Video game violence

With the recent spate of extremely vio­lent acts in the news video games have once again come under fire from mis­in­formed author­i­ta­tive par­ties.  They often cite many of the more con­clu­sive stud­ies (a syn­op­sis of which can be found at http://​kotaku​.com/​5​9​7​6​7​8​1​/​2​5​-​v​i​d​e​o​-​g​a​m​e​-​v​i​o​l​e​n​c​e​-​s​t​u​d​i​e​s​-​s​u​m​m​a​r​i​zed ).  Today’s rant focuses on these stud­ies in par­tic­u­lar as they are, in my opin­ion, flawed at a fun­da­men­tal level, many of them lack proper con­trol exper­i­ments, instead try­ing to pass off a sec­ond exper­i­ment as the con­trol.  Let me tell ya some­thing, a con­trol for a vio­lent video game is not a non-​​violent video game, it’s no video game at all, these researchers should be tak­ing mea­sure­ments BEFORE, and after both the vio­lent game, and the non-​​violent game, and then we need to study sin­gle player vs coop­er­a­tive, and com­pet­i­tive mul­ti­player in both vio­lent and non­vi­o­lent games as well, with sam­ple sizes of well over 100 peo­ple of dif­fer­ent age groups, how are young chil­dren affected vs teenagers and adults.  Yes, money needs to be thrown at this if a seri­ous study is ever going to be con­ducted, and a seri­ous study is needed if action­able, con­sti­tu­tional leg­is­la­tion is ever to be drafted.  Such as requir­ing that vio­lent games have clear label­ing as such, although the ESRB does a fairly good job of this already, not ALL games are rated by the ESRB.

My pri­mary issue with these stud­ies is that it seems many (in fact most) are allow­ing the sub­jects to choose the game that they play, and no base­line (before the game) mea­sure­ment is taken. Most also don’t men­tion whether or not the sub­jects were play­ing together, and if they were, was it coop­er­a­tively, or com­pet­i­tively. Coop­er­a­tively rip­ping apart hap­less vic­tims, or com­pet­i­tively putting col­ored squares together may have the oppo­site effects as what may be assumed due to the nature of the acts.

It seems likely that humans are nat­u­rally more prone to aggres­sion just fol­low­ing com­pet­i­tive expe­ri­ences, vio­lent or not. That being said, I think it should also be noted that a sub­ject with a pre­dis­po­si­tion towards vio­lence is far more likely to be attracted to the vio­lent game, and vice versa. Human kind has a dark side, if it didn’t the vio­lent games wouldn’t exist in the first place. The sub­jects play­ing the more vio­lent games, if they weren’t doing that, would likely be off tor­tur­ing inno­cent crea­tures like frogs, mice, what­ever they could find as an outlet.

Fur­ther­more a pre­dis­po­si­tion for aggres­sive and vio­lent acts does not nec­es­sar­ily cor­re­spond to a pre­dis­po­si­tion for vio­lent and aggres­sive acts towards other humans. These stud­ies need to be con­structed more care­fully to avoid bias and skew­ing of the results in order to pro­duce more aca­d­e­m­i­cally viable statistics.

Regard­less of the out­comes of these stud­ies, there is no leg­is­la­tion that could be passed to pre­vent these games from being made and sold as they are (as they should be) pro­tected by the first amend­ment the same way as vio­lent movies, rap songs, etc are (and this is sup­ported by the supreme court). Any cru­sade oth­er­wise is a cru­sade against the con­sti­tu­tion, and a fool’s errand.

To sum­ma­rize, we need more infor­ma­tion, more con­clu­sive, and bet­ter con­ducted stud­ies before attempt­ing to reg­u­late video games, and even then the types of leg­is­la­tion that are pos­si­ble is (and should be) very lim­ited. Leave par­ent­ing to the par­ents, the teach­ers, and the like, not the government.

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