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Gamers, Take The Time To Applaud An Unexpected Spokesman

For the most part, gamers are not used to individuals outside the video game industry standing in defense of the hobby. It's rare.

That's why gamers everywhere should stand and applaud Stetson University psychology professor Chris Ferguson, who recently penned a clarifying - and greatly appreciated - article, published in the The Hartford Courant.

Ferguson addressed the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left twenty children and six adults dead in December 2012. Specifically, he said murderer Adam Lanza's game playing has been overblown and in reality, it's nothing more than an example of "moral panic." After the shooting, rumors quickly spread about Lanza's hobbies and within days, he was branded a "deranged gamer," which once again put gaming in the negative, black-tinged spotlight. Those who have been playing games for a while weren't surprised. Hell, most of us figured it was inevitable. I remember seeing the awful news and sadly, I immediately wondered how long it would take for the media to somehow blame games.

Didn't take long. But Ferguson says all of it was unnecessary, as Lanza's gaming habits were "unremarkable" for a 20-year-old (something we've been saying for the past year). He adds that nowhere in the official investigation is there a confirmed link between video games and the shooting, nor is it proven that Lanza was "obsessed" with games.

He writes:

"The condemnation of violent video games following the Newtown shooting is a classic example of a moral panic. Politicians put pressure on the social science community to produce certain types of research results, based on an erroneous assumption. The news media churned out headlines that followed suit. Most of the debate over video games went forward without waiting to see how much the shooter had in fact played them."

Ferguson likened the "moral crusaders" freaking out over video games in Newtown to the battle rock music faced in the 80s and comic books faced in the 50s. Those of us old enough all remember "Twisted Sister" front man Dee Snider coming before Congress and speaking his piece. Ferguson finished with a very strong point:

"During the past 20 years in which video games have soared in popularity, youth violence has dropped by almost 90 percent. We would do well to remember this, concentrate on more pressing matters such as poverty, and forgo discussion of cultural issues, if we are really serious about crime."

We're thankful that Ferguson took the time to write this piece. We rarely, if ever, see newspapers post articles in defense of gaming, so this is refreshing. Of course, it's still a gigantic problem that the media continues to ignore this industry but hey, at least someone got through. By the way, one final question: After the Sandy Hook tragedy, when gaming was brought to the forefront, does anyone recall seeing a single industry representative featured in a paper or magazine, or on the radio or TV, speaking up in defense of gaming? No. We're not allowed to speak. Never have been, really, dating all the way back to the Mortal Kombat snafu in the 90s. That's only one example in a long string of condemnations.

That has to change. But in the meantime, we'll take whatever support we can get. Our silence is not self-imposed.

Tags: sandy hook elementary shooting, video games, sandy hook tragedy, violent games

1/7/2014 11:29:09 AM Ben Dutka

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Legacy Comment System (19 posts)

Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 12:15:53 PM

It's about time someone stood up and spoke up for our hobby. I often find that I have a lot to say on this subject but can never really gather my thoughts together and make a solid point.

Kudos to Ferguson for stating the obvious, but as always, mainstream media will completely ignore his piece and sub in their own reality. Regardless I applaud you sir...

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 12:19:07 PM

It's incredibly difficult to form an argument against dead-set ignorance.

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 1:16:19 PM

There's ignorance, and prejudice, and then there's prejudice based on ignorance.

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 12:18:32 PM

That is nice to have an outsider tell the truth. I figure a lot of murderers have unremarkable habits within their hobbies of choice. For whatever reason ignorant media types just latch onto anything and run with it without facts because it suits what they already believe.

We need our own media representatives. Hell when news covers climate change they bring on a scientist and then bring on a right wing lunatic whose experience is that they breathe CO2 sometimes so it can't be bad for the earth. You'd think we could get our own experts in there.

Also it's weird that nobody has ever considered the possibility that messed up people are attracted to violent media, rather than violent media creating messed up people.

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 12:56:25 PM

Millions of people play a game, one guy decides to shoot up a school or some other act of violence, that ONE guy out of the million someodd gamers must have been effected by that game right? What a bunch of noobs.

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 1:22:33 PM

@ World: Unfortunately, the mainstream corporate media is now owned by just 6 organizations, globally! Most mainstream news channels run stories which clone one another. Even the BBC here has lost a lot of its credibility to be able to run objective journalism.

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 2:11:55 PM

Ours is somewhat biased as well. It's not too bad since the major one, CBC is publically owned, but you still get hints of bias. At the very least, they do bring in intelligent people for debates for both sides.

We do have some non-biased sources, but they're small.

Fox is a joke, though. A little while back, they attempted to expand their network to Canada. They decided not to because our broadcast standards required them to identify as an entertainment news station due to the way they deliver and provide "news".

They ended up not setting up camp in Vancouver as originally planned.

Last edited by Underdog15 on 1/7/2014 2:19:19 PM

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 1:33:20 PM

Truth depends on your perspective and what side you are on. Both sides, the extreme sides, are blinded by their own positions and bias. It all comes down to whose numbers you want to believe, how they came by it, and the criteria they are using.

As for referring to outsiders... do we know this person has never or does not play vid games? OR come in contact with vid games in their life. OR is it that his profession is not in the industry. Are gamers insiders then only because they have vid games as a ... hobby.

Anyway, if one is to actually look at the justice system, one will notice, depending in what country you are in that programs have been put in place for "young offenders" so that if they are up for crime in one form or another and dependent on the level of that crime, these programs prevent their case reaching courts and try to deal with them more.. constructively rather than jail or fine.

Like I said, depends on how or where you get the numbers and how you interpret them.

Again, like I said before in previous posts, gaming is a part of pop culture. One and only one component of pop culture. As much as I know gamers only care about that gaming is completely cleared of any involvement, it really is a part, be it maybe a small part of the overall problem. Until we recognize this, this will be just an endless circle of getting know where. Like it is now.

Whatever you stance... once again... be safe, have fun within reason, and keep playing!

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mk ultra
Thursday, January 09, 2014 @ 7:10:29 AM

I'm sorry but i don't understand this post.

In your comments here (and below) you seem to think scientific opinion can be the same as scientific truth or fact. As you say below "when you get two differing opinions, scientific or not, based on data," it is just that, opinion, not truths. As Norrin put it there is no grey area. You said you were a scientist, a good scientist wouldn't freely interchange the words truth and opinion, and then not understand when someone tries to correct you with sound logic and a solid metaphor.

As for outsiders, I think it's clear he means someone not being paid by the industry. You can have insider knowledge and not be an insider.

Your reference to the worlds justice systems confuses me. Are you saying the bigger issues professor Fergusons' article talks about are being addressed and handled by the worlds governments? If so I have to disagree. That would be treating the symptoms and not the root cause. We may be able to prevent the problems to begin with.

So, you believe pop culture is to blame for mental heath issues? If I am wrong please be more clear, but the problem as I see it here is mental heath issues and you do not specify which problem you are talking about. But if so I have to again strongly disagree. As Ferguson puts it, thats about as meaningful as linking mental heath to soda, or something else as common.

Again, I'm sorry to break down your comments like this, but occasionally I find it necessary to speak up when I see people spreading blatant ignorance. Especially when it's a regular at a site I frequent and respect so much.

Last edited by mk ultra on 1/9/2014 7:12:17 AM

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Norrin Radd
Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 2:27:55 PM

"Truth depends on your perspective"

Never has a more false statement been uttered. By definition, truth is not mutable nor malleable. What you have said is the equivalent of saying your scientific definition of water may be different than mine. That's absurd. 2 parts hydrogen, one part oxygen. There is no middle ground. There is no grey area. There is no room for perspective or interpretation. Just like truth. The truth simply, IS.

Opinion, bias, perspective all contain subjective qualities. The truth does not.

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 2:38:56 PM

I agree (and said the same thing in reply to my own comment below).

Subjectivity is for the forum where we do not have all the answers. Where we speak of "probably"'s and "might"'s, we can have opinions and theories of our own. But when it comes to refuting a cold hard fact... we are not entitled to an opinion.

Unless you change the phrase to "I'm entitled to my ignorance!". Then yes... I guess you are. However, it's immoral, in my opinion, to sway other's to thinking your way when you can't support your own thoughts.

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 5:49:50 PM

When you get two differing opinions, scientific or not, based on data, and data CAN be interpreted differently if you understand science, data and observation. And unfortunately in this debate have been differing scientific opinions. So yes, truth can be based on ones own personal perspective to a problem AND in how they interpret the data. How do I know this, well before I was a game designer I was... a scientist although I hate titles. It was just a job I did. Yes science is about the search of truth based on existing data at the time. But as we all know with this issue over the years.. the data keeps changing OR the scientists looking at the data are changing.

You will find many things in science are based on a persons perspective or interpretation of the data. Whatever wonderful analogy you wish to choose to disagree is fine, but you really are missing the point.

I am not discarding the findings of any person who is either supportive or against this issue or whatever side they are on. What I say is research the data yourself and come to you own conclusions. And not just take anyones word for it whether they support you or not.

Other than that, living in "ignorance" and just following what someone tells you and not finding out for yourself is... your choice.

Be safe and keep playing!

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 2:33:32 PM

I don't think the science is that difficult to interpret, but I do agree that people will use -pieces- of research to support claims.

The first trick is to find a correlation. We know that of people who commit violent crimes, there are enough of them that also play video games that we should look into additional correlation. THAT is the piece the media and anti-gamers will look to. But it's not the whole by any stretch.

However, the correlation between playing games leading to increased violence is almost negligible (I'm talking a percent of a percent of a percent of all gamers). And to go further to talk about causation, we see absolutely nothing in terms of violent outbreak.

What we do see is increased aggression in healthy adults playing violent games that diminishes within the window of activity (aggression goes away after the activity is over, and is not unlike any sporting aggression, but likely less intense) And only in early childhood, childhood, and adolescence are there more lasting effects.

In short... the only thing we know that is bad about violent games is that kids shouldn't play overly violent games. Especially when they are more likely to mirror attitude and personality during years of development.

(This is all info I've pulled over the years. It's readily available and very easy to find if anyone wants to look into it.)

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 2:35:56 PM

I just wanted to add that the phrase "We are entitled to our opinions" is false. I don't believe that at all. An opinion should never be an excuse to not allow ourselves to be challenged on what we want to believe.

If the science is against you - and it is on this issue - then no. You are not entitled to have an opinion based on falsehood if you can't support it in it's entirety.

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 3:06:47 PM

Hats off to him!

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Tuesday, January 07, 2014 @ 3:18:15 PM

*Applauds* I wanna send this guy a friend request lol

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mk ultra
Thursday, January 09, 2014 @ 5:18:25 AM

Wow, im surprised this saw the light of day.

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Thursday, January 09, 2014 @ 1:07:42 PM

Welcome to the mainstream media. When you hear conservatives complain of liberal bias, it's much the same thing as this: the media just doesn't seem to think an opinion they don't hold is worthy of fair representation, so they just don't bother getting that viewpoint or giving it a fair airing.

So the public just doesn't hear one whole side of the argument - or if they do hear it, it's only in the context of derision (quoting some illiterate and belligerent post on a forum or Twitter), typically with the label that it's an extreme viewpoint. Articulate, honest, and honorable expressions of ideas that fail to match their preconceived notions are simply neither sought nor shared.

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Thursday, January 09, 2014 @ 6:07:16 PM

If games could alter people, why aren't more people being altered?

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