Researcher Ferguson: California Law is “One More Spin of the Moral Panic Wheel”

November 10, 2010 -

Texas A&M International University professor and videogame researcher Christopher Ferguson has penned an editorial for the Sacramento Bee in which he argues that the state of California is acting “irresponsibly” in its push for a law that would ban the sale of adult-rated violent games to minors.

Ferguson, as readers of this site well know, tends to generate research that is more open-minded in terms of the relation between violent games, youth and aggression. As such, his research was featured prominently in the amicus brief (PDF) for Schwarzenegger vs. EMA filed by the Entertainment Merchants Association (EMA) and Entertainment Software Association (ESA).

In his opinion piece, Ferguson wrote that the California attorney general’s staff, and some scholars, “have simply ignored wide swaths of evidence opposing their claims, and misrepresented the strength, consistency and validity of existing research.”

Studies that do utilize “well-validated measures and those that take care to control for other variables such as family environment, mental health, peer delinquency and personality,” stated Ferguson, “find no cause for alarm.”

The professor goes on to state that what effects can actually be measured from playing videogames come in with less impact than similar studies on television, “So it's time to stop claiming the interactive nature of video games makes them uniquely dangerous for children.”

Ferguson then discusses the economic impact of the case:

California is a case study in just how harmful these laws can be, not only in reducing First Amendment protections, but in diverting precious funds into a useless law and away from services that could help families and their children.

Comments

Re: Researcher Ferguson: California Law is “One More Spin ...

Good points, but keep in mind, this bill isn't just targeting "adult-rated" games. It's very ambiguous in it's definition of "violent games", and even "M-rated" isn't for adults only, but 17+. This gives the government freedom to decide what's violent and what's not, and could attack everything from T-rated FPSes to "cartoon violence" in E-rated games.

That's how dangerous this bill is.

Re: Researcher Ferguson: California Law is “One More Spin ...

 You would think the fact that youth violence has declined as videogames have become more popular would end the debate.  

Re: Researcher Ferguson: California Law is “One More Spin ...

Well, not necessarily.  I mean, who's to say that without video games, youth violence wouldn't have decreased even more?

Personally, I'd think the niggling little facts that there is no evidence of children being harmed by playing violent games and this law would do absolutely nothing to prevent them from playing violent games even if they did cause harm would end the debate.

 

Andrew Eisen

Re: Researcher Ferguson: California Law is “One More Spin ...

You raise a reasonable point about the crime/VG data, although wherein some researchers claim as much as 10-30% of societal violence (see Strasburger 2007 in PEdiatrics) can be explained by media violence, the onus is on the "true believers" to explain their theories in light of this crime data.  The "oh it doesn't matter because there are probably other factors even though we can't explain what they are" is both self-serving and lazy science.

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