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Soldat_Louis's picture
Joined: 2006-11-08

I don't know if many of you rememeber, but there was a story [URL=http://www.gamepolitics.com/2008/12/14/education-expert-slams-video-games-gifts-boys]posted on GP 2 months ago[/URL], about an op-ed written by "education expert" Bill Costello, who [URL=http://ednews.org/articles/31802/1/Video-Games-for-Christmas-Perhaps-Not-for-Boys/Page1.html]slammed video games[/URL] and recommended parents not to buy them to their sons for Christmas. It infuriated many gamers and garnered much response.

What I didn't know is that Mr. Costello took the time to [URL=http://ednews.org/articles/32053/1/Gamers-Target-Op-Ed/Page1.html]reply to his contradictors[/URL] one week later. Here's what he has to say to defend his opinion :

[QUOTE=Bill Costello]
[B][SIZE=3]Gamers Target Op-Ed[/SIZE][/B]
[B][I]By Bill Costello[/I][/B]
[B][I]Guest Columnist EducationNews.org[/I][/B]

EdNews.org recently published an op-ed I wrote titled "Video Games for Christmas? Perhaps Not for Boys." It upset many gamers who wrote comments on the publication's website and on popular gaming blogs. The gamers did not reference any research that contradicted my position, but did provide numerous ad hominem arguments.

Parts of the op-ed were more controversial than others. For example, gamers were clearly angry that I wrote: "A definite link has been established between violent video games and antisocial behavior. Games like 'Grand Theft Auto' and 'Halo' can make your son more aggressive."

Typical responses from gamers were: "There have been no studies that prove a solid link between violent video games and aggression" and "It's possible there's a correlation between violent video games and aggression, but video games do not cause aggression" and "This article provides no references to back up its claims."

First of all, it was an op-ed, not a scholarly article written for a peer-reviewed journal. References aren't usually included in an op-ed because it's an opinion piece. While I have had scholarly articles published in peer-reviewed journals, I wrote the op-ed to express my opinion—which is based on having read many peer-reviewed articles on the subject at hand.

Second, there have indeed been studies that prove a definite link between violent video games and aggression. And these studies reveal the link to be causal.

I will break with tradition in this op-ed and list references: "Exposure to Violent Video Games Increases Automatic Aggressiveness," by Eric Uhlmann and Jane Swanson, "Journal of Adolescence," volume 27, pp. 41-52, 2004.
"An Update on the Effects of Playing Violent Video Games," by Craig Anderson, "Journal of Adolescence," volume 27, pp. 113-122, 2004. "Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, and Public Policy," by Craig Anderson, Douglas Gentile, and Katherine Buckley, Oxford University Press, 2006.

This is not to say that all video games are bad for boys. Some video games are harmless when played in moderation. The problem is that boys are spending, on average, more than thirteen hours a week playing video games, many of which are violent.

Surprisingly, only a few gamers commented on the part of the op-ed wherein I wrote: "Research consistently confirms that the more time boys spend playing video games, the more likely they are to do poorly in school—regardless of age. At a time when boys are already underperforming in school, video games only make the situation worse."

One gamer commented: "As for the performance at school, it actually makes sense. So I guess there's some truth to that. I've graduated from college a few years now but video games took a lot of my homework time during school days."

Another gamer wrote, "Funny, in high school, I had two friends who were avid gamers, to say the very least, and they both ended up getting full rides to good colleges."

A different gamer responded with, "Yeah but if they didn't play games they might have gotten full rides to even better colleges."

The problems boys are having in school these days did not originate from video games, but from an education system that fails to teach boys in ways that boys learn best. However, video games are contributing to—and not helping—those problems.[/QUOTE]

Although it was a bit late to reply to him, I couldn't help, and here is what I just posted on the comments section (for what it's worth) :

[QUOTE=Soldat_Louis]First of all, I'm glad that you took the time to defend your opinion and reply (respectfully) to your contradictors. And it's a pity that this column was far less commented than the original one. But I think you're still missing the point.

What upset me wasn't your paragraph about violent video games. There is a lot of research about it, and although this research is debatable and scientists aren't as unanimous as some would like them to be (see for example Cheryl Olson's and Lawrence Kutner's "Grand Theft Childhood" book), some violent games are definitely not recommended for young children.

However, the researchers you quote, such as Craig Anderson or Douglas Gentile, always took the time to explain that they don't target video games per se. In fact, it's the opposite : And Gentile constantly precised that he wanted to get rid of the simplistic idea that "video games are bad". He also explained that they could be excellent teachers, for good things and bad things. And Craig Anderson explains on his page that he let his children grow up with video games, but he was very careful in screening all of their games, and in limiting the amount of time our children spend on them.

And this is the huge difference with your op-ed : instead of blaming the excessive use of inappropriate games, intead of blaming the bad parenting which consists in buying anything to children while monitoring nothing... you just blame video games per se ! By doing so, you paradoxically do a great disservice to the understanding of Anderson's and Gentile's research, and even undermine their efforts.

The main problem of your op-ed, and the real reason why you upset to many gamers (including me), is that blaming the video game medium for a misuse of some inappropriate games is as stupid and nonsensical as blaming cinema as a whole for an excessive exposure to slasher movies.

Indeed, you contradict yourself when you say that "Some video games are harmless when played in moderation. The problem is that boys are spending, on average, more than thirteen hours a week playing video games, many of which are violent." Once again, you could say the same thing about movies (and there is no doubt that the same boys watch violent ones). And once again, putting the blame on cinema would be absurd.

Finally, considering that video games (as a whole) have been considered as the source of all societal evils for years by (often ignorant) journalists, pundits and TV reporters, you couldn't expect but a massive reaction of video game users who are more and more tired to be judged for what they chose as a hobby.

I repeat myself, but you would have done a much better job if your advice for parents had been to do theirs, i.e. screen the games they buy to their children and monitor the time they spend on them.[/QUOTE]

I still think, however, that it's a shame that his response to gamers was much less reported by gaming sites than his original op-ed. A debate would have been interesting.


- Gaming Since 198X : http://gamingsince198x.fr/
By crazy old men, for crazy old men (in French)
- If you want to know more about the real Soldat Louis (which I'm not affiliated with : I'm just a devoted fan), go there : http://www.soldatlouis.com/

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