Thursday, September 12, 2002

Stephen Kline has written the article I have been waiting and hoping for: Moral Panics and Video Games. He describes the connection between Moral Panics and the Academic Discourse, and positions this against the evidence of existing research on Video Games and violent behaviour in children. What he finds correlates with what has been found in other media studies:

In fact the way we should interpret survey studies of kids play and violence is a hotly contested issue because correlations cannot reveal the causal relations be-tween gender, amount of violent play and aggressiveness or hostility that re-searchers measure. As in the TV violence issue the confounding of aggressive
predisposition with preferences for aggressive entertainment make it hard to explain either correlations or their absence. As Dill and Dill (1998) note the correlation between aggressiveness and video game play might have 1) a social learn-ing explanation – video games cause aggression (or its absence indicates cathar-sis); 2) a disposition explanation – aggressive disposition leads to preference for more violent video game play; or 3) relate to an underlying factor (low self es-teem, social isolation) which leads to both aggressiveness and video game play. But one thing becomes clear from just about all these studies: Experiencing intense and virtual conflict seems to be an attractive play experience for many males—an experience that heavy gamers seek and that most young females avoid (Kubey, 1996; Goldstein, 1998). (Kline 1999:17)

Although there is a slight tendency towards a connection between violence and playing violent video games, it's hard to know which came first: the preference for violence, or the computer games? Kline sums his paper up with an interesting observation on the topic of moral panics:

Indeed, as this review of the literature revealed there was very little concern about video game violence until the recent moral panic: most parents actually knew
very little about their children’s use of gamings experiencing their concern and regulating because of that addictive and displacement effects. What I discovered as I set out to
take stock of this evidence is that on a global basis there are almost as many reviews of the literature on violence and video games as there are actual studies. Yet the evidence is already available, that like television and films, this interac-tive entertainment industry may require guidelines for the sale and marketing of gratuitously violent entertainment to children and young people. Although the bleating call for more research is all too familiar, it is time someone sounded the fire alarms and noted the changing media environment. (Kline 1999:22)

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