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Moral Combat: Why the War on Violent Video Games Is Wrong Paperback – March 21, 2017
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Steven Pinker, professor of psychology at Harvard University and author of How the Mind Works and The Better Angels of Our Nature
A groundbreaking and vitally important book. It gets under the hood of how games actually work on our brains, and in the process it tells us more than any number of sensational news articles. This should be required reading for anyone who loves games or who loves someone who loves games . . . which is to say, everyone.”
Greg Toppo, author of The Game Believes in You: How Digital Play Can Make Our Kids Smarter
As a filmmaker who's spent much of my career working on video game-related content, it's refreshing to finally see a book about games that gets it right.”
Jeremy Snead, founder of Mediajuice Studios and writer/director of Video Games: The Movie and Unlocked: The World of Games, Revealed
Even readers familiar with video game politics and history will find something to gasp about. And stressed parents may finally understand what their kids get out of those games, and how to manage them better.”
Cheryl K. Olson, ScD, coauthor of Grand Theft Childhood: The Surprising Truth About Violent Video Games and What Parents Can Do and principal investigator for a major government-funded study of video games and youth
Gamers should buy this book for their parents, and parents should calm down teachers and pediatricians with a copy. Anyone interested in a great, skeptical takedown of bad science should get their own copy.”
James C. Coyne, professor emeritus of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania
This book delivers healthy doses of skepticism and scientific insights that broaden our understanding of 21st century play. From political horse-trading to weak science, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in video games.”
Andrew Przybylski, PhD, experimental psychology department research fellow at the University of Oxford
About the Author
Dr. Christopher Ferguson is is a professor of psychology at Stetson University. Alongside this book, he has also written a mystery novel, Suicide Kings. Dr. Ferguson received his doctorate from the University of Central Florida in clinical psychology. Dr. Ferguson’s clinical work has focused on forensic psychology, including work with inmates, as well as juvenile detention and Child Protective Services assessments. Since receiving his degree he has published over one hundred book chapters and journal articles in peer-reviewed journals, and he has presented his research at numerous universities and scientific conferences. Along with Dr. Markey, he is internationally recognized as an expert on the topic of violent video game effects. Dr. Ferguson was part of the talks given by Vice President Biden’s task force on gun control following the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, and he also participated in the Institute of Medicine’s hearings on the role of media violence in gun violence in 2013.
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The book looks at the history of the demonisation of games, pointing out that it is the latest in a long line of demonising new media that has included the bible, novels, music and comic books at least. The history of demonising games that have violent themes is also looked at from Death race to Mortal Combat to Doom. There is also an interesting presentation of how the American Psychological Association put together a consensus policy on video games. Essentially august Psychologists reviewed their own work and declared the issue beyond further debate. By carefully selecting the people who wrote the policy they determined the outcome. The limits of their own work is not discussed.
Markey and Ferguson nicely put forward the best argument that violent games almost certainly have a small effect on increasing violence and quite likely a sizable one on reducing violence, namely that as game sales have exploded violent crime has plummeted. Given that video games absorb a lot of time of the group, young males, that commits the most crime it's a reasonable supposition to suggest that games, even violent ones, have reduced violence.
The authors also look at mass shootings that often elicit highly emotional responses. They point out that in recent large mass shootings when looking at the people who have carried them out they appear to play computer games, which are quite social today, less than the general population.
For real problems that video games very probably do contribute to they point out that video game 'addiction' is very mild and the usual consequence is simply spending a lot of time in a hobby. For the contribution that games make to inactivity and obesity the authors point out to studies that increased activity but made a tiny contribution to weight loss and that the reason we get fat is dominated by eating too much unhealthy food.
Nicely the authors also turn to the alleged benefits of computer games such as increased dexterity, cognitive ability and various things and they are just as skeptical as they were about the problems ascribed to games. Basically games are a reasonably mentally stimulating hobby that is as good for the brain as crosswords, playing chess and various other similar activities.
Moral Combat is a well written, fun, easy to understand book that really does a very solid job of debunking the damage that games are alleged to cause. It's well worth a read for anyone who is worried about what their children or spouse or friends are doing to themselves by playing games.
UPDATE: I have finished the book and have a few comments. The Kindle Version only: I enjoy reading footnotes. The Kindle version footnotes are infuriating. A few of them work fine, but most of them go to Wikipedia and tell me about some Roman Legion - fascinating reading, but NOT the link I was looking for. The few that worked in respect to actually summoning the appropriate information failed to return to the spot in the text being referenced. Bad footnotes. Bad, bad footnotes. Also, charts that are, I'm sure, easy to understand in color are rendered a confusing mess in black and white - a video game sales vs. violent crime chart using world flags as data points is unreadable. (I never realized how many flags of the world were horizontal crosses on a single color field).
For the book itself: To those who believe that violent video games cause violence, the data DOES NOT support your conclusions.
The charting of a moral panic was excellent. Having read studies by both Drs. Anderson and Bushman, it was fascinating to read the common sense rebuttals of trends in violence in the real world vs. the virtual. The early studies with their perplexing views of what constituted violence in video games, predictions of violent behaviors never materialized. The conclusions that these early researchers - who may have elicited annoyance on the part of their test subjects - hardly validates their remarks about violence. Yet, from these early studies, headlines were born. Politicians were roused, and grants were funded to prove the hypothesis. A great quote from the book: "Social science during a moral panic begins to look and behave less like an actual science and more like a convenient way to benefit from societal agendas."
I found the discussion of the Chris Harris murder trial appalling, horrifying in its abuse of scientific process for political gain. Horrifying.
The chapter of the book entitled The Big Lie About School Shootings was fascinating. Joe Biden and President Obama are both quoted in the portion about the Newtown, CT, school shooting. "Congress should fund research into the effects violent video games have on young minds" said the President. And it became a springboard into the gun control demands of that administration. Newspaper articles, focused on Adam Lanza's obsessive playing of violent video games, specifically mentioned Call of Duty. One Law Enforcement Official speculated that Lanza was attempting to score 'points' in his mass shooting. The headlines were over by the time the full report was released on Lanza and his real video game obsession, Dance, Dance Revolution. This chapter of the book provides data that proves - convincingly, to me - that video game violence is not correlated in ANY way to school shootings. REALLY good information, good read. The data point about school shooters historically actually playing LESS video games than their peers suggests sticking a game controller in a teens hands is a better approach to alleviate aggressions.
This book is a data junkies dream wrapped in very enjoyable, personable writing. The authors have found a good balance between presenting their findings, carefully presenting the bigger picture and including anecdotes about gaming and family stories. Not at all the same kind of studies I am used to reading, this is accessible, interesting, provocative and a lot of fun.
Lost one star over the damn footnotes.