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Scapegoated again
January 20, 2013 12:54 PM   Subscribe

"I certainly believe that the White House would like nothing more than to see an end to mass gun murders in America's elementary schools. But the fact remains that gun violence takes place every day, all across this country, at a rate of dozens of deaths a day, and as the leading cause of death among African-American youth. But when the vice president establishes a task force on gun control and violence that includes the media industries that the NRA has once again chosen as their patsies after a particularly heinous and public example of gun violence, all it can do is shift attention away from guns." -- How the video game industry has lost out in the gun control debate.
posted by MartinWisse (255 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am constantly reminded of how desperately the entertainment industry as a whole tries to distance itself from the ongoing culture of violence, despite very obviously perpetuating same.
posted by Sternmeyer at 1:01 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am constantly reminded of how desperately the entertainment industry as a whole tries to distance itself from the ongoing culture of violence, despite very obviously perpetuating same.

I, too, am concerned about CNNs role in this. Videogames less so.
posted by Artw at 1:07 PM on January 20, 2013 [34 favorites]


Can anybody point me to some articles that explain why violent video games have absolutely nothing to do with gun violence in America?
posted by monospace at 1:07 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Seems like the same debate as to whether pornography helps cause rape or prevent it.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:13 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, there's the ongoing control study that is the entire rest of the world.
posted by Artw at 1:13 PM on January 20, 2013 [113 favorites]


Can anybody point me to some articles that explain why violent video games have absolutely nothing anything to do with gun violence in America?
posted by birdherder at 1:14 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


(Not trying to be snarky here. I'm just actually curious. And I'm not talking about Mario Bros or Sonic, obviously, but games like Call of Duty, Halo, etc.)
posted by monospace at 1:14 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm a fan of videogames and even extremely violent videogames, and I still think that if games want to be taken seriously as an art form, they need to be more responsible and more thoughtful about the art they produce. You can't claim that your work is meaningful art and simultaneously claim that it has no impact on people's lives.
posted by empath at 1:15 PM on January 20, 2013 [26 favorites]


That's what I mean, birdherder. So we can talk about anything we want when it comes to gun violence, but talking about games whose main attraction is gun violence is off the table?
posted by monospace at 1:16 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


One thing that I've been surprised and pleased about is that video game culture, in complete contrast to gun culture, seems to welcome scientific studies of the effect of that culture. It's pretty damning that the NRA opposes research, and sneakily suppressed it for years. My off-the-cuff, completely intuitive, and anecdote-based hypothesis is that if video games and movies influence violence at all, it's purely through the myth that the power of a gun makes you safer, or keeps the government in check, or other similar fantasies. These fantasies seem to be the basis of current gun-crazy culture that fetishizes guns as a "necessary" component of American life for home invasion and armed rebellion against the government, unlike the more realistic hunting and farm scenarios for guns as a tool. I can say that when I took NRA gun safety classes as a youngin', such ridiculous fantasies would have been viewed as, at the very kindest, dangerous and foolish, and would have been sufficient grounds for ostracization. But perhaps the power of guns as portrayed in fictions such as movies and games have penetrated gun culture, or at least a subset of gun culture that is truly crazy.
posted by Llama-Lime at 1:16 PM on January 20, 2013 [19 favorites]


Can anybody point me to some articles that explain why violent video games have absolutely nothing to do with gun violence in America?

Well, I don't have an article handy that posits that video games having nothing to do with gun violence, because that's probably an unprovable proposition (and also unlikely to be true; I'm sure video games have SOMETHING to do with gun violence in much the same way that anything has SOMETHING to do with gun violence). But if you want a source of studies about gun violence, I'd suggest starting here.

It also doesn't take a rocket surgeon to look up some gun crime statistics for the U.S. versus nations with stricter gun control laws. Correlation and causation, I know, but it strikes me that those nations watch the same movies and play the same video games as we do. If we grant that those media are to blame, then why the statistical differences in gun crime rates?
posted by axiom at 1:16 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


monospace:

My logic runs something like this: Japan. Germany. South Korea. Great Britain. All have *huge* gaming cultures. Possibly more mainstream than in the US. But. They have tiny gun death numbers. Japan, possibly the gamiest of the lot, had 11 gun deaths in 2011 (according to the internet).

So either one of two things are the case:

1) Americans have some deficiency that makes us way more naturally violent and the same video games that aren't a problem in other countries *are* a problem here.

2) We need to look for some other factor that correlates better with these gun death rates. Like, well, gun ownership rates.

Option #2 seems like the more realistic option.

Now, I would never argue that everyone should have access to all games. There are tons of video games which are *NOT* for children and I'm okay with ratings and letting parents be in control of their kids media diets (as much as possible).

But.

To blame video games in the US when they don't appear to cause gun violence problems anywhere else seems stupid. Especially when the big, hulking behemoth of an elephant in the room that is gun ownership rates is right there in front of us, staring us in the face.
posted by chasing at 1:17 PM on January 20, 2013 [67 favorites]


And I'm not talking about Mario Bros or Sonic, obviously, but games like Call of Duty, Halo, etc

TBH I'm not sure studies into computer games and aggression make any differentiation, they are about Tetris as much as they are about whatever the latest distasteful manshoot is.
posted by Artw at 1:18 PM on January 20, 2013


I absolutely agree that easy availability of guns is the primary factor. But I don't see how that excludes the glorification of violence in video games as a contributing factor worthy of investigation.
posted by monospace at 1:20 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]




monospace:

It's totally worthy of investigation, and I think those investigations have happened and will continue to happen. I have no problem with that.

But if your goal is to reduce gun violence in the US, I'm not sure why you wouldn't focus on guns. If we could get some reasonable gun safety and gun control measures in place in the US, I would be more than willing to start talking about video games and other media.

But we're in this situation as if we were massively obese and instead of stopping our nothing-but-McDonald's-and-donuts diet, we're having a conversation about how much of a problem watching the Food Network is. Let's take the obvious steps and reduce our intake of McDonand's and donuts, then we can talk about the effects of watching the Food Network.
posted by chasing at 1:27 PM on January 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


But I don't see how that excludes the glorification of violence in video games as a contributing factor worthy of investigation.

Because it would be utterly daft to fall for the NRA's dumb attempt to deflect the blame for massacres that couldn't happen without guns?
posted by MartinWisse at 1:28 PM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm honestly curious as well. I'm no gamer, and maybe there's no provable statistical causal relationship (ie. playing these games will increase tendency to go shoot someone IRL).

It just seems lazy and tasteless to me, to have so much energy and technology aimed at such (imho) boring stuff. Kill kill kill. With rich 3D graphics and coming real soon now, fully immersive worlds. In which to kill stuff. Fer points.
posted by parki at 1:29 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]




From what I recall, Canada has relatively relaxed gun laws (in comparison to the rest of the world) and a western outlook on video games. As a control, it does imply that it takes more than accessible guns + computer games to equal mass gun-related homicide.

Now if you were to do a study comparing poverty, disempowerment and social inequality to gun related crimes, I might be a lot more interested in the results. I don't see any sociologists or economists being invited to those meetings, though.

Could some computer games be related to the violence? I believe that a case could be made; I can see them as a mechanism for dehumanising people in the eyes of susceptible people. Still think that tightening regulations on computer games is a distraction.
posted by YAMWAK at 1:29 PM on January 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


Can anybody point me to some articles that explain why violent video games have absolutely nothing to do with gun violence in America?

full disclosure: this link is to a video by a person I work with on occassion, and he makes revenue from his youtube.

that said, I find this to be an emotional, but well articulated and compelling examination of the correlation between violent video games and gun violence, as well as a condemnation of the 24 hour news cycle's role in same.
posted by shmegegge at 1:31 PM on January 20, 2013


Because it would be utterly daft to fall for the NRA's dumb attempt to deflect the blame for massacres that couldn't happen without guns?

Sadly everyone in America is obligated to treat them seriously and not like the nasty little KKK offshoot they are, so more studies, which won't find anything and will go nowhere, but the fact that they happen and Biden does his huffing and puffing will briefly be used as a distraction and justification for not bothering to address any actual issues. Quite depressing really.
posted by Artw at 1:32 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Private suspicions and hunches are not data. Anyone demanding an "inquiry" into video games should be laughed out of office.

We know from painful experience, stretching at least from Anthony Comstock to the PMRC, that proponents of restrictions on media consumption will ignore any evidence that passes scientific muster and instead print bogus conclusions based on informal polling of like-minded simpletons.

Don't be easily led by pre-existing prejudices and a desire to "better" society into supporting the waste of taxpayer money and erosion of civil liberties inevitably sought by this type of inquiry. The consequent has already been assumed here, and your only choice is whether or not you're OK with a world where popular opinion and policy decisions are the exclusive domain of phony moralizers with a strong affinity for committing fraud and perjuring themselves.

I'm honestly curious...It just seems lazy and tasteless to me

If you are in fact "honestly curious", then you'd be the first to genuinely hold that emotion about entertainment which you've already decided that you don't like.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:34 PM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]




Entertainment has had violent elements probably since humans began entertaining themselves -- check out Beowulf -- and yet the vast, vast, vast majority of humans have not flipped out and shot someone. My armchair scientist take on that is that one can fairly safely conclude that glorification of violence does not directly lead to actual violence.

What I do think, and I say this as a huge fan of violent video games, is that violent entertainment can lead to heightened aggression. I would love to see the video game industry start to think about how to entertain us without automatically going for the base values of violence and sex. (I also think the 24 hour news cycle and frankly the internet in general have a lot to answer for, if we're gonna start talking about entertainment.)

But it's also, I think, not going to stop or even slow down gun violence. Statistics show that mass shootings are, generally, an American problem. Look at what else could be considered American problems, particularly to a guy in his early 20s: easy access to guns, shitty for-profit mental health care, a crap economy with possibly no hope of ever owning a home, no health insurance, giant student loans, being marshaled around by Homeland Security or the TSA every time you want to take a Greyhound bus. Plus the general entitlement thing that seems to be part and parcel of the American ethos.

So sure, look at video games as part of a general "does culture increase aggression", but frankly it's mostly big business trying to distract you from the real problem, which that the US seems on a fast track to dystopia-land.
posted by jess at 1:36 PM on January 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


And I'm not talking about Mario Bros or Sonic, obviously, but games like Call of Duty, Halo, etc

Why is this obvious? If we're looking at things scientifically we should keep our minds open to every possibility, right? If you plan to study something you don't just reject some possibilities because it goes against your common sense.
posted by ODiV at 1:38 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah.

Comics didn't lead to juvenile delinquincy, pinball arcades were actually quite harmless places for teens to hang out in, rock and roll didn't lead to moral degeneration, video nasties weren't, heavy metal bands didn't want their fans to suicide and videogames are not responsible for gun murders.

But there's always ms Grundy to scowl at anything new the kids are into, with plenty of cynical politicians (but I repeat myself) willing to use this reflex to deflect attention from the real problems facing America.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:38 PM on January 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


Comics didn't lead to juvenile delinquincy, pinball arcades were actually quite harmless places for teens to hang out in, rock and roll didn't lead to moral degeneration, video nasties weren't, heavy metal bands didn't want their fans to suicide and videogames are not responsible for gun murders.

D & D spells are totes real world Satanism though, never forget.
posted by Artw at 1:40 PM on January 20, 2013 [28 favorites]


Real people were shot with real guns over rights like freedom of expression. Calls for censorship should not be made lightly.

"Absolutely nothing to do with" is not a standard favorable to freedom of speech.
posted by Zalzidrax at 1:40 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Inspector, I'm honestly curious about the causal relationship. That's interesting to me, and I've seen arguments from both sides. I really don't know and haven't formed a solid opinion.

My personal opinion that the games are lazy and tasteless is separate from that question.
posted by parki at 1:41 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Video games cause gun violence in the same way clothes do. None of the killers in any of the recent massacres has been naked. If we crack down on clothing we can end the cycle of violence.
posted by Damienmce at 1:42 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that the prevalence of mass shootings in the past two decades has at least a correlation with the availability of increasingly violent games in the same period. And we have reports that among the younger perpetrators, playing those games was indeed a favorite pastime. I don't believe that playing violent games by itself makes you want to go out and shoot people, but investigating any connection between such games, unstable individuals, and easy availability of guns should not a priori be off the table.
posted by monospace at 1:43 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


First Amendment ought to trump the Second Amendment every time. I guess the pen is mightier than the sword.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:44 PM on January 20, 2013


I absolutely agree that easy availability of guns is the primary factor. But I don't see how that excludes the glorification of violence in video games as a contributing factor worthy of investigation.

You'd need to do a study comparing rates of firearm homicide where you kept the rate of firearms constant in a population, but varied the consumption of violent videogames, and see if that made any difference. That's difficult to do on a large scale, but the pat answer is that you can do it by looking at the historical rates of firearm deaths and see if the introduction of the first-person shooter let to a statistically significant change in the rate of gun violence.

Wolfenstein 3D was released in 1992, and was pretty much the beginning of the genre, although you can argue for a few predecessors. Software and graphics improved continuously from there, allowing for more realistic (and frankly occasionally excessive) depictions of simulated gun violence. Handgun deaths in the US peaked in 1993 after a long increase since the mid-80s and had plummeted by 40% in 1999, although they've come back up a bit since then.

That's not a controlled study by any means, since a lot of other variables changed over that period, probably confounding any kind of observable impact from the rise of the FPS. Unfortunately, I can't find historical rates of handgun or general firearm ownership with a cursory search. I'd be curious how those track with the death rate.
posted by figurant at 1:44 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that the prevalence of mass shootings in the past two decades has at least a correlation with the availability of increasingly violent games in the same period.

See also the absence of pirates and global warming.
posted by Damienmce at 1:44 PM on January 20, 2013 [21 favorites]


For myself, I think it's completely plain that video games, of any level of violence, are not responsible inciting the gun violence we're talking about.

I will, however, cop to something that no one fucking talks about that bothers the shit out of me. Violence in a game is one thing. But the intensely jingoistic pro-shooting-foreigners attitude of the vast swath of our military shooters on the market today is repulsive to me. It's not even that the content is there, it's that there's simply no scrutiny to the morals behind your actions in so many of these military fps games. I'm aware of the ones that actually try to address that morality, of course. Spec Ops: The Line seems to have done a good job of that though I haven't played it yet. And there are others. But, without naming names, there are simply too many military games out there whose whole thing is "Look, americans are the police of the world, and we enforce morality by having the best weapons. now get in that bomber and bomb some villages. High Score!"

I'm simplifying, obviously, but the point is that so are the games. They're painting a heroic portrait of a country's military operations when that very country's military history has been - at best - questionable for 60+ years.

I love video games. I work with them every day for a living. I will always love and play them. Put as much violence as you want in them. Every day I play a game where it tallies up how many units I killed in about 20-45 minutes, and that number is typically in the hundreds if not the thousands. (Starcraft II, fyi) It's not the violence. But there has to be a context, and a responsibility to what lessons the game imparts. If all you knew of american culture between 2000 and 2008 was realistic military fps games, you'd think that George W Bush was the greatest leader in american history, and that's fucked. up.

btw: here's an interesting graph charting the amount of violence in the country during the launches of many of the high profile violent games released until 2004. I found it interesting.
posted by shmegegge at 1:44 PM on January 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


If we crack down on clothing we can end the cycle of violence.

Yeah, I have a license to carry a concealed handgun...

Don't ask.
posted by ODiV at 1:45 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Inspector, I'm honestly curious about the causal relationship.

There is not even a suggestion of a causal relationship. One of the largest natural experiments currently in existence destroys that idea.

That's interesting to me, and I've seen arguments from both sides.

Only one of which is arguing in good faith based on the available evidence. There are always two sides to an argument but there are a shitload of arguments in which one side is dishonest and scheming and that is exactly what is occurring here.

The ease with which people are led on this subject is baffling to me. Don't waste my tax dollars and generate bad statutes and/or case law on the basis of a theory that is approximately as convincing as homeopathy.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 1:47 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


And I'm not talking about Mario Bros or Sonic, obviously, but games like Call of Duty, Halo, etc

Why is this obvious? If we're looking at things scientifically we should keep our minds open to every possibility, right? If you plan to study something you don't just reject some possibilities because it goes against your common sense.


As I say, the studies, which are never quite conclusive, tend to be quite broad - they were looking for people rage quitting Peggle as much as someone deciding that amassing a horde of guns and going on a spree killing was a reasonable idea. I think that people do decide on that course of action probably is something to do with the pervasive culture of the US, and media consumption is part of that culture, but so are a hell of a lot of other things, not least the NRA and culture of gun ownership and usage themselves.
posted by Artw at 1:50 PM on January 20, 2013


I don't think that video games cause violence, but there is some evidence that they are a valuable marketing tool for gun manufacturers. Presumably, they think it's working. Given how much sales of more powerful guns have increased recently, why isn't it worth looking at games and other tactics used to stoke this demand? We tackled cigarette marketing to children, why not explore this?

I don't think pretend violence leads to real violence. But I do think that any time a very large industry whose products have harmful effects gains a channel for marketing to younger audiences, we should take a very close look at what they're doing.
posted by snickerdoodle at 1:50 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I think if one is going to pick on video games, one also needs to review all kinds of media over all. TV and movies, especially. Alternatively, if one is convinced that video games, movies, TV and music do not contribute to violence, then one should be willing to consider that owning or having access to a gun doesn't lead to an increased chance of violence either.

Personally, I think if media does have an influence, it does so in a different way than a gun does.

A particularly violent TV show, movie or song probably affects someone viscerally, emotionally - speaking to his core, his raw emotions, his animal instinct. A gun by itself is just a gun, but someone who is riled up inside, who has access to a gun is probably more dangerous than someone who just has access to a hammer. But someone who has control over his feelings, perhaps that person is less likely to use a gun irresponsibly.

So perhaps it's not one or the other, but maybe there's a synergistic effect.

But what really disappoints me, is that neither side - the pro-gun NRA, nor the government - spoke to the true sources of the problem - mental health issues, emotional health issues, family support issues, domestic abuse issues.

Get better at dealing with those issues and you can have all the guns, ammo, violent TV, movies, porn and video games in the world.
posted by bitteroldman at 1:50 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm actually more inclined to believe that the prevalence of violent videogames is an important part of the Mysterious Post-1990 Crime Decrease simply because, whether or not playing the games makes you aggressive, playing them also keeps you off the streets. It's a pretty simplistic theory but at least it fits the general data.
posted by furiousthought at 1:50 PM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Comics didn't lead to juvenile delinquincy, pinball arcades were actually quite harmless places for teens to hang out in, rock and roll didn't lead to moral degeneration, video nasties weren't, heavy metal bands didn't want their fans to suicide and videogames are not responsible for gun murders.

The Army is quite successful in using videogames for recruitment. Getting rid of first person shooters doesn't mean you'll end gun violence. But we (or at least the Army) know(s) that videogames are a good way to glorify participation in warfare and convince people that they too want a 'piece of the action' or whatever.
posted by hoyland at 1:51 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


The outright dismissal and ridicule coming from gamers about any connection between their hobby and what happens in society is bothering me. So you don't think there's any relation between mass shootings and violent video games? Fine. But why should I take your word for it? Why shouldn't this be investigated, and why shouldn't game makers be invited to the national debate?

(Or, back to my first question, if this has already been settled in the scientific literature, I'd love to read it.)
posted by monospace at 1:52 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's pretty much been settled: Nobody can demonstrate a link. People will keep trying though.
posted by Artw at 1:56 PM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


So you don't think there's any relation between mass shootings and violent video games? Fine. But why should I take your word for it? Why shouldn't this be investigated, and why shouldn't game makers be invited to the national debate?

I don't think you realize that it's impossible to prove a negative. What you can do is find evidence that there's a link, which so far people putting the claim forward have failed to do.
posted by zixyer at 1:57 PM on January 20, 2013 [13 favorites]


It seems to me that the prevalence of mass shootings in the past two decades has at least a correlation with the availability of increasingly violent games in the same period.

The last two decades have also seen an increase in the average person's exposure to reality televison, low carb food, and Justin Beiber. Are those related too? (I'm being facetious, obviously, but I think it makes my point.)

Also, no one is dismissing a connection between entertainment and society, or saying that there shouldn't be investigations about it. But you seem to be ignoring issues like, as furiousthought said above, mental health care and family support in favor of handwaving about video games. That's a bad thing.
posted by jess at 1:58 PM on January 20, 2013


The Army is quite successful in using videogames for recruitment. Getting rid of first person shooters doesn't mean you'll end gun violence. But we (or at least the Army) know(s) that videogames are a good way to glorify participation in warfare and convince people that they too want a 'piece of the action' or whatever.

This is true, but the army is also quite successful at using television, film, magazines and walk-in recruitment centers for the same purpose. video games are an enormously immersive medium of expression. that doesn't make them any more of the problem than a pencil or printing press, though. they're just the tool.
posted by shmegegge at 1:59 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, there is an interesting argument (that I'm sure most people here have already read) that suggests that the drop in crime in America from the early nineties onwards in was related to abortion rights.

Which ties back into poverty and crime correlating.
posted by YAMWAK at 1:59 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know what's weird to me about this debate? There's never a peep about just how much the armed forces appear in modern video game blockbusters. The Halo franchise, the Call of Duty franchises, Tom Clancy, Gears of War, Battlefield, Mass Effect, etc. Even Fallout changed from the hero's journey through the wasteland into being completely about picking or choosing one heavily militarized faction over another. All of the Old Republics feature commanders and warriors, with a lot of backstory on battles and strategies with generals as heroes or villains and soldiers as companions and a class.

The last shooter I remember playing that didn't feature some kind of military backdrop was XIII. Even Deus Ex had Fema and militarized police forces. And only recently did Spec Ops come out as a criticism wrapped up inside of the package FPS deal where you still got to shoot the prerequisite number of brown people who had their faces obscured.

Theoretical engagement with violence doesn't lead to violence. An interest that corresponds in the real world, in shooting ranges and recruitment drives might have a better chance, however. I suppose the default way to engage this debate is to sequester the military industrial complex's impact on modern society into a different topic entirely but that seems to be a flimsy separation at best.
posted by dubusadus at 1:59 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


We need to look for some other factor that correlates better with these gun death rates. Like, well, gun ownership rates.

Like the fact that guns are illegal there. Focus on the legislation. Call your Congressman or woman.
posted by Ironmouth at 2:00 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Its funny how video games gets its in the neck every time their is a massacre but the US general commitment to militarism never seems to be questioned. The whole glorification of violence thing seems to be an excellent fit with the approach of the armed forces.
posted by biffa at 2:03 PM on January 20, 2013


Now if you were to do a study comparing poverty, disempowerment and social inequality to gun related crimes, I might be a lot more interested in the results.

For starters, if you really want to go there.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:03 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand the "natural experiment" comments. The United States really is a pretty unique polity when it comes to some of the sociological drivers of our violent culture, and it's entirely possible that violent media interact with those drivers in ways different than even the nation most similar to us (Canada).

That said, I think at this point any approach to solving the problem that doesn't begin with severe restrictions on private ownership of guns and ammunition is doomed to fail.
posted by downing street memo at 2:05 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]




It seems to me that the prevalence of mass shootings in the past two decades has at least a correlation with the availability of increasingly violent games in the same period.

Well, for starters it's a pretty silly place to start looking. Media suffused with violence have always been available, and I'm unaware of any point in modern American history when boys weren't commonly playing in ways that amount to murder LARP. It's up to you to think of why video games are so unique and different that they do something that movies and interactive play in the actual physical universe were unable to accomplish.

Second, it's silly if you stop to glance at the data. If you're right, the number of school massacres, etc, in Britain and Korea and Japan and Germany should have exploded, but it didn't.

Third, if you really want to pin gun massacres on something in the culture, a far more obvious place to look is in the news cycle, since murdering a bunch of your schoolmates, or a theater full of strangers, or a passel of little kids has become an obvious way to become the most important person in the United States for a week or so.

So you don't think there's any relation between mass shootings and violent video games? Fine. But why should I take your word for it?

Because a moment's considered thought about where violent video games are available means that the notion can be dismissed out of hand.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:11 PM on January 20, 2013 [9 favorites]


Its funny how video games gets its in the neck every time their is a massacre but the US general commitment to militarism never seems to be questioned. The whole glorification of violence thing seems to be an excellent fit with the approach of the armed forces.

Hilariously the videogame the NRA picked to go after was Mortal Kombat, presumably because it features no guns and was part of some media scare back in the 90s, which was also back when anyone gave a shit about it.
posted by Artw at 2:11 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


For starters, if you really want to go there.
posted by IndigoJones at 2:03 PM on January 20 [+] [!]


Oooh - something to play with tomorrow - thanks.
posted by YAMWAK at 2:14 PM on January 20, 2013


monospace: "It seems to me that the prevalence of mass shootings in the past two decades has at least a correlation with the availability of increasingly..."

...sensationalistic 24 hour cable news reporting.
posted by the_artificer at 2:16 PM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I honestly suspect they're a big factor - both in that these shootings are all imitative of each other and that the news channels are a guaranteed platform for the shooters bullshit.
posted by Artw at 2:18 PM on January 20, 2013


For most people (virtually all) I would go as far to say that violent video games could be compared to violent books: pulling the trigger is like turning the page. It's how you keep the dopamine reward coming. For games, you feel good because of the high score, not because you've ended a life. It's fun, and in no way feels like actual killing because you have empathy and know that the body count is fiction.

Are there controlled studies that measure the amount of empathy that a person is capable of before and after playing a large amount of violent video games? Also, what does it take to cause a low empathy person with a motive to kill to act on those thoughts? Until these questions are answered with data, there's little value to this discussion. If someone has this data (I didn't see it above), please post.
posted by hanoixan at 2:21 PM on January 20, 2013


It's pretty obvious that culture can promote immoral violence--an emphasis on machismo and related nonsense does so, for example. (Not all violence is immoral, of course; self-defense and defense of other innocents are examples.)

It's pretty obvious that some aspects of American culture seem to at least condone immoral violence--lots of rap does so, for example. Some (particularly male) subcultures seem to promote violence almost as recreation.

And much of human behavior can be explained like so: monkey see, monkey do.

Do video games affect the culture in general, and its view of violence in particular? Well, our best evidence seems to indicate that they don't...it is a bit hard to believe, but that seems to be the smart bet right now.

But if video games don't, then movies and music probably don't, either. Again, somewhat hard to believe, IMHO...but that's where we seem to be.

So what does?

Some evidence suggests that coverage of, e.g., actual mass murders does...so that may be one thing.
(Artw beat me to this)

There IS some evidence that, once such phenomena get started and become known, they spread (certain kinds of mental illness show patterns like this).

So one possibility is that fictional violence is less causally important than is news coverage of actual violence.

The important thing here is to avoid just using this stuff as a Rorschach test. If you're just looking to confirm your prejudices against video games or guns or whatever...well, you'll probably be able to convince yourself that that's what it is.
posted by Fists O'Fury at 2:25 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


The thing about video games is that no one in a position of power plays them. That makes them the Other, and easy to turn to as a scapegoat when pressure builds.

I don't think violent games are completely divorced from gun violence, but the effect is indirect. Someone check my reasoning here, my objective is to advance the conversation by giving people something to bounce off:

1. When you shoot a bunch of guys in a game, that's nothing.
2. When you participate in a culture in a game in which violence is ritualized and exhalted, that's a very slight effect, but passable.
3. When that other culture is something you perceive to exist in the real world outside of your own experience sphere though, that could have a false normalizing effect. The player may wrongly assume this is how the world works, or else why would it be in this game? The effect is still slight, but...
4. When you add online play into this, you end up with a culture of people who think guns (and other things too, like casual misogyny, which propagates by the same mechanism) are cool and perhaps a tool that could realistically be used to solve their problems.
posted by JHarris at 2:25 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


So here in what I am assured is the world's preeminent democracy, we've got the people holding the highest offices in the land telling us it's okay to torture people, provided that The Good Guys do it. It's okay to kill people with robots; it's okay to invade and occupy a remote country on the flimsiest of premises and bomb its civilian populations, killing tens or hundreds of thousands of people. Hell, it's okay to convene a kangaroo court and have us a good old-fashioned hangin', and the reason it's okay is because IT'S NECESSARY TO KEEP US SAFE. We are meant to understand that it's only the guns and the killing that keep us safe. And when I walk into my local supermarket, I have to look at a signboard with photos of servicemen who are married to the baggers and the clerks, with a legend that says, "Members of our family WHO ARE PROTECTING YOURS," just to remind everybody that it's not okay to question this narrative. Thank God for all the actual, not-pretend killing of not-pretend people, because otherwise how would we sleep at night, how would we be safe?

But what is the source of our culture of violence, here in God's Greatest Nation, founded on the near-genocidal extermination of the original inhabitants, who presumably hated the early settlers' freedom?

Video games. Jesus. Give me a break. If I had to tell you the top hundred and fifty things that scare the hell out of me about American culture, video games wouldn't even make the list.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 2:26 PM on January 20, 2013 [66 favorites]


The that always bugs me is that some studies have found a weak link between video games and violence. If we assume that correlation, it seems like most people jump to the conclusion that the games cause violence.

To this gamer, the obvious conclusion to this gamer is that people predisposed to violence are drawn to violent video games (and probably violent media in general).
posted by VTX at 2:27 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


After I play Katamari, I don't deliberately run into anything smaller than me in the hope that I can roll it up.

I do, however, sing the theme music to myself incessantly.

naaaaa na na na na na na na katamari damacy!
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:28 PM on January 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


If American citizens were legally purchasing tanks and attack helicopters and using them to murder scores of innocent civilians, surely the most logical culprit would be the video games glamorizing the irresponsible use of such value-neutral military tools.

Banning these dangerous video games would certainly be called for.
posted by crayz at 2:37 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't understand criticism of the news. It's news, it happened, so they cover it. If they stopped other sources would pick up the slack and nothing would be accomplished to change it. Horrifying stories get people worked up and they want to learn about what happened.

I've never seen convincing evidence that video games cause violence and in my experience I never had difficulty separating fantasy from reality. I played violent games when I was a kid and had no problem slaughtering for fun but when I shot a bunny in the butt with a BB gun (it hopped several feat in the air, but seemed fine) it made me cry.

Someone who is mentally vulnerable might have an unhealthy relationship with games, but I suspect factors such as alcohol or drug abuse or social ostracization are playing much bigger roles. We can't regulate away everything that is a danger to some of the population.

Education, healthcare, and treating each other with care and respect are our best tools.

I do support strict gun control though. Guns take all of these issues and multiply the dangers beyond what they otherwise would be. When I discuss suicide with people in favor of gun rights they point to places like Japan without guns but with a ton of suicide. In my view, adding guns to the equation would make the situation there even much more worse. More attempts would succeed, more people would make quick impulse decisions while in a bad place emotionally or under the influence. Guns aren't the cause of our problems, but they are a serious contributing factor.

For what it's worth, there is an interesting argument (that I'm sure most people here have already read) that suggests that the drop in crime in America from the early nineties onwards in was related to abortion rights.

I like the lead theory.
posted by Drinky Die at 2:38 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


My wife is a competition shooter. She says it's a helluva thing to fire a gun, let alone point it at a living thing. Video games and media cannot mimic this, so I can imagine why there might be disconnect between imagination and reality.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:41 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Oh, and a belated happy Gun Appreciation Day to everyone!
posted by Artw at 2:43 PM on January 20, 2013


It's fun, and in no way feels like actual killing because you have empathy and know that the body count is fiction.

FWIW, I've noticed that when I play any of the Assassin's Creed games, I feel bad for any of the guards that I kill and do what I can to complete the missions killing as few guards as I can. I figure that most of them don't support the bad people they work for, just joined the guards for the paycheck, and are just doing their jobs. It seems like it's only that series so maybe they did something really well in those games and maybe I'm just weird.
posted by VTX at 2:44 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's not violence in media, because all other societies have access to pretty much the same media found in the United States. It's not gun ownership rates: Switzerland and Canada have higher per capita gun ownership rates and much lower murder rates. I think there are four contributing factors, and the first is our shockingly pathetic gun laws. Check out the laws in Canada and the laws in Switzerland.

Basically, if you want to own a gun in most modern societies, the laws and regulations are onerous as they should be. In general, you have to have a permit that limits the types of guns you are allowed to handle to what you have permits for, ammo is severely restricted, and you are required to keep all weapons under lock and key. Any private gun sales must be documented and in some cases pre-approved for even rifles and shotguns. Assault weapons are generally banned altogether. Even in Switzerland where the military is the civilian militia, they now aren't even allowed to keep the 50 rounds of sealed ammunition with their firearms -- that practice was ended in 2007. Now the ammo is kept in local armouries, and only a select set of trained individuals have access to their ammo at all times.

The second factor is America's obsession with puritan ideals. In other cultures, there is less emphasis on punishment and more emphasis on rehabilitation. We have more prisoners, per capita or in raw numbers, than any other country on earth. In other societies the assumption is that each individual failure is also a failure of the society they grew up in, so troubled individuals are routinely put through less expensive mental health or work-training programs instead of thrown away in a cell. This is the dark side of American individualism: extenuating circumstances are rarely taken into account, so instead of being treated as a person capable of mistakes and redemption, prisoners in the American legal system are there for punishment, including capital punishment. Our prison system is simply shameful, but unfortunately, self-righteous religious attitudes continue to saddle our country with debt and produce individuals more likely to commit violence after going through our prison system than if they had simply gotten away with their original crime, and then they are dumped into our failed system of social safety nets that is likely to dump them back into prison.

In third place is the influence of our military industrial system. Not only does it approve of violence as a solution -- we have the highest body count by far for the past fifty years of history -- but the attitudes of the military, including zero tolerance and punishment for non-conformity, have infected social services from the police to fire-fighters and EMS all the way down to Medicare/Medicaid services. Treating people like criminals

And fourth, America's safety net is broken. Compared to other countries with similar economies, our poverty rate is damning evidence of a broken social contract. The poor are not only locked out of economic opportunities, but also forced to fight through a maze of underfunded bureaucracy to get basic services if they are even available. American's urban poverty is where most of the gun violence is located, a point that a lot of gun supporters attempt to use as "statistical evidence" that America's gun violence isn't "that bad." If all you have to do is ignore poor people from your statistics to get satisfactory results, your society is failing.

I'll add my fifth factor, though this is more philosophical: America's love of money has almost entirely displaced any rational set of principals. There is no shame as long as a dollar is earned. Not only does that attitude contribute to our broken financial system that leads to inequality and violence, but also to the acceptance of a handful of companies that bankroll the NRA [pdf] so they can continue to sell arms for profit.

tl:dr; Video games are a lot easier to talk about than the general institutional failures of our society because more of our economy is based on making real weapons than playing with fake ones.
posted by tripping daisy at 2:48 PM on January 20, 2013 [47 favorites]


It's not gun ownership rates: Switzerland and Canada have higher per capita gun ownership rates and much lower murder rates.

The US has the largest number of guns per capita. See here (that's the same data Wikipedia is using.) The Wikipedia article is worded in such a way that it sounds like it might be only counting handguns, but that is not the case.
posted by hoyland at 3:08 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Ugh, this again. There is little if any evidence that violent video games lead to the sort of violence we are talking about. There is, on the other hand, mounting evidence that video games and specifically the most violent types, first person shooters, are actually good for you in a lot of ways. They improve eyesight. They improve brain function and fine motor control. They improve spatial analysis. This is not my opinion, this is the conclusion of multiple studies.

You know what the best predictor of good outcomes in laparoscopic surgery is? If you said experience, you're wrong. It is skill with video games. You know what the second best predictor is? Amount of time spent playing video games. So if you want a good surgeon, ask for somebody who can kick your ass at Call of Duty, not an old guy who has done a thousand surgeries.

Playing too many video games can turn you into a slobby pudge if you just sit around all day without exercising. Evidence: me. But in terms of violent behavior? No. And they are actually good for you in other ways.
posted by Justinian at 3:08 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]




After I play Katamari, I don't deliberately run into anything smaller than me in the hope that I can roll it up.

Just as a side note, I did have a severe compulsion to do this after long Katamari sessions. I heard a joke once about someone doing this with a car (obvs fictional) but honestly I sort of had that urge. Even moreso I guess just looking at objects around me and obsessively wondering, could I roll that up, or is it still too big?
posted by six-or-six-thirty at 3:20 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


For His thoughts were red thoughts and six-or-six-thirty: obligatory XKCD link.
posted by JHarris at 3:26 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not a gamer, but my gut says scapegoating video games is bullshit (if Rick Santorum says it, I generally think it's bullshit). That said, I see a lot of talk about comparing other western nations like Germany and Japan where gun violence is low. Interesting thing: their current governments were largely American creations. So what did we do differently there than here? Ban guns is near the top of the list.
posted by readyfreddy at 3:26 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Video games as a causal mechanism makes a lot of sense to me.

I never started smashing bricks with my head and stomping on turtles and mushrooms until after Super Mario Brothers came out.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:26 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Monospace, I have a doctorate in media and education. I spent a chunk of my graduate years reading the "scientific" research on media and violence -- more TV and film than video games, because when I started there was less research on the latter available.

My take on this body of research was that it was bad, even the seminal, classic stuff like Bandura, who gets cited in textbooks. It came in with assumptions that biased the results it found. It was largely artificial laboratory stuff, not real-world material, and I don't find that a valid way to learn about social issues. Eventually, I stopped reading it and moved on to other topics in the field, because it was asking the wrong questions and seemed to be doing so more for the sake of backing up adult fears of youth media use than for really solving problems.

Other reading I did convinced me, like someone said above, that this is more about Puritan fears of youth and immigrants, or even older fears about youth. One of the Greeks (I always forget whether it was Socrates or Aristotle) complained that the kids these days, they use the written language and they're never going to learn to remember things as a result. There were panics about comic books and movies and now it's video games. You have to view this in the longer view of history. I think people are frightened of media because media break social barriers (kids should not see adult things, women should not see men's things like violence) because they travel outside of the conditions of their production.

And I haven't looked at this literature yet, but I can't help but think that the psychologists who have been warning us that covering mass shootings in the news is far more likely to incite copycats are onto something. On Charlie Brooker's Newswipe (I'm on my phone or I'd link to it) there was a psychologist saying they expect to see copycats any time the news goes into 24/7 coverage mode on something like that, as killers are likely to see that as a route to fame. And what have we seen since September?

I'm waiting for the media to start spreading that meme, but it seems unlikely they will.
posted by gusandrews at 3:27 PM on January 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


good point sebastienbailard. pacman made me start popping pills like crazy.
posted by readyfreddy at 3:28 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It seems to me that the prevalence of mass shootings in the past two decades has at least a correlation with the availability of increasingly violent games in the same period.

And the steep decrease in violent crime overall, but you ignore that because you actually are in the thrall of a cultural medium: sensationalized news coverage.
posted by spaltavian at 3:28 PM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


and um not to undermine what I just said but after a long involved Katamari session I once saw a screw on the ground, tapped it with my foot, and was confused when it did not adhere to it. ANECDOTAL DATA
posted by gusandrews at 3:29 PM on January 20, 2013


And since no one has mentioned it yet in this thread, there's this… lead and violent crime
posted by readyfreddy at 3:30 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


It seems to me that the prevalence of mass shootings in the past two decades has at least a correlation with the availability of increasingly violent games in the same period.

It also correlates with decreased prevalence of smoking. And increased CO2 in the atmosphere. None of these is necessarily meaningful.
posted by Justinian at 3:32 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Can anybody point me to some articles that explain why violent video games have absolutely nothing to do with gun violence in America?

Try this graph of video game spending per capita, vs gun-related murders per capita. Play spot the outlier.

Then try this meta-study, which looks at many different studies, their quality, and looks to see if there is a link.

"Results indicated that publication bias was a problem for studies of both aggressive behavior and visuospatial cognition. Once corrected for publication bias, studies of video game violence provided no support for the hypothesis that violent video game playing is associated with higher aggression."

IOW, once you weight the ones from outfits that started from the conclusion that they were linked and worked backwards, there is no link between aggression and playing video games. If you look at the studies that do show a link, they use the most tenuous analogs for aggression, which is itself an analog for violent behaviour. The ones that use the closest analogs for aggression, or aggression directly, show no link.

"It is not hard to 'link' video game playing with violent acts if one wishes to do so, as one video game playing prevalence study indicated that 98.7 percent of adolescents play video games to some degree. However, is it possible that a behavior with such a high base rate (i.e., video game playing) is useful in explaining a behavior with a very low base rate (i.e., school shootings)? Put another way, can an almost universal behavior truly predict a rare behavior?"
posted by ArkhanJG at 3:34 PM on January 20, 2013 [15 favorites]


I'm not arguing that playing violent games makes you violent, so you can stop that derail. But really, nobody sees a connection between games where you dress up in body armor and tote heavy weaponry in order to shoot as many enemies as you can, and real-life examples of kids doing exactly that? Even asking the question is met with ridicule.

I get a similar vibe from gun enthusiasts who refuse to entertain the notion that widespread availability of guns has anything to do with these massacres.
posted by monospace at 3:50 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Uh, the gun is what actually allows rampages to happen. They are comparable in the slightest; and making that comparison is what invites ridicule.
posted by spaltavian at 3:54 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Was it video games when Charles Whitman went up in the tower at the University of Texas in 1966? What about the girl that shot at children at the San Diego elementary school in 1979? What about that guy that shot up the McDonalds in San Ysidro, CA in 1984?* The guy that drove into a Luby's in Killeen TX and started shooting in 1991?

The people that go into schools, worksites or other public places and just start shooting people have a mental illness. The reason the spree killers today have XBox live accounts or they find PC or video games in their house is because those things exist now. These people that do these atrocities also probably like ice cream. Perhaps someone with that same mental illness might play Halo and think that shooting pretend people in game is fun, and think killing people in real life might be funner. If video games didn't exist, they'd go back to blaming TV, movies, and rock and roll for the violence. If guns didn't exists, people would do these things bow and arrows. Hell, when I was a kid, someone poisoned people with Tylenol. Tylenol is a pill. Pac-Man was out then, maybe that was the motivation?

If we followed the first three words of the second amendment more carefully, it would make it harder for some people to get guns to do these bad things, but not go away. In Germany and Norway where guns are more regulated, there are still these kinds of massacres, but they are rarer.

* the wife of the shooter tried to sue McDonald's because she believed that her husband was driven to act based on MSG in McDonald's Chicken McNuggets.
posted by birdherder at 3:54 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


What types of games do these other countries play? Anecdotal evidence suggests that in Japan people play RPGs, Street Fighter, and Dating Sims and people in Germany play truck driving or faming sims.

What convinced me of the link between video games and violence was when I learned the startling fact that nobody had ever been murdered before the first Pong cabinet was was created in 1972
posted by Ad hominem at 3:55 PM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


But really, nobody sees a connection between games where you dress up in body armor and tote heavy weaponry in order to shoot as many enemies as you can, and real-life examples of kids doing exactly that? Even asking the question is met with ridicule.

I get a similar vibe from gun enthusiasts who refuse to entertain the notion that widespread availability of guns has anything to do with these massacres.


There are proven correlations between gun ownership rates, lax gun laws, and gun related homicides.

There is a paucity of evidence linking video games with violence. It has not been proven; there is no reliable evidence.

So what is your point?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 3:56 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The really interesting study that could be done is into why we have a moral panic over a group that's older than usual. Previously, moral panics have tended to be about teenagers and kids - comics, rock n' roll, video nasties, and so on. Over half of video game players are over 18. I have a hunch this might say something quite profound about how power is now distributed over different age groups.
posted by liquidindian at 3:59 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


But really, nobody sees a connection between games where you dress up in body armor and tote heavy weaponry in order to shoot as many enemies as you can, and real-life examples of kids doing exactly that?

Then please explain how in other countries - including Switzerland and Canada that have higher per-capita gun ownership than the USA - that in fact, that doesn't happen?

You know what DOES have a link between mass shootings? Easy and poorly regulated access to guns; even within the US, states with better regulation and stiffer access controls have less gun deaths, including 'ordinary' murders and accidental deaths. You know what another link is? All the recent mass shooters practised with real guns before going on their rampage.

Violent video games with body armour and heavy weaponry don't teach you how to shoot guns. Using real guns to shoot things teaches you to how to use real guns. Virtually all teenagers play violent video games. Almost none of them go on to shoot people. In the USA, in states with easy access to guns and gun practise, a lot more of them grow up, learn to handle guns, and go shoot people.

Virginia Tech shooter? didn't play video games. It's a scapegoat for the NRA, so they can point their fingers and go 'look over there!' when the simple link between mass shootings, gun murders and accidental deaths are all easily shown to be correlated with easy, poorly regulated access to guns.

There's plenty of evidence that ACCCESS to GUNS is the problem, and no reliable study that links aggressive behaviour to playing video games, let alone that video games triggered someone to go out and shoot a bunch of people.

So clearly the problem is fantasy behaviour in video games. Sigh.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:01 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Over half of video game players are over 18.

Average age in the US is thirty years old.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:02 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm not arguing that playing violent games makes you violent, so you can stop that derail.

Sure you are:

But really, nobody sees a connection between games where you dress up in body armor and tote heavy weaponry in order to shoot as many enemies as you can, and real-life examples of kids doing exactly that?

You're just declining to do it with a declarative statement. Your quoted post is one part begging the question and one part appeal to ignorance.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:02 PM on January 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


hoyland is correct... I have confirmed it with another source [pdf]:
The following are among the findings on the US small arms economy—production, imports, domestic sales, and exports—that can be gleaned from public information sources:
  • The US public is the leading world market for US and most non-US firearms manufacturers.
  • The US public holds about 230,000,000–280,000,000 guns—at least one out of every three guns in the world, and nearly one gun per per person in the United States.
  • The US military holds approximately 3,600,000 small arms—1.38 guns per uniformed serviceperson.
  • US law enforcement officials hold approximately 900,000 small arms.
  • On average about 5,300,000 new firearms were introduced into the US civilian market each year from 1998 to 2003.
That's much worse than I imagined.
posted by tripping daisy at 4:02 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Monospace, are you reading any of the comments answering your questions or clicking through any links?
posted by Artw at 4:03 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Games don't spring to life from the void, they exist within a culture. Violent games are the product of a culture that also created Rambo, Commando, and the string of movies that inspired the games to begin with. A culture that created Natural Born Killers and True Romance. It is pretty clear to me that all these things are not the cause of a violent culture, but a reflection of a violent culture.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:09 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]




including Switzerland and Canada that have higher per-capita gun ownership than the USA

Arg. Sorry, I was incorrect. USA has highest per-capita ownership rates, AND laxer laws. Canada does have higher per-capita purchasing of video games than the US though. And far lower gun deaths.
posted by ArkhanJG at 4:18 PM on January 20, 2013


What types of games do these other countries play? Anecdotal evidence suggests that in Japan people play RPGs, Street Fighter, and Dating Sims and people in Germany play truck driving or faming sims.

German games tend towards the non-violent - the Anno series of games are all about trading and building, for instance. A good gaming comparison is not in video games, but board games. The trading and building and farming of "Eurogames" like Settlers of Catan and Agricola contrast with the in-your-face direct conflict of "Ameritrash" - think Axis and Allies or Twilight Imperium.

The reason for this difference in violence in games lies sixty years ago. For one country the violence of that time is something you can be proud of, for the other it's something that is only shameful. These different attitudes meant that for a long time violence in games in Germany was essentially taboo. In the US, meanwhile, it was the focus. If you want to start somewhere in violence and society, don't start with video games. Start 60 years ago, with violent events of massive importance coinciding with a rise in mass market culture.
posted by liquidindian at 4:20 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


But really, nobody sees a connection between games where you dress up in body armor and tote heavy weaponry in order to shoot as many enemies as you can, and real-life examples of kids doing exactly that?

But what's the connection, beyond superficial?
  • In GTA you can use a car as a weapon, continuously running over people. In general, having access to a car is easier than a gun, yet there hasn't been a similar uptick in mass hit and runs.
  • There's also very popular games where you use swords and knives to kill opponents, yet we don't have a rise in mass stabbings either.
  • And what about duels? Games depict 1-v-1 duels and boss battles, often romanticizing them as a battle over honor. So, why haven't they inspired a resurgence of Hamilton-Burr incidents?
posted by FJT at 4:20 PM on January 20, 2013 [9 favorites]






There we go again.

From a special issue of the journal Review of General Psychology published by the American Psychological Association:
"Violent video games are like peanut butter," said Christopher J. Ferguson, of Texas A&M International University. "They are harmless for the vast majority of kids but are harmful to a small minority with pre-existing personality or mental health problems."

He added that studies have revealed that violent games have not created a generation of problem youngsters.

"Recent research has shown that as video games have become more popular, children in the United States and Europe are having fewer behavior problems, are less violent and score better on standardized tests,"
And from the meta-study:
Results from the current analysis do not support the conclusion that media violence leads to aggressive behavior. It cannot be concluded at this time that media violence presents a significant public health risk.
So, yeah. These are not the droids you are looking for. Let's all listen to some Katamari Damacy.
posted by ersatz at 4:29 PM on January 20, 2013 [10 favorites]


So let me get this straight: news media that merely report gun violence are inspiring copycats, but video games that center around gun violence have no measurable impact at all.

Nope. Still not buying it.
posted by monospace at 4:31 PM on January 20, 2013


Thinking about what makes people run amok in the first place, I think they feel cornered by the circumstances in their life. The construct of their personality falls apart, so they tragically and mistakenly think that the only way out with any dignity is to take as many people with them as possible.

I was curious, so I tried to compile some numbers. According to the admittedly incomplete list on Wikipedia there were 128 rampage killing incidents in the U.S. since 1863. I included the categories labeled "rampage kililings", "workplace killings", and "school massacres." There is a chance that I bungled someplace in stripping out the formatting, removing the non-U.S. incidents, and compiling the numbers for the three categories, so please consider this as only an estimate.

With those caveats in mind, of the 128 incidents on the list 34 were in the century between 1863 and 1963. The remaining 94 incidents have occurred in the half-century since. 72 of those have been since 1980.

You could make the argument that this corresponds with the rise of video gaming, but I would not. Rather I think that it corresponds with the time frame in which a growing number of people have faced the loss what they thought was an unassailable economic, political and social status after losing their livelihood due to circumstances beyond their control.

A number of factors have coincided over the last few decades to make the loss of a job or the inability to find meaningful work completely catastrophic. In the past there was something else to go do. Even if the buggy whip factory closed forever, a steering wheel cover factory opened and there was still work to be had. Now the factory closes, nothing takes its place, and that causes the entire edifice of peoples' lives to come apart.

Instead of 2.6 kids and a dog behind a picket fence in the suburbs, you lose the house, lose the car, and lose the wife, the kids, and the dog. For younger people you lose the prospect of ever having what our culture has come to expect as a "normal life." Some people are unable to handle it, and the result is another rampage.

Still, none of this rises to the level of a hypothesis. It's just my intuition about something I noticed about the frequency of rampage killings in the U.S. over the course of the last 150 years and their correspondence with changing economic circumstances.

However, as I often say, we can't expect people to have stable lives and homes unless they have stable jobs. Even if my numbers and intuition about the correlation are way off, I still think that if we want to reduce violence overall, and rampage killings in particular, adopting policies that will ensure more people have meaningful and fulfilling work couldn't hurt.
posted by ob1quixote at 4:33 PM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


So let me get this straight: news media that merely report gun violence are inspiring copycats, but video games that center around gun violence have no measurable impact at all.

Yes. Because there is evidence that supports that position.

Nope. Still not buying it.

Feel free to provide some evidence that supports your position. That is how reasoned debate works.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:34 PM on January 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


So let me get this straight: news media that merely report gun violence are inspiring copycats, but video games that center around gun violence have no measurable impact at all.

Dropping our pretenses are we?
posted by Artw at 4:39 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Some people are unable to handle it, and the result is another rampage.

Careful now. You're far too close to humanising these monsters, and seeking a genuine answer. Just do what you're supposed to do and say that they're 'evil' (whatever that means) and then point a finger at the nearest pop culture artifact you don't understand.
posted by liquidindian at 4:44 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


I can't help but get the impression that people feel that making a connection between violent shooting games and actual violent shootings is like a personal indictment; but I don't mean it that way. I understand that the vast majority of you who enjoy virtually shooting people in the head don't go out and do this in the real world. But I don't understand why questioning whether there might be a connection between playing such games and re-enacting it in a mall or an elementary school is such a taboo with gamers.

I mean, I like to drink alcohol, and I generally don't get violent as a result of it. But some people do. And now you're telling me that because of that, I shouldn't be looking into a possible relationship between alcohol and violence?
posted by monospace at 4:47 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well if you approached the conversation with a shred of honesty it might help.
posted by Artw at 4:50 PM on January 20, 2013 [16 favorites]


But I don't understand why questioning whether there might be a connection between playing such games and re-enacting it in a mall or an elementary school is such a taboo with gamers.

It's not questioning that is the problem, it is refusing to acknowledge all the evidence to data suggests there is no real connection. At some point you're not "questioing", you're spouting baseless agitprop.
posted by Justinian at 4:50 PM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's just my intuition about something I noticed about the frequency of rampage killings in the U.S. over the course of the last 150 years and their correspondence with changing economic circumstances.

Mark Ames, in his book Going Postal, characterizes them as "failed slave rebellions." Some reviews think this makes sense, and others do not.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:51 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wolfenstein 3D was released in 1992, and was pretty much the beginning of the genre, although you can argue for a few predecessors. Software and graphics improved continuously from there, allowing for more realistic (and frankly occasionally excessive) depictions of simulated gun violence. Handgun deaths in the US peaked in 1993 after a long increase since the mid-80s and had plummeted by 40% in 1999, although they've come back up a bit since then.

That's not a controlled study by any means, since a lot of other variables changed over that period, probably confounding any kind of observable impact from the rise of the FPS. Unfortunately, I can't find historical rates of handgun or general firearm ownership with a cursory search. I'd be curious how those track with the death rate.


The number of guns has roughly doubled (based on the number of NICS background checks) over the same period of time that the violent crime rate has halved.

At the same time the violent crime rate in other countries with strict gun control in place have had an increase in violent crime over the same period we have had a decrease (Great Britain specifically).

As to the violent video games thing, I found it really interesting that in the Sandy hook shooting i have read some accounts that the shooter changed magazine very frequently without emptying the magazine. This is the method used in the games, among people who actually use that type of gun (for non violent/non criminal reasons) you typically shoot the magazine empty before replacing (i seem to remember hearing the same about the Virginia Tech shooting). Not any kind of evidence of video games causing the violence but maybe an interesting point as to influence on a very messy issue with a number of causes. I am very interested to see what comes out of the trial of the Aurora shooter.

I try not to use the shooter's names since in my view, their actions voted themselves out of the human race and I have no desire to give them any fame or noteriety at all as they do seem to be very prone to copycatting, but we DO need to discuss these things. I don't know how to solve these problems.
posted by bartonlong at 4:52 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Since mass killings are very rare, even in the US, it will be very hard to pin down the factors that are associated with an increased likelihood in someone becoming a mass shooter. But, it seems to me that there has to be multiple (risk) factors that when taken together raise the probability high enough that someone will commit a mass shooting. It wouldn’t be a simple or straightforward causal mechanism (such as only having easy access to guns in the home, or only playing violent video games, or even having both easy access to guns in the home and playing violent video games), because otherwise mass shootings would be more common.

In terms of regression analysis, I’m thinking something like the following:

Dependent variable:

1=commit mass shooting
0=Do not commit mass shooting

Possible independent variables:

Male = 1, 0therwise
Guns in the home =1, 0 otherwise
Involvement with mental health services =1, 0 otherwise
Did not graduate high school=1, 0 otherwise
Some measurement of emotional IQ
Hours spent watching violent TV
Hours spent playing violent video games
Has romantic relationship=1, 0 otherwise
Was victim of bullying=1, 0 otherwise
Was raised by single parent=1, 0 otherwise
… ( + lots of other potential factors including interactions between some of the independent variables).

I wouldn’t be surprised if more hours spent playing violent video games and watching violent tv shows raised the likelihood of someone committing a mass shooting. (Perhaps violent video games and violent tv shows desensitize people to actual death; there’s lots of ways the link could work). I’m sure the effects would be small, otherwise we’d see more mass shootings. But, violent media and video games could certainly be a contributing factor to the likelihood of someone committing a mass shooting. In terms of preventing mass shootings in the future, society needs to figure what set of factors taken together is the best predictor of someone committing a mass shooting.
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear at 4:55 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


But I don't understand why questioning whether there might be a connection between playing such games and re-enacting it in a mall or an elementary school is such a taboo with gamers.

It's not taboo.

The possible relationship between video games and violence has been investigated time and time again. There is no conclusive evidence that suggests a meaningful correlation. In this thread, you've been provided with multiple sources that support the claim that there is no connection. You simply refuse to accept that evidence.

Gamers are just tired of people beating this dead horse, and accusing them of being mass murders in waiting in the total absence of any evidence. It's really not that hard to understand.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:55 PM on January 20, 2013 [8 favorites]


I mean, I like to drink alcohol, and I generally don't get violent as a result of it. But some people do.

An oversimplification routed through an analogy is not a convincing argument.

But I don't understand why questioning whether there might be a connection between playing such games and re-enacting it in a mall or an elementary school is such a taboo with gamers.

You're not questioning. You're arguing. Your phrasing makes that abundantly clear (along with accompanying overt disdain) but then you don't own up to it.

On another note,

I found it really interesting that in the Sandy hook shooting i have read some accounts that the shooter changed magazine very frequently without emptying the magazine.

I would be interested to see these accounts, and I would be even more interested to see what comes out in the police report. This seems highly suspect.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 4:55 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Ah. That rumor appears to have originated with the New York Daily News (with some assistance from LOLinfowars), which is notable not just for its support for new gun control laws but for its tabloid-like writing and tendency to hop into any debate with a wagging finger before all the facts have come out.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:00 PM on January 20, 2013


I'm just disappointed that gamers refuse to acknowledge any possible link between their favorite pastime, and the specific video-game-like nature of the latest mass shootings. You're all quick to cite studies that can't establish a *definitive* connection, as if that were proof that there is no connection at all.

If this is all so clearcut and obvious as the gamers here would like me to believe, then surely they have no issue with going to Washington and stating their case, instead of sounding off on the Web about how they've been "scapegoated again" for no good reason.
posted by monospace at 5:03 PM on January 20, 2013


In this thread, you've been provided with multiple sources that support the claim that there is no connection.

No. I've been provided with research that cannot establish a connection. That's distinctly different from research that establishes there is NO connection.
posted by monospace at 5:06 PM on January 20, 2013


That's some extremely disingenuous BS right there. You can't prove a negative; consistently failing to establish a connection is how science "disproves" a link.
posted by Justinian at 5:06 PM on January 20, 2013 [28 favorites]


I'm just disappointed that gamers refuse to acknowledge any possible link between their favorite pastime, and the specific video-game-like nature of the latest mass shootings. You're all quick to cite studies that can't establish a *definitive* connection, as if that were proof that there is no connection at all.

Feel free to point out a study that shows such a correlation. You know—SCIENCE!
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 5:08 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


You can't prove a negative; consistently failing to establish a connection is how science "disproves" a link.

Actually, no. Science wouldn't call that "disproving" -- it would call it undecided and suggest more research. Which is not something I'm hearing any gamers say.
posted by monospace at 5:10 PM on January 20, 2013


I'm just disappointed that gamers refuse to acknowledge any possible link between their favorite pastime

You have abandoned any pretense of intellectual honesty, which in the context of this thread is something of a welcome development...

If this is all so clearcut and obvious as the gamers here would like me to believe, then surely they have no issue with going to Washington and stating their case, instead of sounding off on the Web about how they've been "scapegoated again" for no good reason.

...and elected to engage in strawman arguments and special pleading instead. You're actively participating in the scapegoating by waving your hands and saying "Well, nobody has excluded video games, and I have a hunch, and like I don't like games with violence and stuff...."

No. I've been provided with research that cannot establish a connection. That's distinctly different from research that establishes there is NO connection.

Donald Rumsfeld? I wondered where you'd land.

Which is not something I'm hearing any gamers say.

I see you in fact have not read any of the links diligently provided to you by Artw.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:11 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Now you're just embarrassing yourself.

How has science disproven a link between autism and vaccines? By study after study failing to show such a causal link. That's how it works.
posted by Justinian at 5:11 PM on January 20, 2013 [14 favorites]


Obama Lifts Ban on Funding Gun Violence Research
This is the only positive news I've seen on the gun control debate. All the rest of it looks like shadow puppetry.
posted by warbaby at 5:12 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


If this is all so clearcut and obvious as the gamers here would like me to believe, then surely they have no issue with going to Washington and stating their case, instead of sounding off on the Web about how they've been "scapegoated again" for no good reason.

Because it
a) implies that video game violence has some kind of causal link to gun violence, when reputable study after study and meta-study has shown no such link exists
b) wastes the time that could be much better spent on the actual causes of gun violence
c) delays the time for implementation of such real measures that might actually reduce the number of people, especially vulnerable women and children getting murdered

Wasting time chasing a link that does not exist between gaming and gun murders will lead to people dying who did not need to die.

Bah, why I am bothering. You're clearly posting from emotion and your pre-conceived position that games are harmful rather than arguing in good faith.
posted by ArkhanJG at 5:13 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why does anyone need to acknowledge anything that has no scientific basis? No evidence? Not even internally consistent logic?

You're axe grinding because this is something you want to be true- your disdain makes that clear. You are not offering an honest challenge that needs to be met. Just because you can come up with a just-so-story that matches your personal worldview doesn't mean it's a serious idea.
posted by spaltavian at 5:16 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Obama Lifts Ban on Funding Gun Violence Research

That's news indeed and one in the eye for the NRA, who actually do have a lot to fear from studies.
posted by Artw at 5:17 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


If this is all so clearcut and obvious as the gamers here would like me to believe, then surely they have no issue with going to Washington and stating their case...

Which is what they did ten days ago.

Actually, no. Science wouldn't call that "disproving" -- it would call it undecided and suggest more research. Which is not something I'm hearing any gamers say.

Apart from, um, all the gamers and game researchers suggesting more research.

Either you're very conveniently selectively uninformed, or you're trolling. I'd hate to suggest the latter, so maybe do some basic research and keep up with the news before (repeatedly) being rather silly in comments?
posted by Wordshore at 5:18 PM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


It just seems lazy and tasteless to me, to have so much energy and technology aimed at such (imho) boring stuff. Kill kill kill. With rich 3D graphics and coming real soon now, fully immersive worlds. In which to kill stuff. Fer points.

Because practically all popular violent video games fundamentally aren't about killing people. They are about executing a tight dance of actions either solo or with an ensemble in order to solve an ever changing problem. That's the appeal. The visuals are trappings to make it seem gripping and understandable and possibly even taboo.

Take an e-sport game like Tribes (a game with shooting/killing), which was/is well known for its professional Capture the Flag scene. In it an ensemble of dancers don skis and weapons and jump and fly and pirouette around a hilly landscape at great speeds while communicating times and locations of themselves and their opponents to their own team. After about a minute or so of covert buildup the dance climaxes in a literal split second of convergence in time and space and force projection and intel and counterintel and general mental energy.

It's a fucking beautiful thing. It's sex with friends. That's an FPS. It's the same with variation in any popular FPS, even CoD or whatever.

We could compare that to the far far far bloodier (more people being killed equals bloodier, right?) RTS e-sport like Starcraft II, which plays more like a game of speedchess with up to two hundred pieces combined with an econ 110 class.

Actually, if you don't mind the hard introduction to the game, the Namaa v Mana games from 2010's dreamhack is an absolutely heartening set of games between two pro players in the prime of their careers showcasing very deliberate and controlled gameplay. The whole set of five games essentially centers around exploring a single complex tactical question. You may have to torrent it for a good quality version.

I understand and agree with people who think the narratives of games are often propagandistic. I don't, however, feel that there's a necessary direct connection between videogame violence and real violence, for the same reason that Wagner tends not to cause real violence: Neither of them are demonstrating physical violence, they're about concepts and abstractions.

As I understand it real physical violence is almost invariably caused by real physical or social violence.
posted by tychotesla at 5:23 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


But really, nobody sees a connection between games where you dress up in body armor and tote heavy weaponry in order to shoot as many enemies as you can, and real-life examples of kids doing exactly that? Even asking the question is met with ridicule.

I don't think asking the question should be met with ridicule, but there aren't, so far as a I know, any studies that shown a link, and there have been quite a few of them done.
posted by empath at 5:24 PM on January 20, 2013


A couple problems with the violence/video games question:
1. People are pretty emotionally invested in their positions. Advocates would look really dumb if there were no connection; gamers don't want to believe there is something harmful about their hobby.
2. The actual evidence shows a complex relationship between violent video games and real-world violence that does not reduce to soundbites.

Violent video gameplay time interacts with pre-existing violent tendencies, such that people with pre-existing violent tendencies are made more violent by playing violent video games a little, but this violence increase decreases the longer people play. And of course that's just looking at a couple variables; if one could capture every relevant variable the graph would look much funkier.

Apart from, um, all the gamers and game researchers suggesting more research.

Eh, a lot of gamers think the question is settled. Source: this thread and every other thread on this topic on the internet.
posted by Jpfed at 5:24 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


I fail to see how this is any different from the pro-gun lobby. You know, as in "I own guns, but I've never shot anybody, therefore guns are not the problem."

I'm not arguing that playing violent video games makes you a potential mass murderer. But many if not most of our recent spree killers have been reported to have a fondness for playing violent games. Just as many of them had a fondness for guns, and an undiagnosed mental illness. All of these factors would seem important if you want to address the problem of gun violence in society.

If there really is nothing to it, then go to Washington and make that case. Complaining about being scapegoated isn't convincing by itself.
posted by monospace at 5:25 PM on January 20, 2013


Actually, no. Science wouldn't call that "disproving" -- it would call it undecided and suggest more research. Which is not something I'm hearing any gamers say.


Continuing to do studies until you get the answer you want is not generally how science is done.
posted by empath at 5:26 PM on January 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


To be fair, I don't think the question is absolutely settled. I do believe the evidence so far suggests there is no significant link, and that refusal to acknowledge that is willful blindness.
posted by Justinian at 5:26 PM on January 20, 2013


Mark Ames, in his book Going Postal, characterizes them as "failed slave rebellions." Some reviews think this makes sense, and others do not.

Ugh. That metaphor trivializes the horrors of slavery. Post Office employees do not have their children sold away to distant locations, get raped by their masters as soon as they hit puberty, work in impossibly inhumane conditions until they faint or die from heat exhaustion, get beat to death, get murdered if they quit one day...

You can say "people rebel against intolerable circumstances" and "society systematically marginalizes those who rebel" without saying "being an office employee today is very much like being a slave in the US antebellum south."
posted by salvia at 5:31 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


If there really is nothing to it, then go to Washington and make that case. Complaining about being scapegoated isn't convincing by itself.

Make what case? This isn't a debate, no evidence has been presented by your side.

I fail to see how this is any different from the pro-gun lobby. You know, as in "I own guns, but I've never shot anybody, therefore guns are not the problem."

No one has made this argument. You've made this strawman once already, and it was directly addressed. You are ignoring everything being said to you. Why do you insist on this dishonest?
posted by spaltavian at 5:34 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


If there really is nothing to it, then go to Washington and make that case. Complaining about being scapegoated isn't convincing by itself.

If you want people to stop complaining about scapegoating, stop doing it. Your entire presence in this thread can be summed up as "Guys, I'm not arguing that video games cause violence...but there must be SOME connection...I mean, GAH, look at how defensive you are! Defensive! Defensive! You're just like the NRA!"

If there really is nothing to it, then go to Washington and make that case.

Ah, Washington, the preferred forum of Jack Thompson (later disbarred and thus only welcome at the side entrance), the PMRC, and the whole pack of snakes who have never met a piece of creative expression they didn't want to cover in electrical tape. Exactly the people I want "investigating" the production, sale, and consumption of media and exactly the people I trust to do so within the bounds of the First Amendment.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:35 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


But I don't understand why questioning whether there might be a connection between playing such games and re-enacting it in a mall or an elementary school is such a taboo with gamers.

It's really not a taboo; it's just that there have been study after study for years about this, and there has never been one that found a positive correlation. In other words, gamers aren't calling out for studies like these because they've been done to death (pardon the pun) and fruitless. Therefore, why bother doing more studies? It's sort of a done deal.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:37 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think my favourite bit is the implication that all gamers are a homogonous group, universally opposed to research and in denial. As opposed to an actual majority of adults and a near universal majority of teenagers, all with different opinons and approaches - as we've seen from the many links posted so far advocating different approaches to the current politicial stances on gaming.
posted by ArkhanJG at 5:37 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


In terms of actual evidence of effects, the meta-analysis linked by ArkhanJG is pretty interesting, for a number of reasons. First because, at the most basic level, it shows that in terms of what had actually been published (between 1995 and 2007), those studies on the whole show a positive relationship between violent games and aggressive behavior. The meta study itself claims that this positive result is largely due to publication bias, but this is a tricky thing both to prove and correct. They provide a lot of tests and are probably right in the end that there is bias going on, but this is far from showing that the accumulated evidence clearly shows that there is no effect ("trim and fill" is by no means an airtight corrective). There are clearly many studies that do show a causal connection, and naively, the totality of studies between 1995 and 2007 do show a positive effect. This is probably due to publication bias, but again, that's a tricky thing to prove.

The authors also emphasize that video games are changing over the years, so older studies showing no effect (in the 80s-90s, say) are perhaps not applicable to the more realistic first-person-shooters than are now prevalent, even when focusing exclusively on "violent" video games. I don't know when shooting people in the head with machine guns became so predominant, but that's clearly something different than it was when I was playing games, for instance. Again, this is neither here nor there on whether there's a causal connection, but like the bias corrections, is something to give us pause in concluding anything one way or the other from lots of old and small studies.

What's interesting to me, though, is how small the effect must be. That is, I would expect naive studies to find a connection if only via reverse causation. That is, I know quite a few gun-hating parents who would never let their kids play any of these games, where the former clearly causes the latter. It's surprising that looking at individual or state-level correlations, there isn't a stronger correlation just due to liberals (in the north, eg) being against both guns and violent games, regardless of the actual effects of the latter on the former. Similarly, it's surprising those who dig guns don't play more of these games, since I know plenty of peacenik types who love games but hate first person shooters. But again, that just goes to show how tricky doing social science on this stuff is.
posted by chortly at 5:38 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


The outright dismissal and ridicule coming from gamers about any connection between their hobby and what happens in society is bothering me. So you don't think there's any relation between mass shootings and violent video games? Fine. But why should I take your word for it? Why shouldn't this be investigated, and why shouldn't game makers be invited to the national debate?

You sound... provincial? Like you've not really lived in other countries and experienced firsthand life in much of the world. Travelled and seen firsthand that high rates of gun violence is not normal, but pretty much the exclusive domain of just one country (among the developed wealthy nations). That country is a weird oddball in a lot of ways, but one of the few ways it's not oddball is in the consumption of video games. It has completely normal video game consumption - the same as the peaceful places.

It just looks very strange to people for you to latch onto the one normal thing about that oddball country as a likely cause of why it is so crazy oddball.
posted by anonymisc at 5:39 PM on January 20, 2013 [12 favorites]


If there really is nothing to it, then go to Washington and make that case

Nobody needs to make any case; you are making a weird case for a problem that, as far as anyone can tell, is not a "thing" at all.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:40 PM on January 20, 2013


TBH I'm not sure studies into computer games and aggression make any differentiation, they are about Tetris as much as they are about whatever the latest distasteful manshoot is.

Of course people have studied violent video games in specific.

It's really not a taboo; it's just that there have been study after study for years about this, and there has never been one that found a positive correlation.


Sure about that?

posted by Jpfed at 5:41 PM on January 20, 2013


[Folks, do not call people trolls on the blue. That said, if you feel like someone is not arguing in good faith, do not argue with them. Flag and move on. ]
posted by restless_nomad at 5:42 PM on January 20, 2013


You know, we have violent videogames in Australia, and we haven't had a mass shooting in 20+ years. We also have much stricter controls on gun ownership. Make of that what you will.

I'm a media academic who specialises in videogames. Research into the link between violent media and real world violence is called media effects. Most of the people who research in this area are psychologists with, frankly, an out of date understanding of how people engage with, and make/take meaning from the media. For every study showing a correlation between fictional violence and real world violence there are at least an equal number that show no such link. This is not an under researched problem, but on the whole the research doesn't show a clear link between videogames and real world violence, at best it shows a short term elevation in levels of aggressive behaviour and thoughts in a subset of people studied.

On the one hand I'm glad Obama is having the CDC look at this, because maybe it will finally put it to bed. On the other hand it is part of the NRA's strategy to try and blame everything but guns for gun violence.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 5:42 PM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Great job guys! High fives?
posted by Brocktoon at 5:43 PM on January 20, 2013


chortly: from artw's link further up (Ferguson is the author of the meta study I linked)

I contacted Christopher Ferguson to ask about the apparent misrepresentation of his findings in the ISRA’s report. His reply leaves no doubt as to his opinion of its legitimacy:

“Anderson referring to the ISRA’s report is something we call “echo attribution.” He in fact nominated all the individuals to sit on the committee, and simply didn’t include any scholars who had been critical of the ‘video games = aggression’ link. If I put together a committee and stack the deck, I can get it to say almost anything. That statement has no credibility whatsoever.

“As for using my study, they absolutely misused and misrepresented my meta-analysis in that report. My data should, in no way, ever be used to support links between video game violence and aggression. We have done a number of studies of video game violence with both children and adults and find no evidence to support links between video game violence and youth violence. Furthermore, youth violence has declined to 40 year lows, not gone up in recent years.”

Ferguson points to recent findings by the US Supreme Court, and the Swedish and Australian governments as evidence of the inconclusiveness of the currently available studies. While the Supreme Court’s decision, blocking a California law that banned the sale of violent games to minors, concentrated mainly on the First Amendment argument, both governmental reports found significant fault in the methodology of current research.

posted by ArkhanJG at 5:46 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sure about that?

Take the name of the author of that paper. Do a search on it across this thread.
posted by Wordshore at 5:49 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is at least one study that indicates that video games can make you more effective at violence in certain ways. I don't know how rigorous it was, but it seems likely to me - video games make you more effective at a lot of things. So even without a link to cause there might be a link to outcome.

Maybe we should heed the NRA playbook and protect ourselves by putting more video games in schools, so everyone is equally effective under stress! :-)

Or... not. :)
posted by anonymisc at 5:51 PM on January 20, 2013


I believe there is a link between violent video games and spree killings. Absolutely.

Not in the sense that one causes the other. But if the easy availability of guns is a factor, then so is a culture where these games are being portrayed as innocent entertainment.

I was hoping for some acknowledgment of the complexities of these relations. But clearly I must be trolling. Oh well.
posted by monospace at 5:52 PM on January 20, 2013


But many if not most of our recent spree killers have been reported to have a fondness for playing violent games.

Proof? The only ones I could find were Columbine (if you want to count that as recent) and Newtown. No mention of it for Aurora, Tucson, Virginia Tech, Oak Creek, or many of the less-known incidents.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:52 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Take the name of the author of that paper. Do a search on it across this thread.

The only mention is after my post?
posted by Jpfed at 5:52 PM on January 20, 2013


I was hoping for some acknowledgment of the complexities of these relations.

"these relations" which you presume, on the basis of no reliable evidence, to exist, and then use to accuse everyone else of burying their head in the sand.

You have an interesting relationship to reality and logic.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 5:55 PM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


I was hoping for some acknowledgment of the complexities of these relations.

How do you sweep under the rug the fact that in similar countries - the greatest control-group study there can ever be - games are normal and gun violence isn't?
posted by anonymisc at 5:58 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe there is a link between violent video games and spree killings. Absolutely.

Not in the sense that one causes the other. But if the easy availability of guns is a factor, then so is a culture where these games are being portrayed as innocent entertainment.

Belief doesn't make for a convincing argument, but supposing current research were wrong and what you say were true, why do you focus on the video games and not on other media (people die in droves in books) or actually on the guns that have been used in most massacres?
posted by ersatz at 5:59 PM on January 20, 2013


I believe there is a link between violent video games and spree killings. Absolutely.

Then the burden of proof is on you to come up with it, instead of begging the question or asking people to prove a negative. Otherwise, you're just claiming something with no proof and telling people that disagree with you that they must be wrong For Reasons.

Not in the sense that one causes the other. But if the easy availability of guns is a factor, then so is a culture where these games are being portrayed as innocent entertainment.

And you've been shown other countries where said games are as much if not more a part of the culture without the problem. Your dogged insistence that this doesn't matter and blithe dismissal of any of a number of other factors looks like you had your mind made up beforehand. Your previous sentence is more or less of an admission of that.

I was hoping for some acknowledgment of the complexities of these relations. But clearly I must be trolling. Oh well.

Again, this would be more believable if you had considered it across the vast spectrum of factors that research shows at this point in time to be much more influential. Instead, you came in already grinding your axe, only admitting that you had said axe to grind 150 comments in.
posted by zombieflanders at 5:59 PM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Craig Anderson is a researcher who's made a career out of trying to link video game violence and aggressive behaviour, and then implying that that also leads to violent behaviour. His conclusions have been challenged many times for failing to show that his evidence actually lead to his conclusions. For example

He also had strong links to the National Institute on Media and the Family, including having some of his studies funded by them. The NIMF was a lobby group that "was a nonsectarian advocacy group which sought to monitor mass media for content that it deemed is harmful to children and families".

"In 2005 the NIMF made the controversial claim that the video game industry was promoting cannibalism after analyzing stills and video clips from a zombie-themed game titled Stubbs the Zombie in Rebel Without a Pulse."

In other words, you may not find using his work very persuasive.
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:01 PM on January 20, 2013 [7 favorites]


Well yes the relations are complex, which confuses me about the focus on videogames. They are not the only part of America's culture that puts violence on a strange pedestal.

And to respond to the point that some of the mass shooters have also been keen players of violent videogames. When people talk about correlation not equalling causation this is one of the things they are talking about. It is wholly unsurprising that individuals that are prone to acts of mass violence are also keen partakers of violent media. It is also completely irrelevant to the question of whether violent media causes actual violence, given that the vast majority of people who consume such media don't go on shooting sprees.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:02 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


So let me get this straight: news media that merely report gun violence are inspiring copycats, but video games that center around gun violence have no measurable impact at all.

monospace, the former case describes this:
Media: Someone shot up their school in the real world, and became famous!
Prospective Spree Killer: I should shoot up my school in the real world, and become famous!

The latter case describes this:
Noob: Dude, you shot my avatar in the head! Weak! Your mother is so fat, she uses grain silos as sex toys!
L33t Sn1per: Suck it h&t3r!
(Noob shoots L33t Sn1per in the head.)
L33t Sn1per: I'm very distressed by your actions in this game, which is not the real world.
I should shoot up my school in the real world, as a way of communicating my frustration with your innappropriate behaviour.

When you shoot someone in a game, they respawn, the game goes on. Most gamers understand that they're not actually killing people when they strafe left, then click a mouse.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:06 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is wholly unsurprising that individuals that are prone to acts of mass violence are also keen partakers of violent media. It is also completely irrelevant to the question of whether violent media causes actual violence, given that the vast majority of people who consume such media don't go on shooting sprees.

Given a study I saw recently, the above editing of your words is also salient.
posted by anonymisc at 6:08 PM on January 20, 2013


ArkhanJG: Funny -- having posting my comment above, I was just reading Anderson's reply to Ferguson in Anderson's 2010 meta analysis:

However, three recent meta-analyses by the same author, each using a very small set of available studies, have suggested that the effects of violent video games on aggression have been substan- tially overestimated because of publication bias (Ferguson, 2007a, 2007b; Ferguson & Kilburn, 2009) and that therefore there is little-to-no evidence of a violent video game effect on aggression. However, these three meta-analyses have numerous problems that call into question their results and conclusions. For example, counter to widely accepted procedures for reducing the impact of publication bias, only published articles were included in the analyses and then procedures for addressing publication bias were misinterpreted. Also, studies published prior to 1995 were ignored and a large number of studies published since that time apparently were missed.
...
Ferguson (2007a, 2007b; Ferguson & Kilburn, 2009) used the trim and fill method to estimate the “true” effect size corrected for publication bias. The originators of the trim and fill method (Duval, 2005; Duval & Tweedie, 2000a) have cautioned that the “adjusted” estimate of an effect using imputed studies provided by trim and fill should not be taken as the “true” effect, because it is based on imputed data points (that do not really exist). ...
It has also been widely cautioned that because trim and fill and some other techniques for assessing publication bias are based on an association between effect size and sample size, other explana- tions of this association should be considered. For example, effect sizes in experimental studies may be larger than those in cross- sectional or longitudinal studies due to the reduced error variance that results from tight experimental controls; researchers may know this and therefore may intentionally plan to use larger sample sizes when conducting nonexperimental studies.


I haven't read the rest yet, but this review by Anderson cites his own 2010 meta-analysis, Ferguson's, and one prior one. On the face of it, they all find positive results. Ferguson, perhaps correctly, argues that his bias-correction shows that his prima facie positive results are in fact incorrect. But those corrections are somewhat controversial. On the face of it, the bulk of the studies -- hundreds in total, with tens of thousands of total participants -- shows a positive connection between violent games and aggressive thoughts and behaviors. I myself remain skeptical precisely due to potential publication bias, but that is a far cry from saying that it is proven that there is no connection. In aggregate, prior to fancy statistics, there does appear to be a connection. But! I'm far from an expert, I've just read a couple of meta-studies (and am still reading the Anderson one), so I have no axe to grind in this.

(On preview: I see you just now addressed Anderson. I have no idea about his background, of course, just what I can see of his methods from the paper. But the paper itself doesn't look any less reliable than Ferguson's. I'm reluctant to judge social scientists on their activism, particularly when it may be possible that the social science influences what activism they take rather than vice versa. But I haven't read the Block (2007) article you cite.)
posted by chortly at 6:09 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Thanks y'all. I came into to this thread somewhat undecided on the causailty issue, and it's been a good opportunity to read and consider.
posted by parki at 6:11 PM on January 20, 2013


Oh please. Of course the availability of guns is the dominant factor, I've already said that many posts ago. And the media coverage, and our lack of decent mental health care, and our general disposition towards violence.

All I'm asking is why the widespread popularity of violent video games cannot be factored into the equation. There are many contributing factors to our current predicament. I don't see why one specific *possible* factor cannot be made part of the discussion, especially when there is no conclusive scientific evidence one way or the other.
posted by monospace at 6:12 PM on January 20, 2013


But many if not most of our recent spree killers have been reported to have a fondness for playing violent games.

There tend to be breathless headlines along these lines after most shootings. But if you're a North American male in the 18-30 demographic, as most recent mass shooters are, it would be extremely surprising if an examination of your life didn't include some video games. This isn't a fringe hobby for closeted psychopaths. Video games are ubiquitous and very popular, and some of them are violent.

Many mass killers probably also owned TVs or had Facebook profiles as well. It isn't an interesting correlation.
posted by figurant at 6:14 PM on January 20, 2013 [5 favorites]


I don't see why one specific *possible* factor cannot be made part of the discussion

Fortunately for the discussion, you're the only one in this thread that has actually said this.
posted by zombieflanders at 6:16 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm afraid I really need to go to bed (2AM UK time!) and can't research links for more online material, but please, definitely look into Anderson and draw your own conclusions. From what I've seen in paper articles in the past challenging the quality of his work, the guy is an utter hack with an agenda.
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:17 PM on January 20, 2013


All I'm asking is why the widespread popularity of violent video games cannot be factored into the equation.

The "widespread popularity" of violent video games is a significant part of what excludes them from "the equation".

There are many contributing factors to our current predicament.

Standardless category is standardless.

I don't see why one specific *possible* factor cannot be made part of the discussion, especially when there is no conclusive scientific evidence one way or the other.

"No conclusive scientific evidence one way or the other" is a deliberately misleading summary of the evidence to date.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 6:18 PM on January 20, 2013


monospace, as I pointed out above there is a lot of research concerning your concern. The simple fact of the matter is that it hasn't, for lack of a better phrase, been able to show a clear 'smoking gun' link between fictional depictions of gun violence and actual violence. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence and all that, but if there was something to find we have really tried to find it, and haven't.

So I come back to my original point. Many cultures have violence in their media, but at the same time have restrictive controls on firearms. They also have a whole lot less incidences of gun violence. In short, it's the easy access to guns that is the problem, and no amount of hand waving will change that.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:20 PM on January 20, 2013


ArkhanJG: I would like to see the evidence for that, but don't keep yourself up! Reading the Anderson et al (2010) paper, on the face of it, it is much better in methodology and thoroughness than Ferguson (2007), and I would definitely choose it over Ferguson if I had to choose. Also, when Ferguson says to pcgamer "As for using my study, they absolutely misused and misrepresented my meta-analysis in that report", that may be true about the review article he is referring to, but Anderson (2010) is quite clear about the bias correction -- they just disagree with it.

But as I said, I'm no an expert on this subject, on meta-analysis, or on Anderson's reputation. But the social science on both sides looks solid to me so far (which isn't to say one isn't more right than the other!). And the clear result from all these meta-studies is that, far from it being the case that there are no studies showing a connection between violent games and aggression, it is clearly the case that most studies (weighted for sample size) do in fact show a positive correlation. Whether that correlation is due to publication bias or Anderson's bias or whatnot is an open question, but clearly there are a lot of studies showing a connection out there.
posted by chortly at 6:27 PM on January 20, 2013


I'm not sure Monospace is right, but I'm really appalled at the number of posters who have acted as though his point is akin to trolling. Really sad.
posted by learnsome at 6:31 PM on January 20, 2013


Any further discussion of mono space should probably go to meta, but no, people are not treatinging him as a troll because of his opinions, but how he is expressing them - the non-question questions, ignoring responses, pretend exasperation at not getting a response, etc... etc...
posted by Artw at 6:36 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


Man, I love violent video games. I love nonviolent ones too, but most of the games I play end up with feature either small fast objects or larger pointy objects being used to put holes in dudes so red stuff leaks out.

That said, I'm not sure what to make of the fact that I can't talk about how compelling, say, the ultraviolence in Max Payne 3 is without sounding like a puppy-slaying psychopath: "I dove out from behind the pillar and fired two 9mm rounds into this gentleman's eye, and the back of his skull opened up in a crimson flower of an exit wound as his limp body tumbled in slow motion, blood jetting out of the cratered ruin of his face. Then, er, I stole his stuff."

This did not go over well in cocktail party small talk, suffice it to say.
posted by demons in the base at 6:40 PM on January 20, 2013


No?
posted by salvia at 6:44 PM on January 20, 2013


I'm not sure Monospace is right, but I'm really appalled at the number of posters who have acted as though his point is akin to trolling. Really sad.

Point? What point?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:50 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime

Scott Cunningham
Baylor University

Benjamin Engelstätter
Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) - Information and Communication Technologies Research Group

Michael R. Ward
University of Texas at Arlington - College of Business Administration - Department of Economics

April 7, 2011

Abstract:
Psychological studies invariably find a positive relationship between violent video game play and aggression. However, these studies cannot account for either aggressive effects of alternative activities video game playing substitutes for or the possible selection of relatively violent people into playing violent video games. That is, they lack external validity. We investigate the relationship between the prevalence of violent video games and violent crimes. Our results are consistent with two opposing effects. First, they support the behavioral effects as in the psychological studies. Second, they suggest a larger voluntary incapacitation effect in which playing either violent or non-violent games decrease crimes. Overall, violent video games lead to decreases in violent crime.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 42

Keywords: Video Games, Violence, Crime

JEL Classification: D08, K14, L86
posted by bz at 6:51 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's worth noting that in 2011 the Supreme Court nixed California's attempt to ban violent video game sales to minors.

The last shooter I remember playing that didn't feature some kind of military backdrop was XIII.

XIII features a disavowed government intelligence agent of some kind, doesn't it? It's basically Golgo 13 remade?

Anyway, Zeno Clash deserves a nod here.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:52 PM on January 20, 2013


The gun control movement might want to look at the strategic possibility of allying with the video gaming industry, especially by encouraging the video game industry to develop a lobbying operation as intimidating as the NRA. Sometimes the only way to defeat one corporate lobbyist behemoth is to set up a countervailing corporate lobbyist behemoth.
posted by jonp72 at 7:06 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Poor game companies. I feel really bad for them. Like the rest of the software industry, they're still figuring out the lobbying and media manipulation game, which the other major players in this conversation have had years to get good at. But unlike the rest of the software companies out there, who are mostly being pitted against Hollywood or maybe big telecom firms in terms of how hard they have to lobby, the gaming companies are getting scapegoated by the NRA, compared to which the movie studios and telecoms look like rank amateurs. There are few organizations out there who've managed to amass political empires in the same way the NRA has - I mean, there's the entire defense industry, that's the only apt comparison I can think of right now. Watching the games industry go toe-to-toe with the NRA is like watching the population of a mid-sized town in rural Oregon declaring war on the rest of the USA. It's cute that they're trying, but hoo boy.

As a result, they're getting rings run around them. And because the attention on them is intermittent and hard for them to predict, happening as it does after randomly timed violent incidents, they never seem to have time to prep beforehand or grease the right palms. They get caught with their pants down, every time.

As I read it, this is absolutely about the connections and clout that the NRA has, and the lack thereof that the gaming industry has. This same deflection happens every single time the NRA is in the hot seat in the national discourse. I don't see any way out of it for the games industry; ultimately compared to firearms very few people base their livelihood on gaming or organize their recreation around it consistently, and those who do are much less ideological about it. Until someone figures out how to form a National Gamers' Association that gets out the vote and the donations as effectively as the NRA does, it'll keep happening.

I don't like violent video games, to be honest. I think combat is boring and I wish there were more games that deemphasized it. But what I like even less is that the NRA can pull this shit off every time. It's really starting to rankle.
posted by town of cats at 7:08 PM on January 20, 2013 [4 favorites]


The thing is, the NRA is shitting where it eats demographically if it attacks video game genres that mine "tacticool."
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:11 PM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


Chortly, I am an expert in this area, and there is very little disagreement that exposure to violent content, whether that be videogames, movies, comics, newspapers, CNN, etc; increases violent affect in the short term in general. And by short term we mean a matter of hours in most cases. There are always outliers, and they tend to be people that seek out violent content because of their own proclivities towards violence.

There is no evidence that violent content leads to increased levels of gun violence. Researchers have spent a lot of time looking for it and have not found it in any meaningful sense. This is an area of research that goes all the way back to the birth of mass media and concerns that the population at large (read: the lower classes) for some reason cannot discern fiction from fact. Media effects research still clings to a linear understanding of how communication works and only has any legs in this day and age because of propensity of society to try and pin complex problems on some single source, in this case the media, rather than facing up to the real situation of endemic poverty and mass alienation and widespread availability of guns. It is a cop out, and an ugly one at that. Violent videogames are a rather small cog in a much larger machine at worst.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 7:13 PM on January 20, 2013 [11 favorites]


All I'm asking is why the widespread popularity of violent video games cannot be factored into the equation. There are many contributing factors to our current predicament. I don't see why one specific *possible* factor cannot be made part of the discussion, especially when there is no conclusive scientific evidence one way or the other.

Here's what we're trying to say: people looked at the possibility of violent games as a factor, and the conclusions so far have been that there is not a link. And if there is a link, it's probably because violent people will be drawn to violent video games, just as peaceful people will be driven away from violent video games, so the sample is biased right out of the gate because the causal correlation isn't there. Violent video games attract violent people, but violent video games do not create violent people.

I actually think the same things about guns. The mere availability of a firearm makes it more likely that a person who is temporarily insane will pick up a gun, or plan for their crimes around the availability of weapons. I think the same thing about media: sensationalizing these events to create a profit makes a copycat more likely than just about anything else. After all, there are no violent video games that are about killing innocent people, least of all children.

See? Now we are talking about sexy games and more violence and we're all glued to the story, but no one is asking unsexy questions about why our government isn't preventing crazy people from obtaining and using assault weapons on innocent people. We live in an entertainment based society, and our latest entertainment is the best reality show on television: the 24 hour American news cycle.
posted by tripping daisy at 7:17 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just put my first Kerbal into orbit. Can you PROVE to me that this doesn't mean I'm going to go out and found my own space agency?!
posted by adamdschneider at 7:28 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is not to suggest at all that movies, TV shows, and video games are responsible for gun violence, but...

They could all stand to be a lot less gunny.

(But not retroactively so. Walkie-talkies are worse.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:42 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


They could all stand to be a lot less gunny.

Why? Is someone forcing you to play video games against your will?
posted by spaltavian at 7:46 PM on January 20, 2013


In other words, you may not find using his work very persuasive.

Okay, no problem. The point I was responding to was this:

It's really not a taboo; it's just that there have been study after study for years about this, and there has never been one that found a positive correlation.

(emphasis added)

And ignoring Anderson, hack as he is, there are plenty of other studies that show a positive correlation between violent video game play and aggression.

Hey, I'm a gamer myself. I write video games as a hobby (including games with shootin'!) But let's not pretend that there's absolutely no evidence whatsoever that violent video games contribute to aggression. Of course there have been studies showing a link.
posted by Jpfed at 7:47 PM on January 20, 2013


Why? Is someone forcing you to play video games against your will?

Of course not. Is anyone forcing them to make games full of guns?

(God forbid they come up with an original idea instead of dressing up the same old first-person shooter in a different costume fifteen times every quarter.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:48 PM on January 20, 2013


Hello, I'm David McGahan: I agree with most of your points, and have no desire to distract from much more substantial causes of gun violence such as poverty, gun laws, etc, particularly if that distraction is part of a coordinated misdirection from the right.

That said, a lot of people here and elsewhere seem interested not just in whether gaming produces gun violence, but also on whether it produces aggressive behavior. That's what these meta-studies do address, and there seemed to be an interesting debate about what all those studies show -- albeit one that really only speaks to aggression, not gun violence. And while it's true that those effects are much larger in experimental studies, Anderson at least cites quite a few longitudinal studies that also find positive effects in real-world settings -- albeit with all the causality problems that observational date is fraught. Ferguson's meta-study is being widely cited in debates about games and gun violence, so clearly many people out there see something relevant in these studies, even if they don't address gun violence per se. My only interest was that, in having read them, many folks seem to be mistaken about the status of research into the connections between games and aggression. As you say, there are a lot of studies showing that connection, although we should be careful not to slide from aggression to gun violence, which (I gather) remains unproven.
posted by chortly at 7:50 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


They could all stand to be a lot less gunny.

Well, they don't seem to be causing spree killings in countries that don't have guns, so I'm not sure if I should worry about them.
posted by sebastienbailard at 7:59 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, but you're talking about a much broader cultural problem. As I've unequivocally said, exposure to violent content leads to increased violent affect, but that doesn't necessarily lead to increased levels of violence . My point is that America has something of a culture of violence, which when viewed from the outside is as plain as day. The rest of the western world plays the same games. The difference is that I can't go down to my local shop and buy a machine which is designed solely to kill. Guns are the problem. COD doesn't kill people.

And Jpfed, again it is completely unsurprising that a violent culture produces violent videogames. As I've noted above they do lead to increased levels of violent affect. I've tried to be very careful here distinguishing the difference between violent affect and actual violence. Pretty much every western country apart from America, with its easy access to guns, doesn't have the same problem. It's the guns.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:04 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


particularly if that distraction is part of a coordinated misdirection from the right.

What else do you think it is?
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:11 PM on January 20, 2013


What else do you think it is?

Assuming (perhaps erroneously) that your question is not rhetorical, my belief is that we are able to engage in an interesting discussion of the social science examining violence and video games without, on this forum, actually contributing to the right's program of coordinated misdirection. I don't believe anyone here is an NRA stooge, and I think a lot of people here are interested in the "broader cultural problem" of games and aggression, as well as the particular problem of games and gun violence. I haven't seen anyone here who doesn't believe that guns and the "culture of violence" aren't the overwhelmingly dominant cause of gun violence. But people also seem interested in aggression, and inasmuch as they are, there was an interesting debate about the research connecting games to aggression, which I don't think in any way damages the more general activism of reducing guns or plays into the strategies of the right to deter that activism.
posted by chortly at 8:25 PM on January 20, 2013


Chortly, fair enough, but let's ask about what is not being talked about here. In the wake of Sandy Hook it was mental illness. Now apparently it is violence in the media.

What's missing?

And to your point about aggression. Young men can tend to be aggressive, for variety of reasons. Strangely violent crime has been reducing over the last 20-30 years. If there was any evidence that games lead to increased violence, again we have looked for it and have not found it.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:34 PM on January 20, 2013


Every other Western country has substantial restrictions on firearms. They have much less gun violence. They also play the same videogames. You can parse the research however you like, but these are not facts in dispute.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:50 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Games don't spring to life from the void, they exist within a culture. Violent games are the product of a culture that also created Rambo, Commando, and the string of movies that inspired the games to begin with.

Except for the Assassin's Creed games, which are Canadian. And the Resident Evil games, which are Japanese. And the old Carmageddon games, which were British. And the Mass Effect games, which are Canadian. And the Hitman games, which are Danish. And Dead Space, which is English. And the first couple of Max Payne games, which are Finnish. And the Far Cry and Crysis games, which are German. And Bulletstorm, which is Polish. And the Grand Theft Auto games, which are a mix of Scottish, English, Canadian, and Austrian. And the Battlefield games, which are Swedish.

Unless you meant only "The entire broad sweep of western civilization."
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:48 PM on January 20, 2013 [18 favorites]


Well, they don't seem to be causing spree killings in countries that don't have guns, so I'm not sure if I should worry about them.

To reiterate, that's (explicitly!) not what I was suggesting at all.

To clarify: All the guns are getting boring. Maybe content creators could create some content that is somehow new and interesting?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:07 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Every other Western country has substantial restrictions on firearms. They have much less gun violence. They also play the same videogames. You can parse the research however you like, but these are not facts in dispute.

They do have less GUN violence. They don't necessarily have less VIOLENCE. It is a distinction worth making when discussing these things, the US isn't a hyperviolent violent place at all. In fact it is a remarkably safe society, as are most industrialized nations. And it seems most countries have some example of the running amok phenomenon. What might be going on in the US is that young men who are prone to this kind of acting out are taught by both video games and the news media that grabbing a gun is how you solve your problems, act out your aggression, prove your machismo and get notoriety when you are the type of person who runs amok. It would go a long way toward explaining why these kind of incidents seem to go in spurts.
posted by bartonlong at 10:53 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq, they do make content that's new and interesting.

The problem is that for many tactical games (especially FPS games) life and death of humans is a really compelling and easy way to present situations. That metaphor is going to be around to stay, because humans get it. They get the urgency and the metaphor of it, whether you're playing Dwarf Fortress or Frogger.

But still, and increasingly, there are revolutionary games like Minecraft, Portal or Journey (youtube link). Or you know, sports games, which are quite often gun free as well (duck hunt being an obvious exception).

Is that what you were asking?

There's more and more cool stuff every year. But that doesn't mean FPSes are going to go away without a shove from culture or the law. Because they're easy, understandable and compelling.
posted by tychotesla at 10:56 PM on January 20, 2013


(Speaking of guns being boring... it was tragic that they were player usable in Mirror's Edge. The whole game is built around a fluid set of parkour movements that gave you unparalleled flow (<-- youtube)... and then in certain segments you're forced to grab a gun and walk around slowly shooting people for a bit.

Rumor has it EA specifically asked for gun elements to be stuck in there so they could market the game easier.)
posted by tychotesla at 11:27 PM on January 20, 2013


They do have less GUN violence. They don't necessarily have less VIOLENCE.

Um, yes they do. If we're looking at comparable countries for murders per capita i.e. in western europe and asia, then the USA tops that list too.

I'll grant you that places like Mexico, Brazil and much of Africa have higher rates of murders, but are we also blaming video games for those? Or would it be non-functional governments, poverty, easy access to guns and the smuggling/drug trade?
posted by ArkhanJG at 11:39 PM on January 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


Anders Breivik specifically stated that he spent many hours playing video games training for his massacre. The Columbine stains spent a good chunk of their time making DOOM mods with added violence, and no one knows what Lanza did except play video games. On the other hand, Seung-Hui Cho had no real connection to video games, violent or otherwise. Breivik, Lanza, and Cho had noticeable mental health problems, Klebold & Harris did not. Lanza, Cho, and Columbine were American, Breivik was not. All were young and male. These things are not checklists but there seem to be correlating factors between them. I don't think it's insulting (or trolling) to suggest that the type of person who has violent fantasies about blowing people away would be attracted to a tool that lets them visualize exactly that. The trick is recognizing those who would act on it.
posted by Challahtronix at 12:15 AM on January 21, 2013


Sys rq - You can play gun-free games every waking hour of your life and never run out of them, there are so many. It's nota case of games being too gunny, but of gunny games being ubiquitous because lots of people like them. (Either that, or you're just not scratching the surface). They seem cliche to you, but a cliche only becomes a cliche through repeated exposure, and every day brings a new generation of people who still have to start that journey, and during that journey, on their way to the place where they're bored of gunny games, they will initially enjoy and fund the production of some gunny games.
posted by anonymisc at 12:17 AM on January 21, 2013


I don't understand criticism of the news. It's news, it happened, so they cover it.

It's the way it's covered, as explained in Charlie Brooker's Screenwipe after the last non-US school massacre, a few years ago. Briefly: by making it sensationalist, exciting and having the murderer as the focus of the news rather than his victims, newsmedia help make copycats.
posted by MartinWisse at 12:30 AM on January 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's insulting (or trolling) to suggest that the type of person who has violent fantasies about blowing people away would be attracted to a tool that lets them visualize exactly that.

No one has suggested this is trolling (it doesn't even seem relevant). I mentioned earlier that games can make people more effective, including killers, no one has suggested I was trolling, and it seems kind of beside the point. Whether someone planning to kill prefers to visualize and plan using little models, or with video games, or with pencil and paper, or with their Imagination Station, or all of the above, it doesn't bolster or diminish or legitimize a position that games may cause violence.
posted by anonymisc at 12:35 AM on January 21, 2013


I think one good reason to focus on guns over video games is that we can do a lot more to restrict guns without violating the Second Amendment, but we can't do much more to restrict video games without violating the First.
posted by pete_22 at 1:28 AM on January 21, 2013


They do have less GUN violence. They don't necessarily have less VIOLENCE.

The US has a higher intentional homicide rate than pretty much any other developed country (4.8 per 100,000 people).

It's triple the rate in Canada (1.6 per 100,000), 4 times that of the UK (1.2 per 100,000), almost 5 times that of Australia or Sweden (1 per 100,000), more than 5 times that of Germany (0.8 per 100,000).

But hey, you're doing better than the Congo. Woo.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:33 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Except for the Assassin's Creed games, which are Canadian. And the Resident Evil games, which are Japanese. And the old Carmageddon games, which were British. And the Mass Effect games, which are Canadian. And the Hitman games, which are Danish. And Dead Space, which is English. And the first couple of Max Payne games, which are Finnish. And the Far Cry and Crysis games, which are German. And Bulletstorm, which is Polish. And the Grand Theft Auto games, which are a mix of Scottish, English, Canadian, and Austrian. And the Battlefield games, which are Swedish.

You forgot Serious Sam, which is Croatian.

We made Hotline Miami, and Smash Tv, and Postal, and thousands of others. The titles you mentiond are notable because they were made outside the US. How many of those games made outside the US were heavily influenced by the same movies I mentioned, Rambo, Commando, etc?Take a look at How many times Komani depicted Schwarzenegger

I'm not against violent video games, or movies, I'm just saying we are oddly good at it.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:34 AM on January 21, 2013


How many of those games made outside the US were heavily influenced by the same movies I mentioned, Rambo, Commando, etc?

IMO, almost none of them. Maybe Farcry is a a bit Commando-ish.

Take a look at How many times Komani depicted Schwarzenegger.

That's pretty hilarious.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:41 AM on January 21, 2013


IMO, almost none of them. Maybe Farcry is a a bit Commando-ish.

Well I really meant all games made outside the US, not just from that list. Of course there was a tradition of Japanese games vaguely influenced by American movies. Splatterhouse comes to mind.
posted by Ad hominem at 1:57 AM on January 21, 2013


Every time I get my personal anti-tyranny assault weapons out to clean them before strapping my handgun on to go out shopping for groceries in case I need to take someone down to protect myself I'm reminded that the real issue here is, in fact, the non-statistical correlation between video game usage and gun violence. The video game industry's emotional response to these accusations is proof both of its culpability and its inability to understand risk, cause and effect.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:43 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man. All of this, because we just cannot bring ourselves to discuss economics and wealth inequality. Weird!
posted by effugas at 2:50 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Um, yes they do. If we're looking at comparable countries for murders per capita i.e. in western europe and asia, then the USA tops that list too.

There is violent crime that is not murder.

International comparisons of crime rates are hard, but if you accept recent OECD numbers derived from police reports, the US has a boring, middle-of-the-pack assault rate that's about a sixth of the rate in Scotland.

Obviously getting whacked is far more serious than someone kicking the shit out of you. But, while casual googling isn't pulling up hard numbers for me, ISTR that the overall violent crime rate in the US recently has been unexceptional.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:11 AM on January 21, 2013


Well, they don't seem to be causing spree killings in countries that don't have guns, so I'm not sure if I should worry about them.

I'd rather have them less gunny, because it's obvious that the gun industry will throw the games industry under the bus at the drop of a hat.
posted by FJT at 6:23 AM on January 21, 2013


Every other Western country has substantial restrictions on firearms.

I support more gun control and tighter restrictions, but lets be clear: the US has "substantial restrictions" on firearms, with ownership allowed by default.The "other Western countries" likely intended here have it the other way around: firearms are generally not items for private ownership, with certain exceptions. Given the SCOTUS's view of the 2nd Amendment, we're not going to be able to adopt the second model. So the comparison is somewhat moot, until the law from Heller and McDonald changes, when it comes to ownership itself. Concealed carry, or even open carry, restrictions may be reachable; but not much beyond that. Here's Slate's analysis.

These things are not checklists but there seem to be correlating factors between them. I don't think it's insulting (or trolling) to suggest that the type of person who has violent fantasies about blowing people away would be attracted to a tool that lets them visualize exactly that. The trick is recognizing those who would act on it.

Being young, male, into gaming is hardly going to work as 3/4 red flags for violent tendencies. This kind of nonsense reminds me of the scandal and furor surrounding the likely corruption of The Youth by the rise of the scurrilous new form of degraded literature, the Novel. Or their dissolution as brought on by the pernicious influences of the libidinous and irresponsible Rock and Roll ethos.

Culture is a feedback loop. A mirror.
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:28 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


(And to be clear, I don't mean to suggest that the current proposals imposing additional restrictions on certain weapons, clips, etc. won't work legally--I just mean that we're sort of stuck with that piecemeal approach, which is a different set of assumptions than European societies work under.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 7:37 AM on January 21, 2013


For whatever reason, a whole lot of humans seem to want a goodly helping of death, torture and mayhem in their entertainment, as one can witness in TV, film, novels, traditional "fairy tales," the old testament of the bible and other holy books, and all the major mythologies. We also seem to desire the occasional wee bit of wit, wisdom, jokes, enigmas, puzzles, riddles, even philosophy, etc. if only to break up the tedium of all the murdering and dismemberment – which, like other story vehicles old and new, video games do also sometimes provide, but it is certainly not the first medium to exploit violence to capture eyeballs, attention, meme status, and cash money.

I don't really understand why it isn't obvious to any non-gamer who enjoys watching some cannibal killer caper on CSI Miami, for example, that since this will never make them into a cannibal killer (though they may find inspiration there if they are already inclined that way – and if they don't find it there, they'll find it elsewhere) it might just be equally unlikely that typical gamers are going to become mass murderers, or typical bible readers are going to start burning cities to the ground and raping virgins.

First person shooters targeting "civilians" does feel pretty out there, though, I understand, but there's still plenty of media (especially if we go back to bible and mythology) wherein those pouring down the random, not-all-that-well-targeted gory vengeance, are the heroes.
posted by taz at 8:20 AM on January 21, 2013


I really like how people pretend this is all new and hasn't been studied before, or that there's a lack of evidence that needs to be considered. Regulating both violent content and guns has been done, and their effects studied.

In 1954 Frederic Wertham, in his book "Seduction of the Innocent" was convinced comic books were the leading cause of juvenile delinquency. He testified to this in front of congress. As a result, the comics industry set up a self-regulatory body, the Comics Code Authority.

Enforcement of the CCA was vigorous and thorough, and designed to very carefully adhere to cultural norms - to the point where you could be denied a code seal if your main character was black. The entire horror comics industry was gutted and, in essence, destroyed, in an effort to reduce violence and crime rates among juveniles.

It did not reduce the violence and crime rates among juveniles in any measurable way.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the Port Arthur massacre in the mid-'90s, Australia instituted comprehensive regulation of firearms. Firearms related deaths fell almost 50% from 1991 to 2000. Since then, the only mass shooting was in 2002, and the shooter was tackled when he was forced to swap magazines - there were two fatalities and five injuries, far fewer than other mass shootings where high-capacity automatic weapons were readily available.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:24 AM on January 21, 2013 [12 favorites]


On Video Games, Ralph Nader Agrees with Wayne LaPierre
Of course, violent video games are played all over the developed world -- but only in America do massacres like Sandy Hook happen on a regular basis.

So, OK, Ralph and Wayne, let's assume you're both right. Let's assume that violent video games really do inspire the desire to imitate the violence in some players. That doesn't seem to be a problem in other countries, because in those countries you simply can't imitate the shooters, because you can't get access to the weaponry. So you can no more imitate the games than you can go out and deal with your own zombie apocalypse. The games are pure fantasy for players all over the world -- except in America where (maybe) they're imitated because they can be.

So even if video games are being imitated -- and there's still no convincing evidence of that -- the problem is still the availability of guns. So you're wrong again, Ralph.
posted by tonycpsu at 8:25 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Maybe we should ban Catcher in the Rye. It's a little too coincidental that John Lennon and Reagan's shooters, and possibly Lee Harvey Oswald, were all in possession of it.
posted by Golden Eternity at 8:33 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


And just after reading this I happened to check out the news only to see that the Michael Winner, the director of "Death Wish" has passed away. This, along with its sequels and brethren, was a particular franchise I had in mind when talking about the sort of extreme violence that has long been common in other popular US culture and media. The entire premise of this genre was torture/rape/death, and then 90+ minutes of vengeful violence... and this groundbreaker came out in 1974, despite, or perhaps because of, occurring in the groggy aftermath of the most significant outcry for peace and nonviolence the U.S. has ever experienced.

*shrug* I don't know. None of that stuff appeals to me personally, but gaming is so much not a special case.
posted by taz at 10:16 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


International comparisons of crime rates are hard, but if you accept recent OECD numbers derived from police reports, the US has a boring, middle-of-the-pack assault rate that's about a sixth of the rate in Scotland.

The definition of "assault" is vastly different between the US and Britain. What you need to compare is battery.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:27 AM on January 21, 2013


It's triple the rate in Canada (1.6 per 100,000), 4 times that of the UK (1.2 per 100,000), almost 5 times that of Australia or Sweden (1 per 100,000), more than 5 times that of Germany (0.8 per 100,000).

But hey, you're doing better than the Congo. Woo.


and it always has been. The (higher) homicide rate in the US is pretty much confined to disenfranchised, minority youth populations (urban, inner city, whatever). And this higher rate is almost certainly due to their economic and societal status-they don't have a lot of choices due to a systemic history of racism, oppression and just generally not giving a shit by the people in charge.

For instance-Washington DC has a homicide rate of something like 12 per 100,000. Next door in Arlington the homicide rate is something like 2 per 100,000. I think Chicago and its suburbs also show something similar. (also DC has VERY strict gun control, Arlington not so much-but that is another thread).

And, as I have stated before, what causes things like Sandy Hook (other than just some people want to watch the world burn) is very likely NOT the same thing that causes general crime. The solutions and prevention methods are likely to be much different also, and pretty sure availability of video games and their content is such a vanishingly small contributer as to be lost in the noise.

But ,just like guns, it is so much easier to try to ban some material thing than actually change the negative elements in society that are the root causes.
posted by bartonlong at 10:39 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Enforcement of the CCA was vigorous and thorough, and designed to very carefully adhere to cultural norms - to the point where you could be denied a code seal if your main character was black. The entire horror comics industry was gutted and, in essence, destroyed, in an effort to reduce violence and crime rates among juveniles.

And there's an argument that it permanently infantalised the medium, limiting American comics to superheroes and the like, while France and Belgium, for example, have a much more interesting range of subjects explored in comic book form. There's a possibility you could do the same to video games, a medium that's maturing but nowhere near mature.
posted by liquidindian at 11:02 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


bartonlong: " But ,just like guns, it is so much easier to try to ban some material thing than actually change the negative elements in society that are the root causes."

Yeah, I see what you're trying to do here, but dealing with root causes of violence and reducing access to tools that make violence easier to turn into deadly violence are not mutually exclusive. It's also telling that many of the same people who are loading up on guns and ammo right now cite redistributive policies such as the Affordable Care Act and raising taxes on the wealthy as examples of "tyranny" that they want to arm themselves against.
posted by tonycpsu at 11:03 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


The definition of "assault" is vastly different between the US and Britain. What you need to compare is battery.

It looks like the UN agency collecting the data is massaging it into some sort of comparability. They do note that the "assaults" they're talking about have to result in serious injury.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:33 AM on January 21, 2013


At the same time the violent crime rate in other countries with strict gun control in place have had an increase in violent crime over the same period we have had a decrease (Great Britain specifically).

Britain has had two massive changes to the crime reporting statistics in around the year 2000. The first is that we now count incidents by number of victims rather than as a group (the textbook case here is if I drunkenly drive my car down the street and clip five other cars in 1995 that would be recorded as one incident - in 2005 it would be recorded as five, one for each car), and secondly the definition used by the crime statistics has been changed from whether the policeman thinks there was a crime to whether the person reporting does (so in 1995 if someone were to jog past and kick someone's coffee over by mistake, splashing them with three drops and they were to report this to the police as an assault the policeman would think this was silly and not record it, in 2005 it would be recorded as a violent crime because it was reported as such).

If even Britain's statistics are not comarable in 1995 and 2005, how do you think international statistics of reported crimes are going to be comparable? This is one reason to use things like the death from violence rate - it's nothing like so subjective.

And for the record, since 2002/3 (the first year the new crime reporting statistics were used in full) total violent crimes have dropped from 2.71 million to 1.98 million. If someone tells you the British crime rate is going up, and they compare figures from before 1999 with those after 2002 they are either ignorant or trying to deceive you.

(If anyone's interested in the actual state of Britain's crime, I refer them here).
posted by Francis at 11:39 AM on January 21, 2013 [6 favorites]


"Another neighbor said Nehemiah wanted to be a soldier. Although he always wore Army clothing and camouflage, Nehemiah wasn’t allowed to play violent video games, the neighbor said, since the boy’s parents didn’t allow anything 'dirty or violent' and limited TV watching."

"Friend of Slain Family Speaks". From earlier today; also cached.
posted by Wordshore at 12:16 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is one reason to use things like the death from violence rate - it's nothing like so subjective.

This is why I cited the intentional homicide rate above. All the other crimes stats are too subject to local legal definitions and reporting methodologies to allow for an accurate comparison.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 1:07 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Are we settled yet that no evidence points towards violent fiction creating a more violent society? I'll assume yes, so the next question is : Why are people even reasonably good at separating fiction from reality?

Isn't this rather obvious? We lie to one another frequently! There are surely genetic and developmental variation amongst people's abilities to recognize fiction as fiction, as well as situations where average people's abilities breaks down, like romantic relationships, childhood stories (religion), and lies enforced by threats (religious conversion). Yet, basically we all depend upon our abilities to distinguish between fiction and reality.

If we believe in a cultural explanation, we should thus look towards the reporting of real world violence :

Is the news reporting of killing sprees contributing? A priori, this sounds far more likely than video games or movies doing so. We know copycat killers and suicides exist, for example. Is news reporting a factor beyond mere copycats? I donno really, but probably a small factor.

Is gun culture like gun shows, gun magazines, etc. contributing? Yes absolutely by encouraging people to provide the weapons. Does gun culture contribute beyond simply providing the weapons? I donno, but again I'd suspect yes, especially given all their rhetoric.
posted by jeffburdges at 1:55 PM on January 21, 2013


This is why I cited the intentional homicide rate above. All the other crimes stats are too subject to local legal definitions and reporting methodologies to allow for an accurate comparison.

Didn't mean to imply you hadn't, sorry. I was debunking the person who'd cited the Daily Mail (always suspect) with yet another "Britain's Going to the Dogs" Jeremiad.
posted by Francis at 2:06 PM on January 21, 2013


Didn't mean to imply you hadn't, sorry.

No apologies necessary - I was agreeing with you. I would have liked to use an international comparison on all violent crime, it's just that I couldn't find one that was reliable.

I was debunking the person who'd cited the Daily Mail (always suspect) with yet another "Britain's Going to the Dogs" Jeremiad.
Yeah - the fact free assertions on the UK crime rate are really annoying. I've had friends say to me "Oh, I feel like the city [Sydney] is just getting more violent". I looked up the crime stats (yay open data!) and the reported crime rate has been stable for the last five years.

The only thing that has changed is the tenor of the reporting.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:23 PM on January 21, 2013


Maybe, if there's any grain of truth to any of this shit, the problem is not videogames themselves, but multiplayer?

I grew up on single player games because there was no such thing as multiplayer until Doom and in any event we didn't have the internet at home so it didn't matter. But with single player games, if you fuck up and die, you might get pissed at yourself or at the machine, and as a young boy with my testosterone starting to burble I certainly took games way too seriously, and yeah I broke a few joysticks in fits of madness, but...whatever, y'know?

Kids these days (KIDS THESE DAYS oh jesus I can't believe I said that), a lot of 'em play multiplayer. Call of Duty and Halo and Battlefield and so forth. And those kids, with that same burbling testosterone, when they die in the game, their anger is directed towards other people (which is why, if you're ever in the unfortunate position of playing a multiplayer shoot 'em up game with anybody under, I'd say, 25, you're going to get people yelling some real vile shit at you, and this is why you always mute everything).

I used to play a buttload of Gears of War multiplayer, but it was with older players, around the same age as me (late 20s), and we'd all grown up on single player games and knew it was just a game and we were just some mates having a good time, and we were a regular group of a dozen or so and it was always a blast. You died, you knew it was because the other guy was better than you, or because you did something stupid, and you're like "curse you!" or "omg hax!", but jokingly, and you laugh about it and move on and play until it's time to go feed the dishes or wash the baby or whatever.

Kids these days (KIDS THESE DAYS!) grew up on multiplayer. They don't have any perspective on what a computer game is or what it is for. To them, it's not a way to chill out and have a good time, it is a competition. And in a lot of ways it is also a popularity contest. And for a lot of kids, going through school, if you're not popular, you're a victim. Kids don't like being victims (bullying is obviously what I'm talking about), but most of 'em can't lash out at the bully, because they'll get their ass beat (or get in trouble from the teacher, and then not be believed because the bully is popular). So when you put a bunch of school-age kids in a classroom (the deathmatch map, where you are competing to get straight A's and thus be the most popular), well, it's easy to lash out and scream at somebody and call them vile names. There's no repercussions.

And maybe young brains, growing up in a situation like that, well, I dunno. I'm spitballing and all over the place. But when you're playing against REAL PEOPLE inside a game, even though it's just pixels on a screen, your anger and your violence are still, in a way, directed towards REAL PEOPLE. And maybe for brains still assimilating knowledge and computing their place in the world, lines get a little blurred?

I mean there's always been gun violence ever since there were guns and, yeah, the story is that the Columbine shooters were both massive fans of Doom and all that, which was multiplayer and all but nowhere near the same scale as stuff today, and I'm not sure I'm particularly convinced by any of this myself, but it might be something for smarter people than I to reflect on. Maybe it's not violent games per se, but the competitive aspects of violent multiplayer games played by the youth of today?

I mean, are older gamers really using games to "live out a fantasy", or are we just kicking back with some fun entertainment the same way we would with a book or a movie or a new CD? I honestly don't think so. But younger kids...well, maybe they are?
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 5:29 PM on January 21, 2013


FWIW, I've noticed that when I play any of the Assassin's Creed games, I feel bad for any of the guards that I kill and do what I can to complete the missions killing as few guards as I can

Yeah. I remember going for the "Animal Murderer" or whatever achievements in Red Dead Redemption and every single time I slaughtered a fake videogame animal I felt like a real life dirty rotten scoundrel.
posted by turgid dahlia 2 at 6:08 PM on January 21, 2013


FWIW, I've noticed that when I play any of the Assassin's Creed games, I feel bad for any of the guards that I kill and do what I can to complete the missions killing as few guards as I can

Yeah, in my first play through of Dishonoured, I spared all the civilians but slaughtered all the guards without mercy. Now that I realise that they were simply unwilling pawns in a wider political powerplay, I feel bad about it. In my current play through, I'm keeping my hands clean.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:14 PM on January 21, 2013


When The Burning Moment Breaks: Gun Control And Rage Massacres
This, it seems to me, provides a background to the proliferation of rage murder. On the one hand, ordinary Americans have been, as Ames says, experiencing a concerted assault from neoliberalism for some decades now, producing a profound social dislocation. The traditional bonds between people dissolve, with the normalisation of an ideology of radical individualism. In Europe, the austerity agenda has provoked substantial resistance, and even where those struggles have failed the prospect of collective responses at least provide a framework in which the world can be understood. In the US, however, the traditions of the Left are much weaker, with the result that individuals are more likely to perceive their misery as an existential personal failing.

What’s more, more than any other industrialised nation, the US remains deeply embroiled ongoing imperial adventures, conflicts that foster a twenty-first century version of the militaristic values expressed so forcefully in 1914. Throughout the early phases of the Iraq war, the army recruited under the slogans ‘Be all you can be’ and ‘an army of one’, catch cries that replicate the Edwardian sense of battle as an experience that will restore the individuality crushed by capitalist modernity.

In that setting, is it really so surprising that Grenfell’s joy of battle takes a certain proportion of damaged men by the throat, that some of those who know themselves to be among the detritus of a neoliberal order seek the power and clarity that comes from aiming a rifle and pulling its trigger?
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:19 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


How about, "If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."
posted by sneebler at 7:13 AM on January 22, 2013


Seems like a feedback loop in operation here.

Do people become racists by telling racist jokes? Or to they tell racist jokes because they are racists? When listening to a racist joke, does your racist quotient depend on how loud your laughter is? If you don't laugh, but also don't object, are you non-racist, but a racist enabler?

I was in the Army back in the stone age, before video games. Okay, there were pinball machines, but never mind. We were taught infantry skills by playing at being a soldier. We walk around everywhere in formations, so that we get used to the idea of moving in a herd (under the command of a unit leader), rather than as an individual. We dry-fire the weapon before we take it to the range. We do bayonet drills on dummies. We practice hand-to-hand skills the same way we wrestled in high-school, without actually maiming and killing. We screamed slogans at bayonet drills...Kill!, Kill!....and we chuckled among ourselves in the barracks, about how we were turning into one of those little green monsters, but nobody really believed it, because... well, it was like floating down a smooth river in a raft. The water around the raft didn't seem to move. But of course, the scenery kept floating by, and eventualy we were no long the kids from back on the block, we actually had become soldiers, and when it came time to shoot people, our skills were already honed, and it was the work of only a moment to step forever over to the other side of the mirror.

Compare the original movie "The Red Dawn" with the recent release, and you can't help but notice that the thematic underpinnings couldn't be more different. Look at "Independance Day" for a more palatable version of the same message. Look at Rambo I, and compare it to the sequels, look at any Steven Seagal movie. These movies, of course, don't cause militaristic children, or chauvinistic adults, but like racist humor, they sort of take your pulse. When you are nine years old, your sense of humor is guided by your peers: either drawing you in, to be like them, or, perhaps, pushing you away from them because you are sort of geeky and don't go for crude humor. The topic doesn't set your polarity in this respect, but it does affirm it.

The rabid among gamers and NRA members won't admit to any connection between their loves and violence. In truth, there may not be a causal relationship. But you use the tools you are trained to use.

The analogy to racism seems seductive to me: is racism a genetic thing, or is it taught? When you examine societies, you notice that they all have some sort of "us" and "them" policy. Some tribes believe that "we" are people, and "they" are not. It seems that most people have a default mind set that values the taking of a life in terms of various flavors of awe. Learning to hunt, learning to kill, is something that is later rationalized. Notice that small children can kill bugs, but they somehow eventually figure out that even bugs are little beings, and when their sympathy tools begin to develop, they stop pulling their little legs off.

In my experience, which is not a scientific statement, killing humans and racism are just a couple of the possibilities. They are learned. Our society reflects the degree to which we apply any value to them. Gamers and the rabid among the NRA folks have learned their values, and they defend the things they love with the same tools of intellect and rationalization. Both gamers and NRA members come in different flavors, so it's sort of hard to piss on any of them without having it splash on the others. That tells me that we are all more or less connected here. Also, it tells me that if I call you out on your racist humor, you are more likely to drop me from your circle of friends than revise your values.

Don't worry. I won't take away your guns. Or your games. It wouldn't do any good. I like the idea of using different tools: rather than deny the hammer, let's learn how to use a screw-driver. You never can tell when you may have to drive a nail, but in the meantime it's good to know what a screw is for. It should be obvious that you won't get anywhere with the argument that guns are evil or that soldiers are dupes.

[sneebler's post about the nails: I didn't see it until I hit the send button. We agree on this.
]
posted by mule98J at 10:22 AM on January 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Mule, that was beautiful.
posted by bartonlong at 10:46 AM on January 22, 2013


Okay, Jpfed, you're right-- I shouldn't have been so unequivocal (and ultimately, wrong). What I should have said was "the vast majority" hae been unable to draw connections between "real-world" violence and video game / media violence. I just become exasperated at arguments that suggest that people are actively railing against doing studies like these, when in fact there have been stacks and stacks of them, and they mostly have discounted the effects of media and video games as major factors.

My own emotions got the better of me, and I made an incorrect statement. That said, I still disagree with monospace (and others') most basic premises.
posted by exlotuseater at 5:56 PM on January 22, 2013


This interview with the head writer of the uber-violent and possibly-racist Far Cry 3 (which I just played through and enjoyed immensely while feeling conflicted about it) gets into some of these issues. For more, "What I Loathe About Far Cry 3"

The game is immensely fun on a pure game-level, and to its credit, attempts to actually engage what it means to engage in so much violence and become desensitized to it, but at the same time, engages with issues like rape and race with so much flippancy that it's sometimes infuriating.
posted by empath at 9:54 PM on January 22, 2013


Apparently the gun lobbyis now enthusiastically pointing to Django Unchained as an example of why guns are good. Boy these people blow hot and cold on fictional violence.
posted by Artw at 12:43 PM on January 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


This Week In Stupid: Nader And The Prince
posted by Artw at 7:22 PM on January 23, 2013


Apparently the gun lobbyis now enthusiastically pointing to Django Unchained as an example of why guns are good.

They're romantics at heart, and love holiday-themed anything... so they're getting into the spirit of MLK day. Here's Rush Lindbaugh, who really understands the history of the Civil Rights movement, with his Martin Luther King Jr. Day sentiments:
So those of you who are not mobilizing to change the Second Amendment, those of you who are not mobilizing to make it more difficult to get guns and weapons are the modern equivalent of people who sat around and let Bull Connor turn his dogs loose on the marches at Selma
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:42 AM on January 24, 2013


Remind me, what ever did happen to MLK?
posted by Artw at 7:00 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stephen King releases gun control essay
posted by Artw at 9:08 AM on January 25, 2013


Video games drawn into violence debate
posted by Artw at 9:15 AM on January 27, 2013


mule98J, this:
These movies, of course, don't cause militaristic children, or chauvinistic adults, but like racist humor, they sort of take your pulse.

Is very insightful. Living in Brunswick, Jawja, I hadn't considered that, those occasional times when I hear someone make a borderline racist joke, that it's actually a strategy, consciously or not, to see if the audience is on board with it and calibrate reactions accordingly. If they laugh or at least don't seem to object they know the person listing is one of a kind of person (probably one more attuned to the joker's inner attitudes), if it sparks throat clearings they'll steer clear.
posted by JHarris at 1:10 PM on January 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why The Violent Fantasies Of Gun Advocates Are More Dangerous Than Video Games
What the hearing did reveal, though, is that the people who tend to blame video games for violence have some of the same fantasies about using weapons in real life that make the abstracted violence in first-person shooters so attractive.

That’s not to say that video games were completely absent from yesterday’s hearing. Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) took himself to MSNBC to declare that “I think video games is a bigger problem than guns because video games affect people. But the First Amendment limits what we can doing about video games.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) lamented “Where is the artistic value in shooting innocent victims?” And LaPierre, listing what he described as common-sense solutions to gun violence, included “Stop putting out violent video games that desensitize.”

But at the same time that they were lamenting the idea of young men sitting at home working themselves up to kill by playing video games, both witnesses and senators were engaging in some of the same fantasies of heroic deployment of guns against imaginary enemies.
posted by zombieflanders at 10:04 AM on January 31, 2013 [4 favorites]


The NRA has an enemies list.
posted by Artw at 6:51 AM on February 1, 2013 [1 favorite]






If we deplore racism and sexism in videogames, how can we defend violence?

A culture of violence is something that normalises violence and makes it acceptable. Games don’t do that because they don’t feature real violence or anything that feels like it, argues Phil Hartup.
posted by Artw at 9:51 PM on February 10, 2013




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