Anti-Gaming Study Flawed, ESA Says

A study about the mental health effects of video gaming on children set to appear in upcoming issue of the journal Pediatrics contains numerous flaws, according to the Electronic Software Association.

The study was conducted by noted gaming critic and previous conductor of flawed studies Douglas Gentile. He claims the study shows a link between video game use and juvenile mental health issues in Singapore, but the ESA has released a warning against the study and its claims, citing numerous places where things get a little shaky.

Gentile, an Iowa State associate professor of psychology and a developmental psychologist who studies the effects the media can have on people consuming it, has taken part in numerous studies about exposure to video game violence leading to real violence in players (mostly children). He generally is a critic of video games and has published studies about their increasing aggression in their players, but other scientists haven’t been able to replicate his results. The verdict is still out as to whether games can make you violent (beyond the verdict we can reach using common sense, that is). He has studied the effects of video games on learning, though, and says gamers make better surgeons, which another very small study recently backed.

The ESA is calling out the new study for not using standardized methods of measuring its data, and for using sample sizes that aren’t big enough from which to draw strong conclusions. It also takes issue with things such as the use of the term “pathological gaming,” which is not an accepted term, either by scientists or doctors. The study uses those same nonstandard methods of measuring data to determine if gamers are “pathological” or not.

Oh, and not to pick on Gentile — maybe his study is right, but it requires peer review and rigorous screening by other scientists before it becomes accepted science — but he has made mistakes before. A study he published in Psychological Science last year contained a sample group that wasn’t chosen at random, but instead was made up of people who agreed to be a part of the study, potentially biasing the results (and making the whole study invalid). Gentile publicly admitted the error to ABC News.

He also was among the researchers that filed a brief in Schwarzenegger vs. EMA against video games that other researchers have criticized as containing methodological errors.

To be fair, though, the ESA is a public relations association for video game companies, and their best interest isn’t necessarily to protect kids from violent games, but to sell games and make money.


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