G4's Adam Sessler Interviews Grand Theft Childhood Author

December 17, 2008 -

The always interesting Dr. Cheryl Olson made an appearance G4's X-Play program yesterday.

Olson is co-author of the popular Grand Theft Childhood.

While discussing game violence issues with host Adam Sessler, Olson touched on violent games and their relationship to topics like bullying and depression.

She also voiced concerns about California's contested video game law and explained why it can be difficult for non-academics to make sense of video game research.

 

12 comments

Psychiatrist (and GP reader) Takes Issue with Grand Theft Childhood

November 13, 2008 -

Gamers and the video game industry were cheered earlier this year by the release of Grand Theft Childhood. The book, written by a pair of Harvard researchers, Cheryl Olson and Laurence Kutner, basically said that fears about the effects of games on children are largely overblown (see: Researchers's New Book Cuts Through the Negative Hype About Video Game Violence). In fact, the book was so well-received in the game community that the authors were invited to present at PAX 08 in Seattle.

Not everyone in the field agrees with Olson and Kutner, however. Dr. Jerald Block, an Oregon psychiatrist and professor, works with patients suffering from video game addiction. He also happens to be a longtime reader of GamePolitics. Block's review of Grand Theft Childhood appears in November's Psychiatric Times, where he criticizes Olson and Kutner's perspective on game addiction:

The authors report being consulted by the mother of a 22-year-old man who is “addicted” to video gaming. The authors conclude, “Clearly, the young man had some major problems. The obsessive video game play was much more likely a symptom than the root cause.” Kutner and Olson do not seem to understand that while the computer use can often be a symptom of other disorders, it can also be a serious, self-perpetuating problem in its own right. The computer use is often an early defense against despair, but it can also socially isolate, perpetuate false feelings of power, and socially de-skill people; it can become its own source of pain and isolation...

Block also touches on the Shawn Woolley case:

In another example, the authors discuss, by name, a man who shot and killed himself in front of his computer. They dismiss the event on the basis of a magazine article that reported on it. They write, “It’s much more likely that his obsessive video game playing was a reflection of his other, more profound problems... and not the root cause of his suicide.” Having discussed the suicide with the man’s mother at several conferences, I found Kutner and Olson’s synopsis disturbingly trite and inaccu-rate. Moreover, the ethical breach of publishing the man’s name and speculating as to his diagnosis from afar was disturbing...

31 comments

Report Links Game Violence to Aggression in U.S. and Japan

November 3, 2008 -

A new report links violent video games to aggressive tendencies in children in both the United States and Japan.

According to the Washington Post, the report published in the journal Pediatrics examines research conducted by Dr. Craig Anderson (left) of Iowa State University as well as work by a pair of Japanese researchers. All three studies are of the longitudinal variety. From the WaPo:

Anderson said the collaboration with Japanese researchers was particularly telling because video games are popular there and crime and aggression are less prevalent. Some gamers have cited Japan's example as evidence that violent games are not harmful.

Yet the studies produced similar findings in both countries, Anderson said. "When you find consistent effects across two very different cultures, you're looking at a pretty powerful phenomenon," he said. "One can no longer claim this is somehow a uniquely American phenomenon. This is a general phenomenon that occurs across cultures..."

 

"We now have conclusive evidence that playing violent video games has harmful effects on children and adolescents," Anderson said.


Anderson also told the WaPo that video games are only one of a number of influences on a child's behavior:

A healthy, normal, nonviolent child or adolescent who has no other risk factors for high aggression or violence is not going to become a school shooter simply because they play five hours or 10 hours a week of these violent video games... [Extreme forms of violence] almost always occur when there is a convergence of multiple risk factors.

The Des Moines Register has additional comments from Anderson:

The [Japanese] culture is so different, and their overall violence rate is so much lower than in the U.S. The argument has been made - it's not a very good argument, but it's been made by the video game industry - that all our research on violent video game effects must be wrong because Japanese kids play a lot of violent video games and Japan has a low violence rate.

By gathering data from Japan, we can test that hypothesis directly and ask, 'Is it the case that Japanese kids are totally unaffected by playing violent video games?' And of course, they aren't. They're affected pretty much the same way American kids are.

Anderson's study was previously detailed in his 2007 book Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research and Public Policy.

Full report available here.

71 comments

New Book Digs Into the Past - and Future - of Sex in Video Games

October 6, 2008 -

While video games generally catch more heat for violence than sex, there have been a fair number of lust-fueled controversies in game land. Now, Playboy tech writer Damon Brown documents them in his new book, Porn & Pong: How 'Grand Theft Auto,' 'Tomb Raider' and other Sexy Games Changed Our Culture.

Salon has a lengthy interview with Brown who starts with Custer's Revenge and touches (appropriately, we might add) on everything from Leisure Suit Larry to Hot Coffee and beyond. Not one to leave out the online crowd, Brown includes a section on game-related cybersex:

One of the things I write about is the first documented cyberspace rape in a text-only environment called LambdaMOO. A user found a loophole that allowed him to control the actions of other players. He could make one player hurt or have sex with another player and so on. The malicious user went rampant through the game universe, forcing players into sexual acts, and was repeatedly kicked off the game, but he always managed to come back under a different user name.

The Playboy writer also explains his theory of why most protagonists in sexually-oriented games are male:

Most of the creators of these games are straight, most are white and a portion of them are Asian. [Game designers] want to have a protagonist the player can identify with and, on a different level, the designer himself can identify with. People identify with Larry, because everyone's been desperate and had those moments where they can't pick up anyone, or they want to be Niko Bellic, this awesome tough guy who can maintain five girlfriends across the city of New York.

In the future, Brown sees erotically-charged games becoming much more, um... interactive:

Our grandchildren are going to have amazing sex lives -- I can't think of a better way to say it. Connecting vibrators and other types of tools to the computer and getting pleasured by a professional or a long-distance lover is a brilliant idea. It will connect people in a much deeper way than the Internet or a webcam that's going 15 frames per second...

 

From talking to people at the Adult Entertainment Expo in Vegas in January, I understand the basic idea is that teledildonics will take off in a mainstream way any moment now. I'd say within five years it's going to become standard equipment for a lot of people.

UPDATE: Over at Edge Online, editor Colin Campbell has an entertaining whinge at the entire subject of sex in games. Best line:

Words like teledildonics leave me dizzy with nausea.
 

22 comments

Author: Gamers Part of "Dumbest Generation"

August 20, 2008 -

A controversial new book fingers video games, television, and digital communications as culprits in the author's indictment of modern youth culture.

The book is The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future (Or, Don't Trust Anyone Under 30) by Emory University professor Mark Bauerlein. Canada.com has a lengthy interview with the author:

Something insidious is happening inside their heads. Young Americans today are no more learned or skilful than their predecessors, no more knowledgeable, fluent, up-to-date, or inquisitive, except in the materials of youth culture.

What then, Canada.com asks, does Bauerlein make of the widespread involvement of young people in the Barack Obama campaign?

...if it turns out that we have 75 per cent of young people voting in this election, then I will be happy to say that my comments about civic apathy were wrong. But if inspiration proves to be their only motive and their participation falls in later elections when an Obama is absent, then my initial suspicion will be correct. We need a diligent citizenry, and not merely a momentarily inspired one.

The book's description on Amazon says, in part:

The Internet, e-mail, blogs, and interactive and hyper-realistic video games promised to yield a generation of sharper, more aware, and intellectually sophisticated children... we assumed that teens would use their knowledge and understanding of technology to set themselves apart as the vanguards of this new digital era.

That was the promise. But the enlightenment didn’t happen. The technology that was supposed to make young adults more astute, diversify their tastes, and improve their verbal skills has had the opposite effect. According to recent reports, most young people in the United States do not read literature, visit museums, or vote. They cannot explain basic scientific methods, recount basic American history, name their local political representatives, or locate Iraq or Israel on a map...
 

183 comments

Grand Theft Childhood Authors Respond to U of Michigan Prof's Criticism

June 30, 2008 -

In the preceding GamePolitics article we covered University of Michigan Professor Brad Bushman's criticism of Grand Theft Childhood.

The book, written by Harvard researchers Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson, downplays the effects of video game violence on adolescent behavior.

We also contacted the authors for comment on Bushman's attack on Grand Theft Childhood. Dr. Cheryl Olson shared these thoughts (and provided several of the links):

I don’t mind other researchers criticizing my work as long as they don’t engage in personal attacks... Brad Bushman is absolutely entitled to air his views.

 

Unfortunately, Dr. Bushman has some of his facts mixed up. In the 2001 Surgeon General’s report on youth violence, exposure to TV violence was actually near the bottom of the list of influences on real-world violence – so low that it was relegated to an appendix!

 

He theorizes that teens are more likely to identify with video game characters than TV or movie characters. That’s plausible, but I could just as easily argue the opposite; boys told us repeatedly in focus groups that they enjoying taking the bad guy role in a video game specifically because they don’t want to behave that way in real life. Also, because video games require active control and participation, players are constantly reminded that the game is merely a game.

 

Dr. Bushman’s statement that video games directly reward violence is only partly accurate; anyone who actually plays video games knows that players are not always rewarded for acting violently, and in fact are often penalized immediately or later on (even in parts of Grand Theft Auto IV). The content and consequences in video games are extremely varied, which is one reason that studying their influence is so difficult.

 

Finally, regarding his experimental study of Dutch teenagers playing a game for 20 minutes in a lab: Those teens are fully aware that no researcher will allow them to act in a way that causes permanent physical harm to someone. Dr. Bushman may be a bit too credulous – a view that is supported by a quote from that Surgeon General’s report.

Co-author Dr. Lawrence Kutner added:

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Game Violence Researcher Rips Grand Theft Childhood Book

June 30, 2008 -

While Lawrence Kutner and Cheryl Olson's recent book Grand Theft Childhood has given cheer to video gamers (and the video game industry), a longtime media violence researcher strongly disagrees with the authors' conclusion that violent games aren't all that bad for younger players.

In an op-ed for the Detroit Free Press, University of Michigan professor Brad Bushman writes:

Kutner and Olson’s advice to parents is particulary puzzling since their own data suggest that such games are linked to aggressive behavior... Although laboratory experiments can be used to establish cause-effect relationships, they quickly dismiss most lab studies as artificial and invalid.

 

I strongly disagree. Consider a laboratory experiment I recently conducted... Boys about 14 years old were randomly assigned to play a violent or nonviolent video game for 20 minutes... Next, they completed a noise blast task, with the winner blasting the loser with a noise...

 

The boys were told that inflicting higher noise levels could cause “permanent hearing damage” to their partners... These boys were even willing to give another boy noise levels loud enough to cause permanent hearing damage...

 

Violent video games are not the only risk factor for aggression, or even the most important factor, but they are definitely not a trivial factor...

Bushman was among the authors of the American Psychological Association's 2005 resolution which held that there is an increase in aggression following violent video game play. Bushman also participated in a 2007 study which found correlation between violent Biblical passages and aggression. He is also one of controversial Miami attorney Jack Thompson's expert witnesses in an Alabama lawsuit alleging that an 18-year-old's murder of two police officers and a dispatcher was motivated by playing Grand Theft Auto.

42 comments

GP Book Review: Halo Graphic Novel

September 26, 2006 -



Halo Graphic Novel

-reviewed for GamePolitics by Matt Paprocki

Transcending the world of video games, Halo is a cultural phenomenon.

While the days of seeing video game characters plastered on boxes of kiddie cereal are becoming less common, their more grown-up progress into other mediums is becoming commonplace, like movies and books. Thankfully, the Halo Graphic Novel exists in a realm free from director Uwe Boll’s influence.Entrusted to the hands of comic masters Marvel, this beloved Xbox franchise is in the best of hands.

While a slender volulme, the Halo Graphic Novel is jammed with four separate stories. Multiple authors and artists contribute their work to craft this gorgeous book, including the likes Simon Bisley, Brett Lewis, and Moebius. According to his bio, Lewis doesn’t even own a TV, but was so gripped by the paperbook novelizations of the Halo universe that he ended up contributing some of the graphic novel’s most vivid writing.

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E. Zachary KnightOk. So I sent an email to 4J Studios. Let's see what they have to say about broken texture packs for Minecraft.04/01/2015 - 12:59pm
Papa MidnightHere's the announcement page. It now operates on Steamworks: http://steamcommunity.com/games/321040/announcements/detail/13319517079995034704/01/2015 - 12:45pm
Papa MidnightNews tip (Not an April Fool's Joke): Codemasters has published an update to DiRT 3 on Steam that removes Games for Windows Live. It is now called "Dirt 3 Complete Edition". Existing owners of DiRT 3 will see the title update in their library.04/01/2015 - 12:43pm
MaskedPixelanteI might be wrong, but aren't the console versions of Minecraft handled by a completely different studio?04/01/2015 - 11:52am
Papa MidnightMight want to keep an eye on this case. It's effects could be pretty wide reaching: http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2015/03/if-you-believe-enough-can-you-invalidate-a-patent-supreme-court-to-decide/04/01/2015 - 11:52am
E. Zachary KnightMojang Support is trying to claim they have no responsibility for broken content on the PS3 version of Minecraft.04/01/2015 - 9:23am
MaskedPixelantehttp://www.destructoid.com/kojima-productions-logo-removed-from-silent-hills-website-289814.phtml So... Japan doesn't usually do April Fool's, right?04/01/2015 - 7:51am
E. Zachary KnightXKCD is really fun this morning. http://xkcd.com/04/01/2015 - 7:37am
E. Zachary KnightI managed to wrangle a refund out of Sony for the broken texture pack. But for actual issues with texture packs, they referred me to Mojang. When I asked mojang about it, they referred me to Sony.04/01/2015 - 7:16am
Andrew EisenHuh?04/01/2015 - 2:42am
Matthew Wilson@AE I think the first dragon age did it the best. the person you played was treated differently based class,race, and gender. if the npc are going to act like 2015, you should just set the game in 2015 and add magic and dragons.04/01/2015 - 1:23am
E. Zachary KnightYeah, the PS3. My son paid for the Steampunk Texture Pack and it would not work at all. No matter what I did, it wouldn't allow us to save.03/31/2015 - 10:56pm
Sora-ChanConsole version?03/31/2015 - 10:40pm
E. Zachary KnightSo, Mojang has been selling a broken texture pack for Minecraft since at least Dec. 2014 and it hasn't been fixed yet.03/31/2015 - 10:30pm
Andrew EisenI think TT Games gets away with multiple LEGO games a year because they're all based on different franchises. If there were two or three LEGO Star Wars games every year, I think people would feel the same fatigue as they do with Assassin's Creed.03/31/2015 - 6:40pm
Andrew EisenIn other words, a hero is male because that's the default. A hero is female because of a gender-related reason. So, male heroes are for everyone. Female heroes are for women.03/31/2015 - 5:32pm
Andrew EisenHer point is that "When archetypal fantasy heroes in games are overwhelmingly portrayed as men, it reinforces the idea that... women should be able to empathize with male characters but that men needn’t be able to identify with women’s stories."03/31/2015 - 5:30pm
Andrew EisenDaniel - She doesn't say that in any of the TvW videos and I doubt she's said elsewhere that all games with male protagonists are male power fantasies. Anyway, you seem to be conflating two different ideas.03/31/2015 - 5:30pm
MaskedPixelantehttps://twitter.com/Yuriofwind/status/583028257890635776 Oh snap!03/31/2015 - 5:14pm
WymorenceFor me it just boils down to the fact that, even at a giant company, when a game comes out annually it just gives it a vibe of being rushed out the door. And god knows Unity sucked some major lemur with all its bugs...03/31/2015 - 4:22pm
 

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