Researchers Suspect “Perfect Storm” of Political Opportunism in Game Violence Studies

Prof. Christopher Ferguson (left) of Texas A&M International University dropped GamePolitics a line to mention that he and Prof. John Kilburn have a new meta-analysis in the Journal of Pediatrics.

Ferguson and Kilburn examined the issue of media violence, including both TV and video games. The researchers looked at studies which reported a link between media and aggressive behavior. Their findings are pretty interesting and will certainly be well-received in gaming circles.

  • In the last 10 years, video games studies have been overwhelmingly popular compared to studies on other media.
  • Less than half of studies (41%) used well validated aggression measures.
  • Poorly standardized and unreliable measures of aggression tended to produce the highest effects, possibly because their unstandardized format allows researchers to pick and choose from a range of possible outcomes.
  • The closer aggression measures got to actual violent behavior, the weaker the effects seen.
  • Experimental studies produced much higher effects than correlational or longitudinal studies.  As experimental studies were most likely to use aggression measures of poor quality, this may be the reason why.
  • There was no evidence that video games produce higher effects than other media, despite their interactive nature.
  • Overall, effects were negligible, and we conclude that media violence generally has little demonstrable effect on aggressive behavior.

Among works found wanting by Ferguson and Kilburn are those of the University of Michigan’s Brad Bushman and Iowa State’s Craig Anderson. Both are frequently cited by game violence critics.

Why, in the view of Ferguson and Kilburn, is media violence research so tainted? From their conclusion:

The concern remains that media violence effects research may continue to be driven primarily by ideological or political beliefs rather than objectivity. Media violence has a long history of being driven by ideology. Why the belief of media violence effects persists despite the inherent weaknesses of the research is somewhat of an open question. There may be a “perfect storm” of political opportunism, a union of far-right and far-left social agendas, and scientific dogmatism that has impaired the scientific community’s ability to critically examine this research field.


Ultimately, data from this study do not support the conclusion that media violence research is a significant public health concern. If it is the goal of society to reduce violence, scientific, political, and economic efforts would likely bear more fruit in other realms.

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  1. Father Time says:

    Reminds me of videos these guys made trying to prove that hitman was unrealistic.

    To do this they had a regular guy act normal and then ’47’ (guy in a suit) would sneak behind him wrap a wire around his neck and drag him off. Then he would show up later wearing the mark’s clothes.

    No one ever did anything.

    I’m not sure if the whole proving thing was a set up for this or if they didn’t expect those reactions.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  2. Father Time says:

    I have a book about moral panics and there was one that happened before movies, before novels even (and yes novels had their own moral panic as well, not just book burning ‘bad ideas’ but going after stories with violence).

    It was penny theatres in the late 19th century.


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  3. mdo7 says:

    Oh yeah,


    I forgot about how comic book were treated during the early day, hence the comic code authority.  Glad the CCA is eliminated now.  Hope it doesn’t come back. 

     @ bakaohki:


    Yeah I forgot the book burning and the controversial book also.


    The video game thing is a example of why history repeat itself. That’s why Winston Churchill’s quote on don’t repeat history does not work most of the time.  Because people keep repeating history once again.  

  4. mdo7 says:

    Damn it,


    Is there anything else I miss?  I forgot about D&D also, yeah I heard about the controversy about the game.  Too bad that controversy is gone now.


    History repeat itself again and again and again.  Winston Churchill’s quote on learning from the past doesn’t even work on people at all.

  5. nightwng2000 says:

    Not always shameful.  There have been cases where someone will step up and have found themselves attacked, and even killed.  In some cases, the harm came from the attacker.  And in some odd cases, the original victim stood up to their savior and attacked THEM.  Sometimes the attack is even faked to draw in other victims.  Then, too, you have the original attacker suing the outsider for causing the attacker harm.

    While a show like the What Would You Do show wouldn’t have the saviors harmed, they do have their limitations.

    You also have to wonder about the motivations of some of the "saviors".  For instance, in the case of the faked hate crime on a Latino man, a smallish Latino lady stepped out of her vehicle and confronted the fake attackers.  She went on later, after the revelation, how she took the act personally because it was a Latino man who was being attacked, calling him a "brother".  Such statements make you wonder if she would have risked her life if it had been someone of another race that was the victim of a hate crime.


    NW2K Software

    Nightwng2000 has also updated his MySpace page: Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

  6. Wolvenmoon says:

    —Potentially offensive content—

    If you look at the psychological effects of rape, murder is the next worst thing.

    This ‘fear’ a typical U.S. (and western european) thing. I personally don’t completely understand why sexual intercourse-which is (in my belief) one of the most intimate and dare I say beautiful aspects of human relations is taboo in video games while blasting a (virtual) man’s head into chunks and (in a virtual world) ending anything good that could have come of his (virtual) life is okay.

    Symbolically, consensual sex has many deep, good meanings for a couple. Though sex can be destructive, even consensually, it can also do a lot of good when treated with respect. There, I think that sums it up without too much detail.

    —end potentially offensive content—

    Where is the ‘good’ symbolism in a machine gun? In a nuclear explosion? Some may argue that you’re ‘killing bad people’, but in many real life stories where violence has been used, there have been many opportunities spread out among a ‘bad’ person/group/nation ‘s lifetime for a peaceful resolution, and these have been avoided.

    I should probably end my rambling…I’ll end with this : Violent video games are by definition not meant to teach morality.


  7. Zerodash says:

    I submit that 67 of 99 people are more likely to be cowards than "desensitized" to violence.  Most people are so afraid of conflict (physical AND verbal), that they avoid it like the plague- even when a confrontation is the right thing to do.  Very shameful if you ask me.

  8. DraginHikari says:

    Once again it comes down to the way people precieve things.  Which was more my point then anything.  Logic doesn’t always take place in the mental reason people declare things the way they do.   Much of what drives people’s believe is emotional response to cirmstances rather then reason.

    The one thing you stating at the end is kind of the whole reason that people have issues with it in the eyes of those that do not play the games, they are pointless and don’t teach anything, there for it is useless and unneeded.

    That’s the logic from their prespective… whether that makes it true or not is still heavily opinioniated at best.  Movie violence would be considered the same things but a majority of the time it doesn’t even seem to come up.

  9. nightwng2000 says:

    Remember the "study" where college students played violent/non-vilolent video games then were faced with a staged fight and judged whether they would respond or not?

    Now, watch "What would you do?" and ask what violent video games desensitized those people who didn’t react to the various situations they are exposed to.

    What would you do?

    Tonight’s episode included 3 guys committing a hate crime against a Latino guy.  Of 99 people who passed, 67 appeared to ignore the situation entirely.  What violent video games did they play?


    NW2K Software

    Nightwng2000 has also updated his MySpace page: Nightwng2000 is now admin to the group "Parents For Education, Not Legislation" on MySpace as

  10. mdo7 says:


    When it comes to politics and video game.  Politics (most of them, not all) are the most dumbest thing on earth.  They’ve been repeating the same mantra.  Politics has been supressing mediums for the last century.  These politicians don’t even know they’re violating the first amendment (unless they’re communist and hate first amendment).

    first it was:


    -rock and roll music (so how is it the devil’s work)

    -Gangsta Rap (so how can I become a gang member and know I use gun just from listening to the lyrics)

    -TV (because you can train on it, which is crap because a lot of them is fictional)


    -video game (the like of JT and other people not knowing the law of physics does not apply to video game.)


    -probably manga and anime (there’s enough anime haters for them to become the next Jack Thompson.  Wanna bet they will enter politics just to legislate anime/manga like how their video game politics counterpart did)


    This is an example of history repeating itself.  you’re blaming a medium for social ills, when it psychological problem.  When will people like politics who blame video game and JT learn it’s not video game that is behind school shooting and violent rampages.  Why can’t they just listen to us and just use common sense, millions (or billions) of people playing video games, and school shooting a rare thing, was that video game fault or the killer’s fault.  You can’t hold the industry responsible, they did not have homocidal intention or give them the gun.

    I have one theory why people hate video game: maybe those people think video gamers are like the lowest scum of the universe, and they think we’re retarded to them.

    I guess history will repeat itself again and again. 

  11. DraginHikari says:

    Some people like to argue that violent material is needed for eductional or explanation.  Most people don’t put most media including video gmaes into the matter.

    It mostly comes down to point of view or opinion more then anything.  It comes back to the same issue with the Rapelay game a short time ago about why people percieve imagines of rape in context worse then killing.  People have very strange prepections about violences acts dpending on what they’re own values or believes are.

    This isn’t strictly a reigilion issue necessary, but something more complex about people as a whole.

  12. Monte says:

     Well, technically, that isn’t a working argument to say christians aren’t suppressing violent and sexual media… When it comes down to it, Another thing that some like to point out to the christians that they say suppress violent media is that they are being hypocritical, for the very things you mentioned… They point out that the christians go to great lengths to suppress violent media but at the same time have no trouble with the violence in the bible. Essentially christians promote one while condemning the other…

    not to say that christians are the only ones pushing these things, i’m just saying is all…

  13. Wolvenmoon says:

    Before someone comes in here bible bashing about how it’s always Christians suppressing violent media, why don’t you go ahead and read genesis post-creation, and tell me it’s not one of the most violent, sexual books you’ve read.

    Or you could just skip right to the crucifixtion. Ears lopped off, people getting their eyes pecked out by birds, you name it.

    I would be a little more tame about this, but I’m tired of people coming in and talking out their asses about Christianity. It’s much like the people opposed to violent video games. They ignore what the issues really are to further their own agendas, and they don’t even bother examining what they’re bashing.

    I will not buy securom games. and

  14. stinky42 says:

    Really all of this research comes back to the studies of Albert Bandura, which found that young kids who watched aggressive acts beforehand were more likely to beat up the "Bo bo doll" (one of those big rubber dolls with a rounded bottom that bounces back and forth).  However, Tom and Jerry (well technically some sort of offbrand equivalent) had just as much effect as videos of real violence.  Also the effects were pretty short term.  This may be further borne out by longitudinal studies showing much smaller effects.  Hmmm doing a quick journal article search (I’m a Master’s student in psychology) it would appear the research seems to suggest that the modeling present in media may lead to trying out aggressive acts, but it is the consequences of the act that ultimately maintain the behavior.  So long as parents reinforce pro social non violent behaviors, and maybe punish violent behaviors (punishment should generally be used sparingly) violent media should in no way be a problem.  Well okay really graphic violence might disturb young children but that’s a relatively unrelated issue.  Given that most parents should be doing this anyway violent media shouldn’t really be too much of a problem.  There will of course always be exceptions, but on the whole media shouldn’t be an issue. 

  15. axiomatic says:

    Politicians slant study results to coincide with their personal political needs? SAY IT ISN’T SO?!?!?!?!

    Ok to be serious, the only people who believed in any of these faux violence studies are other right/left wingnuts who share the same desire to defraud the public with faux science studies that support their like minded, albeit narrow, opinions.

    Be an individual, challenge authority, live free.


  16. Adrian Lopez says:

    It’s always seemed suspicious to me that certain researchers keep finding these effects, where others do not. Even assuming complete honesty, it is far too easy for researchers to produce the very results they are expecting. I suspect Bushman and Anderson are just like that — honest but self-deluded researchers who work very hard to prove their pet theories true.

    I recall reading a piece by Anderson where most of the citations were references to other papers by Anderson himself. To me, it was a very revealing detail. How can you credibly support an argument based on mostly your own research? Hardly the best way to avoid unintenional bias.

  17. Father Time says:

    Dude most scientists don’t even consider Intelligent Design science. From what I understand of it you can test and disprove Alchemy (or at least parts of it) you cannot test Intelligent Design or dsiprove it.

    Oh and that website gives away itself as being religious, it has sections that attempt to prove God exists (and doesn’t do a good job of it).


    Debates are like merry go rounds. Two people take their positions then they go through the same points over and over and over again. Then when it’s over they have the same positions they started in.

  18. Wolvenmoon says:

    Unfortunately your comment is of the same attitude why real science-which is fine with being challenged and thrives in an environment of varied beleifs and ideas-is so oppressed today. Some of the most awesome scientific discoveries have been made based on some of the dumbest ideas. Regardless of if Intelligent Design is one of these ‘dumb’ ideas or not, it should be a welcome challenge to any other theory.

    Alchemy, for example, while having a flawed basis, had a huge effect on our modern day chemistry knowledge when we examined it in retrospect.

  19. spastkid says:

    Or he may truly be a scientist, i.e. he has found new data that shows that his previous stance was wrong and hence he corrects himself.


    Oooh! You mean there are people around with the mythical "Common Sense"?

  20. olstar18 says:

    Of course its for the simple reason that blood sells. When our the our generation is fully in power they will be unabl to make money by saying that these games are dangerous so they will stop.

  21. Saxy says:

    Just another sensical study that will be ignored in favor of all the nonsense crap "studies" spewed out by Jack Thompson and the like.

  22. Galthromir says:

    That sure doesn’t sound like Anderson. I’ve read his work (his book mostly), and his stance is that media violence is second only to gang involvement as a risk factor (its in his book). In fact, that fairly recent bill proposed in Congress that would put the warning about aggression on all games is taken verbatim from his suggested responses.

    If that is him, he certainly has tempered his views 😛

  23. Andrew Eisen says:

    An IGN article has some interesting quotes from (I’m assuming Craig) Anderson:

    "Extreme acts of violence always require multiple risk factors being present. You just don’t ever have a school shooter, for example, who only has one risk factor. It just doesn’t happen. There’s usually four, five, six, seven risk factors, sometimes more. Media violence is one of those risk factors."

    "Does that mean playing violent videogames is going to create a school shooter? No, not if there aren’t any other risk factors. But in kids who have a lot of other risk factors, can it contribute to the likelihood of some sort of extreme violent behaviour occurring? Probably, it can. More so than other risk factors? We don’t know. There’s no data on it."

    "We have empirical evidence that shows that adult involvement reduces the harmful impact of violent media.  We have data on that from several studies now. It’s not conclusive, but it does suggest adult involvement is very important."


    Andrew Eisen

  24. vellocet says:

    The science community has been saying that for years.  Unfortunately, the ones that get the most coverage are the ones that are politically motivated.

    Sort of like Intelligent Design… The science community unanimously agrees that it’s not science, but the general non science public doesn’t want to believe it.

  25. E. Zachary Knight says:

    Ultimately, data from this study do not support the conclusion that media violence research is a significant public health concern. If it is the goal of society to reduce violence, scientific, political, and economic efforts would likely bear more fruit in other realms.

    Thank you. Finally someone from the scientific community says what we have been saying for years.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  26. Larington says:

    I’m fairly convinced that the threat of the interactive element of games that is so often cited is mitigated by the control method IE that you have to use mouse&keyboard/gamepad in order for anything to happen that directly involves actions performed by the player character and that this creates a distancing effect not too disimilar to how when sitting in a cinema you are distanced from the action by the location around you and the distance from the screen.

  27. Meohfumado says:

    Kudos to them for pointing out in a legitimate forum what we already knew: that "agression" research is spurious at best.

    Hopefully people will listen…but most likely they will not.

    "You know what I wish? I wish all the scum of the Earth had one throat and I had my hands about it."

  28. HarmlessBunny says:

    Good on him. Curious to hear what Thompson’s rebuttal would be. "It is propaganda! He is on the payroll of video game industry!" most likely…

  29. BearDogg-X says:

    Further proof that the "studies" that were produced by Anderson & Bushman are a steaming pile of monkey crap.

    Geaux Saints, Geaux Tigers, Geaux Hornets, Jack Thompson can geaux chase a chupacabra.

    Proud supporter of the New Orleans Saints, LSU, 1st Amendment; Real American; Hound of Justice; Even through the darkest days, this fire burns always

    Saints(3-4), LSU(7-0)

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