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The Year in Game Politics

Zonk posted more than 6 years ago | from the finger-pointing-and-recriminations dept.

Games 30

The Next Generation site has a look back at 2007 through a political lens. Manhunt 2, crackdowns on game sales, and endless stories about gaming and aggression seemed to dominate game headlines this year. The article runs down the details on each of these thorny issues: "There is no conclusive evidence that playing violent videogames leads to violent acts. That hasn't stopped researchers from looking for links between videogames and aggression. A study released ... in November tainted [the role of games as teachers] ... A University of Michigan study by psychology professor Rowell Huesmann called violent videogames a public health threat ... And Villanova University in Pennsylvania found that games caused aggression, but not much: 'It's not as if this is a light switch that either videogames do or do not cause aggression...Most people assume it has a really big effect, but what we find from research is it actually has a very tiny effect,' professor Patrick Markey told Next-Gen in April."

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Violent Video Games do not cause agression... (0, Offtopic)

NoobHunter (1090113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21727702)

...and in other news, the sun rose this morning. Nothing to see, move along.

Re:Violent Video Games do not cause agression... (1)

Toandeaf (1014715) | more than 6 years ago | (#21727812)

If only those who don't play games could get this, we wouldn't have to discuss the issue so much to counter their ignorance.

Re:Violent Video Games do not cause agression... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21729080)

I was an extremely violent fourth grader, constantly getting into fights and lashing out at people. In sixth grade, I was expelled on the first day of school for kicking another kid in the head. That Christmas, I got a gameboy with Tetris and I haven't picked another fight since. I've played every violent video game on the market and if anything they've made me *less* violent. I can only blink, baffled, when I hear claims that "Video games cause aggression". My personal history proves (to me, at least) that this is simply false.

Re:Violent Video Games do not cause agression... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21733556)

I guess you were just looking for a challenge. Our baser instincts have all sorts of ways to satisfy urges. I wonder if anyone has tried computer games as a therapy for violent behaviour.

Good science (5, Insightful)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 6 years ago | (#21727878)

"There is no conclusive evidence that playing violent videogames leads to violent acts. That hasn't stopped researchers from looking for links between videogames and aggression."

Good. That's what they *should* be doing. I'd hate to see the day when science went back to standing on the findings of others and saying "that's just the way it is" rather than continuing to investigate, experiment, and study.

They've made some significant links between violent video games and violent *thoughts*, and I'd wager that eventually they will find a direct link between violent games and violent acts. We should not feel threatened by such ideas and summarily dismiss them because we don't like the findings; that will do nothing but encourage those who would let the lowest common denominator make the rules.

What we as gamers need to do is continue to expect the gaming industry to properly rate and label their products. We should give our business to retailers who make it easy for consumers to understand ratings, and find games of a certain rating. And we should admit that sometimes a minority of people take their gaming experience too far and become violent in real life...just like a minority of people do things based on what they saw or heard in other entertainment media. Just like a minority of people become violent while playing or even passively *watching* a sport.

The public needs to be reminded that this sort of reaction has accompanied every new medium of entertainment. When people realize that this is nothing new and that some people have a problem with SELF CONTROL, not with video games, then we'll get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

I wonder if Star Fleet will have to put up with this nonsense when they invent holodecks. "They're training our kids to be murderers" blah blah blah

Re:Good science (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21728138)

I wonder if Star Fleet will have to put up with this nonsense when they invent holodecks.
Yeah, well, holodecks are a little bit different. Videogames don't malfunction, become real, and kill people.

Re:Good science (2, Interesting)

PlatyPaul (690601) | more than 6 years ago | (#21728238)

Well put, succinct and lucid.

The problem, though, lies in very fact that there are people who cannot or will not formulate their opinions on the matter this way. Whether it be the "think of the children" proclaimers or those who believe that video games are blameless, there will be people who will approach the situation with a closed mind. When they have power, decisions will be made accordingly. Trying to remind such people that they should think openly may not work - perhaps it would work better to see that they don't continue to wield power?

Video game prejudice shouldn't be your only key issue when selecting politicians, of course, but it might be worth thinking about before the polling booth.

Re:Good science (2, Insightful)

volpanic (976898) | more than 6 years ago | (#21729362)

I agree with much of what you've said. For one thing, one of the problems in the discussion of the potential link between videogames and violence is the fact that comparisons are usually drawn to passive media (film, tv). Someone will always bring up the fact that games must be worse because you are a participant in the fantasy violence.

IMO it's far more fitting to make a comparison between videogames and sports - both abstractions of fighting in an us vs. them activity. I don't think there is any way to deny that these kinds of activities come with risks attached for people with undeveloped or impaired self control. I mean, just witness what inebriated football fans can get up to.

But would someone sue a sports league because it made them beat someone up - okay, don't answer that - there is always some litigious idiot. But most people would probably roll their eyes.

Re:Good science (1)

Tailsfan (1200615) | more than 6 years ago | (#21733014)

Good point. Sides, I don't even play halo.

Keep trying until they get the answers they want. (1)

PhoenixOne (674466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21740622)

I think the problem isn't that they are testing for a link between games and aggression, but looking for one.

Good scientist will avoid biasing the results of the test, but bad politicians and ass-hat lawyers will.

I work in the industry, and if I saw clear evidence that what I'm doing was causing serious harm I'd stop. But it feels like they are trying to make a huge issue where there isn't one.

Re:Good science (1)

rtechie (244489) | more than 6 years ago | (#21743234)

Good. That's what they *should* be doing. ... They've made some significant links between violent video games and violent *thoughts*, and I'd wager that eventually they will find a direct link between violent games and violent acts.
No, they shouldn't. If you look into it a bit you'll find that most of the "research" about violence and videogames comes from a handful of psych professors and paid researchers that have made proving this nonexistent link into their entire career. To do their they have used techniques even more shady than the average psych researcher. There are no "links". This is simply an artifact of experimenter bias and poor methodology. They THINK it should be true, so they see it in their results. The notion that violent media MAKES people violent is really laughable on it's face, and demonstrates the extreme disconnect of the "scientists" working on this research.

What we as gamers need to do is continue to expect the gaming industry to properly rate and label their products.
The rating system is about prior restraint. It serves no other purpose than a foil against those Congressman than want to ban video games as a fake controversy to distract their constituents away from their own corruption. When was the last time you bought a children's book with a rating? Never? That's because they're totally unnecessary.

Re:Good science (1)

PFI_Optix (936301) | more than 6 years ago | (#21744770)

No, they shouldn't. If you look into it a bit you'll find that most of the "research" about violence and videogames comes from a handful of psych professors and paid researchers that have made proving this nonexistent link into their entire career. To do their they have used techniques even more shady than the average psych researcher. There are no "links". This is simply an artifact of experimenter bias and poor methodology. They THINK it should be true, so they see it in their results. The notion that violent media MAKES people violent is really laughable on it's face, and demonstrates the extreme disconnect of the "scientists" working on this research.


So you summarily dismiss any and all research that demonstrates a link between violent behavior and violent media...what exactly makes you any different from those researchers who see what they want to see in their results?

Never mind that the same centers of the brain have been found to be stimulated when viewing violent media and committing violent acts. Never mind that hormone levels have been found to have similar results. Clearly they ALL use poor methodology because you KNOW there is no link, and we should dismiss everything.

Here's the thing: it's becoming hard to refute (without pulling what you just did and proclaim everything that doesn't agree with you null) the idea that violent media, especially violent video games, result in more violent thoughts. The important thing to remember hear is that at this point we're just talking about thoughts. Games influence our emotional state and trigger certain responses in our brains. But regardless of how they make us feel or think, we are still in command of our actions. The problem is that SOME PEOPLE do not keep themselves in check so well. SOME PEOPLE are more prone to acting on bad ideas, like violent thoughts. SOME PEOPLE can be influenced by media to do things they wouldn't have done had they not seen or heard it somewhere else first.

Is that the fault of the video game? No more than it is the fault of an author when some nut recreates a crime from a novel. But that doesn't make the issue go away, does it?

Re:Good science (1)

rtechie (244489) | more than 6 years ago | (#21746900)

So you summarily dismiss any and all research that demonstrates a link between violent behavior and violent media...what exactly makes you any different from those researchers who see what they want to see in their results?
You say "any and all" as if there is a lot of ORIGINAL research on this topic. There isn't. Maybe a dozen papers altogether, over the past 40 years, and I've read almost all of those. Just skimming them reveals pretty awesome flaws in methodology which amount to the researchers telling their "subjects" (usually their own students or even their own children) how to answer. I pointed out that ORIGINAL part because virtually all the studies you will read on this topic are NOT original. They're meta-studies that analyze the results of previous studies without bothering to replicate any of it.

Never mind that the same centers of the brain have been found to be stimulated when viewing violent media and committing violent acts.
I don't know what you mean by "same centers of the brain". But the research I've read on this (again, ONE paper) has been debunked by other research showing you can stimulate the same regions of the brain with other stimuli. No "violence center of the brain" has been found comparable to other well-defined brain regions. There are regions that definitely control "impulse control" or a "conscience" if you will, but that's not the same thing.

Never mind that hormone levels have been found to have similar results.
Testosterone levels have been directly tied to aggression in general and violence in particular. So what? Watching violent media does not increase testosterone levels except in a very minor way. Someone can get agitated or "pumped" while watching a sporting event, but that doesn't make them a killer.

Clearly they ALL use poor methodology because you KNOW there is no link, and we should dismiss everything.
All the studies I've read. And as I said, there are really quite few. People don't seem to grasp how sparse most research is in general. Particularly research that isn't making someone piles of money.

One very important thing to come away with here is that almost all of the studies that show a positive result for "media = violence" have not included any controls. i.e. When we show other media and ask the same questions do we get the same results?

I should also point out that I have a problem with psych studies in general. Studying a group of rich white American college students (pretty much all the subjects in psych studies) does not translate directly to the world at large, or even the United States. The sample sizes which are typically used, as few as THREE in one of the studies I read, are far to small to make conclusions for the general population.

Whenever there are large comprehensive studies with lots of subjects (to increase sample size) and lots of researchers (to reduce experimenter bias) on "media makes us evil", they ALWAYS return negative results. I'm thinking specifically of the 1970 President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography here.

Don Quixote (4, Informative)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | more than 6 years ago | (#21727918)

Whenever I hear about video games being a menace to society, I always think of the book Don Quixote. There's a part in the book where the priest goes through Don Quixote's romantic knight novels, and declares that they are the reason he went loopy and took off to play knight. Hundreds of years later, it's the same story, just a different medium. Just something to think about.

different decade, same story (1)

my sig is bigger tha (682562) | more than 6 years ago | (#21728780)

years ago it was rock music that was making kids crazy.

what'll those crazy demagogues come up with next...

Think of the children? (2)

KtHM (732769) | more than 6 years ago | (#21729126)

When the average age of a gamer is somewhere around 30, why are violent games which are obviously marketed towards the adult market being banned?

You know what, beer is bad for kids. Let's ban that too.

I played video games all throughout my childhood. Some of them were violent. I turned out fine. The kids who have a tenuous grasp of reality, who snap and shoot up their schools (supposedly) because of a game, probably would have done it anyway. It's not like there's not enough violence in other media to set them off.

I seriously doubt that being the player makes that much difference, versus watching the movie through the (violent) protagonist's eyes.

Re:Think of the children? (1)

BarneyL (578636) | more than 6 years ago | (#21730298)

If you're taling about Manhunt 2 I would disagree on it being "obviously marketed at adults". Adults tend to buy games based on things like good stories and gameplay, both of which Manhunt lacks. It was always clearly a cynical attempt to target a game at kids who are in that phase where they think that watching pointless extreme violence makes them somehow cool and mature.

Equally if a brand of beer was clearly being targeted at under age drinkers I'm sure the manufacurer would get into trouble.

Re:Think of the children? (1)

njfuzzy (734116) | more than 6 years ago | (#21732016)

We are seeing the same problem with comic books / graphic novels. Most people assume that these products are for kids, so even the large segment of the market that is actually for grown-ups is scrutinized with the assumption that someone is targetting kids with sex, violence, etc. People are going to jail for selling products to adults meant for adults, because some idiot associates the medium with kids.

Video games, violence, and me. (4, Interesting)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 6 years ago | (#21729578)

Just for reference, I'm 23 years old now. I have been playing video games every single day (literally...not a day has gone by that I haven't played for at least ten minutes, even if it's on my cell phone) since my sixth birthday. For a very long time, I have played violent video games...some would say I started playing violent video games at an age when someone that young shouldn't be (in case you were curious, my first violent game (and first game altogether) was NARC on NES.)

I have played countless hours of video games...gibbing friends, blowing up planes, slashing people apart with swords, and just generally being as destructive as possible. Violent video games have had a profound effect on me...they have desensitized me to violence.

Now, many people would say that is a bad thing; personally, I find it to be a good thing. I can give you a perfect example: From the ages of 18 to 22, I was a car mechanic. A buddy of mine lost two fingers in a metal radiator fan when the moron inside the car started it up, thinking we had given him the all clear signal (the all clear signal actually came from three bays down...and yes, the bay number was shouted along with the words "clear". The guy in the car was just a moron.) All of my coworkers around me were unable to help him, because they couldn't stand to look at his hand. While my manager was calling 911, I, totally unaffected by the two missing digits and exposed bone, was able to properly wrap it and position my coworker (due to him going into shock) until the ambulance arrived.

Something similar happened on a four wheeling trip. A guy we were wheeling with was exploring the trail up ahead a little bit (it had rained recently, and he was checking for stability). The guy slipped and fell, breaking his arm on a rock, his bone sticking out of his forearm. Again, unfazed, I was able to help him out and do what was necessary to help get him down off the mountain.

Many people suddenly panic when something violent and bloody happens, and that's how people get more hurt than they already are. Yes, video games have desensitized me to violence, and as a result I have been able to help people that I otherwise would have been powerless to help.

Desensitization is NOT a bad thing. It allows you to see past the violence that is occurring and to address the situation with a clear head, calm head. Desensitization is how one of my childhood friends was able to become a very effective EMT...blood and guts simply don't phase her, and she is able to approach the given situation without paying any attention to the gore that may present itself.

Re:Video games, violence, and me. (1)

MeanderingMind (884641) | more than 6 years ago | (#21730814)

Desensitization in the sense you mention is something we should strive for. Desensitization in the sense of one's understanding of the morality, or immorality, of violence is something we should avoid. The semantics here muddle the issue somewhat, as there isn't a clear distinction between the two in most discussions. The result is that many people assume the two go hand in hand, when really they do not.

What's common? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21730004)

Years pass and different villains are found for the problems of the world. Be it books, rock, video-games, movies...
What's common in all these cases? Extremely orthodox single-minded egocentric lunatics that fud weakly-minded folks into thinking that everything that is different and that they do not agree with is bad.
Actually the blame is on the people that buy this crap, that accept their maniac rants without putting thought into it (after all thinking about stuff is so exhausting). Also blame the people that profit from this (cue to Jack Johnson).
Discussing video-games x aggressive behavior is palliative. Sooner or later flying cars or holographic displays will be the evil bringers.

A stupid question... (2, Interesting)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21730718)

"There is no conclusive evidence that playing violent videogames leads to violent acts."

I understand the motivation by gamers to press this argument. I've been playing FPS's since Doom1, loved most of them, and as far as I can tell I'm not a homocidal maniac. I've never shot a human, nor do I ever hope/intend to. The 'anti-game' community is simplistic and generally ignorant, so I can understand trying to undermine their every argument.

But (re the above statement) - really? I mean, if one claims that repeatedly watching (in this case, violent) imagery *doesn't* in any way change behavior and values, doesn't that ipso facto perjure the ENTIRE concept of our $multi-billion$ (trillion?) advertising industries?

Re:A stupid question... (1)

Tinyn (1100891) | more than 6 years ago | (#21730770)

Yes. It does. They can stop now and do something useful instead.

Re:A stupid question... (1)

Evangelion (2145) | more than 6 years ago | (#21738010)

But (re the above statement) - really? I mean, if one claims that repeatedly watching (in this case, violent) imagery *doesn't* in any way change behavior and values, doesn't that ipso facto perjure the ENTIRE concept of our $multi-billion$ (trillion?) advertising industries?

The statement means exactly what it says. "There is no conclusive evidence that playing violent videogames leads to violent acts." It doesn't mean that there is no link. It doesn't mean that there is a link and we don't know about it.

It means that there is no conclusive evidence of a link at the current time. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Light at the end of the tunnel... (1)

xyph0r (1153429) | more than 6 years ago | (#21731452)

The only reassuring factor is that one day, something else will come along for the mass media to blame. What that might be, I really have no idea. But it'll do to videogames what videogames did to rock music. Help shift the blame. *sigh* Maybe then, I'll be able to play Manhunt 2 on the Wii.

Game will help me survive (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21731548)

against a zombie uprising. No really I live right next to a cemetery, therefor it is necessary that I play violent video games with zombie killing. So that when a zombie uprising happens I know what do to stay alive!

Took a class with Rowell Huesmann.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21731558)

...while I was at the University of Michigan. He teaches in the Communications department, which is a bit of a joke to begin with, and of all the classes both myself and my wife took there, he was the biggest, saddest, most pathetic blow-hard of the bunch. This is a guy whose entire life revolves around trying to retroactively justify decades of time wasted on marginal media violence research. I had to correct him on a monthly basis for confusing facts, injecting personal bias into the class material, and for outright lying through his statistics. A classic Huesmann move is this:

Say you do a study, and the control group comes in at 45%, and the variable group at 47%. Huesmann would display this as a big, colorful bar graph up on the overhead, theater-size in a lecture hall. However, he wouldn't display the WHOLE graph; just from 40% to 50%. So whatever statistically insignificant results his little studies returned would be artificially inflated by a factor of 10 to 20, and presented as fact. I can remember at least 4 incidents where I had to point out, during lecture, that his graph display was HUGELY skewing the results of the study.

Granted, this is all anecdotal, but I've never been less impressed by a "scientist" in my entire life.

Violence and games (1)

jandersen (462034) | more than 6 years ago | (#21736082)

So, in the last year there has been even more talk and research into this - and as always the reactionaries on both sides have been screaming their heads off about anything but the real issue: the fact that violence is endemic in America even today, and in fact seems to be on the increase when it comes to the more extreme forms.

Is it games? Or movies? Or weapons? Or social injustice? Or a combination? The argument you hear all the time is that "it isn't guns that kill people, it's people using the guns" - this seems to function as a cover-all that precludes any further thoughts about the issue, and which is used not just about weapons, but against the idea that violent games or movies cause violence, or that social inequality causes crime. It is, in fact used much like that other old saw "there is no conclusive proof", which has been used as an excuse for not doing anything about pollution, climate change, the tobacco industry etc.

I don't think anybody in their right mind suggests that violent games are the only cause, or even the main cause for violence; but there is now good reason to suspect that is a contributing factor, just like violent movies, easy acces to weapons and the deep social divides in US society. This is what the scientists are saying, they are not saying what should be done about it - that is not their job, their job is to find facts and publish their findings.

I personally think the main reason for the very high levels of violence in the US is a combination of several cultural elements:

- the tendency to polarize anything. Politicans are seen as either saints or demons, and nobody is willing to even try to reach across any divide, because you are either 'for or against us'. This tends to justify treating those outside your own group as not worthy of consideration.

- the extreme dominance of capitalism. This may be good for the economy, at least for a while, but it means that your own material success becomes the number one priority; it is a worship of selfishness, if you will. Poor people are seen as nothing more than useless rabble that are too lazy and stupid to break out of their poverty. And of course, poor people tend to see the rest of society as enemies.

- violent games and movies contribute to a culture where violence is seen as somehow cool and attractive. So does the very high status the Military holds in America - the army is in many ways nothing but a concentrated, ritualized culture of unthinking violence, and many if not most young men grow up to think that you have to be a soldier to be a real man. So, to the American mind violence is perhaps seen as more acceptable than in other Western cultures.

- the easy acces to guns and the near-worhip of guns is certainly contributing to violence. A gun represents the ultimate in violent capability, and with many seeing violence as cool it is not surprising that they will get a gun and use it. After all, if you pull out a gun, but don't intend to use it, your opponent may grab it and use against you, so if you carry a gun, you have already subscribed to the paradigm "kill or get killed".

So how do we get out of this evil spiral, where violence begets ever more violence? Well, restricting violent games won't make much difference - even an outright ban wouldn't do much. What we need is a general change of hearts and minds, so that violence is no longer seen as attractive or necessary to solve problems, and a change in the political landscape so society can develop towards more equality, not less. I don't know if this is possible, but if it isn't, America will become ever more divided, violent and fearful, until people lock themselves in their homes, never look their neighbors in the eye, and everybody wants a police state, that is 'tough on crime' (and people in general). I hope we will find a way. I really hope we do.

What about sports? (1)

PhoenixOne (674466) | more than 6 years ago | (#21742652)

Have they done research between sports and aggression?

I'm not a behavioral scientist (INABS?), but how many stories do you hear about people overturning cars and breaking windows after a Halo game? How many sports figures have violent criminal records? Doesn't it seem like most of the football players in high school have a reputation for being violent jerks (in US at least)?

If you're going to test behavior, compare a GTA player to a Raider fan. ;)

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