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Thread: A POSITIVE article on gaming! (GASP!)

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    Default A POSITIVE article on gaming! (GASP!)

    There's a reason I keep my starting homepage on MSN -- they have links to some rather interesting articles.

    Just saw this one on ZDNet that actually is balanced in talking about violent video games:

    http://msn.com.com/2100-1107_2-50659...=7327&PS=66948

    Of course, as usuall for that site, ignore the feedback.
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    The author of the article is John Borland, co-author of the excellent Dungeons and Dreamers (which I'm currently reading). I'll talk more about that book in another thread.

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    I go much further than John Borland. Concern about violent games is ok, but David Walsh and the "Institute for Media and the Family" produce on their website propaganda in science clothing at best. David Walsh, John Anderson and the Institute aren't "moderate" voices. They consistently paint a very dark picture about the industry, mixed with "anecdotal evidence" which is on the edge of horror stories, and imply with questionable reasearch using rudimentary statistical methods that playing games causes (!) violent behavior.

    Below I pasted something more detailed about violence and violent games which I wrote some time ago. It's a summary of weaknesses of current research about the topic and deals partially with this "Institute". (I left the literature references out)

    ----------------------------------------------

    What do these ambiguous results mean?


    Can we say anything about the effect of violent games on violent behavior? Absolutely not. The ambiguity is a result of fundamental research problems which plague all the articles. Here's a quick summary of inconsistencies and weaknesses:

    1. Much of the research is correlational only. Relationships may be shown, but they may be coincidental or caused by other individual, family and social factors. Mere correlations are a big problem of statistics. You find positive correlations about ice cream consumption and birthrates; ice cream consumption goes up in the summer, and about ten months later you have an increase in birthrates; , but we certainly can say that eating ice cream doesn't cause pregnancy. When it comes to playing violent games it might be that children who are violent in the first place are attracted playing violent games, and therefore you find a positive correlation; but it says nothing about the effect of playing games on behavior, it might increase aggression, decrease aggression or might have no effect at all. We just don't know. While the Institute gives constantly the impression that playing violent games CAUSES aggressive behavior, they contradict themselves in their own recent research paper: "Also, the findings reported here are correlational (!!) and do not merit causal assessment." (1)

    2. Violence is defined in many ways and thus makes drawing conclusions very difficult. What's considered violent to one person may seem innocuous to another. Games like Mario, Zelda, Sonic, and even Saturday morning cartoon-like depictions of bopping, smashing, shooting, flying into and rolling over objects and characters might be considered violent. On the other hand, racing and sports games were characterized as containing minimal violence, although one might argue that hockey brawls and car crashing are violent in nature. Determining how researchers have defined and measured violence is the first step to interpreting study findings.

    3. Many of the studies examine only short-term consequences in the form of behavior immediately following exposure to videogame violence, as opposed to examining any long-term effects.

    4. Each study uses different types of videogames (e.g. sports, shooters, action/adventure) with different types and levels of violence. Some studies don't report the type or names of videogames used in the analysis. These factors make comparisons and conclusions difficult to ascertain.


    Can we definitively say that kids who play violent video games will become more aggressive? Absolutely not. There is some evidence that children who play violent games are more aggressive for a few moments immediately following the gameplay. But even that finding is questionable, when you look at the ways in which "aggression" is measured (increase in heart rate and blood pressure, negative responses on questionnaires, toy choice, etc.) If children failed to show empathy in real situations, or tried to hurt another child following violent gameplay, THEN we'd have a problem. Even more so if such aggressive acts and feelings were exhibited over time. It is important not to underestimate the degree to which children are able to separate fantasy from reality, which is at the center of this debate. Videogame experiences may be not acted out in real life. Furthermore, the ability to distinguish between fantasy and real life increases with age, and the mere imitation decreases dramatically when kids get older. (compared a 8 year old to a 14 year old)

    AWARENESS, RESPONSIBILITY AND COMMON SENSE

    I'm not saying that different games are automatically for everyone. As with most aspects of raising kids, it comes down to parent supervision and involvement. The responsibility of parents is key, not the activities of game developers, retailers, or kids who manage to buy an M-rated game. The effect of laws and restrictions are very limited as we can see when it comes to alcohol and smoking. Parents whose child committed a crime mention every reason but themselves, it is their moral responsibility to be aware of what their child is purchasing and playing in their rooms.

    Can a game bring an individual over the edge? Absolutely. But this is true for almost everything, from a Disney cartoon and reading "Lord of the Rings" to watching Oprah Winfrey and a church visit. As a society we are obsessed watching and playing relatively violent games like football, which can certainly bring an individual over the edge, and it certainly increases heart rate and blood pressure (hopefully), but does it increase crime rates and is it dangerous for the morals of our society ? "Anecdotal evidence" as quoted in the Institutes website and flashy headlines in the news only create hysteria and scapegoats of problems which go much deeper than playing videogames. Educational dictators with a political agenda and politicians who go vote hunting with the simplest of arguments don't enlighten the issue of violence and crime, they actually deflect from it.

    What's needed is not only better research, but also more common sense when it comes to the issue of playing violent games and violent behavior. Human beings, including children, have always been fascinated by violence and fear. Horror movies and roller coasters exist because we want to face our fear and control it. Grimm's fairy tales, centuries old, are some of the most violent materials ever written for children. Theoretically, fairy tales and videogames may serve to promote aggressive tendencies or to release aggressive tendencies, as predicted by the social learning theory and catharsis theory, respectively. As highly developed mammals, violence is with us. Violence is part of our nature. We can limit it's extent and irresponsible effects, but we can't eliminate it, we can only channel it. Might there be actually be positive effects? It might be that playing violent games may actually help children channel or reduce their aggression. Playing sports has long been seen as a means of channeling energy and aggressive tendencies - could it be possible that playing violent videogames can have similar positive benefits? We just don't know, we have to wait for better research. Until then, be aware of hysteria, academics with a political agenda, and politicians who use arguments for their own benefit - if they make sense or not.

    (1) http://www.mediafamily.org/research/...sbd_2002.shtml

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