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Video Game Study Tells Us Nothing New

This month's issue of Psychological Science claims to reveal proof that almost 1 out of every 10 kids who play video games could be classified as an addict, to which I have two reactions: 1) yeah, sure, and 2) so what?

This month's issue of Psychological Science claims to reveal proof that almost 1 out of every 10 kids who play video games could be classified as an addict, to which I have two reactions: 1) yeah, sure, and 2) so what?I got vilified by some in the gamer community for a post here a while back, when I dared to suggest that there must be some connection, however indirect, between incessant playing of uber-violent games, and a negative effect on behavior. I proposed that the game industry should at least acknowledge that there could be a link -- I pondered the fact that corporations spend billions in the belief that exposure to a 15-second commercial will prompt actions later on -- and use it as an avenue to explore real, meaningful, and fair public policy. Denying any correlation seemed to doom the industry to battle with the nut-jobs who wanted to see games locked away from kids altogether.

I think some of those nut-jobs are behind the story in Psychological Science. Or at least they have an agenda, which brings me to my two reactions.

First, the research works overly-hard to qualify video game addiction. Out of the 11 symptoms of gambling addiction (used as the model here), the study found that most kids exhibited two, give or take a few. The study took place during January, when new games are likely loaded onto consoles, and winter weather makes wholesome outdoor frolicking less likely. It was a poll, and not interview or analysis of the teenagers, so it can't make any real conclusion about their behavior (or the motivations behind it).

So it's only sorta scientific, kind of like the Creation Science research that just so happens to discover proof of its expectations.

Secondly, so what?

The qualities the survey says prove game addiction -- skipping chores and homework; poor grades; game play to escape problems; excessive thinking about something; inability to stop; even lying about it, or worse -- are qualities common to most teenagers. Just insert sports, music, fashion, or the opposite sex in place of video gaming, and I bet you'd get the same results. No. They'd be worse. Every teenager is an addict in at least one way, shape, or form. So are most adults, come to think about it.

This game study tells us nothing new, but it does tell us something we already knew: if the video game industry doesn't figure out how to engage with its detractors in more constructive, middle-of-the-road sort of ways, it's going to keep getting whacked with such nonsense attacks.

Jonathan Salem Baskin writes the Dim Bulb blog and is the author of Branding Only Works On Cattle.

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