September 17, 2010

Forensic psych professor slams video game law

A forensic psychology professor and leading researcher of violence and video games has published an editorial in the Salt Lake City Tribune condemning attempts to restrict violent video games as a "waste of taxpayer money."

Christopher Ferguson, an associate professor at Texas A&M University, wants Utah's Attorney General to sign an amicus brief opposing California's Assembly Bill 1179. An appellate court struck down that law, but California has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is slated to hear the case this fall. The law would criminalize selling or renting video games deemed "violent" to consumers under age 18.

Ferguson claims it is "simply dishonest" to imply that research consistently links video games with violence:
First, there is no consistent research indicating that video games cause increased violence. Studies of video game effects return weak and mixed results. Many studies are limited by poor methodology, and some scholars do seem eager to promote negative links, oftentimes ignoring inconsistent data from their own results. The most recent Surgeon General’s report downplayed the influence of media violence, as did a recent Secret Service report on school shooters.

My own research, published in peer-reviewed journals in pediatrics, psychology and criminal justice, has found no links between violent video game playing and violent behavior. Other researchers, such as Cheryl Olson, Lawrence Kutner, Dmitri Williams, John Colwell, among others, have come to similar conclusions. Others, such as Patrick Markey, suggest that perhaps video game violence is like peanut butter, a harmless indulgence for the vast majority of children, but perhaps something to be avoided for a tiny minority of children, particularly those already disposed to pathological violent behavior.

Second, as video games have become more popular and more violent in the past two decades, violent crimes among both youth and adults have gone down to their lowest levels since the 1960s. Indeed, if there is a correlation between video game violence and violent crimes, it is in the opposite direction as that suggested by proponents of the California bill. I’m not saying video games have made the United States less violent; we don’t know that. However, the waves of youth violence some anti-game activists have feared simply never materialized….

My understanding is that California is experiencing difficult financial times and has cut valuable services to needy individuals, including many families and children. It is ironic that the state would claim to champion the welfare of children by throwing money at a video game bill that will help no one, yet cut basic health, education and support services to countless children.
Vending Times has additional coverage and background information HERE.

Sept. 21 postscript:

States Join Media Groups in Briefs Opposing California's Violent Video Game Ban, National Law Journal


Cavall de Quer said...

Also ironic that the appalling "crush" videos continue to flourish under "free speech" rights, when people doing this sort of nonsense and real free speech rights are threatened everywhere. go figure.........

Anonymous said...

why can't pathologically violent children eat peanut butter?

Sean Taliaferro said...

I agree with the peanut butter anaolgy. Most kids and people, for the matter, seem to be able to differentiate perfectly well between video game and reality. I work in game design and in fact don't have anything to do with violent games, but I support the analysis here.