I'm going to talk tonight about something that has become controversial and a bit heated. As always, if debate occurs, we ask that you maintain some courtesy and shoe respect for others' opinions. This post reflects my own opinions, gleaned from some reading I have done, but I am not an expert.
I am angry. And I am offended. Why, you ask? Well, because people connected to the sub-culture of Video Gamers, are getting a poor reputation. It is something that has been happening for years, but now it hits home for me. My husband is a Gamer. I'm not talking getting together for a little bit with some buddies to play some Halo. I'm talking naming our cat AND our son after video game characters. (I named the dog... Lol)
Anyway, over the years, video gamers have gotten an increasingly bad image as more and more killers are found to have participated in video game play. Why is this? Well, video games are everywhere. I play video games. But people who discover that I like to play video games don't automatically think that video games will make everyone want to turn into overly-energetic little brunettes who are addicted to painting their nails pink! So, why do we automatically assume that because someone who played video games turned into murderer, that means video games are going to make everyone else want to shoot people? Let's dive in here, because I think there are a few reasons. First, I think that it's because there are studies that DO show a correlation between violent video game play and aggression. Now I could throw at you that correlation does not equal causation. Well... Duh. However, causation comes from somewhere. And after patterns of repeated correlation, we have to start asking more questions, right? I thought so too. And the APA had some good responses to lay out right off the bat:
* I am not posting all of them. To find all of the myths and facts, visit http://www.apa.org/science/about/psa/2003/10/anderson.aspx.
"Myth 1. Violent video game research has yielded very mixed results.
Facts: Some studies have yielded nonsignificant video game effects, just as some smoking studies failed to find a significant link to lung cancer. But when one combines all relevant empirical studies using meta-analytic techniques, five separate effects emerge with considerable consistency. Violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior. Average effect sizes for experimental studies (which help establish causality) and correlational studies (which allow examination of serious violent behavior) appear comparable (Anderson & Bushman, 2001).
Myth 5. Correlational studies are irrelevant.
Facts: The overly simplistic mantra, "Correlation is not causation," is useful when teaching introductory students the risks in too-readily drawing causal conclusions from a simple empirical correlation between two measured variables. However, correlational studies are routinely used in modern science to test theories that are inherently causal. Whole scientific fields are based on correlational data (e.g., astronomy). Well conducted correlational studies provide opportunities for theory falsification. They allow examination of serious acts of aggression that would be unethical to study in experimental contexts. They allow for statistical controls of plausible alternative explanations.
Myth 6. There are no studies linking violent video game play to serious aggression.
Facts: High levels of violent video game exposure have been linked to delinquency, fighting at school and during free play periods, and violent criminal behavior (e.g., self-reported assault, robbery).
Myth 7. Violent video games affect only a small fraction of players.
Facts: Though there are good theoretical reasons to expect some populations to be more susceptible to violent video game effects than others, the research literature has not yet substantiated this. That is, there is not consistent evidence for the claim that younger children are more negatively affected than adolescents or young adults or that males are more affected than females. There is some evidence that highly aggressive individuals are more affected than nonaggressive individuals, but this finding does not consistently occur. Even nonaggressive individuals are consistently affected by brief exposures. Further research will likely find some significant moderators of violent video game effects, because the much larger research literature on television violence has found such effects and the underlying processes are the same. However, even that larger literature has not identified a sizeable population that is totally immune to negative effects of media violence.
Myth 11. If violent video games cause increases in aggression, violent crime rates in the U.S. would be increasing instead of decreasing.
Facts: Three assumptions must all be true for this myth to be valid: (a) exposure to violent media (including video games) is increasing; (b) youth violent crime rates are decreasing; (c) video game violence is the only (or the primary) factor contributing to societal violence. The first assumption is probably true. The second is not true, as reported by the 2001 Report of the Surgeon General on Youth Violence (Figure 2-7, p. 25). The third is clearly untrue. Media violence is only one of many factors that contribute to societal violence and is certainly not the most important one. Media violence researchers have repeatedly noted this."
The last myth transitions me nicely here to my second point: I want to talk about 2 of the three assumptions that the APA says would have to be true in order for the myth to be true. To me, they all go together, but more specifically, the first and third relate to each other really well for me to make my point. The first assumption that would have to be true is that "exposure to violent media is increasing". Notice that they put "including video games" in parentheses. In light of the finding that a man who shot children at a school played some random, online (and seriously disturbing) video game, people seem to have forgotten that video games are NOT the only form of violent media out there. And I must note here that the video game this man was said to have played is not a well known one among the video gaming community, and was not created or backed by any of the major video game creators or distributors. "But these games still exist!" you say. Well sure... But so do snuff films. Sorry to be blunt, but my point is that sick people will seek out avenues of living out their perverted fantasies no matter what we do.
So what DO we do? Well, this brings me to the third assumption (and my third point) that "video game violence is the only (or primary) factor contributing to societal violence". You see... What we do, is we take responsibility. Like I said... Snuff films exist. XXX movies and X movies and rated R movies exist as well. Horror movies with gore and blood and guts exist. Yet, we do little to absolutely nothing about that, because we have learned that the rating system is in place to guide us. R: over 17; PG-13: parental guidance under 13; PG: Parental Guidance; and G: well... I don't know what "G" stands for, but I know a pre-schooler could watch it. Then you have ratings for television shows. So now, we hardly hear of people blaming movies for causing someone to "lose it". That is, until last year.
Last summer, my state had a bad summer, that was topped off with a mad man shooting innocent people at a movie. A lot of people thought that this man's inspiration came from the movie itself. Whether or not it really did, I don't know. But I saw the movie, and I don't buy that can of crazy worms. Just as I don't buy that playing Black Ops would turn me or my husband into murderers. This is because MH and I pay attention to the ESRB rating system (rating system for video games). Yes, video games have ratings! M: Mature; T: Teen; E: Everyone. Sometimes you'll have an E10: Everyone 10 and over, but you catch my drift, yes? No? What I'm saying is... Parents need to take responsibility!!!!! Just like movies that I grew up with aren't the same as the ones my parents grew up with, video games are not the same either. It's not just Mario and Donkey Kong. Most video games now have more complex plots (based off of the decisions made by the player) than most movies. This is how I see it: Movies happen to you; you happen to video games. Sorry... Lots of rabbit trails tonight. Back to my point... Parents must take responsibility! I can't even tell you how many times I have heard MH playing online, when a young kid hops on. MH plays some fairly violent video games, so more times than not, I have heard him tell the kid to go get his parent and put them on. MH will then demonstrate why the game that this 10 year old is playing, is rated M. In every single case, the parent is in shock! It's not just Galaga online! And this is not just something that MH does only. Gamers care about their community. Just like I hate seeing a young child at a Rated R movie, Gamers hate hearing a young child being "set loose" into the online gaming community with a Rated M game! Parents simply must take as active of a role in their child's video game choices, as they do their movie and television choices. If they don't, they can't blame the media.
So what will we do with baby C? As a family of cinephiles and gamers, he will obviously be raised in a home with movies and video games and he WILL sometimes be exposed to adult situations before we hope for him to be. But we will sit down with him. We will explain what it means. We will use difficult situations in movies and games as an opportunity to teach. We will explain that even though it's a video game, when he shot the enemy, someone's life ended. That it represented someone's son, someone's father not coming home. And we will talk about the difference between the fantasy of being a con-man in a movie and the real life situation of time spent in prison for hurting people by taking from them. WE will take complete responsibility for the man that he becomes with or without media. He is our child... He is our responsibility.
For more information on your child's video games, visit gameinformer.com, or stop in at your local Game Stop and speak with the staff.
Have a beautiful Monday night, everyone! I'll see you Thursday!