I really thought that we’d gotten over one of trendiest moral panics of the early 21st century: violent video games.

Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) proposed a bill directing the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to study the effects of violent video games on children.

According to a draft proposal of the bill obtained by Politico, Rockefeller wants the NAS to specifically look at whether exposure to violent games “causes children to act aggressively or causes other measurable cognitive harm to children; has a disproportionately harmful effect on children already prone to aggressive behavior; and has a harmful effect that is distinguishable from any negative effects produced by other types of media.”

Oh ferfuxake.  Despite innumerable studies that have sought to answer the exact same question and found no link, some legislator always has to get the vapors and trot himself out to the media as “doing something”.

The moral panic crew always claims that there are studies that support their argument that violent video games are bad, but that’s not true. Every single study they cite tends to either have serious methodological problems, or to show something other than claimed (such as the fact that immediately after playing a violent video game, gamers may feel slightly more aggressive — but with no evidence this lasts or leads to violence). A few years ago, a very thorough review of all of the research trying to connect video games to violence showed that there was no real evidence of any real world impact. Instead, what they found was that some studies used “poorly standardized and unreliable measure of aggression” to make their arguments, but that no study had shown any real world impact. Furthermore, in going through all the research, they concluded that “Overall, effects were negligible, and we conclude that media violence generally has little demonstrable effect on aggressive behavior.”

Let’s recap just a random sampler of some of the studies that have found no causal, or even significantly correlational, relationship between violent video games and actual violence.

Item the first:

In the International Journal of Liability and Scientific Enquiry, University of Essex researcher Patrick Kierkegaard answers that query by stating there is no data to support the theory that video game violence promotes violent crimes. His study interestingly provides the opposite correlation.

Kierkegaard asserts that past studies were predominately biased. His data shows that there is no correlation between the rise of violent videogames and the amount of crimes committed. Despite violent games becoming more mainstream within recent years, statistics show that violent crimes committed from juvenile delinquents have declined since the early 1990s.

And again:

New research contradicts popular opinion that media exposure, particularly violence viewed on television or in video games, leads to youth aggression or violence among Hispanics in the US. [...]  The potential negative effects of violent video games on adolescent antisocial behavior [] is a highly debated issue… But the research is inconclusive largely due to methodological problems.

[The study concluded that: “Depressive symptoms stand out as particularly strong predictors of youth violence and aggression, and therefore current levels of depression may be a key variable of interest in the prevention of serious aggression in youth. The current study finds no evidence to support a long-term relationship between video game violence use and subsequent aggression."

And on and on we go:

Christopher John Ferguson from the Department of Behavioral, Applied Sciences and Criminal Justice at Texas A&M International University in Laredo, Texas has devised a meta-analytic review of the studies published since 1995 relating video games to good and bad effects in those who play them.

Ferguson says that one of the most cited studies of violent video games conducted by Anderson and Dill, which claimed to show a causal link between violent video games and aggression was flawed. Ferguson says that the Anderson and Dill study when inspected closely actually supports the exact opposite of the publicized findings that video games don’t correlate to aggressive behaviors in players. [...]

A similar study by Ferguson et al. using a standardized version of the “noise blast” program found no relationship between violent games and aggression. What was found from these study reviews was that once predication of family violence was eliminated by players of violent video games, there is no correlation between the two.

Can we please move on to a more amusing example of trés retro moral panic?  Reefer Madness!! was much more fun.

    • Metavirus says:

      Moral panic -- always so retro. I wonder what will be next… Dubstep? It’s new, created by scary computers and the intertrons -- sometimes kids do drugs and dance to it, it’s kinda screechy (like the devil), etc.

  1. Why don’t the Canadians, who play the same games, have the violence problems that we have? Could it be the access to guns and the worship of violence that we seem to have?

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