• It’s Not Video Games

    The Sandy Hook massacre was an awful thing. I hate to see Christians and politicians taking advantage of it.

    Among the 10 ways to stop mass shootings in schools, compiled by CNN from the readers’ comments the fifth is to “cut down violence in the media”.

    Now, some politicians are bringing back to life the “it’s video  games” scapegoat-meme:

    “The violence in the entertainment culture — particularly, with the extraordinary realism to video games, movies now, et cetera — does cause vulnerable young men to be more violent,” Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said.

    “There might well be some direct connection between people who have some mental instability and when they go over the edge — they transport themselves, they become part of one of those video games,” said Gov. John Hickenlooper of Colorado, where 12 people were killed in a movie theater shooting in July.

    White House adviser David Axelrod tweeted, “But shouldn’t we also quit marketing murder as a game?”

    And Donald Trump weighed in, tweeting, “Video game violence & glorification must be stopped — it is creating monsters!”

    Well, they’re wrong (the same way Michael Moore was wrong with Bowling for Columbine. For a better understanding -or, at least, a reasonable hypothesis of US violence rates-, I’d suggest Steven Pinker‘s take: it’s not the media, or racism, it’s the rule of law and social contract or lack thereof).

    Look, that’s not how communication works. We, human beings, have this critical reception organ called brain, so we won’t do the first thing we see on TV ads (and no, there’s no such thing as subliminal messages or subliminal manipulation, BTW) i.e. you don’t believe everything you see, read, listen to, or watch.

    Moreover, it turns out there hasn’t been concluding evidence that links video games to violence.

    In 2001, a review of available scientific literature on the topic [PDF] was made. Their findings?

    In conclusion, current research evidence is not supportive of a major concern that violent videogames lead to real-life violence. However, well controlled studies of adolescents are lacking. Also, this conclusion might change as more research is conducted on more recent and increasingly realistic games.

    And, in fact, more research has been done since then. In 2005, a paper on Video games and health was published:

    On balance, given that video game playing is highly prevalent among children and adolescents in industrialised countries, there is little evidence that moderate frequency of play has serious acute adverse effects from moderate play. Adverse effects, when they occur, tend to be relatively minor and temporary, resolving spontaneously with decreased frequency of play. More evidence is needed on excessive play and on defining what constitutes excess in the first place. There should also be long term studies of the course of video game addiction.

    And they didn’t stop there. More research has been done. For example, in 2007, a research was conducted in order to establish links between video games and violence. Again, nothing:

    CONCLUSIONS: Most young adolescent boys and many girls routinely play M-rated games. Implications for identifying atypical and potentially harmful patterns of electronic game use are discussed, as well as the need for greater media literacy among parents.

    This research was the basis for the book Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do by co-directors of the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media, Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl K. Olson. They conclude

    […] Ultimately, the authors express concern that “focusing on such easy but minor targets as violent video games causes parents, social activists and public-policy makers to ignore the much more powerful and significant causes of youth violence that have already been well established, including a range of social, behavioral, economic, biological and mental-health factors” (page 190).

    And even then, one other study was conducted – Violent Video Games and Aggression. Causal Relationship or Byproduct of Family Violence and Intrinsic Violence Motivation?

    Results indicated that trait aggression, family violence, and male gender were predictive of violent crime, but exposure to violent games was not. Structural equation modeling suggested that family violence and innate aggression as predictors of violent crime were a better fit to the data than was exposure to video game violence. These results question the common belief that violent-video-game exposure causes violent acts.

    So no, it’s not video games what’s behind the Newtown tragedy. What these politicians are trying to do is censorship.

    Just because they don’t like video games, that doesn’t mean they’re the cause of mass shootings in schools. Blaming schools’ shootings on video games is as wise as blaming hurricanes on gays.

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    Article by: Ðavid A. Osorio S

    Skeptic | Blogger | Fact-checker

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    • ZedZero

      Actually I disagree with the idea that politicians want censorship. I think it bit more nuanced, in that they want an easy scapegoat to hand over to the masses. Ultimately I think politicians are like most people, they are lazy thinkers and want easy answers. In the politicians case they have the added layer in some cases as being conniving scoundrels.

      The last two assault weapons bans were fake and it served the pro-gun forces purposes. When one claim claims victory they lose their raison d’etre and lose their base. When one claims oppression they grow their base and fodder for fund raising. Gun stores are selling out of assault weapons and magazines all over the country in just a couple days. Gun ban threats are a huge win for the “racketeers” that currently constitute the NRA.

      To follow through on my though . . . movies and video games are more valuable as foils to argue against since in the U.S. they can’t be banned outright. In this politicians and pundits will find them easy, useful and never be required to actually follow through with censorship that would prove them wrong. I wish we would just even try to make a feeble attempt at thinking this problem through.

      • Ok, we can convene politicians don’t *want* censorship, but with their statements, they’re asking for it, consciously or not.

        It’s time they’re faced with facts in order to take away for them this scapegoat!

        • ZedZero

          You are absolutely right they are asking for it. Even Al Gore asked for it. They just know they aren’t going to get it. It is a game. The American people are dupes to fall for it and I just don’t a clear way to get us to wise up to the fact. Most people simply understand rights as what is good for me and mine is a right and your rights well, you are just yelling fire in a theater.

          • Well, spreading facts and evidence could be a way to vaccinate people against the “it’s the video games” scapegoat, so eventually, politicians won’t find it useful.

    • ZedZero

      From Twitter: ‏@DannyZuker

      Scientists are baffled by Canadians’ ability to watch movies and play video games and not shoot each other.

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