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Mar 31, 2010



As a new reader of your blog, and not knowing the cultural tone, you do a good job at rightly deconstructing the argument - some video games cause aggression. Like you, I say so what!

As a 54-year old player of COD6 (although COD4 is better) I do walk away from experiencing the game being aggressive. Okay? Usually I then migrate to my next daily item of the day. (No, not kicking small dog).

Your argument is solid - so what.


Thank you for this insightful post Edward. As a game studies scholar who was trained in media studies, including many years learning the mediaFX canon, I understand and welcome scholarly inquiry about media influence. While I find the methodologies of the mediaFX tradition extremely limited (as you point out, even the "best" results do not offer usable evidence toward tangible policy decisions), I celebrated one statement Anderson made in his latest release. It IS time to move beyond a yes or no answer to media effect/influence both in academic circles and in the public discourse. But doing so is proving very difficult.

Every time I am interviewed about video game violence, as I was recently regarding Anderson's work, I wrestle with the reporter who (usually) has already written the story before he/she contacts a single source. The narrative option presented to me is either "video games are bad" or "video games are awesome". Thoughtful media studies scholars have struggled with this for decades. How can scholars have a conversation with the public AND each other that assumes video games play important cultural, social, educational, personal and interpersonal roles in our lives, but do so in very complex, nuanced ways? Gamers are, rightfully, defensive about this line of inquiry. Politicians are, too often, opportunistic about Anderson et. al. conclusions. And academics are, sadly, territorial about methodology.

Do video games influence players? Of COURSE they do! But my response to Anderson isn't, "so what?" It is, "now what?"


I'm an intensely peaceful person. Hugely non-violent. And I enjoy very violent videogames (along with ones that aren't). So that may color my view of this. But my thought upon reading this was:

"Wow. Me with a +2% increase in violence is still an incredibly peaceful person."

I've had one fist-fight in my life; in the 4th grade, and I was jumped. I've only ever had about 10 arguments with people that would qualify as such; mostly they're just friendly and amicable discussions, even when we disagree. I just don't take part in anything even remotely violent in real life.

2% increase? That's me flipping one more guy the bird on the highway over the next 8 years.


This post is so spot-on to the problem with this type of research, which alway assumes that any aggressive feelings are bad feelings and that anything within society that causes aggressive feelings must be removed.

We live in a time that is so much safer and less violent than the times past. Maybe video games are actually part of the reason for this relative peacefulness.

Some aggressive feelings are normal and healthy, and games can be a safe outlet for those feelings. Should we stop kids from watching sports because they might feel aggressive when their team loses? Should we stop them from reading Charlotte's Web because they exhibit a "statistically significant increase in sadness" ?

We're human - let's be allowed to feel a little bit.


Anderson's conclusion "people learn. content matters" emphasizes a factor implied throughout the paper, and possibly the study itself, that the emphasis is on representation rather than the structuring of behavior through game mechanics and rules. Would replacing the graphical and audio layers of a COD 6 multiplayer capture the flag game, for example, with cutesy fluffball creatures lobbing smiley stars of different properties while retaining the exact same rules yield similar results?

Another pertinent question seems to be: if one ran a similar study to measure the effects of basketball, soccer, fencing or jujitsu would we get similar increases in aggression? And if we would, do we also mobilize policy makers to curtail such activities?

Do we then go on to measure the increase in aggressive behavior yielded by extended exposure to traffic? a day in the life of a bank clerk, accountant, used car sales rep? Better still, a night out at the bar/club?

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