Posted on March 7, 2013, CJ Miozzi Will We Ever Convince People That Games Are Not The Problem?
In the wake of tragedies like the Sandy Hook massacre and too many school shootings before it, people seek something to blame. It’s the nature of the human mind — we question the world we inhabit and ascribe answers to those questions to the best of our ability.
“Why did this happen?”
But our answers to these questions are often wrong, whether it’s because of a failure in the collection or interpretation of relevant data. For instance, when it was observed that corpses seemed to have long fingernails, some drew the conclusion that nails continue to grow after death. In fact, it’s the surrounding tissue that has dried out and shrunk, giving fingernails a longer appearance.
With school shootings, we see people jumping to the conclusion that violent video games are to blame. It’s a superficially sound argument to those unaware of the relevant data, and no sufficiently strong explanation has arisen to properly answer the question. However, countless studies and expert opinions have failed to find any meaningful connection between games and violence. Those who have found a connection have often been rebutted. The cycle continues to repeat itself: a tragedy occurs, games are blamed, studies are conducted, no connection is found, and we start anew. Will we ever break the cycle?
Just how many studies have been conducted, anyway? Hundreds. Psychologist Jonathan Freedman published a 2007 meta-analysis that reviewed over 200 published studies and found that the “vast and overwhelming majority” of those studies did not establish a causal link between violent games and aggression. A 2007 Swinburne University of Technology study found that only children already predisposed to violence were affected by violent games. A long-term outcome study published in 2010 by Christopher J. Ferguson, the chair of the Texas A&M International University’s department of psychology and communication and one of the leading world experts on the impact of violent media on children, found no long-term relationship between violent video games and youth violence or bullying.
Of course, some studies have suggested that a connection does exist between violent games and youth violence. Dr. Craig A. Anderson found in 2003 that “[s]ome studies have yielded nonsignificant video game effects, just as some smoking studies failed to find a significant link to lung cancer. But when one combines all relevant empirical studies using meta-analytic techniques it shows that violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased pro-social (helping) behavior.”
However, such meta-analyses have come under fire. Christopher J. Ferguson published a 2010 article ruling out a relationship between video game violence and serious aggression. He concluded: “Taken together these meta-analyses range from those which argue against meaningful effects to those which find weak effects. Thus the debate on video game violence has been reduced to whether video game violence produces no effects…or almost no effects.”