Dr. Karl Kabasele from local Toronto news swung by last week to interview me for a story on violent media and aggression. i basically dominate the entire segment. i’m surprised i was relegated to the back half of the show, actually, sandwiched between the weather and a report on winter doggie fashions. Terrorism in Mumbai? The collapse of the Canadian government? Eff that – we’ve got Ryan Friggin’ Creighton here. Way to bury the lede, CityTV.
The Untold Entertainment offices actually received more screen time. If this exhaustive look into my take on video game violence and parental involvement doesn’t sate you, be sure to read some of my other articles on the subject:
- Me and Miyamoto: Lamenting Fallout 3
- Lest We Reset
- Kids Eagerly Await Nickelodeon’s Next Shipment of Ass
- Video Games Teach Kids to Gamble
Behind-the-scenes commentary follows:
Reporters see what they want to see. My interview with Dr. Karl was on the light side of three minutes long – here’s what they decided not to use:
(transcript approximated from memory)
Dr Karl: Do video games cause people to act out violently?
Ryan: You’re always looking for the smoking gun – that one incident where someone plays a violent video game, and then runs out and kills people, and there’s a direct link there. My take on it is a bit more subtle. i don’t care to find a direct link. i think that if you’re filling your head with violent imagery all day, it may not lead to you killing people, but it could result in you being a surly jerk to people.
Everyone says “the children! We gotta protect the chiiildren!” Anything that we try to protect children from is usually dangerous for adults, too – pornography, gratuitous violence, smoking, gambling … none of this stuff is good for you, no matter how old you are. For me, it comes down to this: if you’ve just spent your entire weekend shooting cops and murdering hookers with a chainsaw, you should take a long hard look at your hobby and re-evaluate how you’re spending your time on this Earth.
Dr Karl: But what about the research? What does the research tell you?
Ryan: The research is conflicting. One report came out last week linking video game violence to aggression. Another study links listening to sexually explicit song lyrics to increased sexual activity among teen girls. But over in the UK, they’ve done studies that link game violence to aggression, and then another study refutes that claim, and a year later the next study makes the link again. They watch this kind of thing very closely in the UK, because they’ve had a number of incidents where young people have tortured and killed each other. It all depends on who’s funding the study, because you can always manipulate the data to prove your point.
(note: in his report, Dr. Karl fails to mention the conflicting studies, opting only to say that a recent study links video game violence and aggression)
Ryan: (still talking a mile a minute) Gamers get their backs up about this issue, because none of them want their video games to be taken away. Gamers will try to dismiss and disprove these studies, because they think that finding a link between video game violence and real-life aggression means they can’t play Halo or Grand Theft Auto any more.
People say that we’ve got all this extreme content because it’s a young industry that needs to mature. And when they say that, they’re not talking about the age of the game industry – they’re talking about the age of the people in it. This industry is run by a bunch little boys – men with Peter Pan complexes like me, who still read comic books and collect toys, and who love zombies and think violence is great. Those are the people who have to mature, and it’s not until more women and older people and people from younger generations get involved that the type of content in video games will change, i think for the better.
Dr Karl: Is there any way to tell whether a video game is appropriate for younger players?
Ryan: (wondering if he’s being serious, or playing inquisitive for the sake of his viewers) Uh – yes. Nearly every game sold in North America has been rated by the ESRB. Those ratings are on the back of the game packaging, and they very clearly list the objectionable content in the game.
Dr Karl: The ES-what? We’re not up on all the acronyms and lingo.
Ryan: (still wondering if he’s just playing dumb) The ESRB. Entertainment Software Ratings Board. They handle the game ratings for North America. Different groups rate games for the UK, Australia, and other regions.
And before you even walk into the store, you can go to their website and look up a game’s ratings. The games receive a rating before they even ship.
Dr Karl: (the camera is off now) Can you show us that site?
Ryan: (realizing Dr. Karl is doing a segment on video game violence and is learning for the first time that games have content advisory ratings) Uh .. sure.
i then proceeded to walk Dr. Karl through ESRB.com, showing the newly expanded game content descriptions for games like Fallout 3. The descriptions list the asterisked curse words that are used in the game. Dr. Karl asks his camera man to tape me pointing at the words – f*ck, sh*t, g*sh d*rn, etc.
The camera remains off while i urge Dr. Karl to go talk to Bedlam Games, a Toronto studio that’s actually building one of the violent titles his story is talking about. i thought it was important for a reporter to look at a story from various angles, especially the opposing viewpoint. Alack, no – the only two sound bites are from me, and a guy who works with Dr. Karl at the Centre for Addition and Mental Health. [edit: industry pal Gavin Friesen points out that it’s the Centre for ADDICTION and Mental Health. i always thought there was something crazy about mathematicians. – ed.]
i realize that as a reporter, you can’t be an expert on absolutely everything you cover, but it might suit CityTV to hire someone more media savvy to produce segments about media influence, and leave Dr. Karl to the segments on doctorin’.
Still, it was all worth it to see our receptionist Norma swoon when Dr. Karl came into the office. She has a tiny little doctorcrush. :)