227: Step Into the Light

Step Into the Light

Three months ago, a medical journal published a report that could have serious implications for gamers' health. But instead of treating it as an opportunity to educate their audience, gaming sites treated the story with skepticism and contempt. Chris LaVigne examines how this information became distorted and why it matters.

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Excellent article. Not only well written but you took the oportunity, that you scolded others for, to inform us about the problem the researcher originally reported on. We now know how to fix it.

As an aside, if you're a ginger, you have less to worry about when it comes to rickets. But keep taking your Vitamin D!!

I think what's really happened here is that having gotten so used to anything that mentions video-games in the media being negative, cause depression, causes violence, man kills son over video game...etc...that anything that comes out to state that video-gaming could be a cause (though here it's more like a factor of an unrounded lifestyle)is going to be immediately attacked. A preemptive assault is now the first reaction by the net-community. I mean, taken as a group, we're hardly the most rational (though also no-where near the most irrational) group one could find.

Yup, video-games are a factor in vitamin D deficiency, but then again so are crummy neighbourhoods where parents feel that it is unsafe to allow Children out alone, lazy parenting too, I mean if we are seriously talking about one hour a day, then the amount of time one spends on the playground in a normal school day, for kids (or adults) not to be getting that is criminal. I might play 8 hours of video games a day (usually at least 2), but I still have a forty minute walk to an from college, not to mention the time spent hanging around college waiting for lectures etc...

So basically the idea is, get up off your a$$ and get a bit of fresh air and sunshine...which people have been saying since the general population started to become literate and parents became worried about the "evils" of the novella corrupting their children.

Some reports that scapegoat video-gaming do indeed deserve the bile and indignation we throw at them (the recent outrage over MW2 for example), but if we scorn and hurl feces at real scientific research that actually has a point (e.g. get outside once a day) then we undermine our positions when the really scurrilous and unfounded reports or accusations come along.

Video Games and regular media are still on opposite sides. Video games don't have strong lobby and it shows.
If one kid shoots up a school, video games are blamed before it is even known who the suspect is. They are not mentoning the 24-hours news reports, that also inspires those kids.
If someone kills his family in a drunken rage, it is just a tragedy in the eyes of the media, alcohol is blamed at all.

This is because most media people don't know anything about games and never played themselves, but most of them drink alcohol and some of them smoke. Blaming video games is easy for them, blaming liquor, TV or cigarettes means acknowledging their own fault first. Regardless of the truth video games are the easiest target.

I don't see any TV report blaming TV for kids being too much indoors and having low vitamin D, but they can blame video games. So there you go. And the gamers on the other hand are angry about it, because if you read the news it seems video games are almost as bad as terrosist in their eyes.

This will change when "our" generation runs this world. Then all of the "people in power" have played video games and all bad things about games will just be swiped under carpet like they do with alcohol, TV and cigarrets now.

Maluku:
Video Games and regular media are still on opposite sides. Video games don't have strong lobby and it shows.
If one kid shoots up a school, video games are blamed before it is even known who the suspect is. They are not mentoning the 24-hours news reports, that also inspires those kids.
If someone kills his family in a drunken rage, it is just a tragedy in the eyes of the media, alcohol is blamed at all.

This is because most media people don't know anything about games and never played themselves, but most of them drink alcohol and some of them smoke. Blaming video games is easy for them, blaming liquor, TV or cigarettes means acknowledging their own fault first. Regardless of the truth video games are the easiest target.

I don't see any TV report blaming TV for kids being too much indoors and having low vitamin D, but they can blame video games. So there you go. And the gamers on the other hand are angry about it, because if you read the news it seems video games are almost as bad as terrosist in their eyes.

This will change when "our" generation runs this world. Then all of the "people in power" have played video games and all bad things about games will just be swiped under carpet like they do with alcohol, TV and cigarrets now.

are you kidding? video games have a very strong lobby, you can tell since there are soooooo many laws on the books restricting sales >.> but seriously, in the era of 24 hour news its the job of the reporter to find the least worthy but loudest yeller and put them on the air like they had some kind of right to be stupid to a mass audiance

Worgen:
are you kidding? video games have a very strong lobby, you can tell since there are soooooo many laws on the books restricting sales

I don't know if your stament was ironic.. Anyway, compared to the lobby of booze, TV, smoke and cars the video game lobby is nonexistent.

Worgen:
>.> but seriously, in the era of 24 hour news its the job of the reporter to find the least worthy but loudest yeller and put them on the air like they had some kind of right to be stupid to a mass audiance

The problem is that the "loudest yellers" these days haven't played two games in their life.

Maluku:

Worgen:
are you kidding? video games have a very strong lobby, you can tell since there are soooooo many laws on the books restricting sales

I don't know if your stament was ironic.. Anyway, compared to the lobby of booze, TV, smoke and cars the video game lobby is nonexistent.

Worgen:
>.> but seriously, in the era of 24 hour news its the job of the reporter to find the least worthy but loudest yeller and put them on the air like they had some kind of right to be stupid to a mass audiance

The problem is that the "loudest yellers" these days haven't played two games in their life.

No the main problem is still that the loudest yeller tends to be a massive idiot who is only on tv since they provide a really stupid argument... or its fox and fox loves to spread the stupid.

The problem with most media outlets nowadays is that they fall into the trap of creating a narrative that tries to encapsulate the news in a spin that will draw in more readers/viewers/listeners. That leads to things like extremely misleading headlines and narrative spins that distort the true message in order to conform with the overarching bias of their base.

I pretty much see news in two categories these days. News that is generated by the AP (Associated Press) and news from everywhere else.

OK, media bias aside, the proper thing for ANY report from ANY site who wants to appear credible is to track the story back to the source in order to remove the filters that were applied when the story was found X degrees apart from the original. By NOT doing so, the gamer-media sites were focusing on writing "defensive" (and probably idiotically snarky) articles which probably didn't relate in any way to the point of the original study.

Had these sites written their articles against the original report, I'd HOPE (although not necessarily EXPECT) that the articles would have been more about bringing the study to people's attention, and less on the apparent worthlessness of what they DID offer.

Great and relevant article, and one that reminds me why I come to this site. Where does the source come from? How can it be misinterpreted? These are questions all journalists should always ask themselves. Bloggers are not journalists per se, but they should also ask these questions in order to gain credibility.

What they should have done, was to find the original source, read it, and point out the mistakes in the quoted "news articles", much as you have done here. Not everything you read is true, even more so in the age of the internet.

Now, off to quote Wikipedia in my Masters ;)

Well, I read it, and understand it fairly well, though I still see it as anti-gaming or "indoor entertainment" oriented. No matter how the original source minces words the bottom line is it's another person saying "put down the controller, and go outside".

The problem I have with such articles is that they act like Video games are some malevolent, addictive force that hypnotizes and people and binds them to their office chairs. Even if someone was to somehow cut video games, television, etc.. out of people's lives, it wouldn't make people (especially children) go outside and get more vitamin D (or whatever is being griped about now).

Indoor entertainment is so big because people are indoors, and honestly the reason why they aren't outdoors more has to do with what a wasteland society has become in general. It's also not just an American issue, but a relatively global one all told.

It's like this, you've got a kid, but it's not like your going to seriously encourage him to go outside and play because of all the predators out there. Even if your not worried about predators, there are laws (mostly local, but some state) that exist to prevent kids from roaming neighborhoods unattended. The extension of the stereotypical crothedy old geezer telling kids to get off his lawn. In many places you have abandoned playgrounds which are really the ONLY places kids are permitted to gather, sort of like how nowadays things like dog parks are the only places you can let dogs roam without leashes.

Then of course there are things like adult supervision. Today we're looking at a 2-income society where both parents need to work to support a family. This means that there is no rested adult whose job it is to raise the children or watch them while they play. So while mommy and daddy are home from working themselves to the bone, the kid(s) can't go out and well... that makes the entertainment TV or Video games.

Even with adult supervision, what do you do if some creep in a clown costume drives up in a van and pulls your kid into the back of a van? Strictly speaking, not much. People are increasingly unarmed, and there are increasing levels of laws preventing people from intervening physically to stop someone. During home invasions, breaking and entering, etc.. laws are increasingly oriented towards "let the police sort it, when and if they happen to ever get involved" you'd be surprised what rights criminals have. I use the example of the clown costumed van-snatcher as an example because when I took Code Adam training it was an actual example pointing out what kind of shocking rights people have even when committing crimes (along with mentions of groups like NAMBLA and how their people have managed to make huge, legal issues out of things very much like that).

The basic bottom line is that kids are either unwanted outside, or it's simply too dangerous. Oftentimes both. On top of that you don't have parents around and functional that much anymore, and the whole issue of "latchkey kids" is growing... which are kids who come home to empty houses/apartments from school and lock themselves inside for safety.

When it comes to teens/young adults/adults the issue can be just as bad, because your dealing with a situation that when you work a lot of these dead end, pointless jobs (which other articles talk about having a msssive effect on people) the last thing they want to do is come home and go jogging or whatever. Instead they sit down in front of the TV, Computer, or whatever, and break open a drink to recharge from the day.

Want to solve these kinds of problems? You don't target the "entertainment boxes". That's an excuse, a sign of the bigger problems. You repeal laws preventing kids from going out to play, encourage personal armament, remove the rights of criminals (many of which can be quite ridiculous), increase police powers, and then of course adjust society so that there is less unemployment, with people able to support themselves on far less hours.... in other words the kinds of things society just isn't going to do with any kind of speed to adjust an issue in the hear and now. Targeting video games/TV/etc... gives Academics something to rail about to show 'they are doing something', and provides a scapegoat for politicians.

While unrelated, want to stop school shootings? Well the first step is to realize music/video games/TV/movies have nothing to do with it. The thing to realize is that the people doing this have sucky lives, and they are made to suck worse by other people. It's a bigger issue to resolve than people want to address, attacking entertainment media simply presents an illusion of doing something while avoiding addressing the giant elephant sitting on the middle of the table.

Excellent article. I was actually thinking about something similar to this topic, only it was in a different context.
People don't like to acknowledge their own faults, or that their passtimes may not be entirely innocent. Therefore, when something arises to challenge their persception of the passtime, their immediate reaction is to deny it. They try to say it was biased or wrong,which satisfies their own mental well-being. If that fails, they play it down, or come up with an alternate reason for the test results. Overall, if they had to admit that there was something wrong with their passtime, it would mean that they were wrong, that they need to stop the activity.

Therumancer:
Well, I read it, and understand it fairly well, though I still see it as anti-gaming or "indoor entertainment" oriented. No matter how the original source minces words the bottom line is it's another person saying "put down the controller, and go outside".

The problem I have with such articles is that they act like Video games are some malevolent, addictive force that hypnotizes and people and binds them to their office chairs. Even if someone was to somehow cut video games, television, etc.. out of people's lives, it wouldn't make people (especially children) go outside and get more vitamin D (or whatever is being griped about now).

If your talking about the first "news" reports, yes I agree with you. If you are talking about the original report on the Vitamin D deficiency, then I'm afraid you've misread the report. "CONCLUSIONS: 25(OH)D deficiency is common in the general US pediatric population and is associated with adverse cardiovascular risks." The report says in no way that gaming is bad, this is something other newsreports have incorrectly concluded with, and this was the entire point of the article as far as I understand it. Basically, LaVigne wants journalists and bloggers to be more critical about where they get their sources, or at least to check their sources.

As for the rest of your post, I can agree on most of it, except "encourage personal armament" and "increase police powers". But discussing that would really derail the thread, so I will leave that be my opinion.

Thank you, Chris. A good report on an important topic.

Let me dispel the Giant Squids of Anger.

Games are not being shows as evil, brainwashing devises for which to mold our children into automatons with their prime directive being Crush, Kill, Destroy. No no no no no no no no no no no no

It is being said that staying inside more is lowering Vitamin D levels. Milk does NOT = Vitamin D. Contrary to popular belief we CANNOT process cow's milk. It is CHEAP PROTEIN not pure Vitamin D. We are able to receive some from Milk, but we need Sunlight to help the chemical reaction. Come on, Giant Squids of Anger.....think a sec....

Great article. It's incredibly ironic to me that in fielding so many of these game damning reports, these game journalists themselves ignore the source material and instead focus on a secondary or tertiary level source. While I understand the pressing need to immediately go out and defend your lifestyle, misquoting or responding to a non existent threat does nothing more than make us look foolish. The violent and rabid 12 year olds do a well enough job for that and any further fuel for the fire just makes it harder for people to take us more seriously, even if those people are the 1% of a population who actually read the source material.

I think questioning their journalistic responsibility is interesting as well. I don't think this is a symptom of games journalism but the news media in general.

Integrity is very rarely heard nowadays and it's a sad day when a comedian is considered to be one of the most trustworthy newsman in, for the moment, the only superpower. It's inevitable that if the source of a river is impure then logically it will also be corrupt and I think that irrational lash outs against medical studies that don't vilify gaming, but are used to do just that, is just the start.

As games journalism is still relatively new and traditions haven't become established, I think it's a perfect time for them to shake themselves off and start reporting like real journalists. While they're at it they can pick me up in their marshmellow bus and we'll drive to candyland while peace reigns on Earth below us and Hell freezes over.

A really good article. As a person studying healthcare at university currently its very hard to find reliable internet sources to referance and very easy to see that 99% of the internet finds it impossible to give a balanced view on a primary source. The majority or internet writers out there will happily give a quick synopsis of a secondary or tertiary source and then give a completly biased account of it.

This kind of writing is fine for blog writing or forum writing in general but for artical writing its warping information to the point where its impossible to even find out the origional source sometimes. The editiors of articles like these should take slightly more responsibility if they want their site to report on things properly.

On the otherhand it is a good read to see someone get all angered up on a subject that has been miss represented to them from a secondry or tertiary site and have then had to look up the definitions on wikipedia :)

Many thanks for the wonderful article. Sometimes people get a little overzealous in defending gaming.
I agree that many people who are gamers usually don't spend enough time in the sun. The whole "Gamer in a basement" cliche had to start somewhere right?
Anyways I found the article informative, and I will be looking up the other articles as well to get a better picture of this situation.
Again, thanks for raising awareness.

Note to self: Play videogames outside.

I really wasn't expecting to be the voice of dissent on this one, but I have to say I disagree with the article. Or at least, I disagree with the suggestion that the gaming press should have been reporting this "story" as a service to the gaming community.

The mainstream media has a very unfortunate relationship with science. Hungry for stories, they seize on research papers and write them up as news. This is bad, because on top of the fact that the journalists almost never understand the statistical significance of the studies they report, they focus too little on the data and too much on conclusions. In reality, the correct response by mainstream media to a research paper is to print nothing at all in the vast majority of cases. If there really is news there, they should get a clear statement of the news content from a scientist not involved in the research and print that without rewording it.

As far as this particular study goes, the key finding is that modern kids are getting less vitamin D than they need. This, as stated, is not surprising. More detailed conclusions drawn from the data by researchers are "Low vitamin D levels were especially common in children who were older, female, African-American, Mexican-American, obese, drank milk less than once a week, or spent more than four hours a day watching TV, playing videogames, or using computers."

Only a commentator with a particular agenda would draw the conclusion from a list like that that videogames (or screen use generally) represents any kind of problem. It's a typical instance of confusing correlation and causation. If a child is spending all their time indoors, then they will probably be using a screen for four or more hours. You won't ever see the press complaining that reading books is the problem!

I suggest the following headline: "Children should take vitamin D supplements".

So no, that is not a suitable story for the gaming press.

stuff like this, the kneejerk reaction, all of it makes me wish civilization had a siphon for sociopaths and extreme narcissists...you know, some way to throw them under the bus en masse, or at least draw them into congregating in a permanent fashion?

Dom Camus:

I suggest the following headline: "Children should take vitamin D supplements".

So no, that is not a suitable story for the gaming press.

This brings up an interesting point.

It seems the study could have avoided this issue altogether if it just framed things differently. As has already been pointed out, much of the coverage of the issue seemed to commit the error of equating correlation and causation. But the researchers themselves could have simply framed their category as "children with less than (x) hours sunlight/outdoor activity" instead of "children with more than (y) hours in front of a screen."

The analysis seems to indicate that they were only using "hours in front of a screen" as a stand in for "hours not outside" anyhow. Still, it's easier for parents to identify their own children by the "hours in front of a screen" category, which seems to be why it would be framed this way.

Another problem, though, is that these parents of this one potentially-at-risk group (kids in front of screens) are probably not likely to get news like this from gaming journalists (unless they are gamers themselves), so I agree that it was not really a story for the gaming press in the first place.

Indeed, indeed. We, gamers, are quickly turning into a group that will angrily lash out at anything we find doesn't agree with the way we act. As games become more mainstream, the 'hardcore' gamer is becoming one of those fringe groups that lash out at any media that becomes well known and defends only its own obscure, impenetrable take on its media.

I expected this from Destructoid, which is silly and that is kind of its point, but not from GamePolitics.

copycatalyst:

Dom Camus:

I suggest the following headline: "Children should take vitamin D supplements".

So no, that is not a suitable story for the gaming press.

This brings up an interesting point.

It seems the study could have avoided this issue altogether if it just framed things differently. As has already been pointed out, much of the coverage of the issue seemed to commit the error of equating correlation and causation. But the researchers themselves could have simply framed their category as "children with less than (x) hours sunlight/outdoor activity" instead of "children with more than (y) hours in front of a screen."

The analysis seems to indicate that they were only using "hours in front of a screen" as a stand in for "hours not outside" anyhow. Still, it's easier for parents to identify their own children by the "hours in front of a screen" category, which seems to be why it would be framed this way.

Another problem, though, is that these parents of this one potentially-at-risk group (kids in front of screens) are probably not likely to get news like this from gaming journalists (unless they are gamers themselves), so I agree that it was not really a story for the gaming press in the first place.

But, read the article carefully. It says that one of many things that were measures was the amount of hours spent using electronic entertainment. A correlation was found. They put it in their conclusion, as is their job. Everything else is media circus.

The Random One:

But, read the article carefully. It says that one of many things that were measures was the amount of hours spent using electronic entertainment. A correlation was found. They put it in their conclusion, as is their job. Everything else is media circus.

"In a phone interview, Melamed explains playing videogames doesn't cause low vitamin D levels. It's the decreased time kids spend outdoors that does, since a primary source of vitamin D is sunlight."

The correlation that was found is, as I said, using 'time in front of a TV' as a stand in for 'time not outside.'

You can get your vitamin D from heavy dairy intake.

I live in Washington state, where the sun dissapears for half a year under heavy rainfall. I haven't seen a ray of light in 2 weeks. & when the sun does come out, I still can't go outside. Do you know how hard it is for a redhead to avoid getting freckles?

You only need about 1 hour of sunlight on your face to get your vitamin D for the day. Less time than that if you expose more skin. Dairy will help, but it can also lead to that unfortunate side effect of diarrhea.

 

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