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Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked
December 13, 2005 8:00 AM   Subscribe

Eight Myths About Video Games Debunked - Henry Jenkins (previous discussed here) points out errors in the myths we here about videogames and those who play them. It's nice to hear intelligent commentary that doesn't run along the lines of the usual messages.
posted by Dantien (71 comments total)

 
This is excellent. Thanks, Dantien.
posted by Ricky_gr10 at 8:07 AM on December 13, 2005


Oh, and it rivals my other favourite work on video games, Martin Amis's Invasion Of the Space Invaders: An Addict's Guide to Battle Tactics, Big Scores, and the Best Machines (Introduction by Steven Spielberg). (Okay, I can't actually afford this book... perhaps Santa will splurge?)
posted by Ricky_gr10 at 8:13 AM on December 13, 2005


You forgot to mention that this was first published in the sociology journal Duh!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:16 AM on December 13, 2005


Critics predicted the downfall of society as a result of television and now make the same prediction as a result of video games. Just because they were right about television doesn't mean they are right about video games.
posted by caddis at 8:21 AM on December 13, 2005


I love some of the 'facts' mentioned in the last link (Mothers Against Videogame Addiction and Violence):

Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) is a digital escape from the real world for emotionally unhealthy and mentally unstable people.

MMORPG's are the most addicting genre of video games available and developers are selfishly aware of these statistics. Developers take advantage of the situation by charging people hefty monthly rates for their "services" and release mediocre expansion sets to keep the game play fresh.

And where are they getting this little factoid?

MMORPG video games were recently labeled as one of the top 10 leading causes of students dropping out of high school.

Interestingly enough, when I delved further into the MAVAV site, I found this heartwarming tidbit:

Our children are our future, and it is our duty as parents to protect them.

And we all know the best way to protect our children is to ban whatever they seem to enjoy...you know, instead of teaching them moderation or guiding them to more appropriate game titles.

Meanwhile, parents seem to be keeping a good eye on what their children are renting.
posted by NationalKato at 8:26 AM on December 13, 2005


I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that MMORPGs can provide a perfectly suitable training ground for people with less-than-adequate social skills/confidence?
In an MMORPG you can experiment with interacting with others without the fear of being laughed at or embarassed (unless you're Leeroy), when you find that something works you can try it in the real world. Surely this is a good thing?
posted by hnnrs at 8:34 AM on December 13, 2005


And Plato thought written communication would be the downfall of society.
posted by eighth_excerpt at 8:39 AM on December 13, 2005


I don't know if I would call that debunking; it merely presents an opposing viewpoint. I don't think it conclusively does so, though.
posted by Doohickie at 8:50 AM on December 13, 2005


Well, I don't expect this to be a popular view, but: This strikes me as reactionary thinking. Which is to say, a good chunk of this myth-debunking needs some debunking of its own. Start with #5:
Former military psychologist and moral reformer David Grossman argues that because the military uses games in training (including, he claims, training soldiers to shoot and kill), the generation of young people who play such games are similarly being brutalized and conditioned to be aggressive in their everyday social interactions.

Grossman's model only works if:

* we remove training and education from a meaningful cultural context.
* we assume learners have no conscious goals and that they show no resistance to what they are being taught.
* we assume that they unwittingly apply what they learn in a fantasy environment to real world spaces.
Alas, his qualifications are simply false: None of those conditions are required. Furthermore, he overstates the case. There is very good evidence to suggest that children who play a lot of FPS are more ready to use violence. That doesn't mean they're desensitized to violence -- it means they're more likely to use it. Subtle distinction, but important when you consider that you only have to use violence once without normal levels of reservation to have some pretty serious effects.
7. Video game play is socially isolating.
Much video game play is social. Almost 60 percent of frequent gamers play with friends. Thirty-three percent play with siblings and 25 percent play with spouses or parents. Even games designed for single players are often played socially, with one person giving advice to another holding a joystick. A growing number of games are designed for multiple players — for either cooperative play in the same space or online play with distributed players. Sociologist Talmadge Wright has logged many hours observing online communities interact with and react to violent video games, concluding that meta-gaming (conversation about game content) provides a context for thinking about rules and rule-breaking. In this way there are really two games taking place simultaneously: one, the explicit conflict and combat on the screen; the other, the implicit cooperation and comradeship between the players. Two players may be fighting to death on screen and growing closer as friends off screen. Social expectations are reaffirmed through the social contract governing play, even as they are symbolically cast aside within the transgressive fantasies represented onscreen.
But much game play is also a-social, and observations of online communities are not relevant to that type of game play.

And much game play merely models social behavior. Modeled behavior and real behavior are not the same thing at all. Modeled social behaviors are constrained in ways that live social behaviors can't be, and there are consequences for real social behavior that don't exist in modeled behavior. Or, for that matter, in removed behavior, such as you get in an online game scenario -- we have a hard enough time with it here on MeFi.

Just to be clear, I'm not suggesting that there isn't a lot of reactionary thought against gaming; I am suggesting that gamers and their apologists ought not pretend that it's all wonderful roses and sunshine. Gaming as a substitute for more "traditional" interactions is different in quality and in quanta -- in kind and in details -- from the real interactions it replaces. Denying that is foolish.
posted by lodurr at 8:52 AM on December 13, 2005


In an MMORPG you can experiment with interacting with others without the fear of being laughed at or embarassed (unless you're Leeroy), when you find that something works you can try it in the real world. Surely this is a good thing?

It can be a good thing, sure; but "surely", no. The danger I see is that there tends to be an all or nothing dynamic to the discussion: They're either all-good or all-bad. Obviously the gaming industry has an incentive to promote the "all-good" view, and it kind of surprises me that they're not more up-front about that. But I suppose they don't need to be, since they've got a lot of (self-described) "fanatical" gamers out there to carry the water on their behalf.
posted by lodurr at 8:55 AM on December 13, 2005


I love some of the 'facts' mentioned in the last link (Mothers Against Videogame Addiction and Violence):
posted by NationalKato at 8:26 AM PST on December 13


MAVAV is a hoax site.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:04 AM on December 13, 2005


So lodurr, if "children who play a lot of FPS are more ready to use violence" is true, are you saying that since the advent of video games they've become more ready to use violence? Does playing cowboys and indians not also lead to violence? What about matchbox car demonlition derby? Lego knights assaulting a lego castle? I guess I'm not sure where you got that little tidbit..I'd like to see your backup data.

Let me also comment on the point about videogames (specifically MMORPGs), what is wrong with modelled social behaviors? We've been doing that throughout human history in the form of stories, myths, plays, and all forms of entertainment. no one is suggesting modelled behavior is the SAME as real behavior, in fact the article clearly points out the benefits of games not perfectly replicating real behavior and how that would lead to children not to be violent. To wit, "Play allows kids to express feelings and impulses that have to be carefully held in check in their real-world interactions." no one is suggesting otherwise, but this point sorta negates your earlier one.
posted by Dantien at 9:04 AM on December 13, 2005


The violence in video game issue is a lot like the the global warming debate. Except that no one is playing honest. Some people hate games, and other people love them. And no one else seems to have any intrest in studying their effects. So we really have no idea.
posted by delmoi at 9:13 AM on December 13, 2005


And I'm intrigued that the reaction is so fast and so strong.

As for what's wrong with modelled social behaviors: They're inherently limited, for one thing. That's my biggest problem with them. I suspect that games go beyond stories and other forms of narrative, because they tend to limbically masquerade as the real thing.

For the record, I would say the same thing against aggressive sports. Games differ from aggressive sports in the level of participation, and in the level of hostility and aggression that can be modeled.

For that matter, I wouldn't be too happy about my kids engaging in a lot of death-play. If they do it "well", yes, death-play (battle-games, fight-games, etc.) could serve the end of helping them to understand the dimensions and consequences of violence. But in my own observations, it's more likely to reinforce the personality-type-bias of a particular child. Introspective children (the minority) are likely to develop empathy; "Sensory" (to borrow the Jungian/Myersian term) children are as likely to glorify violence.

And certainly games aren't the most egregious offenders in this regard -- standards of interaction in everyday culture are clearly more important. But these things don't happen in isolation: Games feed music feed behaviors feed music feed movies feed buying behaviors feed games feed behaviors feed.... and it all goes on in a vast Metcalfeian matrix that you'll never trace.

And of course it's not a clean cut dilemma, "games or no games", and I would never suggest that it is. I'm just saying that people ought to be open to seeing what's really there, and not knee-jerk defending one side or the other.

On prev: Curse you, delmoi, you've boiled me down once again!
posted by lodurr at 9:16 AM on December 13, 2005


Optimus Chyme is right. "MAVAV is a hoax organisation created by sophomore student David Yoo as a class assignment."
posted by Plutor at 9:17 AM on December 13, 2005


By the way, I actually worked on a violence in video game study that was supposed to measure the effect of violence in VR at the ISU Virtual Reality Applications center. One of the things I had to do was help shuffle subjects around after their VR experiment. We were told that we had to hurry, because the (measurable) aggressive effect of violent video games only lasted an hour at most!

I don't think any permanent, causal effect has been found, although I could be wrong.

Video Game enthusiasts have a habit of simply dismissing out of hand all studies, regardless of merit.
posted by delmoi at 9:19 AM on December 13, 2005


MAVAV is a hoax site.

And it's not even a fun one. Too straigh-man for my tastes.
posted by lodurr at 9:20 AM on December 13, 2005


Regardless of the fact that I still feel quite the geek when playing video games, I do believe that it is a bunch of nonsense saying that violent video games lead to violent behavior. Are we the only country with violent video games? I don't hear reports of kids in Sweden, Japan, or Canada going out and killing people because of violent video games.
posted by Todd Lokken at 9:21 AM on December 13, 2005


They're a flaming waste of time.
No myth there.
posted by HTuttle at 9:30 AM on December 13, 2005


I just wonder if Henry Jenkins is related to Leeeeeeeeroooooooooy! Jenkins.
posted by Foosnark at 9:34 AM on December 13, 2005


I have heard of some people in Korea seeking out the toons' real-life operators in order to . . .mete out justice or whatever, but I can't find a link to the article right now. That said, I think it's a pretty sad sack (or else someone who has other issues mentally) who can't turn off the computer and the game and go back to real life. I mean, I play City of Heroes, and I've spent a lot of my free time doing it, but I'm in no way convinced I could kick anyone's ass. My toon is a martial artist; I am a short chick with a desk job.

People with serious addiction issues with gaming would probably be addicted to something else if games didn't exist. People who commit violence "because of" video games probably would have done so anyway. And for crissakes, I don't want to hear people boohooing about little kids getting ahold of T or M rated games. That's what the ratings are for, so that you can police yourself. If you choose not to, that's your problem.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:37 AM on December 13, 2005


They're a flaming waste of time.
No myth there.
posted by HTuttle at 9:30 AM PST on December 13


By that logic - what little there is in your statement - so are card games, board games, sports, film, television. What isn't a waste of time, HT? An 80-hour workweek and eating plain oatmeal?
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:37 AM on December 13, 2005


Aaaaaaannnnnndddddd once again, a MeFi thread degrades into a polarized posturing contest. Despite the unexpected and fortuitous return of Todd Lokken.
posted by lodurr at 9:43 AM on December 13, 2005


'I used to be with it, but then they changed what "it" was. Now, what I'm with isn't it, and what's "it" seems weird and scary to me.' - Abe Simpson

Seems to cover most of the objections people have with video games. The cliche about fearing what you don't understand seems to apply as well.

Swing music, jazz, rock, marijuana, punk and television have all been blamed for the downfall of civilization. What I'd like to know is when we're going to stop paying attention to these Chicken Littles.
posted by aubin at 9:53 AM on December 13, 2005


I have heard of some people in Korea seeking out the toons' real-life operators in order to . . .mete out justice or whatever, but I can't find a link to the article right now.

I went hunting for that story a few weeks ago too. This is the best I can come up with.

While HTuttle might read this article as proof that people who play them are insane, I think it's pretty solid evidence that what happens in those worlds is meaningful. It's not worth murdering someone over, but then, that these worlds have the emotional power to drive even an unstable person to homicide is pretty incredible. Video games are a big deal.
posted by heresiarch at 9:55 AM on December 13, 2005


Right, but people who go to that length to place importance on a video game would do the same with anything else they really invested in emotionally -- say if they had taken up competitive chess or something, they are probably just as likely to go apeshit over some guy trouncing and embarassing them in chess as they would take an embarassing online defeat. I mean, it's really all the same --- he'd be made to look an ass in front of people whose respect he wanted, and that would (theoretically) drive him to violence.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:02 AM on December 13, 2005


Todd: Nope, we're not the only country with violent video games. Japanese ones are just as bad if not worse. Actually, you oughta see some of the comic books in Japan. Talk about crazy violence. Far worse than anything I've ever seen in a video game here in the US.

Oh, and lots of the comic books (which are the size of a phone directory) have pr0n in the back of them. The United States is so ass backwards when it comes to sex & violence.
posted by drstein at 10:09 AM on December 13, 2005


It sounds like everyone here agrees that (a) few, if any, videogames negatively influence everyone and (b) the games that might negatively influence some people can be categorized (generally along "violent" or "death-play" lines).

Given these facts, the best move would be "keep the games that are described as (b) out of the hands of those who would be negatively influenced." Hollywood handled this with a rating system- why won't one work here? I understand that the ESRB's system isn't strongly enforced, although one could say the same about Hollywood's; I also understand that a lot of store buyers vehemently oppose carding, saying "I'm not a surrogate parent". That's true, but why should/shouldn't the guy that sells tickets at the theatre be one then?

On preview: the same can be said about comic books, magazines, books in general, and even leaflets handed out on the street. To what degree is material controllable because it could be described under (b)?
posted by Maxson at 10:14 AM on December 13, 2005


I think the 8th point about the "magic circle" is one of the most interesting. Discuss.
posted by papakwanz at 10:17 AM on December 13, 2005


I bet MAVAV is just a bunch of posers sore over having gotten aggro'd.

(Maybe they forgot to remove their ring of conflict)
posted by mystyk at 10:20 AM on December 13, 2005


papakwanz: you mean like how people act differently when posting to a generally anonymous internet board? Sure, we could destroy the "circle" and post our full names and addresses (some do), but the same option exists in any game ("why are we tossing colored cards at the table?").

The "magic circle" idea makes lots of sense to me because IMO it applies to a lot more than games- people act differently in a "work environment", then go to clubs and act differently there. I still don't know why some concerned groups find it hard to apply to acting differently in videogames.
posted by Maxson at 10:24 AM on December 13, 2005


OK, I'll bite: The "magic circle" is not feasibly falsifiable. It's worse than what it replaces, because you can't prove or disprove it: Any time you test it, your test is "inside the magic circle", and therefore doesn't count as generating real data. It's a bit like Reichianism in that. And I wonder if you wouldn't have a dynamic similar to the one that you get whenever you point out that it's impossible to verify or disprove the existence of orgone energy, because (conveniently) the presence of electrical equipment rapidly depletes any orgone energy in the vicinity....

Now, at a gut level, I think we all know that the hard distinction the "magic circle" theory proposes between play and "reality" is pretty deeply mistaken. Look at how seriously people take their little battles here on Metafilter; look at how rapidly sports contests cna result in real-world grudges.

Yes, there's a difference between play and real, but it's irresponsible to cast the difference in such stark terms.

And consider, too, all the boosterism of the "work as play" crowd: You were supposed to make work (and learning and living) more "like play." Does that mean we were supposed to make it less real?

It would be very very convenient if we could draw nice clean distinctions between play and fight, play and love, play and hate, play and death. But we can't. It's an analog world. The lines here aren't that clean.
posted by lodurr at 10:30 AM on December 13, 2005



I'm sure I'm not alone in thinking that MMORPGs can provide a perfectly suitable training ground for people with less-than-adequate social skills/confidence?
In an MMORPG you can experiment with interacting with others without the fear of being laughed at or embarassed (unless you're Leeroy), when you find that something works you can try it in the real world. Surely this is a good thing?


Enh, I have to disagree with you. MMORPG's are specialized environments, with a specialized group of people (mostly gamer geeks, unsurprisingly). I have a friend who's heavy into WoW, and I've actually seen her social skills get worse since she's started playing - ie sitting down at her computer in the middle of a party she was partially hosting, and playing WoW while ignoring the rest of us. I think that you do get taught social skills, but I'm less sure those skills translate well to the non-online world; the old normal person + audience + opinions = crazy bitch problem. Gamer geeks rock my world, but they're not all that's out there.

Then again, my sample size is one, and she has other social/confidence issues, so take this with a huge grain of salt. But speaking for myself...my various online addictions have let me create fantasy worlds/lives and interact and get close friends, but they haven't helped my non-online self a huge lot, and in some cases have been detrimental to getting things done or interacting with other people.
posted by kalimac at 10:36 AM on December 13, 2005


Former military psychologist and moral reformer David Grossman argues that because the military uses games in training (including, he claims, training soldiers to shoot and kill), the generation of young people who play such games are similarly being brutalized and conditioned to be aggressive in their everyday social interactions.

Alas, his qualifications are simply false: None of those conditions are required. Furthermore, he overstates the case. There is very good evidence to suggest that children who play a lot of FPS are more ready to use violence. That doesn't mean they're desensitized to violence -- it means they're more likely to use it.

Grossman's model only works if:


The US soldiers’ kill ratio (number of times firing a weapon to actually hitting the target) in WWII was significantly lower than Vietnam, like 60% or higher, immsmr.

One reason given for the higher killer rate by a soldier in the Vietnam War was due to the training on the rifle range. Prior to Vietnam, the rifle range targets were bull sizes, round rings. During the Vietnam era human silhouettes were used instead. So making a soldier's mind use to shooting at a human target may have made the kill ratio to increase significantly.

If you have never aimed a gun at a human it will be hard pulling the trigger the first few times. I bet this is an almost in every case for human beings due to basic laws of nature. Why militaries and police forces of the world constantly have live action training w/o live ammo. As basic human nature is to not kill another human being like in a video game…good thing in video games the humans are more like Zombies
posted by thomcatspike at 10:38 AM on December 13, 2005


Apropos thomcatspike's observations: There's something I've been suspecting but don't know how I'd go about compling evidence for.

I have a theory that while modern soldiers are quite ready to shoot and shoot accurately -- I think I can remember reading read that kill ratios are the highest they've ever been -- but that they aren't really desensitized to killing in the way that the game-violence theorists originally predicted. So my suspicion is that we would see a greater incidence of psychological problems after returning from combat.

I can see a lot of reasons why it would be extremely hard to test this idea. First and most important, the psychological problems that soldiers do or don't have after combat are going to be dependent on so many factors that it would be difficult to tease them out. Also, though, you wouldnt' really have any way of knowing whether the incidence of psychological problems was greater or lesser, or even if the psychological problems were different or the same (language used to talk about them would have changed, etc.).
posted by lodurr at 10:52 AM on December 13, 2005


a) I'm seriously ashamed I got pwned by that hoax site (hides head in shame).

b) lodurr, it sounds like you disagree with the theory that videogames do not create violent behavior. Maybe I'm wrong so please correct me if so. However, if you are really so concerned with the effect videogames have on people (or is it just children?), what would you suggest we do about it? Ban FPS? Increase regulation? What? You speak about "my own observations" or "at a gut level, I think we all know", but how much of your points have data to back them up?

The point of the article is that their is plenty of research pointing out the opposite of the research we hear in the media about the harmful effects of videogames. I call shenanigans! I've been playing videogames since I was 7 and I'm no more violent than I ever was. Doom did not make me go out and chaingun zombies. If videogames are bad, where is the clear research?
posted by Dantien at 10:54 AM on December 13, 2005


kalimac, constrained environments like an MMPORG could be helpful to an especially introverted person. In learning complex skills, it's often useful to ensure that the student gets a series of small successes under his/her belt. That's the foundation of Suzuki method, for example: Show the students that they can achieve something good, thereby encouraging them to do more. By the time it starts to get really hard, they're hooked on music. (And achievement, of course.)

You could imagine using an MMPORG in such a way. I've known peopel who did.

Whether very many people do is another question entirely. The net effect could be positive or negative. We don't really have a good way of knowing.
posted by lodurr at 10:56 AM on December 13, 2005


Generally it is true that with increased emphasis on realistic training, accuracy ratios went up. This was partially due to the use of more realistic, human size/shape, pop-up targets. This was also partially due to the increased amount of time spent on ranges honing those skills. This is further still due to the increased tactical training, involving things like blanks and put if bull-blown scenarios.

However, I disagree with using Vietnam as the measure. Vietnam was a statistical aberration in terms of the number of enemy reported killed. Companies were in competition with each other for favor from command, and would report many dead enemies after blasting the bush for 5 minutes from a random woodland sound. The vast majority were never tabulated properly, but were reported anyway. It has been shown that the number of *reported* enemy killed in Vietnam actually exceeded the *entire* population of Vietnam, north & south together.

But this is about the training aids, and their effectiveness. No credible reports have shown that violent games, training aids or not, increase the *desire* to pull the trigger. They're not wanting to kill people, but it may reduce some of the roadblocks for those succeptible to opening up a full clip in public.
posted by mystyk at 11:04 AM on December 13, 2005


it sounds like you disagree with the theory that videogames do not create violent behavior.

What I disagree with is "debunking" the idea that videogames "create violent behavior", because it's debunking a straw man. OTOH, we have some strong anecdotal, casually observational, and introspective evidence to suggest that we should take the negative effects of role play much more seriously than video game advocates want to do.

I don't believe in banning anything without a compelling reason, fwiw. And with the discussion happening on the level it's happening on, we will never ever get what I regard as a compelling reason on either side.

Doom did not make me go out and chaingun zombies. If videogames are bad, where is the clear research?

Ah, but if you had zombies and a chaingun, you'd use it on them, right? Note thomcatspike's observations; your reluctance to shoot at a human target is reduced if you've done a lot of FPS. That's an effect. That you don't go out and shoot people in the street is not the same as saying there's no effect.

In fact, the usual pro-game (or really anti-anti-game) argument is pretty specious. It boils down to "games don't make people kill other people."

No shit. And here I was thinking that games were like a voice in their heads.

It's a specious argument because only frightened mothers, vote-hungry poltiicians and disingenuous sophomores ever really deploy that argument. The real arguments are that there are subtle and difficult to document behavioral effects, and that those effects will have an impact on society.
posted by lodurr at 11:05 AM on December 13, 2005


On the subject of constrained environments, here's an excerpt from one commentators narrative of getting familiar with America's Army, the US Army's recruiting-tool-cum-FPS:
But the most realistic aspect of the game is surely the boredom. Real military life is made up of long periods of inactivity punctuated by furious bursts of exhausting and terrifying work. The game never terrified me, but it exhausted me — it almost put me to sleep trying to teach me to recognize an Apache assault helicopter from below, and to differentiate between the Delta and 181 Officers in a Special Forces Squad.
Also, it's worth noting that there are other perspectives beside the debunking one, at the same site.
posted by lodurr at 11:14 AM on December 13, 2005


delmoi: Video Game enthusiasts have a habit of simply dismissing out of hand all studies, regardless of merit.

Well said. I also think that game critics are equally dismissive in trying to judge game design by a few subgenres.

IMO lodurr seems to be spot-on with a lot of analysis.

I'd also ask, do we really need to show that "games cause violence" in order to engage in a critique of the kinds of moral behavior at the center of a lot of video games? I feel a bit at wit's end because while I do a lot of gaming, it's hard to engage in intelligent discussion about video games without being asked to prove or disprove the claim that violent games cause criminal violence.

The comparisons between video games and chess are interesting. Marilyn Yalom's Birth of a Chess Queen documents the rise of chess in Europe, and also attempts to ban chess due to associated problems with gambling and violence. She manages to pinpoint the acceptance of chess by noting when documented sermons changed from condemning chess as a distracting vice, to using the chess game as a metaphor.

on preview, lodurr: It's a specious argument because only frightened mothers, vote-hungry poltiicians and disingenuous sophomores ever really deploy that argument. The real arguments are that there are subtle and difficult to document behavioral effects, and that those effects will have an impact on society

Bingo. This is reminding me of a previous evolution discussion in which the argument went along the lines of a false delimma. If X then not Y, if Y then not X.

Psychology and sociology don't work that way. The only claim that is made is that exposure to models of violence might be one factor contributing to violent behavior.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:17 AM on December 13, 2005 [1 favorite]


There is also a bit of a contradiction on the parts of videogame advocates in saying that videogames exist in a "magic circle" of behavior, and then pointing out that video games improve hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:32 AM on December 13, 2005


I was hoping these would be about myths about specific games, like the San Andreas sasquatch or Nintendogs "Hot Biscuit" mod.

That said, there do seem to be a lot of misconceptions about games in general and the GTA series in particular. I can't remember how many times I've had to convince people that no GTA games contain rape, beating on pregnant women, or scoring points for killing police.

Despite their media exposure, it's really only a small number of loonies who honestly believe that video games turn people into killers. Games can affect people, sure, but one would have to be pretty far gone to be pushed over the edge by a round of Doom. The more popular sentiment is "These games are too violent for children!". Well... no duh, but the industry has a long way to go with #6. (Video games are not a meaningful form of expression.) before it can convince people of #3 (Children are the primary market for video games.).

Looking at most games on the market now, the primary market would appear to be adolescent gun-fetishist boys, who probably have a more violent baseline than other groups anyhow.
posted by Durhey at 11:33 AM on December 13, 2005


Fine, they don't promote violence. But thanks to the addictive properties, many kids' experience of childhood play will be almost entirely within a pre-programmed environment brought to them by Sony other game company. A lot of kids will have no memories of Thanksgiving or Christmas other than sitting down in the basement for hours playing games -- lots of times sitting at different machines.
posted by QuietDesperation at 11:40 AM on December 13, 2005


It's a specious argument because only frightened mothers, vote-hungry poltiicians and disingenuous sophomores ever really deploy that argument. The real arguments are that there are subtle and difficult to document behavioral effects, and that those effects will have an impact on society.

I suppose my question is whether these behavioral effects can be proven to be any worse or better than the effects of popularized media. TV? Radio? Film? Books?

And is there an honest belief (not proof, this time. Do people hypothesize...) that the effects of videogames on behavior is greater than that exerted by these other forms of media? Why?

On the effects of human-shaped targets on training - is there some sort of research that eliminates other factors from the improved kill ratios, like additional training, the shift from drafted soldiers to primarily professional soldiers, advance in technology, or something? It's a pretty big jump to make otherwise.
posted by Tikirific at 11:44 AM on December 13, 2005


If you'll reference thomcatspike, you'll note he's talking about a shift between WW-II and Vietnam. The all-volunteer army didn't exist until the 1970s.

As for your other questions: Yes, indeed. What are the answers to those questions? That's what I want to know, too. So let's ask them, and in the mean time, let's not claim that all effects are positive or negative. Let's look at what the effects are -- such as the kids spending Thanksgiving afternoon in the basement with a control pad in their hands.
posted by lodurr at 11:47 AM on December 13, 2005


QuietDesperation - They're addictive? I mean, verifiably so? Where does parenting fit in with that model?
posted by Tikirific at 11:48 AM on December 13, 2005


Tikirific: I suppose my question is whether these behavioral effects can be proven to be any worse or better than the effects of popularized media. TV? Radio? Film? Books?

I think this is an entirely valid research question. (Or do you mean, has it been proven?)

And is there an honest belief (not proof, this time. Do people hypothesize...) that the effects of videogames on behavior is greater than that exerted by these other forms of media? Why?

I would argue for a stronger impact by videogames for a number of reasons:
1: game time is measured in 10s of hours.
2: higher degrees of agency within the game.
3: the higher degree of interactivity means that games capture more of the user's attention compared to other media.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:52 AM on December 13, 2005


If you'll reference thomcatspike, you'll note he's talking about a shift between WW-II and Vietnam. The all-volunteer army didn't exist until the 1970s.


Well, the point was that there are a lot of factors to be considered, rather than volunteer soldiers = better kill ratios. There were a lot of changes between 1940 and 1970; to claim that human-shaped targets caused better kill rates isn't very rigorous.
posted by Tikirific at 11:52 AM on December 13, 2005


So we can eliminate the all-volunteer army as a factor, then? Since the changes referenced were from a period when it didn't exist?
posted by lodurr at 11:55 AM on December 13, 2005


lodurr - Well sure, I was clearly mistaken there. You can throw that one out, keep the rest, unless I've misrepresented something else.

KirkJobSluder - Yeah, more clear would have been "Has there been research done..." I agree about the agency by the way, I was wondering if there were other reasons.

re: The Magic Circle -
There is also a bit of a contradiction on the parts of videogame advocates in saying that videogames exist in a "magic circle" of behavior, and then pointing out that video games improve hand-eye coordination and problem-solving skills.

Well, the statement "play only modifies play behavior" is an overstatement, but I do think there's a clear delineation between abstracted violence and actual violence, regardless of agency. In regards to hand-eye, I may punch a man-shaped heavy bag every day, and it improves my coordination, strength, and methodology. It does not make me want to hit someone (outside of a sparring context - the Magic Circle in this case), though, though it imbues me with the skills necessary.
posted by Tikirific at 12:30 PM on December 13, 2005


Tikirific: I think the theory that modeled violent action encourages violent behavior is fairly well supported. The theory that video games are worse than other media is not.

The research on this suggests that there is not a clear delineation between abstracted violence and actual violence. That is, you can't draw a line in the sand and say what happens on that side, stays on that side. Contexts are not self-contained little ethical universes.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:42 PM on December 13, 2005


KirkJobSluder: I assume you're referring to research other than that of "rubber-doll punching" - could you point me to it, if it's available freely somewhere? (I'm assuming it's a statistical analysis of violent incidents vs. violent media, or the like?)
posted by Tikirific at 1:04 PM on December 13, 2005


I'm sorry, I haven't read the whole thread, but:

Child's Play

Precis: video gamers give over $200,000 in cash and toys to children's hospitals. And that's just this year (the third year of the charity). And this year's drive isn't over yet.
posted by jlub at 1:18 PM on December 13, 2005


I assume you're referring to research other than that of "rubber-doll punching"

Why would it need to be "other than...rubber-doll punching"? Other than the idea that 'magic circles' mean 'rubber-doll punching' results are invalid (because the results are garnered from within the circle), what would be your arguments for the invalidity of such research?

Anyway, I don't know why you're so eager to question a connection between what we think and what we do (e.g., how we play and how we "work"). After all, we read books, and learn things from them; we watch movies, and we learn things from them; we have discussions ("verbal play"), and we learn things from them. If we can model positive behaviors from play (or MMPORGs or books or movies or songs), then we can surely model negative behaviors from them as well, yes? So if you want to argue for a purist "magic circle" reading, where play is play and everything else is clearly delineated, then you kind of have to say that nobody learns anything from play. If that's true, what's the point of it? Why does it matter?

But if people do learn from play -- from what happens "within the circle" -- then it is possible, and even likely, that the nature of their play is important with regard to what they do when they get outside of the circle.

Also, you're doing some conflation of terms that's not warranted. For example, you say "It does not make me want to hit someone", when wanting isn't what we were talking about. "Making kids [want to] go out and shoot up the school" is a straw man, as we've already established.
posted by lodurr at 1:30 PM on December 13, 2005


(To be clear, I think that the "magic circle" is actually a pretty useful concept. But I don't think it means what you seem to think it means. The "magic circle" is a fundamentally artificial boundary; it's created in order to preserve the illusion of a boundary between the play and the real. Its existence doesn't highlight the differences between play and reality so much as highlight the similarities: The fact that we need it shows that play and real are only separate because we say they are, and not in any really fundamental way.)
posted by lodurr at 1:37 PM on December 13, 2005


most important, the psychological problems that soldiers do or don't have after combat are going to be dependent on so many factors that it would be difficult to tease them out.

I quote my "lil brother's" first words about the Iraqi War during a visit with me. This was right after returning from a 9 month mission there and about all he would say of the War (he was part of the invading force into Iraq) - "Thank God I didn't have to kill anyone...F*&^! to those that point at any soldier who did; Because they will live with this knowledge of taking a human life until their own death”.

My brother’s job in Iraq was to drive a LAV set up for firing towhead missiles, which were never launched. Then there was the main reason he was also grateful for never firing a weapon in defense there. "If he had fired any weapon, it meant everyone in his squad had been maimed or worse, killed, during the mission." Believe it or not, the missions he participated were based on saving Iraqi lives and arresting men who had vast caches of weapons stashed in the villages.

posted by thomcatspike at 2:37 PM on December 13, 2005


, only the first part of the above comment should be italicized.
posted by thomcatspike at 2:39 PM on December 13, 2005


lodurr -

I'm not sure if I ever said that it was impossible for negative behavior to result from media consumption. I just don't find the links between "rubber-doll" punching and videogame violence particularly damning support for media causing violent, real-world behavior. I realize that this is NOT how you are using this research, and you should also realize that I am NOT directing this skepticism at you - I'm directing at the average layperson (who is not an "extremist," IMO) who would see fit to interpret the results that way.

To put it another way, I'm saying what general public fears isn't actually the imprinting "violent" skillsets into children, but rather the erosion of the mental barrier that separates it from reality - and the arguments against gaming usually take the form of arguing that NOT ONLY is the gamiing a negative influence on behavior (which it could be, like any experience), it ALSO causes the abovementioned barrier to erode. I think we'd both agree that punching a rubber doll isn't the most appropriate evidence to support the latter, even though the interactive nature of games MAY make this a possibility. By extension it's inaccurate to say that I'm "eager to question a connection between what we think and what we do," I'm questioning whether that transition happens any more easily (or, willingingly) through media consumption.

Once again, I know this isn't what you're saying. And that's why I wasn't saying it TO you. Looking at the posts, I actually don't see where we disagree.

On the "magic circle" - I don't believe the "magic circle" to be anything but imaginary. I say there's a clear delineation, because in normal, human interactions, we set them up all the time, it's a requisite social skill necessary in life. That's why I say there's a difference, not because we are incapable of crossing over that line.
posted by Tikirific at 2:49 PM on December 13, 2005


Generally it is true that with increased emphasis on realistic training, accuracy ratios went up. This was partially due to the use of more realistic, human size/shape, pop-up targets. This was also partially due to the increased amount of time spent on ranges honing those skills.

But!!!...I bet many Soldiers of the WWII era were crack shots from hunting game compared to the Vietnam Era. I place the bet on the educated guess more soldiers in WWII grew up on farms than the Vietnam Soldiers. Ever try hunting fowl like a turkey?

Take Sgt York
though from WWI who had great shooting skills that were contributed from hunting turkeys. Said by Benjamin Franklin to be the smartest fowl which he lobbied for The US's mascot rather than The Bald Eagle that was chosen.
posted by thomcatspike at 3:58 PM on December 13, 2005


Add, The Army that gave us our Independence from the British were armed with inferior muskets rifles designed for hunting game than the musket rifles the British soldier used. So we know our earlier soldiers were game hunters first.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:11 PM on December 13, 2005


A lot of kids will have no memories of Thanksgiving or Christmas other than sitting down in the basement for hours playing games -- lots of times sitting at different machines.

I think this is a nostalgia thing. I mean, people remember being happy doing X as a kid, and say kids are now doing Y, isnt that sad. Sure, kids who spend the entire holiday gaming may not interact with family, but most families force their kids to put the games/toys/wooden stick down and come to dinner. Kids like to run off and play.

I'm part of the first generation to grow up with videogames from an early age (TRS-80 & Atari for the win) and I can assure you we all have fond, nostalgic memories of sitting in front of the TV/computer playing video games, just like I do about playing baseball or tag.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:20 PM on December 13, 2005


Yeah, the childhood christmas nostalgia is none less warmer for the one year where I got my first video game console. The pride, the excitement, the experience of playing with my old man. There's also nostalgia for moments within the games, of course.

A little redebunk of the debunkers is just healthy. Although I've never been able to connect gameworlds to the "real" world in a convincing way, (violence on TV always seemed more real), I can't deny that it affects me, and thus my outside world. Just like I can't deny effects from every other artform or medium (be it movies or regular conversation). Pushing and pulling us ever so slightly in this or that direction, helping reveal our potential, (be it for better or worse). Well enough of that, back to the Battlefield.
posted by hasund at 6:20 PM on December 13, 2005


Tikiriffic -- you're not taking as strong a line as I originally read you to be taking. I think we probably have more or less similar views on this, but different biases. Mine, frankly, is in generally favor of the "IRL" world, in preference to the virtual life -- if I have to choose. Look at my comment history (just the volume will suffice) if you have doubt about my unwillingness to choose.

As for the virtues of doll-punching: You've got to get the results somehow. I actually have a lot less confidence in results from statistical analyses of social data. The doll-punching methodology isn't ideal, but hopefully it can tell us where to go and will provide less slack for statistical abuse.

I would also say that I sort of agree with you about the mental barrier, except: I don't think I'm so worried about the barrier eroding, as the virtual expanding, and the standards fo the virtual being applied to the real. Same thing, maybe, but I think there's a difference: I'm trying not to think of these as real spaces, but as sets of rules and behaviors that are assoicated or accepted in each "circle". The circles can overlap, and most definitely WILL overlap in the future to an even greater degree. I mostly want us to understand at least a little of what we're getting into before we get there, so we can choose to point the boat a little.
posted by lodurr at 4:34 AM on December 14, 2005


I mostly want us to understand at least a little of what we're getting into before we get there, so we can choose to point the boat a little.

And that I can agree to without reservation.
posted by Tikirific at 10:59 AM on December 14, 2005


They're addictive? I mean, verifiably so?

It's still being disputed, and the nature of addiction is in itself something of a mystery. But the difficulty many kids have wrenching themselves from the games, combined with their ready availability, are definitely cause for concern. There are verified stories of grown men whose lives have been adversely affected by game addiction.

Where does parenting fit in with that model?

Well, where does parenting fit in with crack cocaine? You set limits, allow kids to do it for a limited amount of time, as long as their schoolwork stays good. That's what I do with crack in our house, and it should work for World of Warcraft too.
posted by QuietDesperation at 11:30 AM on December 14, 2005


I'm recently in the position of learning more about parenting than I'd thought I'd have to at this stage in life. "Addiction" is a bit strong, but at a certain stage in the life-cycle of teenage humans, they get to be fractious beasts and it can be more than a bit difficult to make them do just what you want. That is, it can be a bit difficult if what you want at the end of the adventure is a strong, self-reliant adult, and not a broken and obedient little human.

Put another way: If a smart 15 year old doesn't want to do what you tell him/her, s/he literally doesn't have to, unless you're down for using force. So "parenting"... not such a simple solution.
posted by lodurr at 1:19 PM on December 14, 2005


I was a teacher before I became a SAHM and I saw first hand how video games changed the personality of a child. Kids mimic what they see and when they are home they are watching cartoons that are violent and they are playing video games that are worse.

I know it's an easy way out for the industry to push blame somewhere else but truth be told sex and voilence is everywhere for our youth...and what else can they do but learn from it?
Vera
posted by veryvera at 9:14 PM on December 15, 2005


Uh, develop a more complex understanding of the nature and character and implications of it?

Kids are not just mindless, contextless sponges.
posted by cortex at 7:33 AM on December 16, 2005


I was a teacher before I became a SAHM and I saw first hand how video games changed the personality of a child. Kids mimic what they see and when they are home they are watching cartoons that are violent and they are playing video games that are worse.

How on earth did you find time to stay at all of your students' homes and watch their interaction with their parents and take notes on their gaming habits and work on lesson plans?

Look: I come from a family of teachers and school librarians: if children are violent, stupid little shits, it's because their parents are violent, stupid assholes. That's the motherfucking correlation right there; games have nothing to do with it.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:11 AM on December 16, 2005


Well, that's not even the tiniest bit simplistic.

Children learn from lots of things, O_C. Anyway, your cause and effect need work; I expect that more often it's becaue the parents are detached, disinterested assholes.
posted by lodurr at 11:23 AM on December 16, 2005


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