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Books Media Entertainment Games

New Book Cuts Through Violent Video Game Myths 213

Posted by Soulskill
from the with-a-giant-sword dept.
Terry Bosky suggests a recent interview from Game Couch with one of the authors of an upcoming book which fights the "myths and hysteria" surrounding violent video games. Dr. Cheryl K. Olson explains how many of the studies linking aggression with video games were flawed or misguided, and she discusses some of her own findings. Quoting: "Until now, the most-publicized studies came from a small group of experimental psychologists, studying college students playing nonviolent or violent games for 15 minutes. It's debatable whether those studies are relevant to real children, playing self-selected games for their own reasons (not for cash or extra credit!), in social settings, over many years. But media reports and political rhetoric often ignore that distinction. Also, the most-published researchers have built their careers around media violence. Their studies were designed under the assumption that violent video games are harmful, which dictated the questions they asked and how they framed their results. Media violence is just a small part of what we do, so we could look at the issue with fresh eyes and no agenda."
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New Book Cuts Through Violent Video Game Myths

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  • Re:who cares? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by webmaster404 (1148909) on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:27PM (#22682578)
    I object to saying that video games are getting more violent. Think of say, Space Invaders, the concept was simple: Shoot Aliens. However with better graphics such as Quake with the same objective the game suddenly becomes violent. Technology has evolved and what people mostly say is they don't object to bad graphics aliens being shot but as soon as we move it to 3-D and add a bit of blood rather then just random colors it now is violent.
  • by Weslee (1118943) on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:40PM (#22682728)
    I had a friend who was running for a local political office.

    He got various questionnaires from the various political parties.

    This is the same question on both parties questionnaires, but notice the difference in how its worded -

    * Do you believe in the killing of unborn children?
    * Do you believe you have the right to tell a women whos been raped that she has to carry to term the resulting fetus?

    You don't think that the questions they ask about violence in video games might be just a little skewed?
  • by timmarhy (659436) on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:51PM (#22682856)
    you can have an agenda that doesn't conflict with your findings. epic fail on your part.
  • by hey! (33014) on Friday March 07, 2008 @06:55PM (#22682894) Homepage Journal
    Well, that happens to be one of those funny ways that mathematics likes to grab your intuition by the red rubber nose and give it a resounding snap.

    IANAS (I Am Not A Statistician), but this is the situation as I understand it.

    Suppose I have a room with a hundred people in it. Some of them are mathematicians, whose noses I've blackened with a magic marker. Everybody is wearing red rubber clown noses. Your job is to snap enough noses that you have a reasonable estimate of what proportion of them are mathematicians. Let's say you check five people, and two have smudgy noses. That gives you an estimate of 40%, but it's not very reliable, so you continue checking until you have snapped 50 rubber noses, and found twenty mathematicians. Now you're pretty confident the ration is about 40%, right?

    Now suppose there were a thousand people in the room. You're a bit less confident in your 40% effort, but you're still almost as confident. But look: increasing the sample by a factor of ten made you a LOT more confident; increasing the population by a factor of 10 makes almost no difference (at least with these numbers; a 1 in 50 result would be a different kettle of fish).

    Samples over a certain range get rapidly better -- much faster than linearly, and then they kind of run out of steam because they can't really get much better or they'd be perfect. The upshot is that for many experimental designs you aren't much better off having 500 subjects over having 50, whether the population you are sampling is 10,000 or 100,000,000. In fact you might be worse off it the population size is, say, 500 -- at least if you are interested in gaining any insights about your null hypothesis.

    It's a good thing too. If you think about it, if you do something like a drug trial with a hundred or so subjects in it are supposed to stand in for all of the 6.7 billion people on the planet.

    In any case, I'm always a bit skeptical when I see studies with sample sizes in the thousands. It's not financially efficient to conduct real studies this size, so they tend to be hashing together data from sources collected for other purposes. Such studies have their place, of course. They also have their limitations.
  • by WebCowboy (196209) on Friday March 07, 2008 @07:43PM (#22683378)
    If people who watch R-rated games tend to be more violent than those who don't, are the movies making them more violent than they otherwise would have been?

    It's not impossible, or even overly difficult, for egghead researchers to answer this question...but it IS more work. Besides, a mere correlation seems to be all that is required for making voter-friendly knee-jerk policy, so very few people or institutions ever request or fund the extra work required.

    Playing violent games (or watching violent films or whatever media you're consuming) does not cause violent behaviour...it IS violent behaviour. I don't think it matters if you kick your neighbour's dog, drown your sister's cat, stab some random person you've picked a drunken fight with at the local pub or blew the head off of some virtual being in a video game...it's the same kind of violent behaviour on different scales. There are laws concerning all these violent behaviours and it ultimately doesn't eliminate them.

    As such, I think that the heavy consumption of violent video games and other media, beyond some reasonable level, is more a symptom of psychological issues rather than the cause of anything. I think that in large part that is because children's upbringings are more institutionally-influenced than ever. When I was growing up we were just starting to see the "latch key kids" phenomenon come to the forefront, where both parents worked and were not home for a couple of hours after kids got home from school. It was still commonplace for one parent to be home, or at least stay home until the kids were old enough to be "latch key kids". The community was more friendly too--more people were at home during the day, you knew more neighbours, kids ventured outside and interactions were more personal...and so on. Kids were brought up, at least in the early years, by PARENTS and by the immediate community.

    Today, people feel entitled to more luxuries than ever before, governments feel entitled to be bigger and to have more of your tax money than ever before and the marketplace feels entitled to more of the rest of your money. As a result both/all of the adults in a family feel it is required of them to work as much as possible. As soon as parental leave is over it's back to work and put the baby in a daycare. The daycare worker raises the child for the bulk of the day...then the teachers. Extra-curricular activities are super-structured (school-programmes and such), and otherwise activities are passive and institutional. "Professionals" like coaches and programme managers and TV writers are too often the only influential people who shape young minds as parents all too often get self absorbed in furthering careers, financing giant houses with upside-down mortgages, making payments on the new car and so on.

    Some people subscribe to the "Lord of the Flies" view, that left morally unguided humans will create a chaotic and violent society. I think that "institutional guidance" is even worse than total non-guidance in some ways. Perhaps we are inherently selfish, but with child care and educational professionals all espousing "child centric" theories and methods we seem to be ENCOURAGING this selfishness to the point of breeding little sociopathic tyrants. It's all about what the child wants and fulfilling all the child's desires and instilling any sense of empathy or concern for others of any kind is seriously neglected. Most kids can cope but there is a segment of the population, whether through a bad home environment or some peculiar wiring of the brain, become DANGEROUSLY sociopathic and tyrannical.

    As such kids grow up they evolve from being selfish in the pursuit of gratification to being gratified at the expense of others. They get high off feeling superior. Kids these days can use some monstrously cruel emotional torture along with the escalating physical violence. I think that addiction to violent games is one step on this path, just like bullying peers or torturing animals. It is just as futil
  • by yali (209015) on Friday March 07, 2008 @07:45PM (#22683404)

    They don't have an agenda

    Are you sure? Because when I googled for "Cheryl K. Olson," the first hit I got [pmusa.com] showed that she is on the payroll of Big Tobacco [pmusa.com]. She has also been a "strategic communications consultant" for Big Pharmaceutical and Big Media. I haven't found anything (yet) to indicate that she's on the gaming industry's payroll, but her history reads like that of a professional shill, not a dispassionate scientist.

  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Friday March 07, 2008 @07:54PM (#22683492) Journal
    I agree, sadly. Much of the problem is that there are all sorts of studies on various forms of media and its supposed effects, some showing evidence, some not showing evidence, some showing a negative correlation. So overall there's no conclusion one could draw, but those supporting censorship can hand-pick the studies which do supposedly show an effect (even if they are old studies that have been discredited or later contradicted by other studies).

    I saw this with the UK Government in its plans to criminalise possession of "extreme" porn [slashdot.org] - it commissioned three researchers with known anti-pornography views to dig out every possible study which showed some negative effect of porn (even though most the studies applied to porn that isn't being criminalised), producing the Rapid Evidence Assessment [justice.gov.uk].

    Now this was criticised by academics in the field as being "extremely poor, based on contested findings and accumulated results. It is one-sided and simply ignores the considerable research tradition into "extreme" (be they violent or sexually explicit) materials within the UK's Humanities and Social Sciences." [backlash-uk.org.uk] This statement was signed by ove forty academics - but did anyone pushing for this law pay any attention? Of course, sadly not - instead we continue to hear the Rapid Evidence Assessment being cited as proof that possession of naughty pictures needs to be criminalised.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 07, 2008 @08:02PM (#22683548)
    I'd be more apt to believe her study was approaching the subject with new eyes, if the words she chose didn't make it sounds like she was specifically out to "prove past research wrong". THAT, is the very essence of an "agenda", whether paid or not, whether backed by someone else or not, she's out to prove someone else wrong ... rather than taking the neutral position of determining which of the many possible conclusions might be the right one.
  • Space invaders (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann.slashdot@NoSpam.gmail.com> on Friday March 07, 2008 @09:52PM (#22684184) Homepage Journal
    Between space invaders and today's 3d there has been the time where blood could be drawn but mostly wasn't.

    Interesting that you mentioned space invaders. From wikipedia:

    In October 2005, Nishikado commented in an interview with English based video games magazine Edge that the look of the aliens had been based on the description of the alien invaders in H. G. Wells' classic science fiction story, The War of the Worlds: "In the story, the alien looked like an octopus. I drew a bitmap image based on the idea. Then I created several other aliens that look like sea creatures such as squid or crab." Nishikado also noted that his original intention in designing a shooting game had been to make the enemies airplanes, but that this had been too technically difficult to render. He was opposed to depicting the enemies as human beings (which would have been technically easier) as he believed the idea of depicting the shooting of humans to be morally wrong.

    I wonder why he wanted the enemies to be airplanes... sentiments regarding WWII and the nuke, perhaps?
  • At my school, the University of Michigan, two years ago. They had me play Quake 2 (ah the memories) for about ten minutes and then had me unscramble words. The thing is, each string of letters could form either a word with violent or nonviolent connotations. Presumably, if the virtual violence affected a player's actual state of mind, he'd make out the hostile words over the innocuous ones. I got paid $10 for my time. So if you were wondering how they really worked, that's how.
  • false equivilancy (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Scudsucker (17617) on Saturday March 08, 2008 @06:25PM (#22689300) Homepage Journal
    The whole problem with the 'abortion debate' is that the extreme participants argue under the assumption that if you are not universally pro-life, you must be pro-abortion, and if you are not universally pro-choice, you must be pro-government-control of bodies.

    There are astronomically more people that believe life begins at conception than believe that abortions two minutes before birth are hunky dory. No one wants abortions - not NOW, not Planned Parenthood. They just want the option to be legally available.

    One giant problem is how the anti-abortion movement is tied at the hip to the Republican party, which is equally dedicated to eliminating social programs. It is asinine in the extreme to use the power of the state to force women to carry a fetus to term and then do nothing to support that child once it's born. When Johnny is a fetus made up of a dozen cells, he is of sacrosanct importance. Once he's born, he can go screw himself.

    6 weeks pregnant because you were raped? Abort if you want.
    38 weeks pregnant because you were raped? Sorry, too late.


    And what if it took said rape victim 38 weeks to save up money (because she has no insurance and we have no single payer health care) and make travel arrangements because the nearest abortion clinic is 300 miles away? And once she gets to the clinic, she has to go through a waiting period and being pressured into other options.

    It is reasonable to say there should be limits on late term abortions, but it is not reasonable to put up roadblocks at the same time.

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