A quick read on a contentious topic

mosesoperandimosesoperandi REGISTERED Posts: 22 Developer
edited December 2014 in Science!
Here's a short article from over at HuffPo on the topic of violence in games from Stetson University professor Christopher Ferguson:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/christoph ... 51733.html

There's not a lot of depth here, but I believe his core argument is very relevant not just for media effects studies, but games research in general.


  • Nuclear RussianNuclear Russian REGISTERED Posts: 424 Seed
    Quite an interesting read.
    Knowledge is power, Guard it well - Blood Ravens battle cry

    "Re-evolution: Sound like a blast"
    "Me: It will be"
  • GazelleGazelle REGISTERED, Vakaethei Posts: 35 Golem
    attending a psychology program in undergrad meant any time I brought up video game research one of my professors was happy to hop on the "people get addicted to video games and ten they make you a serial killer" train.

    however, the more I looked into these studies and the more I realized:
    1) people never define what "aggressive behavior" constitutes in these studies.
    2) people never examine the effects of violent video games beyond 30 minutes to 2 hours after the study.
    3) most important, the control groups are generally children who don't play any video games at all, as opposed to children who play non-violent [whatever that is...but clearly all video games must be violent] games.

    another factor to consider in these studies is that parents who consent to letting their children play M rated games may have very different parenting styles, living environments, economic status, etc. from those who don't [but maybe they don't!], but the important point here is that those comparisons are never addressed in the research either.

    >:C I just have a lot of feelings about this. good read, Moses. thanks for the post.
  • PuttyPutty REGISTERED, Vakaethei Posts: 24 Golem
    After a while you start to realize that even if a group of researchers actually does pre-define those things, there is still some sort of impact. And really, in the end you know that if something has meaning for someone then we will sometimes act on that meaning. I know i've defended aeris' honor more than once!
  • TheNirlTheNirl REGISTERED Posts: 46
    I think the discussion of violent video games (and movies, and music, and whatever) is unsubstantiated. Causation was never proven and examples of people who grew up surrounded by Rambo movies and played Carmageddon for dozens of hours straight, but ended up balanced, peace-loving adults, are everywhere.
  • Hoppa_JoelHoppa_Joel REGISTERED Posts: 191 Seed
    In childhood, we all play at violence. It is human nature.
    Whether this is a video game, or whether this is pretending a stick is a sword, or a bow, or whatever, we've all done this.
    This video generation is not the first generation to play at violence, but it is easy for some people to wag a finger at it as it is more visual.
    Consider, puppet history, Punch and Judy, is a violent puppet show, as many before it, and its been around since the 1600s but which by no means should be said " this is where violence in media " started.
    Look at cave paintings, runes carved in stones, written passages in books, faery tales.
    Violence is something we are surrounded by, something that creates tales in the imagination.
    This is fictional violence, and the stable mind can distinguish the difference between fiction and non fiction.
    But as history has shown us, many folks are not stable.
    These become the sociopaths of society.
    These people don't have the 'switch' in their brain, or conscience, to tell them "NO!"

    So we have laws and places and people to deal with and help rehabilitate or in some cases house the people which cannot cope with understanding.

    It is easy to blame what you don't know or understand as the problem, rather than learn about it and see it as the tool it was designed for.
    The Internet and gaming is a tool, as well as entertainment, just the same as a rifle is a tool for hunting, just as a knife is a tool for cutting, and I could go on and on...
    The tool never is the faulted item, but rather the mishandling or misuse/abuse of it by the user.

    The parents influence while a child is developing should be there to say "no" when a no is needed, however that always isn't the case.

    This all being said,
    How can blame be pointed to a tool as the culprit when this is a situation that's been in play since our world began.

    More recent, is the blaming of D&D to be evil and demonic.
    While if you look at the general game, it is more a tool of good vs evil, and the stories the DM can tailor with it, can either be used giving consequences for bad actions and rewarding good actions, or vica versa.
    When I DM'd in my day, I left my players with moral options, and consequences for asking against what is right. Most of my players were my nephews and their buddies, ( they are roughly 4 to 10 years younger than me ) These guys all grew up to be good members of society, none of them are unstable, and all of them are gamers.
    None of them are 'evil'.
    None of them are unstable either.
    Whether it was the game, and instilling the idea that all actions have a consequence, some good some bad, or whether it is genetics, that kept them from being crazed killers, only you can guess :P
    I'd like to hope it was my stories giving a moral lesson, to have helped them some, but that just might be vanity. :)

    Do I think some games have gone too far at times?
    Yes, I do, and those games do deserve a mature rating.
    But even the games that do not have an M rating, can still cause stress and antisocial behaviour under the wrong set of circumstances. Just like real life.

    I personally think people go overboard on things they do not understand, and given understanding, after learning about whatever they appose, they and only then can make a proper assessment of whatever it is.

    One final story,
    When I was 15 is when I was introduced to D&D, and bought some books.
    My dad, a very smart and educated man, ( 72 years old at that time ) had listened to one of my older brothers ranting about the evils of the pen and paper game. My brother vehemently demanded my dad burn my gaming books. Dad said, "I havent seen anything evil from my son's actions" Then he turned to me and said, "Can I read those books?" I said "Sure!"
    My 72 year old dad, then sat down and read the game rules.
    He spent 3 days reading them, then called up my brother and had him come over.
    He then said, " You are wrong, there isn't anything evil about this game. Its a game, it has rules, and choices, and I do not see anything evil with choices. The choice you made to come up here and throw a fit, was your choice, and that's fine, just the same as it is your brother's choice to play this game." He then made a point of giving my books back to me.

    Of course, this did not set well with that one brother, but it was enough for my sister, whom later allowed her boys to play the game with me, because she knew I'd add moral values into the tales.

    This is why, I believe anything, in our real lives, or our game lives, need helpful guidance, but ultimately whatever we do, is our own choice.
    If we chose wrong, there will be consequences, but we cannot blame life, or the tools as a fault.
    If blame can be laid outside the individual, it then has to be on the lack of guidance and structure.
  • The ArcanianThe Arcanian REGISTERED Posts: 51 Seed
    Hoppa_Joel wrote:
    Of all the times for the forums to not have a like or +1 feature... Very well spoken man.

    Blaming "violent" games at this point just seams like an easy way out, there is a lot of outcry but little proof. (include more personal thoughts on this matter that are too complex to convey due to dysgraphia)
    Nerd? You say that like it's an insult.

    Please excuse any bad spelling...
  • reedooreedoo REGISTERED Posts: 151 Seed
    (Warning - lots of random thoughts in this post)

    Interesting point about Pac-man and Space Invaders being violent - I never really related to those games I grew up with as violent - but it is actually true!

    In reality death is much more common in video games; "game over man" - so really if VGs had the earth shattering impact of re-moulding who we are all gamers would either be a) not afraid of death or their own mortality and be risk taking adrenaline junkies or b) constantly contemplating their mortality and afraid to take any kind of adventurous risk. Seeing as we are bombarded with it constantly. But then death could also be FAILURE - which is another kettle of fish.

    I'm in agreement that VGs exist in a contextual continuum and they also don't exist in a vacuum - they exist in an environment and a society.

    I actually had to stop playing L.A. Noire because I just could not stomach the constant misogynistic vitriol that characters in the game constantly dolled out and the constant murdered, violated and desecrated women I was investigating. This sat so against all of my own personal values that eventually I dropped the game. But this same game might have no effect on another person, and yet a third who exists in a sexist haze might be like "Haha yeah!" while playing through.

    I think the same is with VGs - I can play most FPS games, but am totally incapable of playing any horror style game, and struggle with games that have elements of creepy to horrifying segments. I can watch horror films fine - and sleep easy; I'm a spectator and have no impact on the story or outcome. But the second a game gets into the 'scary/creepy' genre and I have to control it; something inside my brain goes batshitecrazy and I can't hack it. I freak the flip our and stop playing. Another guy at my work who plays VGs is the same; so I'm not alone in this somewhat. I would have loved to play through The Chronicles of Riddick (everyone tells me how awesome it is) but the part where you went through the dark - blind and mutants are attacking you; I flipped out, couldn't play through.

    I've thought and wondered if perhaps my own inability to disconnect from a scary game might actually be true for some people to disconnect from a violent game. But this in no way means that games are causational of the person's violence or violent tendencies if they have them.

    So I live in Australia - and we had a gun law crack down after the Port Arthur Massacre ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Port_Arthu ... stralia%29 ) - but one of the things that was trotted out in the media was how many violent films and violent games the murderer had in his home. I think that it is poor logic to say something is causational where it is more likely correlating. I can totally see truly sadistic violent people turning to violent VGs and enjoying them in a much more sinister way than they are intended.

    But I really AM interested in people conducting studies into how violent VGs impact how we perceive violence or react to violence in real life. ARE violent training simulators (war games) in the army used to disassociate soldiers from their enemies/prey? What about how and who enemies are portrayed as in VGs? How does the context of violence in VGs fit with social and moral narratives of our time? Currently the media engine as a whole is so much more violent and disgusting (to me) - where to VGs sit on this rather large media continuum? Such a bigger spectrum of issues that should be spoken about but aren't.
  • ElfElf REGISTERED Posts: 75 Seed
    I suspect the "violence in video games" issue is more complex than most researchers bother to deal with, because most researchers have an agenda that isn't served by a comprehensive review.

    1) People with violent tendencies are more likely to be drawn to violent video games. (I'm hoping that's a non-contentious statement; we're all aware of the bullying kids who play nothing but FPS games, right?) This does NOT mean the majority people who play violent video games have, or will be inspired to have, real-life violent tendencies.

    2) Defining "violence" in a video game is problematic, and most research assume it means "realistically-visual interpersonal combat between human(oid)s with modern(ish) weapons." Almost nobody counts the digital versions of whack-a-mole in their "violent games" categories, much less games like Pac-Man. And whether or not football is violent, video simulators of football are not considered "violent."

    3) The biggest problem with "violent" games may not be whether they inspire direct violence, but that they can give kids a vocabulary and mental framework for perceiving situations as violent, or potentially violent--and that this frameworks frighteningly well in modern society. The problem isn't that it makes them take what they've seen in the games and try to act it out in real life, but that they see the real-life news reports and interpret it in the context of the game. And from there, they may believe that the violence they see around them has video-game solutions: take out the Boss and the problems will be fixed, or earn enough money and you can pay off the combatants and send them home, or it doesn't matter that it happens because it's everywhere and all you can do is try to stay away from it yourself.

    That's speculation; it'd need a lot of research to sort out how accurate it is, beyond anecdotal evidence.

    There are other issues that research about "violence in video games" doesn't usually address. Issues of race, gender, social class, religion, and other aspects of personal identity--anecdotally, I know plenty of men who like violent video games because they like the illusion of threats that they have to overcome to succeed. I know plenty of women who don't because they have no need to add the illusion of threats to their lives; they live under real-life threats that they don't care to have brought into their fantasy life: there is no "fun" in overcoming a mugger on the screen that doesn't translate to a smaller chance of dealing with one in real life. (Conversely, however, some take great joy in blowing away virtual representations of the people who irk them in real life. These are, as I said, anecdotal rather than statistical.)

    Sorting out the whys and results of how people have fun has *always* been a slippery field of research. Psychologists have always wrestled with the issue of whether someone's fantasy life--and that's what video games are, although some also teach strategy and problem-solving skills--has deleterious real-world effects. In most situations, fantasy life of any sort is fine--that's why we have books and movies and TV shows, and why they have such a diverse set of content. In some, a person's fantasy life becomes problematic. In those cases, it's a tangled mess to figure out whether the "problem" was caused by the person's wonky brain chemistry, which latched onto inappropriate fantasies, or if showing certain types of content gave the person a viable set of actions for inappropriate impulses.

    I tend to think it's the former; we have plenty of violently inappropriate fantasies to latch onto on the evening news. The people who want to ban video games almost never mention the culture of violence that allows them to thrive.
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