Crazy-ass opportunists notwithstanding, it nevertheless behooves gamers to continually explore the idea of just what, if any, effects any kind of media might have on human beings. Just as we would do well to explore every kind of social, political and religious information-structures in order to examine how they shape, mold and influence behavior.
I point my readers, then, to a July 2001 study entitled, "The Effects of Violent Video Games on Aggression: A Meta-Analysis." It is, naturally, recommended reading. The author, John L. Sherry of Purdue University, looks at data collected from a wide range of study and extrapolates hypotheses based upon specific methods of joining that data, effectively giving a larger overall sample. While the efficacy of such analyses is difficult to maintain, there are some striking results.
I found this conclusion of particular interest: "Children and adolescents playing games in long stretches may transfer less aggression from the game playing situation to the external world than those playing for brief periods. Parents' intuitive reaction to limit playing time may actually be counterproductive, pulling the child from the game at a time when the largest aggressive effects are likely."
Also: "For example, there is a small indication that the effect size increases as the subjects get older, controlling for playing time and game type (year of study). This finding seems counterintuitive - we would expect younger children to be more vulnerable to the effects of video games."
Of interest to history buffs is a list of RPG-related literature which contains a small sampling of court cases waged against pen-and-paper RPGs. Older folks may remember the big Satanic scare in the 80s, which resulted in the discovery that the whole Satanic scare thing was complete and utter hysteria-induced bullshit.
My favorite case summation: "RPG not evidence that one who played was likely to become a terrorist, but merely 'enjoys mentalling challenging activities.' " But, see, in this country, enjoying the use of your brain often constitutes an act of terrorism.
For a good overview of violence in television programming with a constitutional bent, look here. There's a nugget in there about a study which concluded that from 1933 to 1974 (of statewide data) they found no consistent evidence of increase in murder, aggravated assault, burglary or auto theft.
However, they did note an increase in larceny, and this they attributed to the wealth of material goods displayed in television advertisements and on different shows. A case of the covets, America?
Is Pimp My Ride to blame, not GTA, for auto thefts?
Maybe we should start censoring materialism.
Well, no. A little hyperbole there. Just trying to think like the opposition - irrationally.
Following me back now, all the way to 1994, an essay by Ray Surette, Professor of Criminal Justice. This essay suggests that taking an extreme view - media does cause violence, media doesn't cause violence - is myopic and counterproductive. But what must be stressed at all times is that correlation is not (and never will be) causation. There is not a one-to-one correspondence. Not even computer software does exactly what it's programmed to each and every time.
Today's final lesson comes right from Robert Anton Wilson, an individual who has had an incredibly profound effect on my own thinking:
"In contrast to our deliberately optimistic sketch of the future, the latest Supreme Court rulings on "obscenity" are a backward swing of the pendulum, just as cynics have long been predicting. Once again we are told that parts of our bodies must remain dirty little secrets and that the state will use its powers of coercion to enforce this code upon us. To a rationalist, it is as if the highest court had ruled that we must all believe, or pretend to believe, in the doctrine of the Trinity. Some people can believe in a three-in-one divinity, and some can believe that the human body is foul; others can no more believe these propositions than they can accept the tenets of the snake-handling cult in Georgia which we mentioned earlier.
"It doesn't matter what rationalists believe; they must not get caught exercising their disbelief."