Media Expert Worries About Game Burning "Distraction"

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Media Expert Worries About Game Burning "Distraction"

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Psychologist Christopher J. Ferguson is concerned that the plan to burn violent videogames in Southington, Connecticut could actually do more harm than good.

In response to the December mass murder at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, citizens of Southington put together a plan to collect and destroy violent videogames. While claiming that the game burning isn't intended to suggest that videogames were the cause of the shooting, the group also released a statement saying there is "ample evidence" that violent videogames and other media have contributed to "increasing aggressiveness, fear [and] anxiety" among children and is desensitizing them to violence.

But Ferguson, the chair of Texas A&M International University's Department of Psychology and Communication, warned that while people are trying to do what they think is best, "there is real risk in focusing people's attention on the wrong thing, as well as contributing to historical patterns of 'moral panic' that tend to surround new media (often despite evidence media is not harmful, even if it may be offensive)."

"I'm very appreciative of the sincerity of your group, but at the same time I've been concerned about some of your public statements linking videogames to bullying and youth aggression which do not accurately reflect the science," Ferguson wrote in an email to the Southington community. "I've done a number of peer-reviewed articles myself on the topic, and have found no evidence linking videogame violence to bullying or any other forms of youth aggression or violence. Past research has been mixed, at best, and often weakened by substantial methodological flaws."

He also worried that parents who broach the subject now could come off as insincere or patronizing, especially since their kids are almost certainly aware of the shooting and the uproar surrounding it. "Make it clear that you understand that videogames don't contribute to mass shootings, make it clear that you're not indulging in this moral panic," he said.

Ferguson is relatively well-known among gamers for his skepticism of the link between violent videogames and real-life violence. In early 2009 he published a report entitled The School Shooting/Violent Videogame Link: Causal Relationship or Moral Panic? and in December 2012 wrote a brief article in Time magazine in which he stated, "There is no good evidence that videogames or other media contributes, even in a small way, to mass homicides or any other violence among youth."

And while the Southington game burning may or may not be a "success," Ferguson is concerned that it could draw attention away from efforts to actually address the problem at hand. "I do worry this is going to represent a step backwards in our understanding of youth violence, rather than a step forward," he said. "It's going to do kind of what Columbine did. It kind of distracted us from real issues and not do anything helpful."

Source: Polygon

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Mmm...tasty tasty logic here. Refreshing to hear the professionals weigh in on the matter.

No one will really listen.

They want something easy to blame and hate, that wont in any way come back to them.
Parents and Politicians like saying and being told that they did nothing wrong and that its something easy to yell at that is completely at fault.

Kid murders someone? Played to much X.
Guy goes on a rampage? He listened too to much X.
Woman kills her kids? She took to much X.

It is easier to BLAME something then to try and solve something.
How well would it go over if a politician said that "Actually weak parenting, lack of over sight, and other factors that require real effort to counter act are at fault?"

People would be angry and then say he does to much X.
Far easier to yell and scream then to work at something.

I see it all the time.
My mother blames video games for everything bad one of her friends kids does, ignoring that his mother spoils him, and then leaves him alone for long periods of time. Over all burning something is just so local morons can feel they did something.

No matter how many books, games, etc you burn there will always be sick people in society who do sick things.

I like this guy. He knows what's up.

However... it is unfortunate that the phrase, "history repeats itself" is a universal truth. People will never learn :(

I thought Connecticut was one of those upper-class states. Not one that subscribes to the same ideas about the evils of media as the deep, DEEP, banjo playing deep south. Wonder how long till Southington starts accusing D&D players of Devil worship and burning them at the stake.

Edit

By the by, since some of our friends south of the Mason-Dixon line don't get the joke, I'm talking about the exaggerated southern stereotype. The kind you'd see with a jug with XXXX on it and playing a banjo with their bare feet, fleeing in fear of the talking-picture-box. Ya know, the type of person you'd see in a cartoon when they're trying to exaggerate for comedic effect... the type of person that isn't real.

Heck I thought throwing in the term "banjo playing" was enough to indicate it was a statement of hyperbole, but I guess "To Live and Die in Dixie" was a more accurate depiction of the southern US than I realized.

Heh. The world of non-reactionary thought speaks up and manages to do it before the fire is lit. I'm impressed.

I took a peek at the full article on Polygon and Ferguson is the picture of polite and respectful intelligence. Gaming community take note! This is how the pros do it!

So, people are burning video games now? I can understand burning books, them being paper and all, but burning plastic cases and disks inside is just dumb. It's not even gonna burn properly and definitely gonna smell bad. And think of the environmental damage!

(I in no way condone burning books or any other form or art, games included.)

How long do you guys think it'll take people to stop doing stupid shit out of irrational fear based on assumptions? I sure hope the answer is not "forever".

Contrary to what 24-hour news outlets seem determined to convince people, youth violence (& violent crime in general) have been steadily decreasing since the early 90's. I wonder what else happened in the early 90's... increased interest and popularity of some form of entertainment... hmmm...

Sarcasm aside, I'm not saying videogames are the reason the US crime right has gone down, but it is wholly irrational to blame violent crime on something that's growth & prevalence parallels the decrease in violent crime

This is EXACTLY how we should be dealing with this; actually approaching the issues, not 'highlighting' them and missing them by a mile.

Funny how none of the people participating in the burning don't seem to be speaking up on how videogames affect them; that takes a lot of legitimacy out of their sails, that they clearly have no first-hand evidence.

dangoball:
So, people are burning video games now? I can understand burning books, them being paper and all, but burning plastic cases and disks inside is just dumb. It's not even gonna burn properly and definitely gonna smell bad. And think of the environmental damage!

Who knows,the fumes might be tasty :3 image

I wonder how many people will end up in hospitals because they stayed too long.

tmande2nd:

It is easier to BLAME something then to try and solve something.
How well would it go over if a politician said that "Actually weak parenting, lack of over sight, and other factors that require real effort to counter act are at fault?"

Pretty spot on. People want to find a solution, but they want to find the easiest solution they can. You *could* say that our society has been going down the wrong path for decades with a fixation on villains over victims and an increasing focus on the self in marketing and other venues, and that it will take years of hard work and sacrifice to get things in order. Or you *could* say that the youngest form of media is to blame, and censoring it or getting rid of it is a fast and easy solution.

People are constantly wondering when video games will become a legitimate form of media and stop being the scapegoat, but the answer is simply "when the next big things comes along."

I've got a question burning in me: why a fire? Is this meant to look like a cult? Are the people doing this for spectacle?
Also, I remember the last time a game burning was called for, an amazing five games were thrown in the skip. The fire wasn't even sparked.

McMullen:
How has this not shown up yet?

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THIS is the right place for the right comic strip. you're welcome.

---------------------

the internet shall declare:

Psychologist Christopher J. Ferguson is officially a sane, rational and intelligent person.
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dangoball:
So, people are burning video games now? I can understand burning books, them being paper and all, but burning plastic cases and disks inside is just dumb. It's not even gonna burn properly and definitely gonna smell bad. And think of the environmental damage!

dude, dont cock block the darwin awards..

tmande2nd:
No one will really listen.

They want something easy to blame and hate, that wont in any way come back to them.
Parents and Politicians like saying and being told that they did nothing wrong and that its something easy to yell at that is completely at fault.

Kid murders someone? Played to much X.
Guy goes on a rampage? He listened too to much X.
Woman kills her kids? She took to much X.

It is easier to BLAME something then to try and solve something.
How well would it go over if a politician said that "Actually weak parenting, lack of over sight, and other factors that require real effort to counter act are at fault?"

People would be angry and then say he does to much X.
Far easier to yell and scream then to work at something.

I see it all the time.
My mother blames video games for everything bad one of her friends kids does, ignoring that his mother spoils him, and then leaves him alone for long periods of time. Over all burning something is just so local morons can feel they did something.

No matter how many books, games, etc you burn there will always be sick people in society who do sick things.

Yes, but at least someone spoke out. At least SOMEONE spoke reason and maybe, just maybe, a couple of those people that were going to the Southington burning will change their mind, keep their violent media, and go home.

The thing about seeing someone using a scapegoat is that if you don't ever call them on their shit, they'll think they're right about blaming the scapegoat. Tell them they're wrong and they at least have to take the time to think enough to defend their actions and once they do that...they may realize they're wrong. Probably not, after all, rationalizing is a powerful thing, but if you stop just one person...well that's one more person who listens to logic, yes?

Fappy:
I like this guy. He knows what's up.

No, I bet he plays Mass Effect, which brain washed him into bypassing proper science and claiming games didn't brainwash him and they aren't responsible for any harm. Here are the facts, though - video games exist and people kill each other. You cannot deny there must be a connection. Why, just the other day, I played some Mario, then later I squashed a spider. It was the game that trained me to be a killer, I'm sure of it. But I had to stay true to the scientific method, so then I played Torchligh 2. And when I went to the shop, there was no milk left! Or eggs, either! That settled it - it was the fault of video games, no doubt about it.

Oh thank goodness. I was starting to actually lose it. Yes, the protests against the games supposedly causing me to lose my mind, were making me lose my goddamn mind.

Though, I worry that all that will come out of it is the reasurance that not everyone is a fucking idiot. Still, I'm thankful for that much.

Christopher J. Ferguson, you have my respect. I just wish more people would listen to him. It's great to hear someone who's right.

First thought:
Yeah sure when you don't agree with someone "must be a delusional idiot" but when they support your ideas "praise be, a sane man" Gamers only question what they don't like, that's as bad as the idiots who cause this mess.

I don't think he's going to get anywhere. This whole thing is based on panic, fear, and a misunderstand of media and psychology. I'd be more upset if I didn't know that this will all blow over in a few months and video games will be no worse for wear. When some tragedy happens everyone goes way overboard for a short time and then they go back to normal. People need to note how stupid this whole thing is but it's very unlikely to be stopped unless you can stop people from acting in an emotional matter.

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Sylveria:
I thought Connecticut was one of those upper-class states. Not one that subscribes to the same ideas about the evils of media as the deep, DEEP, banjo playing deep south. Wonder how long till Southington starts accusing D&D players of Devil worship and burning them at the stake.

Really? Because I find that all the finger pointing at video games comes from the overprotective busybodies that reside on the northeast and west coast. The "deep,DEEP, banjo playing deep south" is also an awful stereotype that only serves to give northerners a smug sense of superiority over their southern neighbors. You should visit sometime and get rid of those pesky, outdated biases.

Burning violent video games? I believe that's a copyright infringement, no?
Oh... THAT kind of... oooh... OOOOOOH

No. Just no.

Sylveria:
the deep, DEEP, banjo playing deep south.

West Virginia isn't THAT far south :p

These people are just living in the past, I mean I get all my juicy violent games digitally.

This is why evil always triumphs over good, because good is dumb.

As well as this is, it sadly wont have much affact on the whole. It far easier to blame something specific like games, music, TV, and with the shooting in specific, guns as the problem and go after that than to try and venture deeper. Guns and games arent the problem, they are simply a part of the problem, and to simply focus on them would blind us to the actual problem (specifically, what drives these people to grab a gun and to try and kill as many people as they can...)

Wait, how can you claim that video games aren't linked to the incident, and then get together to burn a large pile of them? Are they just burning them for fun?

Because we've still got a lot of copies of Duke Nukem Forever and Syndicate lying around...

Sylveria:
I thought Connecticut was one of those upper-class states. Not one that subscribes to the same ideas about the evils of media as the deep, DEEP, banjo playing deep south. Wonder how long till Southington starts accusing D&D players of Devil worship and burning them at the stake.

Coming from Massachusetts, its more of the case of there being a whole lot of rational people, but also the easily duped, the misinformed, the wildly stubborn insert-religious-text thumpers, collage students, wild turkeys and yearly invasions of Canadian geese, like every where else...

Well maybe not the geese.

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"It tells me that goose-stepping morons like yourself should try playing games instead of BURNING THEM!"

Seriously, I thought we learned from history that book burning and generally having ritual immolation of "undesirable" media was kind of the *wrong* thing to do. That it didn't spread understanding but engendered hatred and scapegoating.

I like this guy already. It's people like him that I'd trust to have authority on this matter. I seriously have never understood this issue when you put other violent media right next to games. Heck, most books that are adult can get more explicit and violent than video games.

tmande2nd:
No one will really listen.

They want something easy to blame and hate, that wont in any way come back to them.
Parents and Politicians like saying and being told that they did nothing wrong and that its something easy to yell at that is completely at fault.

Kid murders someone? Played to much X.
Guy goes on a rampage? He listened too to much X.
Woman kills her kids? She took to much X.

It is easier to BLAME something then to try and solve something.
How well would it go over if a politician said that "Actually weak parenting, lack of over sight, and other factors that require real effort to counter act are at fault?"

People would be angry and then say he does to much X.
Far easier to yell and scream then to work at something.

I see it all the time.
My mother blames video games for everything bad one of her friends kids does, ignoring that his mother spoils him, and then leaves him alone for long periods of time. Over all burning something is just so local morons can feel they did something.

No matter how many books, games, etc you burn there will always be sick people in society who do sick things.

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH! People don't want to understand anyone's issues, which is the real problem. No one cares.

Sylveria:
I thought Connecticut was one of those upper-class states. Not one that subscribes to the same ideas about the evils of media as the deep, DEEP, banjo playing deep south. Wonder how long till Southington starts accusing D&D players of Devil worship and burning them at the stake.

You know, that is an incredibly sheltered view of America you have there. Analytic thinking and general intelligence is not entirely dependent upon where you live. Also, how is banjo music in any way relevant to one's ability to think rationally? Do I detect a slight hint of prejudice, or just a poorly informed view of that particular part of the country? :P

Bare in mind, the person that this article is about works at a university in Texas.

Initial thought (to the burning):

The smut we must cut, the trash we must bash, the laughter and fun must all be undone, we must blame them and cause a fuss, before somebody thinks of blaming us!

Second thought: The man with the degree about the feels makes a valid point. Burning video games isn't going to solve the problem, it's just going to distract from it.

So can we blame them for the next batch of pyromaniacs?

You know, this whole game burning thing makes no sense at all. Yes, let's digress into the medieval ages where anything that you don't understand should be burned at the stake, knowledge is for priests only, and peasants regularly die of the common cold.

tmande2nd:
No one will really listen.

They want something easy to blame and hate, that wont in any way come back to them.
Parents and Politicians like saying and being told that they did nothing wrong and that its something easy to yell at that is completely at fault.

Kid murders someone? Played to much X.
Guy goes on a rampage? He listened too to much X.
Woman kills her kids? She took to much X.

It is easier to BLAME something then to try and solve something.
How well would it go over if a politician said that "Actually weak parenting, lack of over sight, and other factors that require real effort to counter act are at fault?"

People would be angry and then say he does to much X.
Far easier to yell and scream then to work at something.

I see it all the time.
My mother blames video games for everything bad one of her friends kids does, ignoring that his mother spoils him, and then leaves him alone for long periods of time. Over all burning something is just so local morons can feel they did something.

No matter how many books, games, etc you burn there will always be sick people in society who do sick things.

Sorry to be the 800 jillionth person to hijack your quote, I just wanted to expand on it.

I feel like this is a large chunk, but another chunk is not wanting to challenge any beliefs. For example, say your mother's friend also blamed video games for her son's behavior. She blames scary new technology she doesn't understand so she doesn't have to change, but also so she doesn't have to think about why she would need to change. Theoretically, if her spoiling her child was the cause, she would need to change the way she parented (assuming she wasn't spoiling him by mistake, anyway). This would mean her beliefs about parenting are wrong (maybe it was the way she was parented or maybe she was trying to rectify the mistakes she thinks her parents made). Your mother also wouldn't tell her friend "your son needs less stuff and more attention," because challenging beliefs can lead to the end of their friendship(alternately, your mother could believe that the media she watches would never lie, exaggerate, or withhold facts, only other media that other people like does that). This is another reason why the media likes to whip people into a panic about an easy scapegoat--everyone wants to believe they're perfect, so it's not good for ratings and profits to tell them they stink. It'd be nice if we could get over our fear of critical thinking and challenge beliefs more often, but at least stories like these are sinking into the minority.

Treblaine:

Seriously, I thought we learned from history that book burning and generally having ritual immolation of "undesirable" media was kind of the *wrong* thing to do. That it didn't spread understanding but engendered hatred and scapegoating.

Someone should take some of the money we've been spending studying violent media and spend it on a legitimate scientific study of this. At the very least I could easily see something like a media burning desensitizing the community to things like mob mentality or general opression. I don't think the people organizing these things are considering the possibility that their attempts at a solution might be more destructive than the perceived threat.

Sylveria:
I thought Connecticut was one of those upper-class states. Not one that subscribes to the same ideas about the evils of media as the deep, DEEP, banjo playing deep south. Wonder how long till Southington starts accusing D&D players of Devil worship and burning them at the stake.

Every American likes a good old fashioned burnin! We burned everything even if we aren't supposed to like video games! Nevermind all the toxic chemicals and ignoring proper disposal of complex materials! We gotta burn them all!

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