Rectify Gaming

Opinion: American Academy of Pediatrics is off-target on game violence

Posted on July 18, 2016 by Rectify Gaming

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Video game violence is once again a topic of discussion, this time coming from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This will never stop, won’t it?
To be fair, science must always be updated to reflect reality, not the other way around, so this might be a good time to have a productive lengthy discussion on violence in video games instead of just saying “I’m right and you’re wrong”, although everyone is guilty of this from time to time.
While the AAP acknowledges it’s impossible for children to escape media violence, it’s calls for banning many different types of violence is misplaced and shifts blame to vast majority of the gamers that do not commit acts of violence.
The AAP claims it has “a meta-analysis of over 400 studies encompassing violent media of all types found a significant association between exposure to media violence and aggressive behavior, aggressive thoughts, angry feelings and physiological arousal.” But it never specified what types of aggressive behavior, thoughts, or feelings. There may be some instances of swearing and throwing a controller to express frustration of losing a game or gleefully gloating a beaten virtual opponent.  That would translate to aggressive behavior, but does it translate into real world violence?
Even the AAP acknowledges “that a definitive link has not been found between screen violence and real-world violence (e.g., school shootings). While most school shooters have a heavy diet of screen violence, so do many non-school shooters. The rarity of shootings makes prospective studies infeasible.” So if rarity of shootings makes prospective studies infeasible, then why all the fuss?
Despite this, the AAP made some recommendations (in italics) with a response (in bold):

  • Policymakers should consider promoting legislation that provides caregivers and children with more specific information about the content of all forms of media and should enact laws that prohibit easy access to violent media by minors. In addition, a federal “parent-centric” rating system should be developed.

The creation of the MPAA and ESRB should be enough for parents to monitor their children’s activities. The federal government should have little or no role on what is considered violent. This can create a slippery slope for the federal government to decide on what’s violent. Even a “federal ‘parent-centric’” rating system would cause more problems than it solves due to bureaucracy. While the MPAA and ESRB have many flaws, they’re still the best organizations to educate parents on what their children watch.

  • Pediatricians should take a leadership role in advocating for more child-positive media and collaborating with the entertainment industry to help develop shows and games.

Definitely. Promote games and media, collaborating with the entertainment industry to develop shows and games that are child-friendly (Angry Birds and Pokemon GO to name a few). Unfortunately, many of the child-friendly shows are on cable, thus many low-income communities don’t have financial access to it. It needs to be affordable. Encourage buying “kid-friendly” systems such as the Wii U, 3DS, and mobile to have access to more kid-friendly games.

  • The entertainment industry should not glamorize weapons, and violence should not be portrayed as normal. Violence for laughs and gratuitous violence should be eliminated. When violence is portrayed, it should include the pain and loss suffered by the victims and perpetrators.

Violence is not portrayed as “normal.” These are presented with very specific situations which require very specific actions. While it may sound hard to believe, given today’s 24-hour news cycle and social media, people don’t normally resolve their issues with weapons or killing. The Orlando massacre was exploited by “socially active” members of the gaming media to make the community think there is a connection between guns and what happened there. There was absolutely no evidence Omar Mateen was inspired by gaming to do the shootings.
Also, what is the definition of “violence?” Is it Mario jumping on Koopas? Or is it the fatalities in Mortal Kombat (which, by the way, is an M-rated game)? To think there is no distinction between the two is either completely naïve or dishonest.
Bugs Bunny and Yosemite Sam resolved their issues with comic violence 60 years ago. Should these types of violence for laughs be banned as well?
Finally. there are instances in which resolving issues with unnecessary violence have negative effects. Players that act cruelly (shooting innocents, for example) are punished with “dark side” points in games such as Mass Effect, Knights of the Old Republic, etc. Even The Punisher (2005) penalizes gamers with a “Game Over” if they kill a civilian. 

  • Video games should not use human targets or award points for killing.

Taken completely out of context. People like shooting at people in video games because they are a threat to the hero and/or the hero’s loved ones. So, there is a lot of context behind this, yet the AAP seems to believe they are indiscriminate. Indiscriminate killing rarely happens. 

  • The news media should acknowledge the association between virtual violence and real-world aggression in the same way as secondhand smoke is associated with health risks.

Ridiculous. There would have been an increased in shootings and killings for the past 30 years. People don’t die if they’re exposed to media violence like people would with long-term exposure to second hand smoke. Psychology and biology are two distinct fields. Keep them separate.
As mentioned, science must always be kept up-to-date so society can find the right answers to improve the human condition and the world around. But even scientists are prone to error, which leads to this question: with all the studies of the links between violent gaming and real-world behavior, why is violence at a 30-year-low? Have the scientists been asking the wrong questions? Are they worried because they themselves are parents or perhaps never played games before? These are also the types of questions that need to be asked. Also, many of the violent games that are on the spotlight like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty are M-rated, thus these games are not aimed for children, nor they should be.
Gaming is still a young hobby, yet it is evolving. It is simply not enough to focus in on the negative aspects, there also has to be positive ones. While violence may not seem to be everyone’s cup of tea when it comes to the media, it’s important to acknowledge everyone has some violent tendencies and fantasies. Sometimes acting out in those settings are the best ones, yet parents must also remain vigilant by teaching their children the difference fantasy from reality as well as encouraging them to play outdoors from time to time.

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