Do videogames make people violent?

MiyamotoOnGames

For some reason titles like the one on this article tend to attract lots of readers. The unfortunate side effect is that it also attracts yellow press publications that write biased articles about how videogames are ruining our society.

One of the topics that have garnered a high number of followers is the social/psychological implications games have over players minds, especially children.

Without taking into account the obvious advantages that we rarely hear about on the news, it’s not uncommon to see articles like this one… (Note how both articles were published by the same site).

Now, I don’t say it’s a bad thing to control what games children play. In fact, that organism already exists and is called ESRB. It becomes a dilemma when we have uninformed people making uninformed opinions, especially when these people have some degree of power.

Here are some of my favorites quotes, I find particularly interesting the one from Newt Gingrich:

Quote:

“And let us say to Hollywood, and let us say to the Nintendos and the other games, if you are going to be sick, we are going to find a way to protect this country from you.”

For him, the devil has a name, and that name is Nintendo :). I wonder what did Nintendo ever do to him, I guess we’ll never know.

Special mention to Steve Ensley who gets to be runner up for his inspiring

“There is no argument that video gaming is an extremely effective training tool. These young minds will be indoctrinated to homosexual relationships as normal lifestyles with homosexual characters being portrayed as heroes in warfare and in romantic situations.”

But enough of that, let’s move on to what really matters: showing some facts to demystify this drought of serious journalism.

Not long ago I was reading an interesting book called Innumeracy, which according to Wikipedia “speaks mainly of the dangers of mathematical innumeracy; that is, the common misconceptions of the layperson in regards to numbers”.

By the end of the book I found the paragraph that inspired this post:

If you want to impress people, innumerates in particular, with the gravity of a situation, you can always employ the strategy of quoting the absolute number rather than the probability of some rare phenomenon whose underlying base population is large. Doing so is sometimes termed the “broad base” fallacy […]

Another example involves the spate of articles a few years ago about the purported link between teenage suicide and the game of “Dungeons and Dragons.” The idea was that teenagers became obsessed with the game, somehow lost contact with reality, and ended up killing themselves. The evidence cited was that twenty-eight teenagers who of ten played the game had committed suicide.

This seems a fairly arresting statistic until two more facts are taken into account. First, the gamesold millions of copies, and there are estimates that up to 3 million teenagers played it. Second, in that age group the annual suicide rate is approximately 12 per 100,000. These two facts together suggest that the number of teenage “Dungeons and Dragons” players who could be expected to commit suicide is about 360 (12×30)! I don’t mean to deny that the game was a causal factor in some of
these suicides, but merely to put the matter in perspective.

This book came out in 1988 when games were not even close to the level of realism that we enjoy today. What should we do now that devices like Oculus Rift allow us to experience games in a way that was beyond everyone’s wildest dreams only 5 years ago? If we ask Mr. Newt Gingrich he would probably tell us to just burn them all and forget they ever existed.

To brighten things up a notch, let’s all agree that videogames are Pop-culture, and these opinions are no more than the expected consequence of their popularity. Hopefully we live in a smart society were the majority are able to understand the negative effects of making these biased statements…

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One Response to Do videogames make people violent?

  1. Dirk says:

    Do video games make you violent? That was the headline I clicked on to get here. I have a simple answer for you.: No. A slightly more complex answer: Like any work of a creative person you can take ideas and make them your own. This means you can try and imitate anything from TV, movies, stories told in books or newspapers or read online, and even video games and then say I got that idea from there. Video games is simply the latest and misunderstood genre to be the punching bag of people who prefer not to embrace any sort of change and look for reasons to blame that change on anything but there own fears.

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