Gamers and parents of gamers will likely find Dr. Cheryl Olson’s new book reassuring.
The Massachusetts General Hospital researcher contradicts much of the standard research on video game violence, offering a real-world approach based on studies of real children. With Grand Theft Childhood (co-authored with Dr. Laurence Kutner) set to release in April, Olson spoke with GameCouch’s Terry Bosky:
From the start, our research was designed with parents in mind… we wanted to help parents and policymakers understand what’s normal, when to worry about violent video games, and when video games might benefit some kids.
Olson believes that some of the best-known studies have serious flaws:
The most-publicized studies came from a small group of experimental psychologists, studying college students playing nonviolent or violent games for 15 minutes. It’s debatable whether those studies are relevant to real children, playing self-selected games for their own reasons…
Also, the most-published researchers have built their careers around media violence… [that is] just a small part of what we do, so we could look at the issue with fresh eyes and no agenda.
Olson found that games helped 12-14’s sort out their feelings:
This included playing games to “help get my anger out,” to forget problems, to relax, and to feel less lonely… When we began our research, we didn’t fully grasp how politicized and emotional this topic was.
What about the upcoming Grand Theft Auto IV ?
One of the most surprising things in our research was how many kids aged 12 to 14 are playing Grand Theft Auto games; the series was #1 among boys, and #2 among girls. So, parents can assume that their teens will play GTA IV sometime, someplace…
We found is that most children who play GTA don’t see the characters as role models, and don’t see the game as like real life. In fact, the “unreality” is one thing they like about the series. They can test boundaries and try things that, as one boy put it, “hopefully, will never happen to you.
Don’t miss the full interview at GameCouch.