Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Why blame guns when you can blame games?

I started this post a few weeks back and I hadn’t quite got my butt in gear to finish it, but having read all about the W.R.O.N.G (Witless and Ridiculous Opinions of Non Gamers - (http://bit.ly/fOs2zC) campaign being started by CVG, I sorted my life out and finished this post.
For some reason, gamers are often subjected to abuse by non-gamers in the media, who hurl uninformed comments our way without evidence of any kind, statistical or otherwise. They cite video games as being the cause of many social problems, ranging from rape to murder to drug dealing. This would be understandable if evidence was given but in many cases, the comments made are really just superfluous falsehoods under the guise of ‘opinions’ or ‘common sense’.
Take a recent example cited by CVG from a programme entitled ‘The Wright Stuff’ where it was claimed erroneously that there was a causal link between video games and the murder of the young teenager, Agnes Sina-Inkajou in Hackney last year. (http://bbc.in/gCH55h) The two people discussing this, Matthew Wright and Stephanie Powers, for no discernable reason, blamed video games for desensitizing the murderer to violence. She claimed that video games were just "flashing, hot symbols of violence" and Matthew Wright agreed by saying: "Which you can equate with a teenage boy who almost certainly would have played just those games, spraying a machine gun without [responsability]" Not once has it been mentioned that the people responsible for her death played video games. And nor would it be relevant if it did because video games do not produce murderers.

You're doing it wrong.

This goes far beyond gamers simply being peeved that people are slagging off our hobby; the main issue is that of bad journalism and scaremongering. Evidence is integral to the acceptance and understanding of a new issue or theory and when gaming is concerned, people seem content to throw scientific evidence to the wind and rely firmly on their own uninformed and inaccurate statements. You may not think Matthew Wrights comments are much of a problem but they represent the tip of the iceberg. The Wright Show has 750,000 viewers. That's 750,000 people who are going to hear these comments and that's 750,000 people who are going to be given the impression that video games are to be blamed for the ills of the world. And all the while, not a single shred of evidence has been cited.
Take as another example, Carole Lieberman; an American child psychologist, a professional woman who should have a sound knowledge of the practises involved when making controversial statements. A scientist would never dream of claiming something they didn't have the evidence to back up and I am very much a scientist at heart, therefore I’ve chosen to judge everyone by my scientific standards; I demand evidence and it’s entirely fair of me and everyone else to do so. And what this woman said raised my scientific hackles. She claimed that: "The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games."  (Source: Fox News: http://fxn.ws/f6M5OP)
My outrage stems more from the fact that it’s such a disgraceful claim with no evidence to support it, than it does from the fact it’s related to gaming. But on the gaming side, it’s a totally unfair comment to make that paints gamers with a shameful brush, basically implying that all rapists are gamers and have been influenced by video game sex scenes. Not abuse, or psycological issues or a troubled childhood, but video games.
When wired.com asked her to confirm which studies she was using to make these claims, Dr Lieberman replied: “There are thousands of studies. I’d have to look through them or recent ones as far as finding one that specifically speaks about rape, and I don’t have the time to do that right now.” (http://bit.ly/ezewFj). Oh fantastic. Thanks Carole.
Lieberman made her rape comment in an article talking about the game Bulletstorm, which, among its many features, implements a creative points system based on imaginative and particularly brutal kills. However, there are no sex scenes. She claimed that Bulletstorm is a violent game (which is true) but that it causes violent behavior and rape is violent behavior, “ergo, there is no question that [violent videogames] cause an increase in rape.” This is such a flawed syllogism that it beggars belief. I know I’m picking on Lieberman (she just made herself such an easy target) but she’s not the only one to make unfounded claims. It seems to happen all the bloody time in relation to video games and it needs to stop.

Gamers aren’t immature trolls unable to take criticism. We are all fully aware of the dangers associated with gaming, particularly on mental health in the form of addiction or depression etc (http://bit.ly/gRU1MH) and we are completely willing to accept new theories on video games and their effect, good or bad, on people, providing it is backed up by statistically significant evidence, performed on a representative sample of the group being studied. We're happy to accept critisism but we shouldn't have to stand for baseless comments and poor journalism. So for that reason, I respect what CVG are trying to do in their campaign.
But at the same time, we must be careful not to let this campaign degrade into mere name calling. We have to approach it maturely and not just spam these people’s inboxes with hate mail; that won’t solve anything and they’ll only use it against us. I’m particularly thinking of a comment made by Matthew Wright who, in response to a backlash following comments he and his guest made about video games being the reason young kids are stashing armaments underneath their bed, addressed gamers as “brain dead computer nerds”. Yeah, don’t sugar coat it mate.

As much as these comments are quite frankly rude, he no doubt made them because he is getting defensive over hate mail that has been received. That’s human psychology for you. Fight fire with fire and all that. If you talk something over calmly, things won’t escalate but if one party just hurls abuse at another, the other party will inevitably get nasty, case in point: Matthew Wright. And this doesn’t help out cause. So yes, these ignorant, baseless comments about video games by people with no understanding of the matter and no evidence must stop but it is of paramount importance that we conduct ourselves in a suitable manner. Gamers, let’s be the better man (or woman) and rise above this petty name calling. Let us be the ones to provide the evidence to debunk these stupid comments.

And if that all fails, let’s just send them poo in a bag!
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4 comments:

  1. Gaming has been found to turn children, who have experience in gaming from a young age, into persons of highly advanced cognition (within the realms of genius) and social maturity. I have no evidence for this statement but there are smart people out there and some of them game, therefore gaming helps form geniuses. Scaremonger logic reversed!

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  2. @GentlemanJ
    Exactly! And I'm sure the media would get arsy about grandiose statements like that, yet they expect us to lap up what they say! (Although there is a little truth in what you say, gaming can help cognitive development, as long as the right games are played for the right amount of time at the right age. Which completely counts me out because I spent most of my formative years addicted to the PS1 and spyro. I can safely say I didn't learn anything from it. Had a bloody fantastic time though.) Thank you for your comment :D

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  3. Hear hear. Me thinks the dog-poo recourse is our only valid option. Mainstream media will continue their willfully ignorant coverage of games until gamer's themselves are hosting these kinds of wanky daytime TV shows. Take Dara O'Brien for example. When he cracks a joke about Gears Of War you can tell he ACTUALLY PLAYS and ENJOYS videogames. Therefore his opinions are given some credence.

    Oh, and in case you didn't know CVG tweeted a link to this very article (http://twitter.com/#!/minnieliddell/status/60777982935056384)

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  4. I feel sorry for Tim Langham... as good as it is to see something like W.R.O.N.G., (I'm tired of being the latest punch bag as well) it does have the air of rabble-rousing about it - which isn't really the image we want to put out I don't think.

    Still, I can see this as him basically snapping after one erroneous comment too many. Especially after he appeared on Alan Titchmarsh's show and tried his best to defend gaming as a hobby.

    It's about proper parenting. Now, the devil's advocate inside me is willing to admit that, exposing young children to such violent imagery at a young age could have detrimental affects - but that's why we have bloody age ratings. If you wouldn't take your kid to see an 18 film, don't buy them 18 videogames, it's that simple.

    Then again, the industry itself doesn't help matters when they market these things, making kids want them in the first place.

    We'll ride through it though, until they find something else to demonise.

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