Tipper Gore, Hillary Clinton 2.0: The “Blame Video Games” Strategy

I was a little kid in elementary school with Tipper Gore and her army of shoulder-padded activist moms banned together to target rock and metal music over explicit subject matter. I remember how angry my older cousin was over it and an argument he once had with his dad about an album he wanted, an album that Tipper placed on her “Filthy Fifteen” list. It was a period when Democrats lost the cool factor, when they became the squares too afraid to dance, too afraid to express themselves in art. It was an opportunity for the GOP to seize and claim culture, but the GOP is predictable in failure above all else.

I never forgot it, though, even as I worked in a record store during college and had to begrudgingly ask the ages of the kids buying albums with “explicit lyric” stickers. Parents dropped off their kids at the record store while they browsed the shops across the street and kids would buy whatever the hell they wanted. I only once had a parent come up to the counter with their kid and give the all-clear on an album with a sticker. The rest didn’t monitor to what their kids were listening. It isn’t the responsibility of a store clerk to monitor the listening habit of someone else’s children, it was theirs.

I’m burying the lede here, but this context is important in light of today’s Tipper Gore-esque debate on video games. People looking for an itch to scratch, a subject to blame for a criminal who uses guns to hurt people are trading out one liberty for another: guns for video games. It’s a dangerous trade based in ignorance. Just was with guns, the people screaming loudest over video games are people who themselves don’t play.

This isn’t the first time a variable other than responsibility for one’s own actions has been blamed. It won’t be the last time this is discussed, either. For now, though, some food for thought, bold my emphasis:

- The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in 2011 when it struck down a California law seeking to regulate the sale and rental of computer and video games: “Psychological studies purporting to show a connection between exposure to violent video games and harmful effects on children do not prove that such exposure causes minors to act aggressively.”

Beyond the law is the data. Video games represent an $80 billion worldwide industry. But violent crime has declined dramatically as the games have gained popularity.

If games caused violent behavior, how could the crime rates go down while game sales went through the roof? Moreover, international sales and crime data show that countries that consume more video games per capita than this country have far lower instances of gun-related crime.

In reality, Americans are 20 times more likely to be killed by a gun than somebody from any other developed nation. Which raises an important policy question: What poses a greater safety threat – a digital gun or an actual gun?

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- Ph.D candidate Paul Adachi, who co-authored an upcoming paper in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, “Demolishing the Competition: The Longitudinal Link Between Competitive VideoGames, Competitive Gambling, and Aggression,” offers more proof that aggressive behavior doesn’t stem from videogames: It stems from competition.

Adachi, who is pursuing a Ph.D in psychology, determined that aggression and competition were linked in a 2011 study. But that study was lab-controlled. However, this 2013 paper is based on a “longitudinal” study, a self-report that followed 1,771 high school students over four years. “The strength is you’re asking about real-world activities, as supposed to measuring aggression in the laboratory,” said Adachi.

To better study the relationships between violence in videogames and competition, Adachi, along with his co-author Teena Willoughby, examined a wide range of videogame genres. Adachi said, “I looked specifically at sports and racing games, because these games tend to be competitive, but they don’t tend to be as violent as first person shooters.” He also studied competitive forms of gambling, such as poker, along with non-competitive forms, such as a raffle.

The result? “Demolishing the Competition” spelled it out:

[C]ompetitive video game play was correlated moderately positively with aggression. In contrast, the correlations between noncompetitive video game play and aggression were small and mostly negative. Competitive gambling also was correlated moderately positively with aggression, whereas the correlations between non-competitive gambling and aggression were small and positive.

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Clinical psychologist Dr Ferguson studied 377 children, who had an average age of 13 and who were suffering some form of elevated attention deficit or depressive symptoms, to see if violent video games made them more angry or aggressive.

His team at Stetson University, Florida, found that there was ‘no evidence that violent video games increase bullying or delinquent behaviour among vulnerable youth with clinically elevated mental health symptoms.’

Instead they found that in some cases playing the violent games was cathartic, helping to reduce their aggressive tendencies and bullying behaviour.

The results, published in Springer’s Journal of Youth and Adolescence, reflect a recent report by the American Secret Service which linked aggressiveness and stress with youth violence rather than playing violent video games.

I myself play FPS games. One of my favorites is “Assassin’s Creed 3.” This doesn’t mean that I am a potential murderer no more than millions of others who play video games are potential murderers. Our side deals in facts. We are not Piers Morgan. We aren’t Hillary Clinton, either (2:44 video below). She agrees with those who hold this view of this particular variable.

Watch Penn and Teller’s “Bullshit” video on this. One of my favorite episodes of this series. A must-watch on this topic. (Language, obviously.)

Do not become the new Tipper Gore.

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