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Old 07-13-2006, 11:30 AM   #1 (permalink)
AHH! Custom Title!!
liquidlight's Avatar
Location: The twisted warpings of my brain.
The best article on video game violence yet


I'm posting the text, but please use the link, the graphs are rather telling.

Thanks to the current media frenzy and barrage of lawsuits surrounding violent video games, I can�t tell people what I do for a living without getting a lecture on the current plague of youth violence and the scourge that is Grand Theft Auto. I decided it was time for a rebuttal more effective than shrugging and saying, �Well, I think you�re wrong.�

So I sat down to write this article, and started doing some research. What I discovered startled me. I'm not sure I have the ability to write a totally serious piece - it is not in my nature to be serious, nor the nature of GR - but the issues are very serious indeed and the evidence is very real.

I am even going to use charts. With words on 'em. We spare no expense.

First off, I have absolute proof that video games are not the cause of this epidemic of youth violence in America. No, really, I do. Ready?

There is no epidemic of youth violence in America.

The whole concept is a lie manufactured, distributed and perpetuated by the media. Kids are not killing each other more frequently than they used to. In fact, it turns out the opposite is true.

Check out that ugly graph on the right. It doesn't take a genius to conclude that violent crime is at the lowest it has been in a good thirty years. For effect, I�ve also marked the release of the Playstation console, the first Grand Theft Auto game, the PS2 console, and the infamous GTA 3. Wow, look at those surges in violence!

Believe it or not, I got that graph - and all the others in this piece - directly from the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Statistics. All I added was the video game timeline. This isn�t some privately-funded poll or crazy game journalist defense mechanism - this is the actual, most recent government data on crime as used by the FBI. The fact that they all max out at 2003 is irritating, but this debate has raged much longer than the past few months.

Please understand that I�m not a conspiracy theorist. I don�t think that there are any aliens at Area 51. I know that AIDS was not created in a secret government lab, I believe that men really landed on the moon, and I am 100% certain that Sasquatch shot JFK with the help of the Loch Ness monster. But something clearly isn�t right here. The government and the media just can�t go around making this stuff up, right?

Something must be missing. That first graph is the overall violent crime rate, and we�re talking about youth violence here. So I found the data sorted by age, and it turns out that through 2002, youth homicide actually dropped across the board, the only increase being among adults. If I may quote directly from the D.O.J. report, �Recently, the offending rates for 14-17 year-olds reached the lowest levels ever recorded.�

The lowest levels ever recorded. In other words, the Playstation era has, in fact, produced the most non-violent kids ever. But I thought video games were training children to kill? I�m sure I read something like that here and here and here and here and here and here.

To be fair, there have been about 300 studies on the effects of violent media, about 30 of which have been about video games. Most have found little to no connection, although some studies found a small, casual correlation between aggressive people and violent media.

Even if true, this does not necessarily mean violent media has created aggressive people. It is more likely that aggressive people are attracted to violent media. Blaming violent media would be like going to the opera, noticing that most people there are rich, and concluding that opera makes people rich. (Classical opera, by the way, is chock full of lust, incest, murder, suicide, and revenge.)

In an analysis of the risk factors of youth violence by the Surgeon General of the United States of America, violent media is categorized as �Small Effect Size.� In fact, there are 27 risk factors rated higher than exposure to violent media, like socioeconomic status, academic failure, poor parent-child relations, weak social ties, and being male. Quick! Ban all the males!

So is the media and the government flat out lying to us? Yes, and they have been doing so for years. As touched on in the rabble-rousing films of Michael Moore, fear sells. It�s how you turn terrible tragedies like Columbine and the WTC Attack into election votes and must-see TV.

The media in particular loves to bash video games, making sure to point out any time there�s an Xbox within 50 yards of a crime. This is because games are the new competition - every hour you spend interacting with a game is one hour less spent drooling in front of their fear-mongering programming.

And it's working. Sparked by Columbine, mainstream media routinely paints a picture of gamers as odd shut-ins dangerously close to the precipice of violent behavior, and almost unerringly misconstrue the games themselves without taking the time to fact check, as is the case in the very first sentence of this CBS News report. Points for killing cops in GTA? Do games still have points?

Gaming is also a new medium, one that has recently become wildly successful. Young people play them and old folks don�t understand, so they must be bad. Don�t forget that in the 1950�s, rock and roll was linked to youth violence in the same way. The hedonistic, tribal rhythms were going to turn America�s youth into a bunch of violent maniacs. Rock and roll was banned and censored all over the country. A bill was even put before Congress in 1955 to ban rock and roll altogether.

Something exactly like what is happening now. Sorry guys, I don�t care what people say, rock and roll is here to stay.

Let me be perfectly clear: Grand Theft Auto is a best-selling adult game that should not be played by 12 year-olds. That�s why it�s rated �M� and you have to be 17 to buy it. However, most games are not like GTA. In 2004, 54% of games were rated �E� for Everyone, 33% were rated �T� for Teen, and only 12% were rated �M� for Mature. The vast majority of the best-selling titles every year are not rated �M.� Compare that to the 55% of movies rated �R� and only 8% rated �G.� The ESRB might not get it right all the time, but who does? (Sources: the ESRB and the NPD Group).

And after all, there�s no problem with R-rated movies or mature rap lyrics or violent video games, because there is no problem with youth violence. The most disgusting thing to me is that some truly horrible high-school tragedies are being exploited by the media, and somehow, I'm part of the problem.

The truth is that these are the most non-violent kids we have ever had, and they all own Playstations. The government is so desperate to find some youth crime to crack down on that they�re strip-searching kids for 10 bucks while locking up 11 year-old girls for throwing rocks and eating french fries. The most peaceful generation of Americans in recorded history is being shoved through metal detectors, having their civil rights violated on a daily basis, are the victims of unreasonable search and seizure, and are treated with constant suspicion.

All because of a media lie. If nothing else can incite them to violence, maybe that will.

Updated: October 19, 2005

The FBI has just released its 2004 crime report. The results? The violent crime rate has further dropped 2.2% since 2003. The number of murders is down by 2.4%. And our violent youth? "As for trends in arrests of juveniles for violent crime, a comparison of 2004 data with those of 2003 indicated that the number of juveniles arrested for violent crimes declined 0.8 percent, 5.5 percent compared with 2000 data, and 30.9 percent compared with 1995 figures."

So the according to the FBI, the murder rate hit a new 40 year low in 2004. The best selling video game of 2004? Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

I've been a gamer since I was 8 years old and arguments of this nature have always infuriated me. The media's predisposition to generalize and and blatantly lie or misconstrue the data and statistics to sensationalize the situation for their own purposes is amazing.

I find it to be greatly reassuring that the true statistics are backing up the now beleaguered and tormented gamers and game industry. I think he's got it right when he talks about the ESRB, nobobdy is perfect but they're doing a pretty damn good job with what they've got.

Does anybody personally know people that have become more violent because of video games or violent media? Have you ever done something that you normally wouldn't have after taking the idea out of a game? I know I don't and I haven't.
Halfway to hell and picking up speed.
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Old 07-13-2006, 11:05 PM   #2 (permalink)
iccky's Avatar
Location: Princeton, NJ
I don't really want to get into an arguement about this, but I'll trhow in the standard corelation is not causation line, with the correlary that lack of correlation does not imply lack of causation. In fact, people who do make arguements out of crappy pseudo-statistics like this should be shot .

The fact that violent crime dropped at the same time video games were introduced and rose in popularity is no evidence that video games do not cause violence. It's a problem of couterfactuals. Maybe without video games, violent crime would have fallen at a lower rate. Maybe without video games violence would have fallen at a faster rate. Maybe there is no link. With so many intervening variables this correlation means nothing. The fact that youth violent crime is at historically low rates does preclude the possibility that violent video games cause many violent acts.

I'm not really familiar with the literature on this stuff, but it seems to me that the best way to isolate these effects is experimental lab studies. Some of these have found a link between violent video games and violent behavior:

(.pdf of the actual journal article) http://www.apa.org/journals/features/psp784772.pdf

Last edited by iccky; 07-13-2006 at 11:32 PM..
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Old 07-14-2006, 01:05 AM   #3 (permalink)
C'mon, just blow it.
hulk's Avatar
Location: Perth, Australia
This article has done the rounds for a while There hasn't been a study yet that has conclusively proved either way. The reason is because it depends on who is playing the game, not the content of the game, because some people are just nuts.

There's been a few instances where games have been the catalyst for a violent act, though these are nearly always caused by actions of other players in a game's environment.

These studies linking it with aggression? I would venture a guess and say that it does so to a far lesser extent than playing sport, where such aggression is encouraged. It's competition and it's human nature to compete aggressively.
"'There's a tendency among the press to attribute the creation of a game to a single person,' says Warren Spector, creator of Thief and Deus Ex."
-- From an IGN game review.
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Old 07-14-2006, 09:23 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Location: Clarkson U.
I don't think the article is claiming video games cause the drop, just simply that the drop occured, at the same time our country is becomming insane about youth violence that does not exist. On top of that, as Ive said in a few other posts recently, people just don't want to take responsibility for themselves.

Its much easier for a parent that spends no time with their kids, educating them on how real society works, and teaching them right from wrong, to blame video games instead of having the gall to say "I fucked up as a parent"
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Old 07-14-2006, 10:37 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Location: Lake Mary, FL
I'm pretty sure I read this article a few years back. Regardless, I've always known that there's no correlation between video game violence and real life violence.

It's just easier to blame video games for today's problems than to find the real cause.
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