‘Back In My Day: Video Games, A New Age Scapegoat For Aging Anxieties’

In response to the reading of David Gauntlett’s dated, yet nonetheless well-founded ‘Ten Things Wrong With the ‘Effects Model’‘, I’d like to offer a contemporary platform for which to base the values and points he addresses on and substitute the arguably dying medium of conventional television with the increasingly popular, and therefore ever scrutinized, medium of video games.

This particular form of entertainment has for years been the scapegoat for youth violence and a curated a supposed demonizing effect on the minds of the impressionable. The criticisms once cast at slapstick television programs, that of establishing a complacency, nay; an active encouragement of violent force, and a perception of anti-social isolation have been largely re-purposed and re-branded to condemn video games which provide a virtual escape for potential troubled children.

One of Gauntlett’s grievances in particular with studies on the topic is very applicable and observable today; that the media and parents assume children are unknowing and ignorant of the distinction between what’s on screen and what’s acceptable in the real world. Moreover, with games the detractors point to the element of interactivity; of participation, that the viewer has and argue that this must have an effect on the behavior of children, but independent investigation have time and time proven that if any link is to be drawn from these findings to a child’s behavior, it’s beneficial. Drs. Ferguson and Olson in their study determined ‘a very slight calming effect on youths with attention deficit symptoms… [reducing] aggressive and bullying behavior.’ The study also notes the ‘sanctioned’ context from studies finding opposite results, criticizing the unprofessional practices undertaken.

On a different and possibly contentious point, any anxieties felt by parents in regards to the material their child is exposed to in video games frankly would only have themselves to blame and hold accountable. Whether any acts of youth violence are instigated directly by video games or not is arguably a moot point in the real world. Whereas sitting a child in-front of a television where the programming could unexpectedly change from news broadcasts with images of death cults to wacky cartoon violence in a heartbeat, a parent is directly responsible for exactly what their child is exposed to when purchasing or, soliciting the purchase of, a game for their child. Compare these two accessible guides for the two mediums. While a TV guide may only show this, a non-existent breakdown of content:

example1

‘This week on Elmo; Big Bird lays the smackdown on Oscar.’

The Australian Classification Guidelines state explicitly on the front cover exactly what the video game contains, satire notwithstanding.

0231958764

Seen as a worthless suggestion, not the influencing force needed.

Perhaps the medium isn’t the issue. Maybe, we should be looking to parents, as arbiters of what their child is exposed to, and question their decision to allow this exposure to material that, allegedly, affects their child’s behavioral development. Frankly, societal figures and the media need to consider the issue of irresponsible parenting, comparable to the ‘Noise Source’ factor in Shannon-Weaver’s Mathematical Model of communication, before jumping to any rash, baseless, conclusions as to the violent and anti-social influence video games supposedly have on the young children that are tragically ‘exposed’ to them by their helpless bystander parents.

Just my three cents,
Clancy

Sources cited:
1. Ten Things Wrong With the ‘Effects Model’, David Gauntlett (1998),
<http://www.theory.org.uk/effects.htm> 

2. Columbine High School Massacre – Video Games, 
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Columbine_High_School_massacre#Video_games&gt;

3. The Impact of Video Games – Adolescents, Andrea Norcia, M.A.,
<http://www.pamf.org/parenting-teens/general/media-web/videogames.html&gt;

4. In New Study, Video Games Not Tied to Violence in High-Risk Youth, Rick Nauert PHD,
   <http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/08/27/in-new-study-video-games-not-tied-to-violence-in-high-risk-youth/58934.html&gt;

5. Study: No Real Link Between Violent Video Games and Aggressive Behavior, Wolfgang Hansson (2007) 
<http://www.dailytech.com/Study+No+Real+Link+Between+Violent+Video+Games+and+Aggressive+Behavior/article9710.htm#sthash.liMc2btv.dpuf&gt;

6. Tour De France R18+ photo, unknown JBHIFI employee,
 <http://40.media.tumblr.com/732f7d6b16a359c6b2f304fe79fd1449/tumblr_mtxs01SU0A1r3823do1_400.jpg&gt;

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