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Congressman Wants Health Warnings On Video Games 421

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the nanny-state dept.
An anonymous reader writes "California Rep. Joe Baca has proposed a bill which would mandate placing health warning labels on any video game rated T (13+) or higher by the ESRB. The Video Game Health Labeling Act of 2009 would require a cigarette pack-like label that reads, 'WARNING: Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media has been linked to aggressive behavior.'"
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Congressman Wants Health Warnings On Video Games

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  • No (Score:5, Informative)

    by fiercedeity (1429639) on Monday January 12, 2009 @07:36PM (#26424727)
    "Excessive exposure to violent video games and other violent media has been linked to aggressive behavior" Except that it hasn't been.
  • by DocJohn (81319) on Monday January 12, 2009 @07:37PM (#26424735) Homepage

    Psychologists have shown that, in fact, there is virtually no connection between playing violent video games and increased violence, so the Congressman from California has it exactly wrong:

    http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2008/05/17/the-link-between-video-games-and-violence/ [psychcentral.com]

    I'm all for research supporting reasoned legislation, but in this case, it is ignorance and misconceptions supporting "feel good" government nannies.

    --
    Yes, the answer is no.

  • Thanks for the link. From your article:

    Surprise, surprise! People who may already exhibit signs of anger or aggression may be drawn to such games. The games don't cause the anger or aggression. Such people may also be at greater risk for showing increased anger or aggression.

    That's from a psychologist. Why can't the lawmakers figure it out?

  • Re:Hmm... (Score:5, Informative)

    by bobdehnhardt (18286) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:02PM (#26425081)

    I think that's the crux of the matter. The comparison the cigarette labels is misleading. In that case, there has been an incontrovertible link between smoking and various diseases - even the tobacco industry now admits this. The link between violent video games and violent behavior is far more tenuous, supported somewhat by some anecdotal evidence, and strongly disputed by many behavioral scientists. I've got no problem with the label per se, IF it's accurate.

  • Appropriate (Score:5, Informative)

    by Dice (109560) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:04PM (#26425119)

    Joe Baca

    The word "Baka" (romanization) in Japanese means "Idiot".

  • by Parris (1340575) on Monday January 12, 2009 @08:16PM (#26425293)
    This isn't really that weird for CA, they put warning labels on everything. You can find a "Warning [whatever we're labeling] is known to the state of California to cause [some really random condition]." Parking lots, food at the grocery store, beach water, you name it, CA slaps a warning label on it.
  • Re:face. palm. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Martin Blank (154261) on Monday January 12, 2009 @09:26PM (#26426113) Journal

    Joe Baca is generally a problem. He was influential in getting new regulations passed to make it easier for lower-income families to get loans, and now his district is one of the highest, if not the highest, foreclosure rates in the nation. He has steered PAC money to his sons' election attempts when the use of that money explicitly conflicted with the guidelines for their use. His election to head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus was a public one when the Caucus is supposed to hold private votes. When Rep. Loretta Sanchez -- also a Democrat, Hispanic, and from the same state -- pointed this out and called for a new, secret ballot, he called her a whore.

    Even for a Washington politician, Baca is quite capable of some low deeds.

  • Re:face. palm. (Score:2, Informative)

    by californication (1145791) on Monday January 12, 2009 @09:36PM (#26426239)
    So you're countering one slippery slope argument with another?

    Slapping a warning label on a product will increase the likelihood of that product being banned as much as playing violent video games will increase the likelihood of committing violent acts.

    If you say you aren't afraid of violent video games influencing people to cause violent acts, then you shouldn't be against a warning label out of fear that it might influence people to want to ban a product.

    Also, cigarettes are a completely different beast. Wear a fishbowl on your head and smoke a cigarette in that, and you could smoke indoors, outdoors, wherever the hell you wanted.

    Just trying to nip stupidity in the bud.
  • by Bigbutt (65939) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @12:27AM (#26427827) Homepage Journal

    Actually the roadrunner and coyote cartoons of even the 70's were censored from what I remember in the late 60's. I was watching them with my kids in the early 80's (I'm almost 52) and surprised when some of the scenes I remember were trimmed out.

    [John]

  • Re:Label the kids? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @11:30AM (#26433631)

    I agree entirely, except for the parts where you get your facts mixed up. You should read the wiki article you linked to a little closer. Whitman commited his famous tower spree in 1966, not 1956...and he was hardly the first spree killer in the US, by a long margin....nor even the first one to capture a media circus. You'd have to go back to the 19th Century for that, at least.

    Whitman was giving off warning bells for decades. There were LOTS of previous signs. Let's check the list:

    1. Physically and Emotionally Abused by Father
    2. Mother also abused while he watched
    3. Rage-a-holic
    4. Possible Alcoholic
    5. Abused his wife
    6. Court-martialed by the Marines
    7. Didn't take his meds when finally sought medical help

    We don't even know how the tumor affected his brain, since it wasn't diagnosed until an autopsy...but he complained frequently of headaches and nausea.

    Whitman managed to kill 16 people and wound 33. Most of these were not armed and were ambushed. Whitman was able to shoot at people for nearly fifteen minutes before the police arrived. It was the combination of the police and civilians that ended up LIMITING his range of fire as they forced him to take cover...but gun-free zone or not, it was the act of surprise that allowed both Whitman and the Virigina Tech spree killer to do their work with such efficiency. The VA Tech killer walked into classrooms full of people and shot everyone. There's no way to tell if the addition of guns would have stopped him...or if it would have made him more careful and methodical. Most people survived the massacre because he only casually shot them and moved on. Whitman had high-powered rifles and shotguns and did everything he could to kill anyone he could, while putting himself in an entrenched area to prolong his efforts.

    I think we agree, though, that his spree had nothing to do with guns, TV, music or video games.

  • The APA (Score:4, Informative)

    by Loundry (4143) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @01:29PM (#26435775) Journal

    Actually the results of studies linking video games and aggression have been posted on Slashdot (you can find a lot of studies wit Google). Also I'm not biased, I clearly said it pointed both ways and I obviously mentioned that there is a chance that a child that is too young will imitate what is seen on any media. Also, I speak from personal experience (both with knowledge of psychology/statistics and my own observations). One thing I have noticed is that the "aggression" in video games is caused by loosing. When football fans show violence, it's not because violent media has a direct play in it, it's because the ref made a bad call, or some player made a dumb move.

    I took your advice and googled it, and the first hit which came up was from the American Psychological Association:

    http://www.apa.org/science/psa/sb-anderson.html [apa.org]

    I want to counter what you wrote with what the APA says.

    You wrote: "Experiments have pointed both ways"

    The APA says:

    Myth 1. Violent video game research has yielded very mixed results.

    Facts: Some studies have yielded nonsignificant video game effects, just as some smoking studies failed to find a significant link to lung cancer. But when one combines all relevant empirical studies using meta-analytic techniques, five separate effects emerge with considerable consistency. Violent video games are significantly associated with: increased aggressive behavior, thoughts, and affect; increased physiological arousal; and decreased prosocial (helping) behavior. Average effect sizes for experimental studies (which help establish causality) and correlational studies (which allow examination of serious violent behavior) appear comparable (Anderson & Bushman, 2001).

    You wrote: "many dolts firmly believe that correlation implies causation"

    The APA says:

    Myth 5. Correlational studies are irrelevant.

    Facts: The overly simplistic mantra, "Correlation is not causation," is useful when teaching introductory students the risks in too-readily drawing causal conclusions from a simple empirical correlation between two measured variables. However, correlational studies are routinely used in modern science to test theories that are inherently causal. Whole scientific fields are based on correlational data (e.g., astronomy). Well conducted correlational studies provide opportunities for theory falsification. They allow examination of serious acts of aggression that would be unethical to study in experimental contexts. They allow for statistical controls of plausible alternative explanations.

    You wrote: "the 'aggression' in video games is caused by loosing"

    The APA says:

    Myth 10. Arousal, not violent content, accounts for video game induced increases in aggression.

    Facts: Arousal cannot explain the results of most correlational studies because the measured aggression did not occur immediately after the violent video games were played. Furthermore, several experimental studies have controlled potential arousal effects, and still yielded more aggression by those who played the violent game.

    You wrote: "this link has been established with biased experiments and insufficient data" And then you also wrote: "I'm not biased". In other words, you're completely objective, but anyone who disagrees with you is biased?

    I'm completely willing to accept that there are studies which refute a theory that you hate. But you need to pony up those studies and explain to me why the APA disagrees with you so strongly. It seems to me that you are in the weaker position, especially given these psychological facts:

    1. Humans ape behavior that they see other humans perform (modeling).

    2. Humans will perform a behavior more often if they are rewarded for it.

    3. Violent video games ever more closely approximate humans performing violence on humans and reward players

  • by Loundry (4143) on Tuesday January 13, 2009 @02:03PM (#26436351) Journal

    To be fair, I examined a "con" link, one that you would favor. The page is here:

    http://www.pbs.org/kcts/videogamerevolution/impact/myths.html [pbs.org]

    And PBS claims:

    2. (myth) Scientific evidence links violent game play with youth aggression.

    (fact) Claims like this are based on the work of researchers who represent one relatively narrow school of research, "media effects." This research includes some 300 studies of media violence. But most of those studies are inconclusive and many have been criticized on methodological grounds. In these studies, media images are removed from any narrative context. Subjects are asked to engage with content that they would not normally consume and may not understand. Finally, the laboratory context is radically different from the environments where games would normally be played. Most studies found a correlation, not a causal relationship, which means the research could simply show that aggressive people like aggressive entertainment. That's why the vague term "links" is used here. If there is a consensus emerging around this research, it is that violent video games may be one risk factor - when coupled with other more immediate, real-world influences â" which can contribute to anti-social behavior. But no research has found that video games are a primary factor or that violent video game play could turn an otherwise normal person into a killer.

    There are many things to say about PBS's critique.

    1. PBS says, "Claims like this are based on the work of researchers who represent one relatively narrow school of research, 'media effects.' This research includes some 300 studies of media violence."

    PBS calls it "relatively narrow" as a comparison to other fields of study, but it's really a way to spin the body of research as small and insignificant. But 300 studies is 300 studies. How many studies did PBS conduct?

    2. PBS says, "But most of those studies are inconclusive and many have been criticized on methodological grounds."

    Which studies? On what grounds? On what basis does PBS say that they are "inconclusive" when the APA's conclusions are plain for all to see? PBS does not say. This is a sweeping judgment of a body of research that comprises 300 studies.

    3. PBS says, "In these studies, media images are removed from any narrative context."

    And what psychological effect would that have? PBS does not say. And which studies does this apply to? PBS does not say.

    4. PBS says, "Subjects are asked to engage with content that they would not normally consume and may not understand."

    Media is frequently "consumed" by people who would not "normally consume" it. Furthermore, on what psychological basis "understanding" media, specifically as it relates to witnessing acts of violence, germane? PBS does not say.

    5. PBS says, "Finally, the laboratory context is radically different from the environments where games would normally be played."

    The APA says:

    Myth 3. Laboratory experiments are irrelevant (trivial measures, demand characteristics, lack external validity).

    Facts: Arguments against laboratory experiments in behavioral sciences have been successfully debunked many times by numerous researchers over the years. Specific examinations of such issues in the aggression domain have consistently found evidence of high external validity. For example, variables known to influence real world aggression and violence have the same effects on laboratory measures of aggression (Anderson & Bushman, 1997).

    6. PBS says, "If there is a consensus emerging around this research, it is that violent video games may be one risk factor - when coupled with other more immediate, real-world influences â" which can contribute to anti-social behavior."

    I think the APA's consensus is pretty clear. Go here:

    http://search3.apa.org/ [apa.org]

    Type

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