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Beck Blames Newtown Shooting on Video Games

Glenn Beck says that the cause of the terrible shootings at Sandy Hook elementary school was shooter Adam Lanza loving to play violent video games. “Our sons and daughters are becoming desensitized to right and wrong and video games are a gateway drug for our kids and instead of a high, they get a numbness, they get an indifferent heart and a mind that cannot tell the difference between fiction and reality. This is medical fact, this is not crazy theory.” Uh, no. It’s not a “medical fact.” Tens of millions of kids play violent video games. A vanishingly small number of them commit violence. And such video games are played all over the world, even in nations with very low rates of violence.

Comments

  1. says

    “And such video games are played all over the world, even in nations with very low rates of violence.”

    Well, obviously they’re coming here to commit their violence.

  2. alanb says

    It is certainly possible that violent video games have an effect on violent behavior, but that the impact is only on a very small percentage of people or that the impact is small enough that the statistical significance is hard to find. I have seen no reason to automatically reject that hypothesis as I have seen a number of people do. However, any cause-and-effect connection between someone like and Adam Lanza and violent video games is likely to be the opposite of what Mr. Beck is proposing.

  3. Trebuchet says

    Is Beck just getting around to that, or is it an old video? All the other wingnuts had that meme weeks ago.

  4. machintelligence says

    Damn. And all this time I thought it was comic books. I must be seriously behind the times.

  5. matty1 says

    The important thing is that if people are being shot with guns you need to regulate something that is not guns.

  6. lordshipmayhem says

    The worst school massacre in US history was the Bath School Disaster in 1927, which killed 45 and injured 58. What violent video game was the perpetrator, Bath Consolidated School Board Treasurer Andrew Kehoe, playing?

  7. neonsequitur says

    I think someone should do a study and determine how many of these gun-toting mass murderers were avid Glen Beck watchers. Then stand by for his standard “They’re trying to silence me!” rant….

  8. schelde says

    alanb,

    The hypothesis can be rejected for the reasons you yourself observe; violent video games are widespread but we’ve seen no corresponding rise in violent crime since their introduction. Since the weight of evidence is firmly against this hypothesis, a researcher needs to present some pretty stellar work to make a convincing case. And no one’s done that.

    Look, this may not be on your radar, but this trope has been around for over a decade at least. I remember when my brother, then on active duty, handed me a copy of “On Killing”. I disappointed him by pointing out the book’s glaringly obvious flaws. Frankly, I feel this position is kept alive by right wing pundits to avoid discussing gun control. It’s just a smoke screen. One that’s been used for years with no real supporting evidence.

  9. gingerbaker says

    The hypothesis can be rejected for the reasons you yourself observe; violent video games are widespread but we’ve seen no corresponding rise in violent crime since their introduction

    That wasn’t Beck’s claim. He claimed video games played a role in Sandy Hook, and that it was a “medical fact” that playing video games causes numbness, and indifferent heart, and something about not being able to discriminate right and wrong.

    Ed did not address any of these supposed “medical facts” – he simply quoted the same statistics that you did. The question of whether there are actual negative psychological effects of spending many hours getting kicks and psychological rewards from killing characters in video games has not been addressed here.

    It makes sense on the face of it – that repetition of simulated aggression would have real-world consequences, especially in adolescents. But I believe that research has shown this not to be the case. I’d like to know about the quality of this research, and if there are any solid questions about it.

    But that was not Ed’s intent.

  10. slc1 says

    There’s nothing new here. Back in the 1950s, there were claims that comic books were responsible for youth crime and that porn was responsible for rape and other sex crimes.

  11. chiptuneist says

    “The question of whether there are actual negative psychological effects of spending many hours getting kicks and psychological rewards from killing characters in video games has not been addressed here.”

    I’m certainly not willing to completely write off the possibility that playing violent video games might, on some level, have a negative psychological effect and make adolescents more prone to violence. There is also some evidence that playing video games improves coordination and motor skills, and may have many other psychological benefits (although whether this has been shown to be true of violent video games specifically I do not know). I don’t know whether we end up with a net benefit or a net detriment here.

    But look at football. It is fucking universal. Nobody ever questions whether or not playing football in high school has a negative psychological effect or makes adolescents more prone to violence in the immediate aftermath of something like this, and although I haven’t looked it up yet my guess is that there is a greater correlation between having played football in high school and having committed a violent crime than there is with video games and the same. Even then that wouldn’t mean that we could jump to the conclusion that it was that specific activity that caused that specific crime, so anyone who says that video games caused a specific crime, or that football caused a specific crime, is speaking with their lower intestines somehow.

    But what was really needed was a distraction. So that the fun robbers wouldn’t rob all that fun that people have shooting military class weaponry at vaguely anthropomorphic targets in REAL life…

    Wait a second…

  12. gridironmonger says

    Considering that they’ve got the same video games in Japan as we have in the US, and Japan had TWO gun homicides last year (for the whole damned country), I think these “it’s teh vidya gamez” people have some explaining to do.

  13. laurentweppe says

    Considering that they’ve got the same video games in Japan as we have in the US, and Japan had TWO gun homicides last year (for the whole damned country), I think these “it’s teh vidya gamez” people have some explaining to do.

    Yeah, but look at the effect japanese videogames have on some people

  14. says

    My brother once brought up one iteration of a “blame videogames” article that showed up on Fark and I think he mentioned a graph that tends to show up in these threads: Line graph of violent crime in the US over time, with release dates of violent games displayed. Steady downward trend, despite the widespread popularity of these games, and it’s not exactly novel, since many of us grew up playing games. This definitely strikes me as a repeat of the crotchety old folks scapegoating rock & roll instead of dealing with the real issues. (Hint: Gun culture.)

    Speaking of benefits from videogames: Problem solving skills. Designers like puzzles, and sometimes they’re clever enough to create violent puzzles. Puzzles help people learn how to solve problems by looking at them from different angles.

  15. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    Tens of millions of kids play violent video games. A vanishingly small number of them commit violence. And such video games are played all over the world, even in nations with very low rates of violence.

    I’m not literate on the evidence regarding this subject so my following rebuttal has to do with simple logic rather than evidence. I’m skeptical violent video games in our culture doesn’t have an affect on the propensity to commit violence. I would be more surprised it doesn’t and not all surprised to learn it does lead to more violence if we strip out all other causal factors or conjoined factors.

    Fareed Zakaria did some shows after Newtown with segments focusing on the data that noted what Ed asserts here. He reported that because other countries’ young males play the same games without such horrendous outcomes like we see in the U.S., those video games don’t cause these mass slaughters. But that’s not coherent simply because we shouldn’t expect there to be only one causal variable on a topic as complex as violence.

    In the U.S.’s case we must also consider the fact that unlike those those other countries, our gamers also exist in a society with an enormous inventory of available guns and a culture that heavily promotes violence as a viable and moral reaction to people not acting or treating you or your tribe like you’d prefer.

    schelde writes:

    . . . violent video games are widespread but we’ve seen no corresponding rise in violent crime since their introduction.

    Which is in no way a compelling rebuttal. We could experience an increase in violent crimes due to violent video games while the overall rate of violence decreases due to other causal factors.

  16. says

    I hate to say it, but I’m with Beck on this one. I’ve been playing violent videogames for decades, and it’s had a detrimental effect on my respect for life. I can’t count the number of dinosaurs I’ve crushed with apples as I foraged for cherries, or the number of coiled snakes I’ve murdered while jumping diagonally on pyramids in real life since I started playing videogames.
    Even after hundreds of hours of Grand Theft Auto I still pay hookers what they’re owed, thank them for their service and give them a drive back to their corner, though. I may be living in a videogame-distorted reality at the fringes of society, trapped in an airless void of apathetic ennui, a human time bomb waiting for some minor irritation to set me off in a howling fire of fear and rage that will be remembered forever until the next white suburban male sociopath ignites, but I’m not rude.

  17. says

    @18:

    Point taken.

    We DO know that access to weapons which can fire lotsafuggin’bullets–REALLLLLLY FAST is related to virtually every mass killing in the U.S. since about the time of the McDonalds massacere in San Ysidro.

  18. zmidponk says

    alanb:

    It is certainly possible that violent video games have an effect on violent behavior, but that the impact is only on a very small percentage of people or that the impact is small enough that the statistical significance is hard to find.

    Something along the lines of inspiring someone prone to violence to obtain and/or use a particular gun when he went off on his killing spree, maybe. Actually inspiring a person to commit such a killing spree? Well, if the violence depicted in games is enough of an inspiration (which I would find very difficult to believe), and violent games are therefore banned because of this, in order to avoid applying double standards, violent films, violent books and any TV programme depicting any form of violence, down to and including the news covering real-life violence, would also need to be banned.

    I have seen no reason to automatically reject that hypothesis as I have seen a number of people do.

    The whole idea of ‘freedom’ is the idea that you are allowed to do something, no matter what it is, unless there’s a very good reason that you shouldn’t. Here, people are trying to create and play violent video games, so it’s seen as incumbent upon the people trying to stop that to come up with good reasons as to why it should be stopped. This hypothesis has been presented as one such good reason, but there’s very little, if any, evidence it is actually an accurate one. As such, people reject it until that changes.

  19. Michael Heath says

    zmidponk writes:

    The whole idea of ‘freedom’ is the idea that you are allowed to do something, no matter what it is, unless there’s a very good reason that you shouldn’t. Here, people are trying to create and play violent video games, so it’s seen as incumbent upon the people trying to stop that to come up with good reasons as to why it should be stopped. This hypothesis has been presented as one such good reason, but there’s very little, if any, evidence it is actually an accurate one. As such, people reject it until that changes.

    This is a bit of a strawman. No one’s arguing in this thread we should immediately criminalize the production of violent video games, except perhaps the referenced wingnut Ed linked to in his post; and who cares what Glenn Beck thinks when developing one’s own policy positions. In addition we do know that some mass murderers are heavy violent gamers.

    So we should absolutely be researching this topic, and not dismissing it out of hand with the type of defective thinking we see above; i.e., 1) violent-related crimes are trending down therefore violent cames can’t be a causal factor, and 2) other cultures’ young males are heavy players of violent games and they don’t commit mass murders.

    Dr. X @ 18 linked to one study which I quote here:

    The evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior. Moderator analyses revealed significant research design effects, weak evidence of cultural differences in susceptibility and type of measurement effects, and no evidence of sex differences in susceptibility. Results of various sensitivity analyses revealed these effects to
    be robust, with little evidence of selection (publication) bias.

    As I noted earlier, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a causal factor. I think the more interesting question, beyond the strength of this causal factor, if it exists, is how limiting or banning such games from young people would change the defect rate when it comes to mass murders and other violent crimes. And then the next interesting question would be how many victims we’re willing to pay relative to the cost to our liberty once we know the degree of impact violent games have on those who commit violent crimes.

    For example, we know drinking alcohol impairs our driving skills, even one drink does that. Yet we’re willing to pay the cost of the current level of ruined lives from alcohol related accidents in order to maintain some legality for drinking and driving (I think the average limit in most states is a blood alcohol limit of .08%, unless you’re seen violating another law where alcohol is also a factor).

    So merely recognizing a causal relationship, again – if it exists, doesn’t necessarily equate to a default position we should limit or ban such games. Finding out the causal relationship is merely the first step reasonable people should take prior to taking any position on the legality of such games.

  20. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    There’s nothing new here. Back in the 1950s, there were claims that comic books were responsible for youth crime and that porn was responsible for rape and other sex crimes.

    Not only is the latter claim still being made, but it is not infrequently presented by people who are either at least somewhat rational on other topics, apparently completely unaware that it is not settled fact, or both.

  21. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    It makes sense on the face of it – that repetition of simulated aggression would have real-world consequences, especially in adolescents. But I believe that research has shown this not to be the case. I’d like to know about the quality of this research, and if there are any solid questions about it.

    I first found this 12+ years ago doing research for a high school paper. I’ve never seen anti-media-demon-of-the-week reactionaries even attempt to address the issues it raises.

    I believe there are a few studies that purport to show a link between violent media and increased violent behavior or impulses and aren’t also laughably flawed in their design. That’s not surprising, given how much has been thrown at the wall over the years.

  22. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    I agree with Michael Heath that we don’t know the effect of violent video games on real violence. It’s possible they increase it; it’s also possible they decrease it, if some of those with violent impulses express them in playing violent video games rather than going out to perpetrate real violence.

  23. andrewjohnston says

    @Michael Heath: The problem with studies like that is that there’s always a bit of bait-and-switch involved. They get us talking about violence, but then switch to aggression in the actual data. This is not insignificant, especially given that these studies define “aggression” differently.

    Let’s look at the study presented by Dr X (actually a meta-analysis, but the same thing applies). They used a combination of experimental, non-experimental and longitudinal studies. None of these were specifically outcome-based, and very few actually bothered to distinguish between violence and non-violent aggression. The one study that did make this distinction had such absurd p-values (p > .30) that it doesn’t even come close to significance (pp. 161).

    The experimental studies generally gauge outcomes by attaching some negative stimulus (usually an electric shock or loud noise) to losing the game and allowing participants to set the intensity of the stimulus (pp. 157). This is typical for aggression studies, but again, we’re going from short-term aggression to long-term violence without bothering to bridge that gap. And if you look deep enough into the analysis, even the authors admit this. This is why it’s important that you look beyond the abstract – authors are known to make grand pronouncements in the introductions and then hide the caveats throughout the body. For instance, on page 155 the authors admit that making predictions using the data they compiled is difficult:

    …predicting the pattern of all the possible combinations of variables in video game studies requires a thorough knowledge of which processes are engaged by the video game. Will a third-person shooter have a different impact on immediate aggression than a first-person shooter? Will gorier
    games have a bigger impact than less gory games? Without knowledge of how well each specific game activates aggressive thoughts, feelings, and physiological arousal, any prediction is risky at best.

    But the big tipoff comes in the conclusion, where the authors admit that even after 20 years of these sorts of studies, the data are still inadequate to make real world predictions:

    Concerning basic theory, additional research of all three types (but especially experimental and longitudinal) is needed, especially on VGV effects on empathy, desensitization, and prosocial behavior. Additional longitudinal studies with longer intervals are needed for aggressive behavior and aggressive cognition. Furthermore, longitudinal studies with very large samples and very long time spans between the first time period and the last are needed so we can assess the impact of violent video games on very serious forms of physical aggression (i.e., violence). (pp. 171, emphasis added)

    So there you have it – none of these studies prove what the talking heads claim they do, which isn’t shocking because no one bothers to read them. With all due respect, I’ll take statistics on violence and video game consumption over whether some asshole games likes blasting his buddy with an airhorn.

  24. Moggie says

    I’ve often wondered why driving games tend to be ignored by those concerned about the effects of games.

    In the US, more than 30,000 people are killed on the roads every year. Reckless driving and excessive speed will be a factor in many of these deaths. I’ve played various games which involve driving very fast without proper care. If there really are many gamers whose real-life behaviour is affected by what they do in games, would banning the Need for Speed and Burnout series be a priority?

  25. Michael Heath says

    I think one premise we need to be cognizant of on this issue is that this not a fair playing field in terms of who is right and who is wrong regarding a causal relationship between violent video games, or not; and when we should consider policy prescriptions. Most serious people would like to get as close to zero defects as possible, at least without turning ourselves into a police state. Thinking in terms of zero defects is very different than thinking in terms of rough percentages, fifty/fifty or so.

    For example, if climate scientists thought that ‘business-as-usual’ coupled to our current emission trends created a 20% chance of turning the earth into Venus, non-conservatives would strongly advocate for mitigation policies since 1 mere defect is catastrophic. The cost-benefit analysis is a no-brainer in favor of aggressive mitigation, in spite of the odds being strongly against a Venus-like earth.

    It’s this type of close-to-zero defect thinking that is emerging for non-conservatives since Columbine and now Newton. So if we’re on the fence regarding the role violent video games play, non-NRA types will be much more open to repressive policies on some to drive down the defect rate on mass murders.

    Of course there is a counter-argument; at what cost do we suppress the liberties of some, in this case gamers? But let’s not forget there’s another potential group’s rights to consider here, and that is potential victims.

    We currently know limiting access or banning violent games would absolutely infringe on the rights of gamers who like those types of games, while not being able to validate we’re currently infringing on the life rights of others by not limiting or banning such games. But the imbalance should be obvious, the right to access certain games vs. the life of other people, one’s right is far superior to another though the odds favor gamers when it come to outcomes. But being wrong end on the victim side is a far worse consequence than the suppression of the gamers’ rights. It this cost of being wrong that pushes away from 50/50 arguments on the causal relationship between games and violence and instead into the realm of what we must do to move closer to zero defects. We certainly need more research, but I think the onus is swinging on the gamers to validate they do not contribute to any defects – a finding I’m doubtful we’ll find.

  26. zmidponk says

    Michael Heath:

    This is a bit of a strawman. No one’s arguing in this thread we should immediately criminalize the production of violent video games, except perhaps the referenced wingnut Ed linked to in his post; and who cares what Glenn Beck thinks when developing one’s own policy positions.

    The whole reason this is an issue of interest to anyone bar the people carrying out these studies is because some people ARE advocating sale and/or production of these games being banned or restricted (and not just right-wing wingnuts like Glenn Beck, either), so it’s not a strawman at all. I agree that more research can only be a good thing, but I don’t find anything at all wrong with rejecting this hypothesis until said research actually provides some pretty solid evidence to back it up, if that ever happens.

  27. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    I agree that more research can only be a good thing, but I don’t find anything at all wrong with rejecting this hypothesis until said research actually provides some pretty solid evidence to back it up, if that ever happens.

    Given the abysmal quality of much of the research and reporting on research so far, I don’t agree. The “video games turn kids into violent monsters, I’ll prove it, THIS TIME FOR SURE!” people have shot their load a thousand times over. We don’t sit around and endlessly redo the Michelson-Morley experiment JUST IN CASE.

  28. dingojack says

    Azkyroth – Uh, a strong positive correlation (say m > 0.9 & r > 0.6) would probably be enough.
    Unless, of course, you’re volunteering to be shot in the head multiple times. ;)
    Dingo

  29. Tsu Dho Nimh says

    ” a mind that cannot tell the difference between fiction and reality”

    So how about the old guys who go on killing rampages: the Alabama kidnapper, the guy who killed his sister and two cops, etc.

    Can we blame excessive exposure to Fox news and/or fundagelical talk radio?

  30. kermit. says

    Late to join the game, but here goes…
    schelde – what are some of those “glaringly obvious flaws”? Do you have a cite, or can you briefly describe one or two?
    .
    Intelligent claims that video games are contributing to violence do not claim that:
    1. There will be a noticeable difference in most players.
    2. All games are equally evil.
    3. There are no other, probably much greater, influences on violent behavior.
    4. That it is even necessary for violence.
    .
    To expand a bit:
    .
    1. If you graph violent behavior of young people with one axis representing violence committed, it is obvious that there is a long tail of the chronically violent offenders who commit most of the crimes. If a given number of hours playing violent first person shooters doubled the chances of a young person being violent, then the number of crimes would be increased, but most young people playing them would show no noticeable increase in violence.
    .
    2. The proposed process is operant conditioning. The games which simulate killing people the most effectively condition folks (especially young folks) to feel somewhat less upset at the idea of actually killing people. The more senses are involved in the simulated act of killing the more “used to the idea” the players get.
    .
    3. Living in an already- violent neighborhood growing up is probably a stronger influence on whether or not a young male becomes a violent criminal. That hardly means that they all would, or that this would be the only causal process known in producing violent people. Abusive parents without an adult to provide an emotional anchor is possibly the best way to produce a sociopath – but still not guaranteed.
    .
    Grossman, inOn Killing and his other books, discusses how the US government has successfully increased the number of non-sociopaths who can kill in the appropriate combat situation (as defined by the US military). Also cops – there are situations in which most all of us here agree that there are times when we want cops to shoot, and hesitation can mean the loss of innocent life. Operant condition is accomplished in a number of ways, such as paint ball or similar somewhat painful, whole body immersion in the situation. There is a spectrum of operant conditioning here – comic books are risible, movies may have an effect, first person shooter video games may be worse than paint ball, if the goal is to kill as many people as possible, regardless of context. One team against another in paint ball is rather different from Grand Theft Auto.
    .
    Beck of course is an idiot. Don’t be like him and simplify to a level of idiocy. Asserting that first person shooters didn’t make you go out and kill your neighbor isn’t very informative unless you’re a serial killer and have been keeping score, and have seen (r not) an increase after playing such games.
    .
    I know that most studies have been silly. If they don’t distinguish between GTA and Civilization IV they don’t understand what they’re supposed to be looking for.

  31. Michael Heath says

    zmidponk writes:

    I don’t find anything at all wrong with rejecting this hypothesis until said research actually provides some pretty solid evidence to back it up, if that ever happens.

    “Anything?” That argues you haven’t even confronted and considered the compelling arguments which exist that we should consider the fact some mass murders were done by ardent violent gamers, or the cost-benefit analysis on now to best frame this debate.

  32. lofgren says

    If I recall correctly, Lanza spent most of hist time playing Starcraft and Warcraft III. Which, OK, are technically violent, but unless he was under the impression that the school was infested with zerglings it’s hard to see how they could inspire such an act.

  33. lofgren says

    Holy shit, when did the normally level-headed Michael Heath become such an irrational, speech suppressing dick?

    we should consider the fact some mass murders were done by ardent violent gamers

    I hear they also breathed air and ate food.

  34. Michael Heath says

    lofgren writes:

    when did the normally level-headed Michael Heath become such an irrational, speech suppressing dick?

    Please cite where I argued we should suppress speech.

    lofgren writes:

    I hear they also breathed air and ate food.

    Great argument for such a serious topic; I’m convinced. In spite of the fact there is some evidence, which is not convincing, that violent gaming does . . . and I quote the study linked @ 18:

    The evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior.

    So no, breathing and eating food is a nice red herring for partisans seeking ways to avoid cognitive dissonance, but not at all attractive for people that actually want to cut the violent death rate down rather than maintain their worldview unchallenged.

    I make my argument @31 on why we need to get off the 50/50 fence on this issue and consider the type of thinking that encourages changes so we can approach zero defects. Calling people a dick for wanting people to more seriously engage on this issue. All in order to reduce violent deaths rather than seek ways as you do to deflect inconvenient facts, well – that’s not an attractive quality in my book.

  35. lofgren says

    Please cite where I argued we should suppress speech.

    Sure. zmidponk writes:

    The whole reason this is an issue of interest to anyone bar the people carrying out these studies is because some people ARE advocating sale and/or production of these games being banned or restricted…

    This is accurate. In fact it is advocated often and loudly. Video games are the comic books and rock music of the 21st century. However, zmidponk argues that no action is worthwhile until an actual link between video games and violence has actually been demonstrated:

    I don’t find anything at all wrong with rejecting this hypothesis until said research actually provides some pretty solid evidence to back it up

    Michael Heath’s response:

    That argues you haven’t even confronted and considered the compelling arguments which exist that we should consider the fact some mass murders were done by ardent violent gamers, or the cost-benefit analysis on now to best frame this debate.

    There is no other way to read that except as a counterpoint to zmidponk’s argument, i.e. that we should in fact take the speech-curtailing actions that zmidponk decries, based upon the unproven hypothesis that video games may make people violent.

    As for these “compelling” arguments, I have yet to see them. Every study I have been confronted with has struck me as ludicrously flimsy, to the point that I distrust even the tepid conclusions that the authors come to. And it’s worth noting that none of those authors can actually conclude that video games make an individual more likely to engage in antisocial violence. This is because literally hundreds of millions of people play violent video games, and even if you limit the pool to “ardent gamers” so few of them have committed the kind of random violence that spurs these conversations that you don’t even have a decent pool of examples to draw any kind of conclusion from. Whatever scientists might see (or think they see) in the lab, the experiment fails in the laboratory of life.

    You call for a “cost benefit analysis.” Let’s do that.

    Costs:

    1. The creation of a board similar to the MPAA or CCA who are given unearned and unproven authority to determine what is “wholesome” based on unscientific criteria. At worst, you get something like the Comics Code that ghettoizes video games and stunts their development for more than a generation. At best you get something like the MPAA who wield their power like petty tyrants, making arbitrary demands based on their own subjective tastes and hangups rather than anything resembling an objective standard.

    2. The disruption of one of the fastest growing industries in the world. Video games are a significant driver of technological innovation and represent the vanguard of interactive entertainment. Billions of dollars are spent on them and that does not appear to be slowing. Give a bunch of tut-tutting old ninnies who are constantly screaming “But what about the children????” the authority to determine what gets bought and sold through the major portals and watch that industry shrivel.

    3. The disruption of a nascent art form. Many video games are violent, just like our movies, our television, our music, and our art. Violence, specifically the conflict of life and death, is the fulcrum of the greatest drama possible. Who lives and dies and why have been major questions in our stories probably since before we were human. Personally I have no doubt that video games will be capable of tackling these questions with every bit as much depth as whatever old dead European playwright whose story about mass-murdering cousin-fuckers we force students to read in high school. In the meantime, they’re already providing more drama, and treating the dead with more dignity, than your average episode of Law and Order.

    4. Having to have the whole conversation again and repeat the whole damn process with whatever the moral guardians determine is responsible for society’s decay after video games have been successfully brought to heel.

    Benefits:

    Given that no link between antisocial violence and video games has actually been demonstrated, none. Unless you count conjectural benefits. But I don’t think you want to do that, because then we would have to listen to every asshole who claims that prayer in school will save children. So what if there’s no reason to actually believe it? Think of the children!!!!

    So no, breathing and eating food is a nice red herring for partisans seeking ways to avoid cognitive dissonance, but not at all attractive for people that actually want to cut the violent death rate down rather than maintain their worldview unchallenged.

    This is the very definition of begging the question. There is no reason to believe that restricting the production of or access to violent video games (something you claim you don’t even support anyway, so what the hell are we even talking about?) will “cut the violent death rate down.”

    Calling people a dick for wanting people to more seriously engage on this issue. All in order to reduce violent deaths rather than seek ways as you do to deflect inconvenient facts, well – that’s not an attractive quality in my book.

    And you’re doing it again. By all means, let’s keep studying the issue, because every single study that has been done so far has concluded nothing of value, and certainly nothing dramatic enough to warrant any kind of action. (Action which you claim you are opposed to anyway, and which “no one” is even advocating, so again why are we having this conversation?)

    And seriously, you’re better than this. This is the kind of emotionally laden drivel I expect from Raging Bee.

    And here I will confess that, yes, I am highly skeptical of almost all psychological experiments of the type that are used to study the link video games and violence. Specifically, I am skeptical that scientists are actually studying what they think they are studying. The idea that you can draw much of a conclusion at all about the way that a person behaves in their day to day life from their willingness to dose a gaming partner with extra hot sauce after playing a video game and losing for hours in an artificially concocted experimental scenario represents anything other than a willingness to, well, dose a guy with more and more hot sauce after playing a video game and losing for hours seems extremely tenuous to me. The idea that we can conclude from this that the video game will inspire somebody to go out and kill is so absurd I’m surprised it’s not something out of a Mel Brooks movie.

    To be honest, I don’t consider this to be an issue worth seriously engaging. The claims are too similar to the same claims that have been made about goth, rap, DnD, rock, comic books, and talkies. The incidents of violence that is even tenuously linked to video games are too rare to warrant even a furrowed brow, let alone the kind of roll-up-our-sleeves-and-demonize-entertainment-without-bothering-to-check-our-facts-first hard work that you seem to be advocating, or not advocating, or whatever it is that you’re doing. You accuse me of refusing to engage with inconvenient facts and then cite a tenuous conclusion in a meta-analysis of studies that didn’t themselves conclude anything except that they may have found something kind of interesting and worthy of further study. There are no facts to confront here.

    I think what bugs me the most about psychology studies are these kinds of claims:

    We expected the largest effects in short-term experimental studies and the smallest effects in longitudinal studies, once sex has been controlled. This is because experimental studies generally are better at controlling for effects of extraneous variables that increase the error variance and therefore decrease the effect-size magnitude.

    In other words, they’re attributing the fact that their experimental results fade into background noise when you look at larger groups of people over longer periods of time to “error.” “Error” in this case meaning the effects of everything else in the world.

    Basically, they get people all riled up playing video games for a few hours in laboratory. They create ridiculous, unrealistic situations like allowing one player to blast the other with an airhorn every time they lose. They get a short term burst of increased willingness to use the airhorn. Then they just assume that this somehow translates into something that should be significant to real life when these people return to their jobs, families, and comfy dens where they play a few rounds of Gears of War before dinner while they watch their kids play with Legos. When the effect doesn’t materialize in the real world, well, that’s because the real world is full of confusing errors. Not because the study was conducted in a totally artificial environment using methods of measuring violent tendencies that are only slightly less indirect than phrenology.

    I am reminded of a study I read about where they showed a group of men porn for 30 minutes and then showed them pictures of women and asked the men to guess what the women were thinking. The men who had been watching porn were far more likely to ascribe sexual thoughts to the women. From this they concluded that porn encourages men to view women as sexual objects. Bullshit. They should have concluded that porn makes men horny, and horny men think about sex a lot. Sure enough, when the experiment was repeated, they added a break of several hours between the porn viewing and the picture game. The porn viewers had returned almost to baseline, because they weren’t all frustrated by watching 30 minutes of porn anymore.

    Look, do I believe that violent entertainment can help desensitize people to real life violence? Absolutely. In fact, that’s pretty much a settled argument as far as I am concerned. Do I believe that is synonymous with turning people into rampaging spree killers? Fuck no. Do I believe that it warrants some kind of action on our part? Again, no. Should we have some kind of discussion about it? Maybe along the lines of “Hey, is that video game making you all violent? No? OK then, I’m going to go deal with some actual problems over here then.”

    Even the military, who have successfully used video games (and movies, and still drawings but for some reason everybody focuses on the video games) to desensitize soldiers to violence, does not produce hordes of indiscriminate murderers. The numbers just. Are. Not. There.

  36. zmidponk says

    Micheal Heath:

    “Anything?” That argues you haven’t even confronted and considered the compelling arguments which exist that we should consider the fact some mass murders were done by ardent violent gamers, or the cost-benefit analysis on now to best frame this debate.

    I really don’t see how using the word ‘anything’ there actually leads to that conclusion, especially as that conclusion is actually wrong. I have heard the arguments that some mass murders were done by ardent violent gamers, but have yet to hear any real evidence that there is a causal relationship there. As such, I do not accept there is one, and it actually seems much more likely to me that any causal relationship is actually quite the reverse of the one being claimed. As for any cost-benefit analysis, to summarise and echo lofgren, there is no proven benefit, and quite a lot of cost, of several different kinds, so, again, that comes down on the side of rejecting this hypothesis until there is actually some evidence to back it up, if that ever happens.

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