The Harm Of Gaming: We Present The Facts

By John Walker on August 2nd, 2010 at 12:00 pm.

More facts in one place than is possibly safe.

The perennial questions of the harm that games may be causing us and our children are extremely troubling. Every week seems to bring a new survey or study that demonstrates links between gaming and problematic behaviour, with renowned psychologists, sociologists and publicists explaining to us what it is we need to be scared of. Over the last fifteen years I have been studying this data and reading these papers, and I am now ready to publish my findings. Below is the result of a decade-and-a-half’s research, and I think will once and for all answer the questions every parent, teacher, child and teenager should be asking.

Grand Theft Auto Causes Marriages To Break Down

While no one is left in any doubt that playing Grand Theft Auto causes anyone under the age of 17 to become dangerously exposed to murder, the longer-term effects on adults have been less examined. As part of my research I thought to compare the sales of each GTA game with what the divorce rate must have been when each came out. As you can see each new GTA game has been directly correlated with an increase in divorces. While the graph may give the impression that GTA IV has caused fewer divorces than Vice City or San Andreas, this game only came out in 2008, so most of the divorces it has induced will still be going through the courts and awaiting completion. Expect to see this number soar in the next twelve months.

Chinatown wars actually caused more marriages, strangely.

*Please note these numbers are approximated.

PC Games Lead To Decline In Church Attendance

An often ignored statistic (and you have to ask why it’s being ignored by the games media, don’t you?) is the sheer volume of PC games being released. We’ve all noticed the British population is abandoning the church, turning instead toward shopping, DVDs and knife crime. But few have thought to check for a connection between PC sales and the numbers of people attending their local Church Of England church on a Sunday. When you look at the data there’s little doubt left that as the publishers continue to release more and more PC games each year, our nation’s faith is being increasingly eroded. And at what cost? If only a graph could tell us that.

Data for 2009/2010 still awaiting release by God.

Owning Consoles More Serious Than Gun Crime

A lot of videogames include the use of guns. While these may not be real guns, but rather recreations made of pixels and polygons, it is obvious to anyone playing one of these “simulations” that it is in no meaningful way different from firing a real gun in a school. But it’s far scarier than you might have first thought. Nearly twice as many Americans own gun-displaying consoles than those who own the types of guns that require a license and paperwork to purchase. No such paperwork is necessary when buying an Xbox, and yet still teenagers will kill each other in the streets.

Not including guns that are thrown at people.

Console owners are “most depressed and socially awkward”

While we’ve always known that playing videogames leads to social awkwardness and depression, a new paper published by my institute has demonstrated that those who own two or more consoles are far more likely to overlap those who are in both other categories, increasingly over time. The more consoles an individual owns, the more red the circle becomes.

Including variables for X.

Astonishing Figures Demonstrate Our Worst Fears

Most shockingly of all is the following data. While there has certainly been evidence of some hysteria regarding gaming and young people, the following numbers cannot be exaggerated. The risks of teen death, gun crime, increased immigration and paedophilia is self-evident, and it’s about time the games industry responded. We’re still waiting for statements from ELSPA, the BBFC, and Rockstar, all of whom have so far been too scared to comment, even without our ever contacting them. We’re sorry if the following is upsetting.

, , .

137 Comments »

Sponsored links by Taboola
  1. Arsewisely says:

    Finally. It’s about time someone cut through all the bullshit.

    • Zogtee says:

      I wish you had made it sound a bit more serious, because it would have been so funny if a shite newspaper picked it up and published it. :D

    • Dao Jones says:

      This… isn’t real?

      *lays down pipe*

  2. BaronWR says:

    Sorry John, I think we need confidence intervals on these figures.

    I can’t wait for this to be picked up by the Mail and cited as “scientific research”

  3. Skeleton Key says:

    WUT?

  4. Aubrey says:

    Yay! Correlation implies causation. Implies it, mind!

  5. Yfel says:

    Although most (actual, not commenting on this silly business) research done is indeed questionable at best, I think even John can agree there are healthier (both physically and mentally) ways to spend our time than playing video games.

    • Razz says:

      Clearly the only worthy pursuits in life are reading philosophy and playing violin, whilst occasionally engaging in a game of tennis to retain our physical shape.

    • MartinNr5 says:

      @Razz: Indeed it is, old chap. Indeed it is.

    • Premium User Badge

      JB says:

      Thanks Razz, you’re a mind-reader.

    • Snall says:

      Personally I subsist on 30 day old Twinkies and do 1 sit-up a year. Video games are the only things keeping me mildly sane.

    • Archonsod says:

      My body is my temple, and I’ll desecrate it at my pleasure.

    • Sonic Goo says:

      Mind reading can lead to awkward situations. Better be careful, before you know it you’ll own a console and the graph will turn even redder!

    • icdragon says:

      @Archonsod:
      I think the word you’re looking for is “leisure”. :)

  6. Gap Gen says:

    Does the word “cruelty” start flashing?

    • Man Raised By Puffins says:

      Only if you put John’s head on a stick.

    • Serenegoose says:

      Agh, beaten to the punch. Curse your leathery hides.

    • golden_worm says:

      Game use among children has for many in education and with obvious alarm to both parents on the increase almost yearly.

    • Meat Circus says:

      There’s no real evidence for this, but it is scientific fact.

  7. blargy says:

    It all makes sense now!

  8. Vague-rant says:

    Ah, Monday morning satire.

    Also, you might want to decrease the degree to which you understand pie charts…

    • Cunzy1 1 says:

      Or the energy and willpower to resist doing a graph jokes post.

      I hope this is now out of your system Walker.

    • bob_d says:

      Yeah, since the numbers I’ve seen put American gun ownership at about 40%, the degree of Mr. Walker’s pie-chart understanding can only be 18%, clearly. Also the numbers clearly prove that owning a console causes people to own guns. Or the other way around. Obviously.

    • jsdn says:

      Guns and gaming consoles reudeces our ability to understand pie charts.

    • jsdn says:

      And spelling. And incomplete sentences. Clearly.

  9. Ian says:

    It’s the news we’d all been dreading. :(

  10. Ricky says:

    I am, frankly, shocked and appauled by the way the games industry and media have ignored these vital insights into the terror they inflict into countless innocent lives. Thank you for being brave enough to turn the spotlight on these terrible people!

    I love the bizzaro cone-thing at the end. Has anyone genuinely used it for some purpose?

  11. Tei says:

    My 2 cents:

    Graphic like these can be abused to show any opinion as a FACT. And facts can be abused to make smart people stupid by stopping judgement in his presence.
    It seems trolling is not new at all. The yellow journalism is a bussines model built around trolling.
    Another way to make smart people stupid is abuse his bias. A “comunist journal” will tell you how evil capitalist is. A unbiased report has not place there, the foundation of the journal is to greet the bias of the readers. “Hello readers, your opinions are right, here are the FACT’s”. Is a bussines model, you sell something people want. Is just capitalist.

    Much like these bullshit photos of MySpace that make fat womens look hot, the “angle” of a graphic can be abused in any direction. A photo is not a fact. Wait till she is naked to make judgements.

  12. Markoff Chaney says:

    “Oh, people can come up with statistics to prove anything. 14% of people know that.” – Homer Simpson

    I halfway expected to see some correlation between the use of the nefarious drug Cake and Video Gaming as well, but I reckon video games aren’t responsible for everything evil and sinister in this world. Yet…

  13. Flameberge says:

    John, help us. It’s so scary! Look at how evil our hobby is! If I were a purple person, I would have been a teen and pregnant, and I would be a heroin; 234 times over! Which was solely caused by video games! John, I don’t know what to do, please help us. I’m so scared!

  14. Roadrunnerr says:

    Why was there a stagnation of pc games released between 2003 and 2005? (According to the church graph)

  15. Janek says:

    OH IF ONLY DIANA WERE HERE

  16. tigershuffle says:

    I remember been told to get outside and play cos I was reading too many books/comics when i wor a nipper (43yr old)

    Im sure the advent of Movies and then ‘talkies’ has been blamed for societys ills in 1920s
    and then ‘evil’ rock n roll on 50’s teens

    children were so much better off with diptheria and working in the mines, chimneys and poorhouses of yesteryear than risking their lives with Mario Bros

    • Archonsod says:

      The church mounted a campaign against the decadence and immorality being brought about by the printing press. Part of me suspects that at some point in history a small group was formed within a tribe complaining about the moral decay brought about by this new “fire” malarkey.

  17. Xercies says:

    Very entertaining.

    I’ve never seen that last graph…even in Excel!

    • alh_p says:

      Oh when will a big name developer give us the graph and presentation creating sim we’ve all been waiting for?

      MS Office Monkey Sim

  18. Skinlo says:

    I guessed this all along, thanks John for confirming my suspicions. I will be writing letters to my local MP complaining about the sales of video games , and recommending that they are banned from my local constituency.

  19. terry says:

    I like your exploding chart and had to refresh to admire it again. The best charts explode.

  20. Bascule42 says:

    Send it into the Daily Star and sign it: Raoul Moat.

  21. Xercies says:

    Oh things were better back when i was a child when the only things that could affect our kids was horror movies. Oh things was better back when i was a child when the only thing that could affect our kids was Rock and Roll. Oh things were better when I was a child when the only things that could affect our kids was cheap avaliable novels.

  22. Tim says:

    Ahh, the joys of spurious regression.

    For those decrying the validity of statistical analysis, rest assured that they’ve already taken this into account when regressing two time series variables. It’s too bad that the ratio of people who like to make statistical arguments and people who know how to properly make statistical arguments is a billion to one.

  23. Rinox says:

    Here’s another graph that will blow your mind.

    http://statfail.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/graph_pirates_gw.png

  24. Alex Bakke says:

    John, I’m good friends with the editor in chief of the Daily Mail, and he’d like to give you a job. Are you available for an interview any time soon?

  25. MrCraigL says:

    237272727% ? WHAT HAVE WE DONE?!

  26. Bob Bobson says:

    The more red the circle becomes!

  27. Bema says:

    I’m more interested in the decline of cake sales after Portal was released…

    • Cunzy1 1 says:

      Portal was released in 2007. That’s a three year old joke. It’s not as if we were making Matrix jokes in 2002 still.

      Oh wait…

    • Optimaximal says:

      I’m sure the Wachowski’s were still making the jokes in 2003…

      *ZING*

    • Bema says:

      @Cunzy1 1: This isn’t a joke man. These are serious matters of cause and effect…!

    • Cunzy1 1 says:

      That’s my bad. Sorry. I hereby apologise to all merchants of cakery goods who may have lost their occupations, way of life and craft etc. etc. insensitive etc. etc. measures have been taken to ensure that such an oversight etc.etc.

  28. Navagon says:

    I just hope the gaming industry can recover from the bomb you just dropped on it.

  29. vanarbulax says:

    But seriously though, correlation is the one real way we have to study the world. Ideally we would precisely control and change the factors and then study the mechanism to determine causation but with any social factors that’s incredibly difficult. I would be legitimately interest at data coming from large sample sets on correlation between gaming and other activities (everything being taken with a vat full of salt obvious).

    Those graphs were funny though. But I do call for universal the ban of Venn Diagrams except when used for logic or humorous purposes.

  30. Premium User Badge

    mrpier says:

    I call shenanigans!

  31. itsallcrap says:

    AAAAAAAAAAARGH!

    WE’RE FUCKING DOOMED!

    BURN THE GODLESS MACHINES!

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGH!

  32. Vadermath says:

    Have I mentioned I want Walker to have my babies? All of them!

    I own an orphanage.

  33. Spacewalk says:

    Graph Paper Shotgun?

  34. Jay says:

    I call bullshit! This isn’t scientifically rigorous! CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION! etc

  35. Nallen says:

    OMG FACTS WE’RE DOOMED

  36. NetsukeMonkey says:

    I think you’ll find it’s bait for the Daily Star.

  37. Andrew says:

    Correlation does not mean causation! Never ever say cause when dealing with statistics. Just because two things correlate doesn’t mean that one caused the other, or vice versa.

    • Xercies says:

      Tell that to Man Made Global warming people…

    • bob_d says:

      @ Xercies:
      /Facepalm

    • Navagon says:

      @ Xercies

      Man Made Gobble Warning is far more significant. Patented by Gabe Newell to make sure people get out of the way in time.

    • Xercies says:

      I’m sorry but no one has given any evidence about man Made global warming that isn’t correlation means causation.

    • bob_d says:

      @ Xercies: Read the actual science, please.
      Carbon dioxide has been known for centuries to be a greenhouse gas. It’s been known for centuries that people are emitting CO2 into the atmosphere that hadn’t previously been there (not since humans have been around, at least). It’s been predicted since the 19th century that this would cause the climate to warm. That’s not “correlation.” Given that other influences on the climate have also been ruled as a cause of warming, calling it “just correlation” is extreme ignorance. Even the hardened “global warming skeptics” now have to admit that anthropogenic global warming is real; they just argue about how significant it is.

  38. Wulf says:

    *claps and cheers wholeheartedly.*

    I needed a good bit of satire today to make me laugh, thanks for that, John.

    This is why I love charts, you could relate anything to anything at all. Pick a fashionable set of clothes, if their sales are on the rise, you could equate their rise in popularity to the fall in popularity of the church.

    Then again, charts and statistics have never seemed like anything other than bullshit and made up nonsense to me. It’s like I’ve said previously: Anyone can pull a chart or a statistic out of their arse in an attempt to prove or disprove anything, usually accompanied by a bit of spin-doctoring. However, often the chart says absolutely nothing at all, it’s just something pretty to look at to fool stupid people into believing the chart holder has some form of intellect. Same is true of statistics.

    Oh well!

    Yay satire! \:D/ Someone had to do this, seriously.

  39. Zero says:

    Chance that this will be used in a real court case somewhere down the line: 99.7%

  40. Dhatz says:

    RPS, can’t you get your shit together? I used code tag once in comments and it didn’t display the custom tag I was trying to JUST WRITE instead of attempting to use it.

  41. Meat Circus says:

    I love facts. FACTS ARE SACRED.

    Infographic me up, bitch.

  42. mbp says:

    Question:

    Are video game journalists more numerically literate than the general journalistic population? I have long learned to discount any number published in a mainstream newspaper especially if it has a percentage sign after it.

  43. ArtyFishal says:

    As funny as some of those were, I feel it is a mistake to be too dismissive about this things. We need to take seriously the possibility that our favorite hobby may have unintended consequences. Though the commentary the mass media has offered on gaming thus far has been mostly vacuous, it holds within it a kernel of truth that we should seriously examine. Furthermore, we as gamers have not developed a good response to our detractors. We need to take a step back from our monitors and think about what it is about gaming that elicits the attacks and allegations on it, and then to prepare an intelligent, meaningful response to this allegations.

    It is important from a philosophical, if not a social and psychological standpoint to very critically analyze any form of entertainment that would bring pleasure through the detailed and abundant simulation of death, in some cases even murder. We must acknowledge that a vast amount of the interactive media we consume is devoted to the most violent side of humanity in a way that makes us complicit in truly horrible acts. Even if that has no real world consequences, it is important to analyze why the imaginative act of running over pedestrians, or curb stomping a prostitute, or even ‘killing’ each other online should bring us pleasure. I think it is important that we retain our ability to sympathize with those who would find such fantasies shocking and respond in an intelligent and respectful manner.

    Right now, as gamers, we are the offenders, and rightfully so. Something like GTA 4 or MW2 contains elements that should be repulsive to all, and yet we will sink hours, sometimes days of our time into them. If we were not so acclimated, trained, and in some ways anesthetized to games and witnessed someone getting hours of pleasure through what appeared to us to be a simulation of murder and crime( which, we must concede many games are) we would and should also be shocked. Stanizlaw Lem published a short story, Non Serviam, in 1971 that depicted a simulation that had features not unlike The Sims or SimCity, and asked the reader to be shocked when the simulation’s controller chose to destroy the simulated life. Now we take such destruction for granted. When we chose a past time that involves pretending to kill in detail, and call it ‘fun’ we should pause and consider how we can justify it.

    The impetus is on us as the gamers to justify our hobby, and the things depicted in it. I fear that we have not yet accomplished this. Furthermore, I fear we may be too immature too. It is dangerous to be dismissive. I do not worry that we a turning into mindless killing machines, but rather that our tactic has been to ignore the implications of our hobby and win the fight through saturation rather than meditation and debate. Though I disagree with the detractors, I acknowledge that there is an issue of serious philosophical if not social importance.

    If we can create a coherent and intelligent response to these justified concerns, we will have strengthened and made progress in legitimizing gaming. However, even if we succeed at that, we still must be critical. As a species, we should not be content with leveraging our humanity on apathy.

    • Xercies says:

      Why do we have to justify it…cinema doesn’t have to justify horrible movies like saw, the collector or The human centipede. So why do we have to ours. why is there double standards where The daily mail or other such paper will hate on violent video Games but give a violent movie a free pass.

      Even if we come up with good answers there not listening and just still up on there hate, saw that alan titchmarsh video on gaming/ Well yeah thats how it is with these people they got there ears in la la laing so if we do an intelligent argument or not there still not listening and ultimly still damaging the hobby.

      There are no implications that are hobby does any such thing or our hobby is worse then any other media at it anyway. People kill…people are psychopaths. Games and other media does not make people into psychopaths.

    • Wilson says:

      I can see the point you’re making, but I don’t think there’s anything there which applies solely to games. As Xercies says, other mediums don’t really have to deal with this kind of criticism for the most part, and a lot of the people making these arguments aren’t going to listen to any counter-argument anyway.

      Perhaps the interactive nature of games makes the violence contained in them more meaningful, but I don’t think you can directly compare video game violence to real violence. I haven’t read the short story you mention, but surely the virtual life is more advanced than anything we currently have? Because shooting a civilian in GTA 4 is not really destroying anything.

      There are audiences for films like Saw and Human Centipede, so gamers aren’t ‘offenders’ any more than people who go to watch films or read books because of the gore and violence in them. When everyone starts considering these issues, which I agree it would be valuable to discuss, then gamers will have some kind of obligation to engage with such points, but currently I don’t see a great need to, or any real benefit to be gained from doing so.

    • AlexW says:

      Simply arguing that committing virtual atrocities suggests we would do the same in the real world is disingenuous. Would you launch global thermonuclear war in an attempt to get history’s highest ever bodycount, a la Defcon? Would you send thousands of people to their deaths in an intellectual game of who-outwits-best, a la RTS games? Would you leap forward ten feet and bury a military-grade knife in another man’s throat because you came around the corner and he was within striking distance, a la MW2? Would you jump-kick a police officer off of a rooftop scaffold to a splattery death because he was attempting to shoot you to death in response to your prior killing sprees and long rap sheet of providing intelligence and supplies to terrorists, a la Mirror’s Edge?

      Of course not. Don’t be silly.

      The problem with having to provide an argument for why our chosen pastime is not an indicator of psychosis, is that the arguments leveled against it lack any kernel of sense. Worse, they smack of nanny state activity, in which grown adults paying with their own money are not allowed to pick their own punching bag, and suggest an ignorant lack of trust in the existing measures put in place.
      If a game is released with truly no entertainment value and simply horrific, desensitising violence to virtual beings is released (assuming a group of psychopaths decided to get together and make a game without a single conscience-bound developer in their mix), we would be urged to stay away from it, like an even more extreme Manhunt.
      If a game was released in which the developers performed a feat of miraculous AI design and created a thinking, feeling entity capable of being traumatised by the actions it is forced to experience throughout the course of the game, they would probably be tried under some variation of the Geneva Convention.
      If a game is released in which the players are urged to douse non-believers in kerosene and set them alight, to go out into the real world and burn all knowledge, to rape and pillage and wantonly kill whomever they please, then we are urged not to play them, or to keep in mind that all their advice should be ignored.

      Games are by and large fine at the moment, and if you propose that we initiate thoughtcrime legislature to restrict them because one or two might do something atrocious in the future, then there’s probably something wrong with your sense of personal freedom. Perhaps you’d be interested in pushing an investigation into human trafficking with your time instead?

      (Wall-of-text posts that are really uppity and indignant that someone else might dare to have a different opinion are fun!)

    • ArtyFishal says:

      Before I respond, I want to emphasize that I am a serious gamer of 20+ years, I’ve played a little of everything and think that we are the witnesses of the beginning of what can be a truly great art form and pastime. Furthermore, I abhor censorship and I’m not calling for it. What I am calling for is critical self reflection. I think it is obvious what concerns people about gaming, and we as its patrons should be able to respond calmly, respectfully, and intelligently to these concerns. I’m an advocate of gaming. I don’t want to see it ruled by legislation. What I’m suggesting is that we as gamers need to become more literate and concerned about the nature of our pastime so that when we are called upon to defend it we can do more than say: “Cinema and Books and Music are also bad!”, which is a horribly weak argument. And of course I don’t think there is a one to one correspondence between gaming and humanity’s ills. But I feel questioning the content we consume is valid, and is important.

      To start with, let me respond to some of your points:
      Firstly, the often made comparison between gaming and cinema is superficial and I think we should try to transcend it. The only overlaps between the two media is the equipment on which it is displayed, and its inherent visual nature( something gaming probably doesn’t even need; a completely aural game is conceivable). To say that a 90 minute passive experience is equatable to 8+ hour interactive experience is to ignore the essential nature of gaming.

      Second, cinema has spent more than a century trying to justify itself. More importantly, it has been the center of serious and mature debate regarding its merits. If it is accepted, it is because it won that privilege through its virtues and its champions.

      In the interest of full disclosure, I’m a huge film buff, and I love cinema’s seedy side. The Human Centipede has to be one of my favorite films of this year if no the last 5 years. I also think the films of Eli Roth are important. However, to love films that depict such filth, and it is disgusting, one must self reflect- it is important.

      Please don’t ignore the critics of this medium. If something can be so disturbing to people, it demands an explanation, a rationalization, and a response. It will be unfortunate if the legitimizing factor of gaming is the apathy of society. We are contributing to something with our time and money that is still in its genesis, still maturing. Should we not be concerned about its potential impact?

    • jsdn says:

      It’s difficult to retort arguments without merit, especially when one is already a minority with a false stigma. Gaming is no different from any other medium. If the majority can’t prove why it’s wrong then they have no right to judge that which they do not understand. That’s my calm, respectful, and intelligent reponse.

    • nil says:

      Unintended consequences: Prepare for them.
      If something can be so disturbing to people, it demands an explanation, a rationalization, and a response.
      They have narrow minds, bad taste, precisely no power over the media I choose to interact with, and deserve neither attention nor argumentation? Works for me…

  44. Chakawi says:

    We were just talking about exactly this :) (I also like Sophisms :))

  45. Unaco says:

    Dear Allah! Put an asterisk or something on this, and make it clear that it is satirical… otherwise, as has been said, this will be in the Express, the Star or the Mail in the next 6-18 months (probably all 3, 6 months apart, each one claiming it’s new research), or it’ll be the prime motivator of Veterans Against Dangerous Games & Entertainment and their bitter war against anything that isn’t Apple Pie, God or physical exercise.

  46. Trans says:

    Hahahahahahahahahaha I wouldn’t be surprised if they gave JW a weekly column. Very interesting stats though, I didn’t realise the situation was that dire.

    If I had kids I would much rather they go out and play on street corners with gangs and pedos. Seems much safer and more socially acceptable than gaming.

  47. Saiko Kila says:

    Excuse me, but my browser warns me against “potential clickjacking” when I try to open these spreadsheets. I know that there are guys who count people leaving the church with use of some clicking device. Does that mean that my church attendance is endangered?

  48. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    These statistics are either fraudulent or both.

  49. LewieP's Mummy says:

    At last!! Proof I was right all along, video games are bad for you! The only evidence you’ve not included is the damage video games cause to the developing brains of young boys – just in case you didn’t know, research shows IQ levels drop with the number of consoles owned, linked closely to the impact on writing ability if more than one hand held is owned by said boy.

  50. Dan K says:

    Ocean Correlation must be protected from tourists in tropical seas.