Tag Archives: bad science

When Journalism is a Game

The June issue of Men’s Health has a Special Report by Tom McGrath titled “When Killing is a Game”. We’ve seen reports like this before, though they’re usually a bit more blunt in their style (no cuts to a van exploding for example), but I wanted to address this one in particular because it is a bit more insidious. There is a facade of moderation, but the benefit of the doubt is given to those asserting a specific claim on reality.

I’m not sure why magazines continue to accept articles on this subject when they are written by people with such little experience playing video games. Note that I did not say a gamer, I’m not asking for someone who agrees with me, just someone who has a solid idea of what I do when I say I am gaming. According to the article, McGrath has played 55 minutes of Modern Warfare 3 on the Wii. No other experience with games is indicated. This is akin to examining the issue regarding violent film, based upon having watched 10 minutes of any given movie. The author has, as far as he has communicated, arrived upon the issue with a pre-elementary level of knowledge regarding the subject. This is indicated later on with his shock about multiplayer FPSes scoring players by their ability to kill the enemy, failing to call out the asinine concept that the differences between Wolfenstein 3d and Myst is simply the presence of violence, and the conflation of World of Warcraft and Grand Theft Auto.

“Does virtual violence turn some boys into real killers?” Let’s presume that this is the case. I went to Wikipedia’s List of Best Selling Video Games and tallied up the sales figures on only the most heinous looking games to those who write articles such as this, using the All Platforms top 40. I then checked out Wikipedia’s List of Rampage Killers (what is Bing going to think of me? That’s right, I Chandler). They have a total of 1336 Rampage Killing incidents, around the globe, with no methods or setting filtered out. If video games spawned every one of these, we are looking at a rate of 0.00047578%. Hardly statistically significant. This isn’t particularly scientific, but fight fire with fire, right? (I’m sorry was that violent rhetoric?) In general, just taking their claim on its face, video games still seem more safe than cars, water heaters, or national parks. Continue reading