Researcher Talks Game Violence, Jack Thompson

Australian gaming site Atomic MPC has a wide-ranging interview on video game topics with Dr. Guy Porter, a researcher at the University of Sydney.

Porter told Atomic that his interest in video game issues was sparked in part by Jack Thompson’s incessant claims that violent games are behind school shootings:

Previous studies have suggested… while certain games may make some individuals more aggressive, it is equally likely that these individuals will choose to play violent games in the first place.

Therefore it is difficult to separate cause from effect. This finding appears to be more significant for young children than adults. Existing studies tend to be of a poor quality and are by no means conclusive. There is a need for better designed, longer-term studies.

So, can violent games be blamed for actual violence? Porter told Atomic MPC:

It is very difficult to establish a link between the use of violent video games and real world acts of violence… there are so many other variables which have not been controlled for in previous research – these include social factors such as drugs, alcohol, mental illness, access to guns, and so on.

Regarding the controversial Thompson, Porter said:

Jack Thompson’s case has been greatly supported by the work of Dr.Craig Anderson… [But] Anderson has done some experimental work which we regarded as suffering from methodological problems…

Anderson also did a meta-analysis of the existing research… His conclusion was once again that video games lead to aggression. However his meta-analysis included many poor quality studies…

In 2007 a similar meta-analysis was published by [Ferguson] contradicting Anderson’s findings.

Porter opined that Thompson’s school shooting claims ignore other more significant factors:

Jack Thompson is also against children being exposed to the sexual content in certain video games and is an advocate for correct classification and parental supervision. So he is not all bad.

However, I think that directly linking video games to school shootings is overlooking other more important factors – such as mental illness or psychopathy in those who commit the crimes as well as access to guns…

I can sense that the gaming community is looking to find someone to counteract Jack Thompson. I may not be that person but I am someone who is trying to take a more balanced approach.

Porter added that 15-20 more years of study are needed in order to make a determination regarding the effects of violent games upon users. To participate in Porter’s current research project relating to video game addiction, click here

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