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Violent Games 'Almost' As Dangerous as Smoking 545 545

Via Voodoo Extreme, a Reuters report on some very 'interesting' research into violent games. A study out of the University of Michigan has apparently found that 'exposure to violent electronic media' is almost as dangerous to our society as smoking. "'The research clearly shows that exposure to virtual violence increases the risk that both children and adults will behave aggressively,' said Huesmann, adding it could have a particularly detrimental effect on the well-being of youngsters. Although not every child exposed to violence in the media will become aggressive, he said it does not diminish the need for greater control on the part of parents and society of what children are exposed to in films, video games and television programs."
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Violent Games 'Almost' As Dangerous as Smoking

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  • by moderatorrater (1095745) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:32PM (#21511651)
    How does this work with the decline in violent crimes through the 90s? How come they don't address the issue that those who were going to commit violence anyway are going to gravitate towards violent games and media? This isn't even original research, just research into the research that's been done. This doesn't add up very well at all.
  • by stormguard2099 (1177733) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:41PM (#21511777)
    I would much rather my children watch a something pronographic(my spelling) than something violent. Taken to the logical extreme, I would rather live in a society heavily influenced by sex than violence. IMO one of those acts is much more natural than the other (don't waste your breath saying some joke about violence being nature)
  • My Solution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by B3ryllium (571199) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:47PM (#21511871) Homepage
    My Solution, by the way, is the Nintendo Wii (in part).

    Right now, on the American Chart for November at VGChartz, the TOP THREE slots are occupied by family-friendly non-violent games: Super Mario Galaxy, Guitar Hero 3 for the 360, and Wii Sports.

    Manhunt 2, the media's punching bag for Hyper-Violent Video Game Paranoia, is only ranked *41st* (and that's just the sales for the top platform, PS2). For every one unit of Manhunt 2 sold for the PS2, approximately 9 units of XBox 360 Guitar Hero 3 are sold. For every one unit of Manhunt 2 sold for the Wii, approximately 20 units of Super Mario Galaxy are sold (think about it: Manhunt 2 Wii has been out for 4 weeks, SMG has only been out for 2 weeks).

    If this trend continues, the entire argument against hyper-violent games will be moot, because they will be relegated to the niche market of 17+-year-old males. The younger kids don't seem to care any more. And that's the way it should be.

    But, all that said, the most important thing is for parents to A) be more involved in their children's lives, and B) read the ****ing box before buying a game. It has the rating right on there!
  • by aplusjimages (939458) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:48PM (#21511889) Journal
    I'm hoping you don't mean just any kind of porn because some porn is violent and some of it is just plain gross, like 2girls1cup. I wish this study would show how religion can cause a person to be violent.
  • Re:My take (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aplusjimages (939458) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:55PM (#21511999) Journal
    Xbox live is a great example of parents using modern technology to babysit their children. The meanest people on Xbox live are the kids. Sometimes you even get to hear the kids yelling at the parents about what food they want them to pick up, while they play games. Man we don't even have time for a fast food dinner these days.
  • Urrgh (Score:5, Interesting)

    by mpapet (761907) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @07:59PM (#21512055) Homepage
    How does this work with the decline in violent crimes through the 90s?

    There is a common belief that the economic prosperity coincides with lower violent crime rates. Though regional influences tend to have more impact than national anything. Compare social/economic conditions in Detroit versus Silicon Valley in the 90's as an example.

    those who were going to commit violence anyway

    You've made up your mind on that one huh? If only social issues were so simple we could divide citizens into criminal and non-criminal pools at an early age and finally live in a utopia. Where do white collar criminals fit in your magic world? Kids who cheat at board games?

    his isn't even original research, just research into the research that's been done.

    Yes. It's called meta-study. []

    There is nothing interesting about the parent's post.
  • How about this? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by MikShapi (681808) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:06PM (#21512131) Journal
    Conduct the same study in any developed country other than the USA (or it's mentality look-alike, Canada).
    Try any European country, Australia or NZ, Japan or other Asian countries. Preferably, try several.

    THEN Draw your game use vs violence correlations, and see if what's making US kids violent is games, or a mentality that doesn't equip them with the tools required to cope with mature content.

    THEN we'll talk. How I love it when American lobbyist groups oversimplify an issue so an uninformed public can be made even more misinformed. Go America.
  • It's more complex (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:15PM (#21512205) Journal
    Before I start, no, I don't think that games turn people into criminals. So no need to explain to me that.

    That said, there have been a lot of changes since the 80's, and I've heard the correlation between crime decline and X argued, where X was:

    - less lead ending up in kids' system (via banning lead-based additives in gasoline, etc.) We already know that lead damages the nervous system, so that correlation at least doesn't trip suspension of disbelief too hard.

    - "3 strikes and you're out" kind of laws. Both via taking out the incorrigible recidivists (some people seem to be really that psychopathic and dumb), and by providing a scary escalation level to keep the ones in line who still have at least minimal logic capabilities

    - stricter gun control laws

    - the availability of porn on the internet. Don't laugh, it has argued that the kind who'd go out and mug or rape someone, is now busy stroking his own wookie in front of the computer.

    - widespread availability of violent movies. Apparently the day a new splatter movie hits the cinemas, there's a sharp decline in people actually doing violent stuff. Just because they'll be seated there getting their jollies viewing violence on the screen, instead of out on the street actually doing it. (And I guess then in the same could then be argued about games. If it's the same kind of asshole in both, he can't be out mugging people at the same time as he's online ganking newbies.)

    Etc, etc, etc.

    Note that I'm not saying that all the above are true. Some probably _are_ bunk. Take your pick which.

    I'm just saying that the waters are muddy enough. A _lot_ of things changed at the same time. So, well, how do you know which of them were the ones that actually lowered criminality.

    It's easy to pick one factor, let's call it X, out of context, pretend that it's the only thing that changed, and present it as the one thing that's responsible for the whole effect. It's good for political agendas too, so each politician or lobbyist is picking the one which makes his group look good. But how do you know if X is really the one? Maybe X had nothing to do with lowering criminality.

    Just as an example, watch me pull a similar maneuver and do the following correlation: use of Linux rose steadily in the late 90's and 2000's, criminality sunk during the same time, hence Linux is singlehandedly responsible for making the world safer. I guess the types which would go out and mug someone are now too busy recompiling all libraries to have any time left to do evil stuff. Or something. Does it sound ridiculous yet?

    Or you know what else improved since the 80's? The quality of Japanese game translations. Nowadays you can get them actually translated and voiced by people who know English. As opposed to the traditional "All your base are belong to us" Engrish translations, and voice-overs by people who never actually spoke it and don't even know where the accent is supposed to go. Criminality declined in that time. Hmm, looks like a possible cause to me. I guess the former steady rise in criminality was caused by those Engrish translations driving people homicidal.

    No, I don't believe those are the real culprits. It's just supposed to be random ridiculous examples.

    To get back to the topic, we don't know if games have anything to do either way with that decline. We also can't use that to claim that games can't possibly cause violence.

    For the sake of playing the devil's advocate, if factor X would actually increase criminality, but factors Y and Z lowered it more than X raised it, then you'd still see a decline. Just as a purely theoretical scenario, it _is_ possible that X = video games, while Y and Z are... well, take your pick from the list above.

    Just because a function of a dozen variables declined on the whole, doesn't mean that none of a dozen factors would have the effect of rising the result if taken alone.

    Just something to think about, if you're bored enough ;)
  • Violent behavior. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by junkmail (99106) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:21PM (#21512251)
    We didn't make it to the top of the food chain after millions of years of evolution by being non-violent. We are the result of millions of years worth of selectively breeding the best bad-asses of each generation. The only thing that fools people into thinking non-violence is good is that part of becoming the world's baddest-ass species was learning team violence (us vs. the prey, us vs. them). Seems to me that these games are just sensitizing us to behavior that is always there, just below the surface. Also seems to me that any aggressive team sports would have the same effect (football, basketball, hockey, politics).

  • Re:How about this? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MikShapi (681808) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:36PM (#21512411) Journal
    Freakonomics explained in perfectly using a mere three words:
    Wade vs Roe

    A slice of society that was parenting kids more of which grew into crime than of other slices was SUDDENLY given an out on unwanted pregnancies. 15-20 years later, crime SUDDENLY drops.

    Less unprepared mothers went through with their pregnancies.

    A good chunk of the next generation that was responsible for crime was never born.

  • by eli pabst (948845) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:37PM (#21512413)

    How come they don't address the issue that those who were going to commit violence anyway are going to gravitate towards violent games and media?
    In the original research they took prior acts of aggression into account. So they should theoretically be able to see if the already aggressive kids migrated towards violent games rather than some kind of true causality. I can't remember if they actually measured this somehow or if it was self-reported. If it's the latter, then their methods may be suspect. Frankly I don't buy it either, I anything, I find violent games like shooters to be a good outlet for stress.
  • Re:How about this? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by slashdot4ever (760080) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:38PM (#21512429)
  • More seriously... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrYak (748999) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:45PM (#21512501) Homepage

    I don't want any of your second-hand fragging to endanger my health!

    In a more serious way, your joke points out the fundamental difference between the two and why it's a bad analogy.
    - Smoke does it harm by the simple presence of dangerous chemicals. (Nicotine, free-radicals, and tons of others). Intention to smoke doesn't change the outcome. In fact second-hand smoke is dangerous for the health even in very low levels.
    - Whereas games do their evil on people who feel attracted to violence and naturally get interested in enacting such things. They consume violent games, but also violent movies, etc. But there's no such thing as second-hand consumption or effects. You won't become a violent psychopath because someone else is watching TV in the next room. Psychopath don't happen more frequently among workers of those shop who happen to have a software & video games department.

    The frequency of bad outcome is also different.
    - In the case of smoking-induced* cancer, the danger is stochastic (except maybe for a few special genetic cases). It's like rolling dice. Each time one individual is exposed, there some amount of chance (or maybe "bad luck") that the cancer will start. One my get lucky and roll high scores several time in a row. Similarly some people may smoke for years without having any problem. But overall there's a probability that increases with the amount of exposure. You can make plot of duration of exposure and associated risk, and see some correlation.
    In fact the correlation is so good, that you can use a clinical score (based on the duration in years x number of pack per day) to predict risks associated with smoking.

    - In the case of violence, the danger mostly depends on a set of pre-determined characteristics. Because of a complex set of circumstance, mostly genetic factors, family history and other childhood experience, there are people who are predisposed to become psychopath and other who aren't. Some (like most /.ers) will play games their whole life without any problem at all (and slashdot isn't widely known for mass murders). Other will snap once exposed to some trigger, and the trigger maybe any strong experience. It could be violent games, it could be violent movies. But snap-factor could also be a psychotic or paranoid episode experienced while using hallucinogenic drugs (THC, LSD, etc.). Or psychopath may even reveal himself after reading a lot of violent passage in the bible (and historically some have. It's just that the whole "reading text" stuff is falling out of fashion these days). You can't just blame a murder on GTA or on Marilyn Manson's Music. Because 99.99% of their users are perfectly normal people. But on the other hand a lot of psychopath will have some eccentricities in their history.

    There's no such thing as a "amount of years spent playing" that will predict when someone will snap and start shooting random people.

    * : As an example of stochastic risk. There are also other smoking-induced disease, mainly non-cancerous pulmonary disease which have a deterministic distribution. They're mostly linked to the amount of garbage that accumulate in someone's lungs. Past a certain year-packs score, you're mostly sure that the patient will have some form of bronchitis. But those diseases are easy to model.
    Where tobacco company managed to stir controversy was about the stochastic risks because not everyone developed them. But in the end, after careful examination, you still can link an increase of risk to duration of exposure. Whereas violence mostly depend on having risk factors, the rest only plays a small role of trigger.
  • by Peter La Casse (3992) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @08:53PM (#21512575) Homepage

    Sex is better because it is constructive and that benefits all of society.

    Violence can also be constructive and beneficial to society. For example, the threat of violence from the state convinces many people (who would be otherwise disinclined) to pay their taxes and more or less obey the law. In addition, violence and the threat of violence is one way to avoid tragedy-of-the-commons scenarios. Finally, violence and the threat of violence can deter future violence from occurring.

  • by rir (632769) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:20PM (#21512833)
    I get where you're coming from, and on a kind of unrelated note, what's with the demonization of smoking. Smoking kills people sure, but is death necessarily bad for society? By that logic any activity or condition that could potentially kill you is bad for society. People can be killed in traffic accidents, but i think many would agree driving is not bad for society. If there's one thing that is bad for society though, it's sociologists who publish bullshit studies instead of real science.
  • by schmidt349 (690948) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:36PM (#21512973)
    Alright, gordonjcp, I call shenanigans. That's just too crazy to let slip by.

    The seriously tiny amount of lead carbonate that made its way out into the atmosphere was largely inert in living things.
    In 1980, the EPA reported that between 1976 and 1980 (phase-in of the Clean Air Act) the use of lead in gasoline decreased by 50%, and in the same period of time blood concentrations of lead in the US population diminished 37%. I don't suppose there were any other sources of environmental lead you can blame that on?

    (FYI, lead carbonate wasn't the danger; it was lead chloride and lead bromide. Much nastier, more strongly reactive stuff.)

    On the other hand, the nasty cocktail of lethal chemicals used to replace tetraethyl lead cause all kinds of cancers and birth defects. Lovely.
    Oh yeah, you know, that ethanol is freaking deadly. I mean, I know this guy who inadvertently drank half a bottle of grape juice contaminated with ethanol and he was incomprehensible for the rest of the night.

  • by bluelan (534976) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:50PM (#21513093)
    Smoking killed more people than wars? Hmmm. Did it cost more years of life? That is, did most lung cancer victims die around age 63, while most war victims died around age 20? That would suggest a net loss of 7 to 12 years of life per smoking death, and 50 to 55 years of life per war death. Is that close to true? If so, war might have been a more destructive murderer than smoking, even if smoking has the higher kill count.

    Just curious.

  • by rev_sanchez (691443) on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @09:56PM (#21513133)
    If their argument was that games (violent or not) made kids fat or stupid then I'd buy that and point out that crappy TV does too, but games keep getting more violent and violence keeps going down.

    I'm not saying it's good for kids but I'm not sold.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday November 28, 2007 @11:37PM (#21513807)
    because countries with strict gun control have no violent crimes committed. right. look, it's simple: criminals do. not. obey. the. law. we can take that as fact, yes? organized crime and the like will always be albe to buy weapons no matter how strict gun control is. "hardcore" criminals will always be able to buy from organized crime.

    "every looney" has to go through a *background check* (can't own a gun with a felony on record, hard as hell to with most misdemeanors) and 30 day waiting period before they can buy/own a gun (kinda farking over crimes of passion). and if someone is going for premeditated murder, the lack of a gun isn't going to stop them.

    we have this thing called logic. try it. just because your mama always told you "guns are evil" doesn't mean she's right.
  • by hoojus (935220) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @01:17AM (#21514493)

    When did acedemia start being a bunch of attention whores?
    When governments based funding on what sounds good and matches in with the way they think the universe works
  • by JimBobJoe (2758) <swiftheart@gmail.GAUSScom minus math_god> on Thursday November 29, 2007 @02:00AM (#21514831)
    . Meanwhile, gun crime in Britain is growing rapidly as criminals have few problems getting hold of guns to prey on a disarmed population.

    The Economist had an a recent article on this topic, noting that gun crime/murders have shot up, particularly with gangs, though the quantity of guns in Britain is stable. ("Gun for hire", Sep 20, 2007.)

    When Britain really clamped down on guns, they introduced a law which could result in several years of jail just for possessing a gun.

    One hypothesis is that, as a result, the older gang members had the younger inductees carry their guns around, so that the older ones didn't have to worry about getting caught.

    The problem is that the younger inductees tend to be less mature and such and are therefore more likely to use the gun as a way of solving conflict, hence the rise in gang gun usage.
  • by OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @06:01AM (#21515961) Homepage
    It doesn't really matter
    -> in small doses (ie. 1-2 hours MAX)
    -> for longtime adults (ie. someone 30 or older)

    For this class of people it does indeed matter little as long as they keep to this.

    It's also not violence per se that is dangerous in a society. In fact a violent populace can be very beneficial, as long as the violence is directed. Say you follow Christian dogma and are violent within it's limits. And you follow it to the letter. This violence, protecting the weak, will improve the society.

    If you use violence to get your way, this will destroy society.

    Now why don't you tell me ... of which kind is videogame/tv violence these days ? The "I want to get my way, I like it" kind or the "I don't like it, but SOMEONE needs to stop you" kind of violence ...
  • by hey! (33014) on Thursday November 29, 2007 @09:48AM (#21517141) Homepage Journal
    Over Thanksgiving dinner, a teenage relative was slyly trying to shock me by talking about how her favorite museum was the Mutter Museum of Medical Curiosities, whose exhibits feature such delicacies as aborted fetuses, a 5' long human colon with 40 lb of fecal matter, and various preserved tumors.

    I ostentatiously chewed a mouthful of turkey as she described the museum, then fixed her with a raised eyebrow. "I know what you're trying to do," I said, "but it won't work. Biology does not skeeve me out."

    "OK," she replied, "what does skeeve you out?"

    I considered for a moment. "People suffering."

    That's pretty much my attitude toward pornography. To the degree that it is an exhibit of biological curiosities, I can variously enjoy or tolerate it. But if the people performing look miserable, I find it offensive. I suppose there might be legitimate artistic reasons to depict sexual sadism, but it's not light entertainment to me.

    There are some people who seem to need the extra stimulation of sadism and cruelty to experience arousal. Somehow I think material suited to those tastes is unlikely to promote pacific behavior.

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Mother Nature cannot be fooled. -- R.P. Feynman