Monday, June 14, 2010

Academic Paper for Video Game Aggression Benefits

Reuters has been surfing the web with a piece about violent video games and children. Mostly, that some are stating it is not harmless and has beneficial effects. What a shock! After finding the source article, I was able to delve into it a little more, and it's an interesting read.


The article comes from a special edition of the Review of General Psychology by the American Psychological Association (2010 Volume 14 No 2, pages 68-81-if you're interested), written by Christopher J. Ferguson of Texas A&M International University. If you have the time I'd recommend taking a look.


Ferguson brings up some valid points on how media acts as the scapegoat for society's issues, or the "folk devil" as he terms it. He brings up historical context dating back to Plato that some believed that the alphabet would create deviant youths. Those damn Y's! Why are you only sometimes a vowel?!? Anger and rage ensue!

The part that I enjoyed the most is the description of the Bo-Bo Doll experiments. By far, this is the best explanation of the research to date. It gives a more accurate depiction of how the Bo-Bo Doll experiments were conducted and how they influenced scientific and social research for future aggression/violence endeavors. So much of social media is based around the Bo-Bo Doll, and few people are willing to disprove the experiment because of the standing behind it. Ferguson manages to provide mounds of references to counteract the Bo-Bo Doll research without throwing it completely out the window. There are a few key things in the research that have practical applications, but the way the experiments were held and the odd results are what question the legitimacy of the practice.


What I felt the article does well is introduce reasons on why research on video game violence is limited, from a theoretical perspective. His list of 9 reasons could be applied to video game theory quite easily on why people are not as willing to accept it as a legitimate field of study in academia. Ferguson also does well with introducing how video games benefit children, without going into a social frenzy that some of us gaming geeks would fall into. It is also important that Ferguson spelled out his definition of aggression and violence, two different terms used in two different theoretical contexts, something many people writing about video game violence overlook.


That's not to say this article isn't lacking. While Ferguson promotes game usage, his results are limited to what fields of experts have reported on previously. With 3 and a half page of references, it would have been nice if he put in the effort to conduct his own study. The article just feels haphazard at the end. There are too many loose ends to tie up and it seemed that he ended it because he was running out of space. I appreciate, both as a gamer and a media analysts, his attempt to provide clarity for the societal outcry against violent video games. However, his conclusions are not well defined.


My other issue is his point on Citation Bias and Publication Bias. In essence, Ferguson states that numerous studies contradict themselves, and in many cases, a critic will contradict his or herself by ignoring other studies and their own results. This is true. However, Ferguson is using these same publications to support his claims making for a bigger contradiction of facts. It's hard to delineate between fact and fiction. While Ferguson does cite a multitude of sources with some that are not contradicting their personal hypothesis, the stance remains that it is difficult to take the article seriously when the writer uses conflicting information from conflicting critics.


Again, the piece written by Ferguson is worth the read and a good step for video game studies, as a whole. Though it has its flaws (and what article, paper, book doesn't?), it can be a beneficial look on why new critiques on video game violence and aggression in children needs to be implemented.

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