Mr. Bean and not Video Games Responsible for Youth Violence

Mr. Bean and not Video Games Responsible for Youth Violence

  • By: CM Boots-Faubert
  • Posted 4th Jan 2012

"There's a world of difference between truth and facts.
Facts can obscure the truth.

Maya Angelou

The problem with fact is that a clever person can make it appear to support whatever position they want to make, so when we examine issues and we choose not to deal in fact, but rather in truth, we are taking a more logical path. The facts about video game violence and its impact on gamers is that some people think it promotes real life violence, while others blame it for every ill from rape and murder to bank robbery and even events like the Columbine Massacre. Does that sound far-fetched to you?

Video Games: A Cause of Violence and Aggression -- a paper written by a Bryn Mawr College student in 2003 for their Biology 202 course reflects the extreme views that were -- and still are -- taken by the opponents who believe that the various forms of violence that is depicted in video games are the primary cause for acts of violence by teenagers and adults today. They base these accusations on a number of "facts" that they are happy to share with you, hoping that the large number of such facts will persuade you that they have a valid position.

"On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold launched an assault on Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, murdering 13 and wounding 23 before turning the guns on themselves. Although nothing is for certain as to why these boys did what they did, we do know that Harris and Klebold both enjoyed playing the bloody, shoot-'em-up video game Doom, a game licensed by the U.S. military to train soldiers to effectively kill. The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which tracks Internet hate groups, found in its archives a copy of Harris' web site with a version of Doom. He had customized it so that there were two shooters, each with extra weapons and unlimited ammunition, and the other people in the game could not fight back. For a class project, Harris and Klebold made a videotape that was similar to their customized version of Doom. In the video, Harris and Klebold were dressed in trench coats, carried guns, and killed school athletes. They acted out their videotaped performance in real life less than a year later.."

This paragraph from the student's paper is based upon a paper that originally appeared on the website of the American Psychological Association that did indeed suggest that there was a connection between the video game violence and the actions of Harris and Klebold -- but that paper has since been withdrawn from the site because further research in the matter contradicts the hypothesis. No effort has been made to include that information in the paper, which remains online and available to anyone searching for reference sources on the subject, which is a prime example on how facts are not always factual.

For a number of years it has been vogue to blame video game violence as one of the ills in modern society, and clearly many of the people who hold this position as fact sincerely believe it. But is it truth? The experts don't think so.

Recent findings by researchers and the government refute the claims being made by anti-gaming groups and certain politicians, having examined the claims of a causal link between violent video game content and real-life violence and determined that the existing research simply does not support the argument or hypothesis.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association/ESA noted that, "Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively."

Justice Scalia in his written opinion on the case goes on to mention that fairy tales like those of the Brothers Grimm, which are regularly given to children to read, contain no shortage of gore that are also present in video games, the implication being obvious.

Before you point out that as a Supreme Court Justice, Scalia is hardly an expert on the subject you may be interested to know that two new studies by U.S. and international researchers confirmed no causal link between violent video games and real-life aggression and violence.

Professor Christopher Ferguson and several of his Texas A&M University colleagues published a study in the Journal of Psychiatric Research finding no long-term link between violent video games and youth aggression or dating violence, while the Swedish Media Council concluded in December -- after review and analysis of more than 100 scholarly articles published in international journals in the last decade -- that there is no conclusive evidence proving that violent video games cause aggressive behavior.

The Texas A&M study involved a sample of 165 youth between the ages of 10 and 14 who were tested three separate times over a three-year period, with Ferguson's team using a series of measurement tools to assess participants' violent video game exposure as well as antisocial personality traits, family attachment and delinquent peers, exposure to domestic violence, depression and mental health, and instances of dating violence.

When controlling for these behavioral and environmental factors, the researchers affirmed that exposure to video game violence was not related to youth aggression, and that depression, antisocial personality traits, family violence and peer influences were in fact the best predictors of aggression.

You will recall that at the start of this article we quoted poet Maya Angelou? Go read that quite again before you read the next paragraph, because it is spooky in its foreshadowing...

The problem that the report highlights with all of the previous research that condemns video game violence and suggests a causal relationship between youth and adult violence and gaming is that every one of those "studies" and learned papers that arrived at that conclusion failed to include any other factors in their assessments. They simply used the facts that supported their hypothesis, and ignored the rest. The researchers were kind enough to phrase this in a much less damning manner, saying that the papers suffered from significant methodological shortcomings that called their results into question.

Not surprisingly the Swedish findings also remarked upon that pattern, as it is becoming increasingly obvious that a fuller and broader examination of formative experiences is required to fully assess characteristics like tendency towards violence in humans. Pointing at one cause to the exclusion of all others is certainly a fact, but hardly truth.