Every decade or two, it seems that a new boogieman rises to strike fear into the hearts of the people, usually as a result of the media and the era’s social commentators. In the past, it was rock music, Dungeons and Dragons, and countless predecessors. The current and previous generations, as you may have guessed, has chosen video games to have their time.
In light of this issue, I reached out to Dr. Markey, Professor of Psychology and Director of the IR Laboratory at Villanova University who co-wrote the book “Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games is Wrong”, to get his view on the current anti-video game culture.
Unfortunately, every safeguard I had to get the interview on recording to get a word-for-word interview failed me, so I’m going to have to do the best I can with the notes I’ve written. Of course, I will allow Dr. Markey to look over my article to ensure that everything is exactly as he’d like it to be so that I don’t misrepresent his position.
When studies regarding video games and violence are brought up, Dr. Markey makes it very clear that every study is a baby step towards learning the truth, and some people take studies too far. He points out that some people take momentary changes and generalize things.
A hypothetical example of this which he mentioned would be if following a session of a certain game, the study may ask the question “how frustrated are you” or “how aggravated are you” and use that as the baseline for determining a connection between video games and violence.
For some people, video games and violence is an easy connection to make. This comes down to two different factors that Dr. Markey points towards: the fact that most young males play video games and the rise of school shootings.
However, the connection between those who play video games and violence has been found to be the opposite of what is expected by those who push the idea. When people are playing violent video games, there are decreases in violent crime and those who commit mass shootings (and other violent crime) are less likely to play video games.
However, the mix of the two truths that most young males play video games and the rise of, at least, the publicity of school shootings has caused a lot of hysteria. Nevertheless, Dr. Markey says that this hysteria, (at least from what he’s seen) has begun to wane.
These days, modern adults have lived in a time period where they grew up playing video games. Since these people understand that such claims don’t have the credence that the previous generation gave it, it will eventually die out.
Dr. Markey says that the problem is that this media boogieman will just be replaced by something else as the next generation will find something new to be afraid of. So just as there was once hysteria about rock music and DnD.
As far as the academic field, Dr. Markey says that the best hope is that science wins out in the end. The old guard of researchers, the ones that are currently pushing the connection, are starting to leave and a new guard are stepping up without such a fear of video games. Dr. Markey says that at this moment, most scientists don’t believe that there’s a connection.
Regarding the issue of making sure that truth wins out in the end, he says that right now we need to have all the statistics out in front of us, understand that we are all biased by our own ideas and interest on the subject, and hopefully as the body of research grows, there will be no avoiding the truth.
It was at this point I brought up the Madden shooting and how there was some immediate “I told you so” responses from those perpetuating the boogieman. Dr. Markey said in response that he was actually impressed with the media’s restraint on trying to make a connection between video games and violence in this case as it wasn’t nearly as pushed by the media as an issue as it has in the past. In fact, it was almost completely forgotten about as a possibility.
Dr. Markey also made note of how many people were being critical of those making a connection, and the number grows with each incident. It was at this point he made it very clear that no one case will ever prove any connection.
So just because the Madden shooter or the Sandy Hook shooter played video games does not mean that it’s representative of the overarching population, and it’s important to note that more and more people are waking up to that truth every day.
My talk with Dr. Markey was very enlightening, despite agreeing with the fundamental premise that there is no connection between video games and violence.
I must say that I learned a lot about my own bias against research that goes against my point as I’ve become jaded over small details, which can be called into question in studies that appear to be representative of the researcher’s own bias.
I’ve come to the realization that there will likely be issues and stacked research, whether knowingly or unknowingly, on both sides of the argument, but we have to look at it on both a case by case basis, and on an overall basis as the body of research continues to grow. Dr. Markey, again, has no doubt that as we allow the body of research to grow, there will be no avoiding of the truth.
That’s also why I really appreciated my talk with Dr. Markey, and I would love to be able to speak with him again if I get the opportunity. So with that said, what’s your take on this matter?
Let us know your thoughts in the comment section down below!
Robin Ek – Editor
USA today (“Study confirms link between violent video games and physical aggression”)
Amazon.com(“Moral Combat: Why the war on violent video games is wrong”)
The Escapist (“As BADD As It Gets:An Anti-Dungeons & Dragons Propaganda Booklet”)
Reddit (“Why rock destroys your mind”)
Chris Ferguson (psychology professor) interview (“Video game violence, addiction and “Gaming disorder”)
Espn.com (“The Madden tournament shooting in Jacksonville”)
York.ac.uk (“No evidence to support link between violent video games and behaviour”)
Statista.com (“Violent crime in the U.S. – statistics & facts”)
The Gaming Ground
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