This blog is not meant for educational purposes, and is instead an opinion piece backed up by supporting evidence intended to invite debate and discussion. Enjoy!
You know, if there’s one thing that gets my blood going, it’s when people can’t tell the difference between ‘causation’ and ‘correlation’. Terms often covered in statistics classes, particularly around one’s college years, they refer to how a set of data relates to its apparent outcome. Causation infers that the outcome occurred solely because of the behavior or actions represented by the data. Correlation instead implies that while there is a relationship between the outcome and the data, there is not sufficient evidence to prove that data recorded is solely responsible for the end result. Video games have often come under scrutiny as being the cause of negative behaviors, from increased aggression and negative attitudes, up to and including violent and criminal behaviors. The Columbine school shooting was partially blamed on the playing of violent games like Doom and Grand Theft Auto.
The problem here is that nearly every time I read an article claiming that video games are now definitively proven to cause violent behavior, I often find myself wondering the same things. ‘Where is the data? Can we see what the mental health of those studied were before being tested? Do the numbers add up, and is the experiment repeatable?’ Damn me for a fool for not saving it, but back in college, I wrote a paper for my psychology class on this very topic. In it, I was most intrigued by a study that showed individuals did, indeed, show increased levels of aggression during a 30 minute period after playing violent or competitive games. These same individuals were then asked to play various physical sports, such as football or soccer. Interestingly, 30 minutes after play, they displayed the same behavioral changes. The paper concluded that while there was a correlation between the games and the behavior differences, it was the competition, the heightened adrenaline, and that natural rush of being immersed in a game that caused the change in behavior. Yet, no one is rushing to ban football.
I often argue that individuals that perpetrate crimes, who happen to also be gamers, commit these crimes based on a wide number of factors, often the strongest being mental instability. I’ve played violent games. I’ve played god damned God of War, which often has you mutilating man and God alike in visceral, bloody ways. Yet I’ve never committed a violent crime, nor do I know anyone that has. If games cause this behavior, it should stand to reason that anyone that has purchased and played these games should be a criminal immediately after they set the controller down. Thankfully, there are studies published even recently that are being redacted, having their information challenged for inconsistencies and unlikely trends.
But they don’t become criminals, because the games aren’t causing anything other than a fantasy rush.
I’ll do another blog about separation of fantasy and reality another time, but for now it’s enough to note that if a person is of sound enough mind, then a video game is highly unlikely to cause anything. And if someone does commit a crime, i’m willing to bet there’s a lot more to their story than just a few rounds of demon culling or simulated car theft.
Stay Kultured, gamers!