New Research Suggest Video Games Are Not Triggers For At-Risk Teens

August 26, 2013 - James Fudge

New research from Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University and independent researcher Cheryl Olson (author of Grand Theft Childhood) concludes that games such as Mortal Kombat, Grand Theft Auto, and Halo do not serve as "triggers" to teenagers with symptoms of depression or attention deficit disorder. In other words, video games do not cause these groups to become aggressive bullies, delinquents, or murderers.

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'Grand Theft Childhood' Author to Discuss Biden Meeting on MSNBC Saturday at 1 PM ET; ESA Issues Statement

January 12, 2013 -

According to a Polygon report, the video game industry executives and other interested parties that met with Vice-President Joe Biden's Gun Violence Commission walked away feeling that they were unscathed, and that Biden was looking for general input on media and violence.

No Shortage of Opinions on Brown v. EMA Decision

June 30, 2011 -

Hey GPers!  Up for some opinions on the recent Supreme Court decision that gave Leland Yee’s violent video game law the Kuribo Boot?

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Grand Theft Childhood Author Challenges Research on SCOTUS Case

October 30, 2010 -

The author of Grand Theft Childhood offers an intelligent, thoughtful rebuttal to the arguments (and the research data) being used by the State of California in the U.S. Supreme Court's review of Schwarzenegger v. EMA.

Cheryl K. Olson (Sc.D., Asst. Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School) offers an update that takes on the evidence that California is using in the case, and the conclusions drawn by politicians in their arguments. She also says that the law may very well backfire should the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling be overturned.

 

Below is a taste:

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Dr. Olson on What She Plays, Media Hysteria

April 21, 2010 -

When Grand Theft Childhood co-author Dr. Cheryl Olson first became active in generating videogame research, she said that she wasn’t prepared for how controversial the subject actually was.

In an interview with This Is My Joystick, Olson stated that as her research progressed, she felt “morally obligated to correct myths and misinformation that make parents worry needlessly, and may cause them to overlook more subtle but real problems.”

On the pro-gaming side, we all should be thankful for Olson’s sense of obligation. Her latest mass media appearance on CNN saw her inject a heavy dose of logic into the RapeLay debate. Olson commented on the panic that these types of reports attempt to induce:

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Dr. Olson Brings Some Reasoning to RapeLay Hysteria

April 1, 2010 -

Grand Theft Childhood co-author Dr. Cheryl Olson appeared yesterday on CNN Prime News in order to bring a little grounding to the network’s coverage of the game RapeLay.

Anchor Mike Galanos introduces the piece with a dire tone, saying, “Parents, we’ve got to warn you about this videogame, because your kids could get their hands on it,” before bringing in Dr. Olson. Galanos asks Olson about how easy it would be for a kid to download the game.

In answering, Olson puts some of the onus on CNN for their sensationalistic coverage of RapeLay, “One of my concerns is that kids generally never hear about this stuff unless it gets this kind of publicity.”

Olson mentions the Grand Theft Auto “Hot Coffee” mod, which went under the radar until politicians and the media drew attention to it.

Galanos then turns to violent games in general, asking, “What does this do to our kids?” Olson responded:

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Game Violence Episode of Penn & Teller B.S. on YouTube

July 13, 2009 -

The video game violence episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit! which originally aired last week is currently posted on YouTube in three parts.

Given the title of the series, need I say that the videos may be NSFW?

UPDATE: The videos have been removed from YouTube.

 

 

67 comments

Grand Theft Childhood Author Challenges NIMF Game Addiction Data

April 20, 2009 -

Harvard's Dr. Cheryl Olson, co-author of Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games, offered GamePolitics some thoughts on research data released today by Iowa State University Prof. Douglas Gentile and Dr. David Walsh of the National Institute on Media and the Family.

According to Gentile and Walsh, 8.5% of 8-18 year olds exhibit behaviors similar to those that clinically define compulsive gamblers.

Olson, however, questions their methodology, which involved the collection of data via an online Harris Interactive Poll.

From Dr. Olson:

The concern here is labeling normal childhood behaviors as "pathological" and "addicted." The author [Iowa State University's Prof. Douglas Gentile] is repurposing questions used to assess problem gambling in adults; however, lying to your spouse about blowing the rent money on gambling is a very different matter from fibbing to your mom about whether you played video games instead of starting your homework.

 

It's also very questionable whether kids as young as 8 can accurately fill out a self-administered online questionnaire, especially one that uses questions designed for adults.

That said, the study is well intended, and a good reminder to discuss rules and set limits with your kids re: electronic game use.

Grand Theft Childhood Author Talks Violent Games, School Shootings

April 13, 2009 -

Dr. Cheryl Olson (left), co-author of Grand Theft Childhood, was interviewed about the video game violence issue recently on German television.

The game violence debate, as GamePolitics readers know, has been raging anew in Germany since last month's horrific school shooting rampage in Winnenden.

Andreas Garbe, who conducted the interview, provides an English translation on his blog. Among other topics, Dr.Olson spoke about the oft-made claim that violent games motivate school shooters:

There is so much publicity about school shootings in the US, Germany and other countries. But a review of the data shows that this type of violence is not increasing – it’s the media coverage of the violence that has gone way up. So, people believe that school violence is much more common than it is. (Your child is actually more likely to be struck and killed by lightning than to be shot at school.)

The Secret Service and the FBI in the US have studied school shootings in an effort to identify a “profile” of potential shooters and prevent these tragedies. They were not able to find a profile. The only thing these shooters had in common was male gender and (often) a history of treated or untreated depression...

Dr. Olson also disputed the claim that school shooters learn to fire a weapon by playing violent video games:

Also, we researched the issue of whether it’s possible to learn to shoot from a video game. Experts told us that it’s actually not difficult to shoot a gun at someone who is not moving, is not shooting back at you, and is not far away from you – even if you have little experience with guns. Media reports on a few school shootings in the U.S. said that these boys had never fired a real gun, but learned only from video games; this turned out not to be true. They had practiced with real guns...

But Dr. Olson believes that video game ratings could be more useful:

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Grand Theft Childhood Authors To Appear on Penn & Teller Bullshit

February 11, 2009 -

Dr. Cheryl Olson, co-author of Grand Theft Childhood, dropped GamePolitics a line to say that she and her husband/writing partner Dr. Lawrence Kutner will appear in an upcoming Penn & Teller: Bullshit! episode which examines the video game violence controversy.

As we reported last September, disbarred Miami attorney Jack Thompson was also interviewed for the show.

A Penn & Teller producer indicated that the game violence episode would likely air in the summer, but could not provide a specific date.

Penn Jillette twittered briefly about the filming of the episode earlier this week:

We're taping "Video Game Violence" BS. A first-person shooter game where you get to be BS "Penn". My Father-in-law got to get shot.

Olson also mentioned to GP that a Korean language version of Grand Theft Childhood is being published.

25 comments

G4's Adam Sessler Interviews Grand Theft Childhood Author

December 17, 2008 -

The always interesting Dr. Cheryl Olson made an appearance G4's X-Play program yesterday.

Olson is co-author of the popular Grand Theft Childhood.

While discussing game violence issues with host Adam Sessler, Olson touched on violent games and their relationship to topics like bullying and depression.

She also voiced concerns about California's contested video game law and explained why it can be difficult for non-academics to make sense of video game research.

 

12 comments

Psychiatrist (and GP reader) Takes Issue with Grand Theft Childhood

November 13, 2008 -

Gamers and the video game industry were cheered earlier this year by the release of Grand Theft Childhood. The book, written by a pair of Harvard researchers, Cheryl Olson and Laurence Kutner, basically said that fears about the effects of games on children are largely overblown (see: Researchers's New Book Cuts Through the Negative Hype About Video Game Violence). In fact, the book was so well-received in the game community that the authors were invited to present at PAX 08 in Seattle.

Not everyone in the field agrees with Olson and Kutner, however. Dr. Jerald Block, an Oregon psychiatrist and professor, works with patients suffering from video game addiction. He also happens to be a longtime reader of GamePolitics. Block's review of Grand Theft Childhood appears in November's Psychiatric Times, where he criticizes Olson and Kutner's perspective on game addiction:

The authors report being consulted by the mother of a 22-year-old man who is “addicted” to video gaming. The authors conclude, “Clearly, the young man had some major problems. The obsessive video game play was much more likely a symptom than the root cause.” Kutner and Olson do not seem to understand that while the computer use can often be a symptom of other disorders, it can also be a serious, self-perpetuating problem in its own right. The computer use is often an early defense against despair, but it can also socially isolate, perpetuate false feelings of power, and socially de-skill people; it can become its own source of pain and isolation...

Block also touches on the Shawn Woolley case:

In another example, the authors discuss, by name, a man who shot and killed himself in front of his computer. They dismiss the event on the basis of a magazine article that reported on it. They write, “It’s much more likely that his obsessive video game playing was a reflection of his other, more profound problems... and not the root cause of his suicide.” Having discussed the suicide with the man’s mother at several conferences, I found Kutner and Olson’s synopsis disturbingly trite and inaccu-rate. Moreover, the ethical breach of publishing the man’s name and speculating as to his diagnosis from afar was disturbing...

31 comments

Malaysian Consumer Group Calls for GTA Ban

August 8, 2008 -

The head of a Malaysian consumer rights organization has called for a ban on Grand Theft Auto and similarly violent video games.

The move comes following the murder of a Bangkok cabbie last Saturday. Thai government officials were quick to link that killing to what they said was the 19-year-old suspect's Grand Theft Auto play.

In an op-ed for the Star Online, Mohamed Idris, president of the Consumers Association of Penang, writes:

It was recently reported that the Thai authorities have banned a computer video game known as Grand Theft Auto... Violent video games and television programmes have previously been linked to expressions of violence and aggression in young viewers. It is time for the authorities to act.

If this particular video game is available in Malaysia, CAP calls on the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs to immediately halt its sales and ban this game. The Ministry should also warn the public and any stocks that have already been sold should be recalled.

CAP also calls on the Ministry to initiate immediate measures to weed out similar games and halt sales and also their use in video game arcades.

GP: It's very odd to see a consumer group demanding censorship. One might think that the CAP, which has the stated objective of giving a voice to the little people, would prefer that Malyasian consumers have choices in their entertainment.

32 comments

NIMF's David Walsh Interviewed in Game Informer

July 2, 2008 -

Dr. David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family, is the subject of an  interview in the July issue of Game Informer.

The politically-connected Walsh, whose organization delivers its Annual Video Game Report Card each holiday season, is described by the magazine as "one of gaming's most thoughtful and reasoned critics." He dishes on a number of topics, including:

  • ESRB ratings (watchdog-ish, cautiously supportive)
  • his criticism of the Grand Theft Childhood book (disagrees with its premise)
  • his thoughts on video game legislation (opposes censorship)
  • Jack Thompson (publicly distanced himself from Thompson)

Regarding legislation, Walsh told GI:

I'm not in favor of censorship. Once we delegate to the government what we can and can't say and freedom of expression - and video games are a form of expression - that's a very slippery slope. I think government can have a role. I think the role they've been playing is the "bully pulpit" to raise awareness.

As to Thompson, Walsh said:

Extreme positions create a lot of heat but very little light. Television and talk radio love extreme positions. So there are folks out there who do not hesitate to take positions that they can't defend. You get the these food fights going on that talk radio loves, but don't really advance our knowledge and understanding whatsoever. It got to the point where I had to publlcily distance myself from Jack Thompson. 

Distance himself, indeed.

The high-profile split with Thompson came in October, 2005. The story was broken by GamePolitics, and set Internet tongues wagging for days. Read Walsh's letter breaking ties with Thompson here.

Grand Theft Childhood Authors Respond to U of Michigan Prof's Criticism

June 30, 2008 -

In the preceding GamePolitics article we covered University of Michigan Professor Brad Bushman's criticism of Grand Theft Childhood.

The book, written by Harvard researchers Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson, downplays the effects of video game violence on adolescent behavior.

We also contacted the authors for comment on Bushman's attack on Grand Theft Childhood. Dr. Cheryl Olson shared these thoughts (and provided several of the links):

I don’t mind other researchers criticizing my work as long as they don’t engage in personal attacks... Brad Bushman is absolutely entitled to air his views.

 

Unfortunately, Dr. Bushman has some of his facts mixed up. In the 2001 Surgeon General’s report on youth violence, exposure to TV violence was actually near the bottom of the list of influences on real-world violence – so low that it was relegated to an appendix!

 

He theorizes that teens are more likely to identify with video game characters than TV or movie characters. That’s plausible, but I could just as easily argue the opposite; boys told us repeatedly in focus groups that they enjoying taking the bad guy role in a video game specifically because they don’t want to behave that way in real life. Also, because video games require active control and participation, players are constantly reminded that the game is merely a game.

 

Dr. Bushman’s statement that video games directly reward violence is only partly accurate; anyone who actually plays video games knows that players are not always rewarded for acting violently, and in fact are often penalized immediately or later on (even in parts of Grand Theft Auto IV). The content and consequences in video games are extremely varied, which is one reason that studying their influence is so difficult.

 

Finally, regarding his experimental study of Dutch teenagers playing a game for 20 minutes in a lab: Those teens are fully aware that no researcher will allow them to act in a way that causes permanent physical harm to someone. Dr. Bushman may be a bit too credulous – a view that is supported by a quote from that Surgeon General’s report.

Co-author Dr. Lawrence Kutner added:

47 comments | Read more

Game Violence Researcher Rips Grand Theft Childhood Book

June 30, 2008 -

While Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson's recent book Grand Theft Childhood has given cheer to video gamers (and the video game industry), a longtime media violence researcher strongly disagrees with the authors' conclusion that violent games aren't all that bad for younger players.

In an op-ed for the Detroit Free Press, University of Michigan professor Brad Bushman writes:

Kutner and Olson’s advice to parents is particulary puzzling since their own data suggest that such games are linked to aggressive behavior... Although laboratory experiments can be used to establish cause-effect relationships, they quickly dismiss most lab studies as artificial and invalid.

 

I strongly disagree. Consider a laboratory experiment I recently conducted... Boys about 14 years old were randomly assigned to play a violent or nonviolent video game for 20 minutes... Next, they completed a noise blast task, with the winner blasting the loser with a noise...

 

The boys were told that inflicting higher noise levels could cause “permanent hearing damage” to their partners... These boys were even willing to give another boy noise levels loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage...

 

Violent video games are not the only risk factor for aggression, or even the most important factor, but they are definitely not a trivial factor...

Bushman was among the authors of the American Psychological Association's 2005 resolution which held that there is an increase in aggression following violent video game play. Bushman also participated in a 2007 study which found correlation between violent Biblical passages and aggression. He is also one of controversial Miami attorney Jack Thompson's expert witnesses in an Alabama lawsuit alleging that an 18-year-old's murder of two police officers and a dispatcher was motivated by playing Grand Theft Auto.

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MechaTama31When you say "youtuber", I picture some sort of customizable potato...09/22/2014 - 10:48pm
Matthew Wilsonthis change will only give youtubers more power.09/22/2014 - 9:54pm
prh99Steam has added a curator system. You can follow your favorites and see their recommendations http://store.steampowered.com/curators/09/22/2014 - 9:07pm
MaskedPixelantePlus there's the whole "we don't use accounts" thing that means if you lose your 3DS and have to get a new one, you have to deal with Nintendo customer service to get your downloads back instead of, you know, logging in and downloading them.09/22/2014 - 8:39pm
MonteIndeed. Their wallet system, the lack of sales, applying tax, the lack of price cuts, the eshop is pretty terrible. Only use it for indie games.09/22/2014 - 8:29pm
Andrew EisenThat's the one I'm eyeballing. Really dug the demo. Didn't care as much for EOIV though.09/22/2014 - 8:19pm
MaskedPixelanteOoh, an Atlus sale, it must be a day that ends in "y". I'd much rather get physical 3DS games because of Nintendo's outdated digital distribution policies, but EOU is near impossible to find anywhere nowadays... conflicted.09/22/2014 - 7:48pm
Andrew EisenOooh, Atlus sale in the 3DS eShop. I might have to bust open my piggy bank. http://www.siliconera.com/2014/09/22/shin-megami-tensei-iv-atlus-games-sale/09/22/2014 - 7:21pm
Matthew Wilsonhttp://www.pcgamer.com/2014/09/23/steam-update/ steam finally adds content Curation. I like that the user can pick which peoples recommendations they want to see.09/22/2014 - 7:16pm
MaskedPixelanteNintendo put three dual-gendered characters in Smash Bros 4.09/22/2014 - 7:13pm
Andrew EisenWhat did Nintendo do thrice in one game?09/22/2014 - 6:48pm
MaskedPixelanteYou know it's a bogus defense when Nintendo of all companies does it THREE TIMES in one game.09/22/2014 - 6:29pm
E. Zachary KnightIt is stupid that they went with the "It would be too much work to add a woman assassin" defense rather than just being honest and admiting they didn't think about it until it was brought up.09/22/2014 - 6:06pm
E. Zachary KnightYeah, this is a different game and it is not out of the ordinary for them. THey did the same for the pirate one.09/22/2014 - 6:05pm
MaskedPixelanteTurns out it's less "impossible", more "part of the season pass, but only in an exclusive game that's separate from ACU proper".09/22/2014 - 6:01pm
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.joystiq.com/2014/09/22/assassins-creed-unitys-season-pass-includes-game-set-in-china/ Remember how Ubisoft said it was impossible to have playable females in Assassin's Creed Unity?09/22/2014 - 5:59pm
ZippyDSMleeIf publishers didn't play the region lock game then it would not be an issue.Tho I have seen more russian/chec games than asia ones on ebay.If they do not like it then mabye lower thier region prices to make alitte vrs none.09/22/2014 - 9:54am
MaskedPixelantehttp://hexus.net/gaming/news/industry/74981-pc-game-code-stripping-widespread-says-report/ Thievery, or perhaps the very idea of capitalism? You decide!09/22/2014 - 9:47am
MaskedPixelantehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oDPCmmZifE8 John Oliver exposes Miss America.09/22/2014 - 9:00am
james_fudgeI reiterate now - not one email to-date.09/22/2014 - 8:37am
 

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