians.We all had tons of fun making believe and playing in the Woods.
We all grew up and none of us thought of killing and hurting people.

And I still like to fool around and play some Games.Love playing Mass Effect and also playing those 1ST Person WW2 Shooters.

Call me Al says:

What he's actually trying to say...

“I think video games are very dangerous,” he said. “The quantity of hours that people play these first person shooter games”

Should continue with “when they should be buying and reading my books.”

Little recognising that the FPS games are probably a lot better written then his books.

Anonymous Coward says:

“That last one seems to stretch the definition of religion entirely, considering the group has lodges (churches), rituals (sacred rites), and requires the belief in a supernatural deity (God), which all sound like religion to me.”

Respectfully, I think you should check up on the subject matter of theology. Religion, as I think I understand it, has less to do with whether or not an institution has facilities or traditions, and more to do with accounts of the ultimate nature of reality. Though I would say the requisite belief in a supreme being borders on religion, the very fact that they make no claims about such a being, and freely allow individuals to worship their own chosen supreme being takes them well away from the realm of theology. In reality, I think the rule about believing in a supreme being is meant to keep people from arguing about the existence or non-existence of god- obviously inconclusively- at every meeting.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

the very fact that they make no claims about such a being, and freely allow individuals to worship their own chosen supreme being takes them well away from the realm of theology.

But they do make a claim: that such a being exists at all, based on faith. That makes it a religion. (Religion and theology are two different things, by the way.)

DavyD says:

Tim, sorry to rock your world but you need to know a few facts. My Father is a Freemason and atheist. “considering the group has lodges (churches)” No. Lodge does not equal church.

“rituals (sacred rites)” No. rituals do not equal sacred rites. It’s just tradition.

“and requires the belief in a supernatural deity (God)” technically true, although again it is just tradition. You are asked to swear on the bible in court – whether your are a theist or no – it makes no difference. Again just tradition.

There is no “powerful” elite freemasons. For the most part is like a social club. They meet up once a week and blow smoke up their own arses. And do a bit of fund-raising, maybe organise the next dinner/dance.

Seriously, the Freemasons are much more boring than some would have you believe.

Mike C. (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

By that definition, any organized sport would also have to be a religion. After all, they follow set rules, meet on a regular basis, etc. Of course, I’ve always held that a religion is centered around a set of beliefs, not the practicies tied to it.

As far as the Freemasons are concerned, while they do like members to believe in a “higher power”, no two people have to believe in the SAME higher power. Thus, in today’s diverse cultures, it’s very easy to have a single lodge with christians, muslims, hindu, pastafarians (yes, with a “p”) and native americans in it. Still think it’s a religion on it’s own? It’s a social club.

Votre says:

Problem?

As the author of a work of popular conspiracy fiction Dan Brown is fully qualified to offer off the cuff guidance and insight on the subject of human motivation and psychology that those who have studied such subjects scientifically are still in significant disagreement over.

Anyway, it’s all about “feelings” right?

So a pinch of “probably” or “perhaps, or even “I can’t help but think” is far more to be trusted than something as hard to come by as actual proof.

I like how Dan also neatly reframes and shifts the argument by doing the old “It really all comes down to…” move so popular with politicians who’d rather get back to repeating their talking points rather than actually answer questions during a post-debate Q&A session.

LJW (profile) says:

Facts don't matter?

I guess Mr. Brown isn’t used to dealing with facts. More people than ever play violent video games. Overall violent crime has been dropping for 30+ years now.

If Mr. Brown and his ilk were remotely correct, the US should be something like Escape from NY! The fact is and has always been, those looking to blame video games want video games to be to blame. There’s no studies, facts, or reality where video games cause more violence, just like love songs don’t cause everyone to suddenly get along.

Anonymous Coward says:

Um funny...

It’s actually been discovered (though ACTUAL SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH OMGZORS!) that watching tv and reading books leads to more violent outcomes than playing video games.

The hypothesized reasons being that people watch tv and read books more as a social learning behavior. TV can be seen as a way to learn about a culture and how to behave in that culture.

I don’t have the name of the study at hand, its buried in my doctoral research pile, but when I get a chance to dig it out I will.

Essentially, the study purported and had evidence that books and tv have more of an ability to alter ones behavior than does a video game.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: Re: Um funny...

I call bullshit.

I second that. I don’t have any research to prove it, but I am pretty sure if people read more books, there would be a lot less time for them to be perpetrating crimes of violence.

Even speed-reading takes time. Time that you can’t spend murdering someone (since it is really hard to read with all the bloodspatter and all.)

Anonymous Coward says:

As an aggressive person by nature, I find violent games relaxing, they channel my violence elsewhere, I get angry I just go frag those mother-f. and then I get relaxed and calm.

It took me decades to bring my anger under control, I am aware of it and that is why I never ever decide to use force or violence I am incompetent to make that kinds of calls, I would always chose violence if it was up to me I need others to tell me when it is ok to get angry, which is frustrating, but it is what it is, and somehow I learned to cope with it.

I love violent games, they help me not to be violent in real life.

2gravey says:

Dan Brown's Research

As a side note, if you read Da Vinci code and thought it had the ring of being partly based on truth, and if you know anything at all about cryptography, then read “Digital Fortress” and you will see how Dan Brown utterly fails to research the subjects that the writes about. He is just good at making up stuff and making it sound like it came from somewhere to people who haven’t researched the subject either.

Baldaur Regis (profile) says:

Those of you old enough to remember the ghastly 1982 TV movie Rona Jaffe’s Mazes and Monsters will recognize what is said of video games today was also said of board games in days gone by: WE’RE TOO STUPID TO SEE THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN IMAGINATION AND REALITY!!

George Santayana’s famous quote needs to be updated for those who keep trotting out this tired old notion: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to be beaten over the head with it.

Alt0 says:

I have to disagree with the Freemasons being classified as a religion.
If the Freemasons are a Religion so are the Boy Scouts.

Each has “ritual” and “symbolism” which are used to instruct:
Moral and Ethical lessons, such as Fortitude, Prudence, Temperance and Justice, and the principles of Brotherly Love, Truth, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.

G Thompson (profile) says:

Personally:

I think Dan Brown novels are very dangerous.

The quantity of hours that people spend reading this quasi historical drivel that is straight out of conspiracy playbooks. It becomes a reality of some sort, they start to believe the crap, and that’s just a part of it. It really comes down to educating schools and parents. To say ‘you know what, you shouldn’t read that drivel without understanding the real historical facts, sorry, and until you understand the reality from the fictional weirdness that is in Dan browns head I’m just not going to let you do it’.

There… better now

zerostar83 (profile) says:

I agree with...

I have to say that violent games don’t cause people to be violent. But spending an unusual amount of time in anything (whether it be games, or books, or whatever) will mold someone’s mentality away from reality. Playing violent video games 10 hours a day for weeks and months, in my opinion, will BECOME reality to that person, and that is where the danger is.

ltlw0lf (profile) says:

Re: I agree with...

Playing violent video games 10 hours a day for weeks and months, in my opinion, will BECOME reality to that person, and that is where the danger is.

I disagree. I work 10 hours a day for weeks and months, and work isn’t reality to me. A good 70% of what I do at work is manufactured BS and manufactured panics. I realize this, do my job the best I can, and then return to reality the moment I step out the door.

When I do play video games (which is quite often,) I have no difficulty separating reality from the game, and aside from the occasional weird light-display of the game when I close my eyes after a 10-hour binge of Minecraft, I don’t seem to be running around with a sword, pick-axe, and shovel looking for zombies and creapers.

Analisa says:

Dan Brown may be ignorant about many things, but this article is quite ignorant also. Read the research about children and video games,specially the longitudal studies. To say that results are inconlusive shows just that the author has no real knowledge about the subject. But game industry is still new, however, the arguments that results are inconclusive are like those which were repeated by tobacco industry when results came out that smoking is bad for health. For long time the industry labeled the research results as “inconclusive,” no wonder, too much money behind it.

http://www.soc.iastate.edu/sapp/VideoGames1.pdf

http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/~caa/abstracts/2005-2009/07AGB.pdf

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/12/science/studying-the-effects-of-playing-violent-video-games.html?_r=0

crade (profile) says:

Re: Re:

You are being disengenuos. As I’m sure you are well aware,
for every crusader with an agenda against video games, there are as many or more than discount it as a load of crap.

Plain old grade school logic, however tells us that violent video games are not substantially different from other forms of violent media like the Bible which have been around for ages. The things they try to come up with to seperate them are laughable.

The tobaco comparison is also completly disengenous. conflating physical observable results with hypothetical behavioral changes and you could make this claim about every industry… I don’t have any evidence, but only because they are probably doing some sort of massive coverup to hide all the real evidence.

But if they had had, for instance, hard evidence that a slew of other countries that have been smoking far more than the U.S. for ages and yet they had a significantly lower lung cancer rate, then I sure as heck wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking something else is the cause.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Calling the evidence inconclusive is correct (although a bit too generous, in my opinion). It’s “inconclusive” because there is no clear trend in the studies one way or the other — which is the classic tell that the effect is really hard to measure.

I say it’s being generous because most of the studies on the “video games lead to violence” camp report one (or both) of two things: that there is a correlation between violent personalities and playing violent games, and that playing violent games can lead to a temporary increase in violent tendencies.

I do think it’s clear there’s a correlation, but that’s unsurprising and unimportant. What would be important is a causal link, and that hasn’t been shown.

The temporary increase is likewise of little importance — what people are concerned about is a permanent change, and nothing like that has been shown. Also, this increase is not unique to video games, but applies to all violent media and activities (including sports). So why single out video games?

ECA (profile) says:

can i say something..

pROBABLY YES, OR i WILL ANYWAY..

WHAT IS FREE FOR KIDS TO DO???
WHAT activities are STILL around from Church and the city nd other GROUPS to keep KIDS BUSY..

now the fun part.
HOW many GROUPS QUIT, because of lawsuits, or the CHANCE to be sued even if it wasnt the groups fault..

How many schools CUT sports because someone could be Hurt?
Auto shop??
Metal working?

UNLESS you are over 18, you cant legally SIGN OFF on a contract for insurance purposes..

Gene Cavanaugh (profile) says:

Over simplifying again.

There is validity to the argument that violent video games (or violent books) may promote actual violence. There is also validity to the argument that they should be allowable anyway. However, taking an extreme position on either side tends to invalidate an argument, whether for or against.

We need a “fair and balanced” approach (no, not the Fox news “fair and balanced”, which meant “extreme”).

mermaldad (profile) says:

Sorry, someone had to do it...

“I think Dan Brown’s books are very dangerous. The quantity of hours that people read these action novels. It becomes a reality of some sort, and that’s a part of it. It really comes down to educating schools and parents. To say ‘you know what, you can’t read that, sorry, I’m just not going to let you do it’.”

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