Bulletstormgate: Analysing The “Evidence”

Imagine if I had any PS skills.

I think this shall likely be the last mention of the Fox News/Bulletstorm debacle. But it’s a pretty special one. If you followed the story you’ll know that the inestimable journalists at Fox News saw fit to run a story in which they carried claims that playing Bulletstorm would cause people to rape. Through investigating the story further we discovered that some had been misrepresented, others were completely ignored presumably because they contradicted with the desired angle, and a few people were given space to voice unevidenced and extraordinary claims. The main voice of this collection, Dr Carole Lieberman, has released a statement in which she states that she too was misrepresented by Fox News, and then goes on to restate exactly the same spurious claims. And as of yesterday got in touch with those who had emailed her for comment, this time linking to her evidence. Here we go then.

Out Of Context

Before we start, because this lengthy article is going to get pretty heavily into scrutinising claims of evidence for the effects of sexual violence on gamers, let’s remind ourselves of one important fact. The quote from Lieberman that started this all off was in reference to Bulletstorm. Bulletstorm features methods of attacking enemies called Skill Shots. They use a combination of the techniques at your disposal to kill an enemy, encouraging you to improvise with your weapons and tools to perform elaborate violent acts. Each of the very many Skill Shots is given a punning name that alludes to the nature of the kill. Some of these are sexual innuendos, like “gangbang”, and “facial”. The game itself features no sexually violent acts, nor any depictions of sexual acts. Such is the way of the American gaming market that were it to feature sexual acts, or even nudity, it would not be sold in stores. (Bear in mind the reaction to GTA’s “Hot Coffee” incident, in which a non-nude cartoon depiction of intercourse nearly brought about the apocalypse, to put this in perspective.) It’s important to bear this in mind when analysing Lieberman’s evidence for her statement.

Also having claimed to have been taken out of context is the same Dr Carole Lieberman. Speaking to Game Politics she explained that her statements were “taken out of context and made to sound more inflammatory than they were meant.” So to be fair before we begin, here’s what Fox quoted her as saying:

“The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in video games.”

But she wants it to be clear that what she meant was,

“I stand behind my view that media violence, and particularly video game violence is harmful. Thousands of studies have shown that the more violent media a person consumes, the more desensitized to violence and the more aggressive they become. When this violence is sexualized it is even more stimulating. And rape is a violent crime. Furthermore, research has shown that, not only do people become more aggressive in a general sense, but they also act out copycat violence in response to behaviors seen in movies, TV shows, and video games.”

So, the same thing. And just in case that wording is a little ambiguous, here’s how she cleared up her opinions when Kotaku spoke to her:

“The more video games a person plays that have violent sexual content,” she said, carefully choosing her words during a phone interview with Kotaku, “the more likely one is to become desensitized to violent sexual acts and commit them.”

So, the same thing. Perhaps the key difference is she is no longer mentioning an increase in the number of rapes. However, she confirms to Kotaku that she did say the original statement, only with sentences preceding it. Sentences that do not change the context of the quote Fox chose. She originally had also said, “Video games have increasingly, and more brazenly, connected sex and violence in images, actions and words. This has the psychological impact of doubling the excitement, stimulation and incitement to copycat acts.” So essentially underlining her point. Her claim that Fox had misrepresented her seems an odd one.

The source of all this trouble.


When Kotaku and Game Politics spoke to Lieberman, they had called her without prior warning. Claiming to not have the evidence for her claims at hand, she instead explained that it was just “common sense” that sexually violent games cause people to rape each other. She continued to imply that rape is increasing in the wake of these games (despite all available statistics showing a remarkable, consistent drop in rape figures over the last thirty years), and made reference to an elusive collection of “thousands” of studies that demonstrated she was right.

Having spent quite a lot of time looking for studies that conclusively demonstrate links between gaming sexual violence and real-world sexual violence, I was surprised to hear a qualified doctor (albeit one who makes money from Americans’ fear of terrorism, and soundbite TV appearances) was citing so many references. But she didn’t have any of them to hand. Well, that’s changed now.

Today Lieberman sent out a mass email to all the journalists who had contacted her since the story broke, in which she explained that she didn’t have the evidence to hand because,

“I thought that everyone already knew about these studies and I had them filed away.”

It’s an extraordinary way to begin. And on what does she base her belief that everyone already knew violent games caused violence and rape? I swear this is not a parody, but her exact words:

“When the Columbine murders took place, there were national polls where people voted on what they believed caused the two young men to kill. Media violence ranked high on the list, so I, obviously mistakenly, assumed that people still knew about the studies showing this connection – and believed them to have proven the link.”

After the horrific Columbine murders took place, a great deal of irresponsible journalism took place around the world in which it was claimed that everything from Marilyn Manson to the internet to anti-depressants to Leonardo DiCaprio to violent video games was responsible for the shootings. No such links were ever proved. In fact, the FBI concluded the cause was a combination of psychopathology and depression. And while others disagreed, the most clearly argued voice that referenced videogames, that of psychiatrist Jerald Block, stated that it when Harris and Klebold were banned from using their computers that their violence and aggression was no longer dealt with through their interest in games like Doom, and was refocused on the real world. In no way did he claim that games were to blame – if anything, they had been the treatment.

But the mass media leapt from blame to blame. The Basketball Diaries was a favourite target, and of course videogames were spuriously linked because the pair enjoyed making maps for Doom. Few felt the need to report the conclusions of the experts and officials, that their miserable lives and chronic depression as a result of bullying, and the diagnosis of Harris’s being a “clinical psychopath”, had been the apparent cause. It was no wonder that a poll taken at the time should hear the public – that’s a few hundred strangers who had no links or information or insight into the case at all – should report back that they’d heard it was videogames’ fault. And this, we’re informed, is what gives medical doctor Lieberman cause to believe that the case was sewn up.

In her email, Lieberman explains her qualifications in the subject of violent videogames, after various accusations that she was not qualified to make the comments she had. The published papers and journals she has written on the subject are as follows:

“I have worked in the area of media violence for many years. This included testifying before Congress on the issue, being the head of the National Coalition on TV Violence, doing numerous media interviews, stopping the ‘Schwarzenegger rocket’ that was to have had an ad for “Last Action Hero” on it, being invited to contribute an essay on video game violence to Larry King’s book Beyond A Reasonable Doubt, etc.”

Well, there we go then.

An Aside

(And what was that about Last Action Hero? A strange inclusion, what with that being a film and all. Let’s take a quick diversion for her claim to have stopped the advert.

As notorious as Natural Born Killers!

First of all, Last Action Hero was 1993 Schwarzenegger film that was rated PG-13 in the States, and 15 in the UK. While containing some moderate action movie violence, it was not noteworthy for anything horrendous or offensive (other than the plot, acting, direction…). But there was a mad plan by studio Columbia to advertise the film on the side of a space-going rocket. They intended to paint the title logo on the main fuselage of an unmanned rocket. But then after a disastrous test screening of the film word got out about how bad it was going to be, and the plan was scrapped. I have been unable to find any evidence of Lieberman’s involvement, but a great deal citing the damaging word of mouth after the terrible response to the test version.

Even more ridiculously, anyone who’s seen Last Action Hero will know that it’s a film that satirises movie violence, with the film’s child protagonist having to explain to Schwarzenegger that film violence is not acceptable in the real world. Quite a film to pick on. Although this was the same year that Lieberman was loudly campaigning against Jurassic Park for selling associated toys to children. In the linked New York Times article they include a quote from Lieberman at the time that sums up the mind behind these campaigns:

“The studio says the movie is a spoof on violence,” Dr. Lieberman said. “Well, how can you be responsible and spoof violence? There are two major epidemics in the country: violence and AIDS. Spoofing violence in a movie is as unthinkable to me as making a movie that spoofs AIDS.”


The Evidence

But back to the point. Lieberman has been frantically Googling found her evidence in her files, and is ready to present it. It’s not the “thousands” promised, but eight. At the end of the email Lieberman says that she would “appreciate your including a mention of these studies on your websites, blogs or comments, or at least including a mention of the fact that I did provide such studies to you. Thank you.” So let’s take a look. She begins:


1) AMERICAN PSYCHOLOGICAL ASSOCIATION-Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media

2) http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/how-fantasy-becomes-reality/201003/making-video-game-out-rape

3) Vulnerability to violent video games (includes committing rape) – [er, then nothing, no link]

4) Violent pornography and rape

Malamuth (1989) noted that violent pornography might contain themes that normalize rape and other sexually violent acts, minimize the perception of harm to the victim, place responsibility for the act on the victim by virtue of her seductiveness or supposed deservingness of aggression, or perhaps elevate “the positive value of sexual aggression by associating it with sexual pleasure and a sense of conquest” (p.165). Sexually violent pornography stimulates the development of rape-supportive attitudes as hypothesized by Malamuth and his colleagues (e.g., Malamuth, 1989; Malamuth & Briere, 1986). The notion that sexually violent pornography, but not non-violent pornography, is associated with potential and actual sexual aggression suggests further that, as hypothesized by Demaré et al. (1988), Donnerstein (1984), Malamuth and Briere (1986), and others, it is not merely the presence of sexually explicit material that supports sexual aggression, but instead the unique combination of sex and violence in pornography that is most potent. As noted by Malamuth (1984) in this regard, “coupling of sex and aggression in these portrayals may result in conditioning processes whereby aggressive acts become associated with sexual arousal, a powerful unconditioned stimulus and reinforcer” (p.31).

5) Full Meese Report

6) Meese report re: rape

7) http://www.psychologicalscience.org/pdf/pspi/pspi43.pdf

8) http://www.sitemaker.umich.edu/brad.bushman/files/bul-136-2-151.pdf

The infamous RapeLay - not exactly typical of mainstream gaming.


Let’s go through them.

1) The APA summary of various studies linking media violence to real world violence is deeply peculiar. Most of it has nothing at all to do with sexually violent videogames. The only relevant portion is the following:

“WHEREAS studies further suggest that sexualized violence in the media has been linked to increases in violence towards women, rape myth acceptance and anti-women attitudes. Research on interactive video games suggests that the most popular video games contain aggressive and violent content; depict women and girls, men and boys, and minorities in exaggerated
stereotypical ways; and reward, glamorize and depict as humorous sexualized aggression against women, including assault, rape and murder (Dietz, T. L., 1998; Dill, K. E., & Dill, J. C., 2004; Dill, K. E., Gentile, D. A., Richter, W. A., & Dill, J.C., in press; Mulac, A., Jansma, L. L., & Linz, D. G., 2002; Walsh, D., Gentile, D. A., VanOverbeke, M., & Chasco, E., 2002)”

The entire article of studies absolutely ignores all the contrary studies – something that seems wildly ethically unsound. It’s certainly relevant to gather together studies on the subject, but such selective choosing implies something else is afoot. For instance, if one were attempting to analyse the data from studies into the subject, one would surely want to include studies such as Call of (civic) duty: Action games and civic behavior in a large sample of youth, which concluded that,

“These results indicated little support for the belief that exposure to violence in video games decreases prosocial behavior and/or civic engagement. Conversely some support was found for the possibility that playing action games is associated with small increased prosocial behavior and civic engagement in the real world, possibly due to the team-oriented multiplayer options in many of these games.”

But back to that apparently relevant quote. What have the references listed to say about the impact of sexualised violence in videogames? Let’s take a look at them all.

Dietz, 1998 was, “An Examination of Violence and Gender Role Portrayals in Video Games: Implications for Gender Socialization and Aggressive Behavior”, which studied 22 Nintendo and Sega Megadrive games, but not of their impact on people. It found that a proportion of the games contained violence directed toward women (21%), and that 28% portrayed women as sex objects. Unfortunately the full paper is not available online to see its conclusions, which it strangely leaves out of its abstract.

The second, Dill & Dill 2004, is titled “Video game violence exposure correlated with rape myth acceptance and attitudes towards women”. It might be fascinating, but it’s unpublished. And thus not credible evidence.

The third, Dill, K. E. et al, in press, is “Violence, sex, race and age in popular video games: A content analysis” which does not study the effect of violence nor sexual violence on players. It concludes, as we know too well, that videogames present “a systematic over-representation of males, white and adults and a systematic under-representation of females, Hispanics, Native Americans, children and the elderly.” The paper has nothing whatsoever to do with sexual violence nor its effects on people.

Mulac et al, 2002, is titled, “Men’s behavior toward women after viewing sexually-explicit films: Degradation makes a difference”, and thus has nothing whatsoever to do with videogames nor their effects on players. The abstract specifically states that it studies “nonviolent sexual media stimuli”.

And finally Walsh et al, 2002 is the “MediaWise video game report card” which links to a dead site, the core URL now redirecting the Technology & Media pages of something called ParentFurther. The MediaWise Video Game Report Card was not a study or scientific paper, but in fact a report for parents informing them which violent games they should avoid buying their children that Christmas. It therefore has no relevance.

So what in the blue hell is the APA is doing putting its name to such an incredibly spurious series of claims? A list of references after a statement claiming to prove “sexualized violence in the media has been linked to increases in violence towards women, rape myth acceptance and anti-women attitudes”, that does no such thing. Four out of the five have nothing to do with the claims, and the fifth is unpublished (and thus not peer reviewed nor scrutinized by any respectable publication, and of course invisible to critique). It’s inexplicable, and very concerning.

2) The Psychology Today article also happens to be written by Karen Dill, she of two of the papers mentioned above. And is of course not about sexualised violence in mainstream videogames, but instead a reaction to 2010’s headline grabbing Japanese peculiarity, RapeLay. In the article she states, “My own research, and that of my colleagues, has demonstrated that exposure to sexually objectified and demeaned women in video games causes males (but not females) to be more lenient towards a real-life act of sexual harassment.” While clearly RapeLay is not being defended by us, the article’s insinuation that it is representative of gaming and “defended by players” is irresponsible and unscientific. She finishes with a list of references, three of the five not referencing videogames.

However, finally here we find Dill’s paper that is actually about the claimed subject, Effects of exposure to sex-stereotyped video game characters on tolerance of sexual harassment. This paper concludes that there was evidence of a short-term change in men’s tolerance to sexual harrassment. A second linked paper, Sexual Priming, Gender Stereotyping, and Likelihood to Sexually Harass: Examining the Cognitive Effects of Playing a Sexually-Explicit Video Game also found that exposure to a sexually explicit videogame encouraged men to see women as sex objects, and then slightly more spuriously, “lead to self-reported tendencies to behave inappropriately towards women in social situations.” It’s important to note that neither used sexually violent videogames.

3) There’s not much that can be done with that one.

4) Well this has absolutely nothing to do with games, violence, or gaming violence, let along sexual gaming violence. It’s about violent pornography, which is an odd inclusion for someone arguing that Bulletstorm (a game that uses sexual innuendos to describe its specialised kills, rather than any sexual content – lest we forget that fact in all this) is a problem.

Mr Meese, who spent a lot of time looking at pornography.

5) The Meese Report is a 1986 study of pornography commissioned by the then Attorney General. It has a section buried within titled “Sexually Violent Material”, in which it discusses sado-masochistic pornography, or simulated depictions of rape. It argues that there is a causal relationship between viewing sexually violent materials, and an increase in aggressive behaviour directed toward women. Being written in 1986 this unsurprisingly has nothing at all to do with the current nature of videogames, nor does it mention games, nor indeed sex or violence in mainstream media.

6) Here Lieberman somewhat confusingly linked to the same report, perhaps to make her list a little longer, but this time directly to part 4, chapter 5 (she may have missed the above entry I found in part 2, chapter 5) which discusses victimisation as a result of pornography. Again, this has nothing to do with violent videogames that allude to sex acts.

7) This links to a 2003 report called The Influence Of Media Violence On Youth, in a publication titled Psychological Science In The Public Interest. The paper begins by explaining that its “most extensively researched domain” is “television and film violence”, before elusively adding, “The growing body of video-game research yields essentially the same conclusions.” Scientific stuff. It also states that its results do not show data that is relevant to “extremely violent criminal behaviours (e.g. forcible rape, aggravated assault, homicide)” because they are rare, and therefore “new longitudinal studies with larger samples are needed to estimate accurately how much habitual childhood exposure to media violence increases the risk for extreme violence.” So it’s a paper that doesn’t really look at videogames, that draws no conclusions regarding sexual violence.

8) Finally we have “Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries: A Meta-Analytic Review“. It concludes, “The evidence strongly suggests that exposure to violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, and aggressive affect and for decreased empathy and prosocial behavior.” It, of course, makes no mention of sexual behaviour, and no mention of rape. The only time the word “sex” is mentioned is in talking about gender.

Please, someone think of the kittens.


So for the conclusive evidence that games like Bulletstorm, that pun words like “facial” and “gangbang” in the context of shooting enemies in specific ways, cause an increase in rape really doesn’t seem to be present, even after the hours I’ve spent poring through it. There is some very interesting reading regarding the effects of playing violent videogames, and increases in aggression of players. However, it is vital to note that this is a prime example of selection bias. Much as the shocking APA paper picked its sources to fit its agenda, so has Lieberman. And much like the shocking APA paper, Lieberman hasn’t picked very well. Of her eight examples, only one had anything to do with the claimed subject, and even then it was hidden in a couple of papers mentioned in the article’s references. Which I’d speculate she hasn’t read, or she’d surely have linked to them.

Those two papers definitely merit further analysis. Purely because they actually have something to do with the claims that playing sexually explicit games may cause men to change their tolerance of sexual harassment. Of course, they still have absolutely nothing to do with Bulletstorm, which contains no sexually explicit material at all. It contains some rude words, as puns for violent acts.

But it’s important to remember the way that scientific papers work. One needs to do meta-analysis, considering the results of multiple studies. So far the specific matter of sexual violence has had so few studies that results are currently inconclusive. Which is not to say that they should be dismissed at all – just that bold statements to the press that “thousands” of papers prove it are perhaps inappropriate. And for every study concluding that games definitely do cause increases in violent behaviour, another appears demonstrating the opposite, even suggesting beneficial results. The reality is, right now, we really don’t know. No long-term studies have been carried out, because there has not yet been time. Announcing “games obviously don’t cause violence” is currently equally as ridiculous as shouting, “games cause violence”. The best we’ve currently got is, “Games may cause violent people to be more violent, or the may cause violent people to be less violent.” And we certainly don’t have enough evidence to be drawing conclusions about sexual violence. And let’s not forget that while there are obviously enormous issues with the depictions of women in games, and there’s certainly still the likelihood that women will be sexualised in games, there are very, very few games that feature sexual violence toward women. It’s not a current epidemic, and it’s certainly not one that Bulletstorm is contributing toward.


  1. The Sombrero Kid says:

    I’ve been waiting for this all day for much lols at that Lieberman ass.

    • The Sombrero Kid says:

      I’d like to point out that I didn’t miss the superfluous kittens & that you sir are wrong about last action hero!

    • Lilliput King says:

      Yeah! It wasn’t that bad.

      P.S: Good article John.

    • Recidivist says:

      Lieberman ass.

      YOU WANT TO [really obvious joke] DAMN YOU BULLETSTORM!!!!

      [Think about what it would be like to read that comment about someone you know – I know you were joking, but be a bit more thoughtful – Ed]

  2. Mike says:

    I saw your Twitter posts about being up all night doing this (presumably this) and it was entirely worth it. A fantastic read, I can’t believe you went recursively into the references on that first paper. Excellent stuff, and a thoroughly interesting read – not particularly because of the Bulletstorm article, but just generally about claims made like this. Thanks a lot.

    • CTRL-ALT-DESTROY says:

      I would also like to say thanks. That was a fantastic run of reporting you did on that story, and I’d bet it’s proved valuable to a lot more people than would admit it. Obviously, the demographic being what it is on RPS, a lot of us readers would have lambasted the original FOX piece in the first place. But honestly, until I read your articles I didn’t have any evidence to back up what I thought about the media’s sensationalism other than to say, “my common sense tells me they’re talking out their asses”. So thanks for doing the work necessary for me to be able to call bullshit and know I’m right. It’s a good feeling.

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      Say one thing for John Walker, say he’s a committed man. Good article.

  3. PatrickSwayze says:

    Everything makes so much more sense now that I’ve seen a photo of her.

    Judging a hack book by it’s cover? Maybe. But I honestly don’t know why I expected anything different.

    • rocketman71 says:

      My eyes will burn all day long after that photo.

      I thought the Amazon bombing was childish, but after reading the article, I’m feeling a lot more like contributing.

  4. Nemon says:

    Now THIS is journalism. And I haven’t even read all the text, yet.

  5. Gepetto says:

    Not suprising all of the so-called ‘evidence’ Leiberman produces is, at best, laughable. After all, she does make a living from talking nonsense on awful television programmes, rather than spending time or effort into doing something decent for society.
    On another note, I am amazed that EA haven’t put forth a libel case against her (or Fox News, for that matter).

  6. Monchberter says:

    Well said. Academic skills, despite being of dubious value in “the real world” are exactly what’s needed when tackling such poorly research hyperbole such as that voiced above.

    Unfortunately some people don’t listen to reason. Fox News and its long line of shilling cronies such as Lieberman being some of the worst proponents of media bias.

  7. Skyfall says:

    Ahem. Staring eyes tag, gentlemen?

  8. J. says:

    That is a lot of words.

  9. brog says:

    Wow, excellent work John.

  10. alice says:

    You sir are wrong. Any time a claim such as the ones by Lieberman are made in the press, a refutation such as this is exactly what is needed. Walker is showing everyone, by which I mean other publications of lesser quality, how it is done.

  11. Akheloios says:

    If you insist on continuing this worryingly in depth and well researched line of quality journalism, I will have to restrict my reading of your site to Quentin’s reviews.

    Really, is this stuff still going on? I survived growing up in the 80s, don’t the parents of today remember that all the stuff they enjoyed was criticised in the same way? Heavy Metal, Dungeons & Dragons, Crack Cocaine, all demonised in the press by right wing idiots and none of it turned out to be in any way bad for society. Well maybe D&D, I lost far too many hours at Uni to badly run dungeon crawls.

    Isn’t it far more worrying that the zombie of Joseph McCarthy keep rising from the grave every couple of years. This time he’s even put on a blonde wig, and I thought the right wing press hated LGBT.

    • dethgar says:

      As people grow up, they forget the past. They also have a blinding affinity for the things they grew up with, and parenthood sometimes creates a ridiculous urge to over protect.

      TLDR version: Stupid people need other stupid people to tell them what to think. A large part of the world is stupid.

  12. MrMud says:

    The problem here is that as there are no sexually violent mainstream video games (seeing how sex is pretty much outlawed in the states, one wonders how they procreate) so trying to find any studies that explore this is bound to be fruitless.

    • battles_atlas says:

      Before we all get carried away with the back-patting, I think its worth acknowledging – as John said at the end – that the depiction of women in games, whilst not subjected to sexual violence, can at times be pretty fucking neanderthal (if they appear at all).

    • Acorino says:

      Why is something no gamer would deny, I think.

    • Quine says:

      I find the depiction of kittens in the gaming press to be pretty one-dimensional and exploitative, also.

    • Consumatopia says:

      The truth is that non-interactive media has far more sexualized violence than video games. Yes, even in the U.S.. Not only do we produce our share of rape pornography, but we have titillating rape scenes in films, misogynistic rap songs, and even prison rape jokes in sitcoms.

      I totally disagree with what Bulletstorm did, but there’s no sense pretending it’s unique.

      At the same time, expecting to find a single study linking sexualized video game violence to rape is too much. If someone had proven that sexualized violence in (non-interactive) porn causes sexual aggression, that would pretty much make the case–it’s unlikely that adding interactivity to media would make it less dangerous. Not sure that that’s been proven, though.

    • Pwninat0r2000 says:

      hold on, what?!
      you “totally disagree with what Bulletstorm did”??!

      it’s not even out and they haven’t “done” ANYTHING.

      fuck off.

  13. Brumisator says:

    Sorry to nipick.

    in the explanation of 6)
    ” (she may missed the above entry I found in part 2, chapter 5)”

  14. Jackablade says:

    A very good rebuttal and equally great read, Mr Walker. As Frightlever insinuated though, it’s a shame that these words won’t go out to many of the folks who have actually been swayed by Leiberman’s words.

    Come to think of it, isn’t one of the other major video game opponents in the use called Leiberman? relation perhaps?

  15. Nick says:

    So her qualifications are.. making bullshit claims previously? I’m surprised! What is she a doctor of..? Purchasing fake doctorates?

    • Archonsod says:

      She’s a psychologist, so should really have known better.

  16. Richard Clayton says:

    John, you have a dead link:

    8) Finally we have “Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries: A Meta-Analytic Review“. It concludes…

    Also “Staring eyes” tag!

  17. Pijama says:

    Journalism GLORIOUS TRIUMPH.

  18. reticulate says:

    Well bugger me, another hack has latched on to vaguely-worded statements as a justification for calling games bad.

    You’re preaching to the choir, but I appreciate the hard work you’ve put in here. Of course, I doubt this will stop whatever crusade Lieberman thinks she’s on, but we can be confident in the knowledge – not just the feeling – that she’s talking out of her ass and ignore as required.

  19. Bhazor says:

    Y’know in a time of growing unemployment, failing banks, raising debts and corporate corruption it’s good to see there is still plenty of ways for stupid but articulate people to make vast sums of money from stupid but scared people.

  20. Premium User Badge

    kororas says:

    Good article, I admit i had to skim read some of it as proportionally that is a monster compared to the other stuff we’re used to seeing on here.

    All i can say regarding that picture is the botox injections must have affected her brain.

    • Pwninat0r2000 says:

      fucking hell. taking 5 minutes to read something is too hard for you and you have to “skim” it? no wonder the “mainstream” treats people who like to play games as absolute retards.

  21. de5me7 says:

    “by the end of tommorrow, one or all of these people will have been bum raped, set on fire…”

    link to youtube.com

    Brass eye remains depressingly timeless

    What irritates me most about this, is the two letters before her name Dr. Im currently working on a PhD, and its damn hard. How do retards get Docterates? Is there some university in the US, where critical thinking is considered a myth?

    • ascagnel says:

      A PhD is only as good as the granting institution, and the US has a few diploma mills and Bible Universities that survive on this tripe.

      For fun, look up “Patriot Bible University”. Their climate degree program pretty much exists to disprove or cast doubt on climate change without any serious scientific backing.

  22. tobias says:

    Lovely article, many thanks, however-

    “Having spent quite a lot of time looking for and reading studies that conclusively demonstrate links between gaming sexual violence and real-world sexual violence, I was surprised to hear…”

    Surely some problem with that sentence, or am I misreading it? Or is it sarcasm going way over my head?

  23. logizomechanophobe says:

    I want to thank you, John Walker, for this thorough, logical, fascinating and not at all too long summation of the Carole Lieberman angle of this situation. I think you’ve abundantly made your point that Carole, the folks at Fox News, researchers and many other so-called experts aren’t qualified to draw meaningful conclusions about violence, sexuality, violent sexuality, or crude puns which allude to sexuality when triggered by violence as portrayed on video games and the effects they have on adults and/or children of either gender and society as a whole. You should be awarded for rising to the challenge of being a responsible journalist for delving as deep into this story as you have in search of anything somewhat resembling science, reason, or truth. And by awarded, I mean that you should be presented with something more substantial than two full, proud thumbs-up from me.

  24. Risingson says:

    It’s preaching to the converted. This could be useful only if Lieberman could reply again. I mean: what we need to see is an exchange of opinions, not just a ping-pong match of “OWNED!”.

    I don’t like the fact of videogames having happy violence on them (though very few have it), and I don’t like the fact of very old, stupid sexism on them, because it sounds more pre-adolescent humor than the adult humor it should be, and I feel very alienated by this when playing games with teenage oriental girls with little clothes on, innocent expression and such. It’s part of a foreign, nearly extraterrestial, culture I feel not related to.

    Now. Rape, violence, sex in general. This makes me think of those exploitation movies I love that much, with Linda Blair in jail, Linda Blair taking revenge of her friends being raped, or a student which is a prostitute and is pursued by a sex psychopath. Those movies had their meaning back then by the power of shock, and now I find the fun in the very dark world and unexpected noir motives they have. Violent videogames have a lot of that, too, and that’s why there are some shocking values from time to time: not GTAs, but Manhunt 2, for example. NOW: I don’t like violence and humillation in games as something festive, but I don’t think that it makes you less sensitive about those topics. It makes you less sensitive about watching those topics, but the morality is another set of values which are in other parts of your brain. And the real world is quite a bitch: no matter how much deaths you see on tv, on the news, on videogames, watching real pain is something completely different, and our senses know about this.

    And pornography is another different topic we will talk about in other ocassion.

    • Acorino says:

      >>It’s preaching to the converted. This could be useful only if Lieberman could reply again. I mean: what we need to see is an exchange of opinions, not just a ping-pong match of “OWNED!”.

      Which is true, but then, neither she nor Fox News are willing to discuss this. So, this is the best that John could do.

    • Simes says:

      What we need is much less opinion and much more fact. Equal time should only be given to opinions of equal merit, and I’m fed up with the pretence that giving equal time to swivel-eyed loons is “balanced reporting”.

      I am not accusing RPS of this, it’s just an observation on the state of the world in general.

  25. TheApologist says:

    First can I add my applause to the presence of actual journalism in games media – acutally media full stop. Thanks, John.

    Second, this kind of robust, knowledgeable voice is not simply ‘preaching to the choir’ – that is to misrepresent it as just another voice of prejudice (just prejudice of a different kind) in the noisy boorish argument that surrounds this issue. Rather, it is a reasoned deconstruction of other’s arguments, and the development of a capacity to respond to poor quality thinking and badly researched claims. As such it matters, and can be (and should be) deployed again and again as these issues recur.

    A third, little point – I am not convinced that meta-analysis is always the robust method it often claims to be. It is, after all, reliant on the quality of the original studies it is analysing, and can all to easily build in bias into its analysis while rhetorically presenting itself as authoritative. Not saying they aren’t useful, just that we need to keep a critical mind about them.

    • Thermal Ions says:

      Well said. Your third point about Meta-Analysis is something I’ve also considered in the past.

      Thanks for the articles on this topic John. They’ve been interesting, informative and a step above the journalism normally seen on video game sites, or even technology sections within mainstream media.

    • Archonsod says:

      Sadly enough, I think it’s probably the best example of how a journalist should handle science reporting in any media since the ’70’s.

  26. Dude (Darloc) says:

    Really good work, the only problem I think is that people that should read this won’t be coming to a site like RPS.
    Also this clearly prove that her qualifications are not justified, a shame that there are no action possible to strip her of her MD because of what she pushes as evidence is clearly not. If she had to write a scientific paper on this the peer review process will reject it has fast as you should switch away from Fox news.

  27. Fede says:

    Nice article, well researched.

    And… oh… lovely kittens!
    Someone should study if prolonged exposition to media representing kittens is beneficial or harmful.

  28. battles_atlas says:

    It is astonishing that a doctor of science would invoke ‘common sense’ as an primary source of evidence, indeed any evidence at all. It was once common sense that washing was dangerous because it leached vital fluids from the body.

    Then she does it again, by citing polls on lay public attitudes on the causes of Columbine, as evidence of what actually caused Columbine. Still, I guess the tv media’s acceptance of this woman’s legitimacy shouldn’t be a surprise, given that the media themselves spend most of the time these days asking the public what they think about the issue that they are watching the news to find out about.

    This woman should totally get a tv show with that Shit Doctor woman. We could start celebrating the end of days right there.

    • RQH says:

      Indeed! I thought much of the substance of social science in particular is taking common sense assumptions about how people and society function and applying the scientific method to them.

  29. Maykael says:


  30. patricij says:

    There are SO MANY empirical studies that you can claim virtually anything with them…as long as people are dumb enough to think that
    a) those studies have an absolute validity,
    b)there are absolutely no conflicting studies.

    I think people should be trained in scientific scepticism. Many scientists conclude that you can’t really prove anything with an scientific (empiric) experiment – due to the nature of scientific experiments (empiric observations – >hypothesis->experiment to test the hypothesis and then either failure or “an avoidance of failure until the next experiment”…), you would have to do an infinite number of experiments to prove them. So yeah, just throw all the studies at me, Ms. Liebermann, but I reserve the right to take them with truckloads of salt.

    • Archonsod says:

      To be fair, it’s not a problem with empiricism. You’ll always have some studies concluding the opposite, it’s why you do meta studies which basically ask “Do we have more evidence in favour of A or B?”.

      Thing is, the vast majority of scientific papers are publicly available with a minimum of effort. On the one hand you can criticise scientific journalism for failing to accurately portray the subject or make any effort into factual reporting, but at the same time there is some validity to the idea that a journalist is not necessarily there to provide factual information, but to sell papers.

      So it’s equally valid to blame the public for being too lazy to check up themselves.

  31. destx says:

    I freakin’ love Last Action Hero. That anyone would campaign against it for glorifying real-world violence is sure proof that they have no place discussing the matter. It’s one of the most obvious cases of satire I’ve ever seen.

  32. Towercap says:

    Well done, sir.

  33. Binman88 says:

    In much the same way as Fox are typically preaching to their own choir, it’s clearly possible for non-members of that choir to pick up on their articles, as we all have done with this particular controversy. I think it’s important that RPS published this article in response, even if the full Fox choir never lays eyes upon it. At the very least, if anyone ever revisits articles like Fox’s for research purposes, at least with a little more digging they’ll find this series of articles that counter the sensational claims they make.

  34. battles_atlas says:

    Indeed, the fact that Lieberman felt it necessary to respond to her critics, who I’ll wager were all online games blogs/websites, shows that gaming is nolonger a tubby little weakling for all the big kids to pick on. It’s work like John’s that will give idiots like Lieberman second thoughts (assuming she can have two thoughts concurrently) about exploiting popular anti-gaming myths for her own gain.

  35. noom says:

    I approve of your methodical deconstruction of her references here. Solid analysis of sources is the hallmark of good journalism, and it’s gratifying to see that you care about these kind of issues enough to do so. Kudos for your rational and not (overly) defensive tone too. Misogyny in games is a real issue and something that genuinely pisses me off. Fortunately as a rational person and not one of the apparant mob of impressionable idiots that learn their values from entertainment, I’m capable of making reasoned critical judgements for myself. A concept that seems to be lost on those responsible for deciding what we can and cannot experience.

  36. ueberOne says:

    Anyone remember Rapelay? I wonder what the likes of Lieberman would say to something like that.
    Actually, it would be kind of fun to bring it to their attention, because their reactions would be predictable and as such all the more prone to ridicule, because nobody in their right mind could attribute anything meaningful to that particular game. To sum up, Rapelay is a game about rape. Its badly engineered, is really crappy to actually play and just plain silly in any other regard. Does playing it make you a rapist?
    One for the ‘experts’ to answer…

    • sonofsanta says:

      RapeLay has an image in this very article, and is mentioned in Analysis part 2.

      The Psychology Today article also happens to be written by Karen Dill, she of two of the papers mentioned above. And is of course not about sexualised violence in mainstream videogames, but instead a reaction to 2010′s headline grabbing Japanese peculiarity, RapeLay. In the article she states, “My own research, and that of my colleagues, has demonstrated that exposure to sexually objectified and demeaned women in video games causes males (but not females) to be more lenient towards a real-life act of sexual harassment.” While clearly RapeLay is not being defended by us, the article’s insinuation that it is representative of gaming and “defended by players” is irresponsible and unscientific. She finishes with a list of references, three of the five not referencing videogames.

  37. NikRichards says:

    Just adding my thanks, the effort gone into properly researching this article is greatly appreciated!

  38. Ovno says:

    I say we try and get her struck off the medical register for this nonsense…

    It may sound ridiculas but the Dr that started the MMR scare with his entirely baseless claims has been stuck off for publising such bad science (and bringing vacination into repute without basis).

    We could try and get her done for damaging legimate research into the effect of media on peoples psychology, that’d teach her and shut the rest of these reactionary idiots right up…

    Even if it never actually happened the attempt would make international news.

    • CMaster says:

      Andrew Wakefield wasn’t struck off for publishing something that turned out to be wrong. Everyone makes mistakes and everyone makes bad conclusions.
      Wakefield was struck off for carrying out painful, embarrassing and authorised tests on vulnerable children after luring them there for a birthday party.
      Gross ethical misconduct gets you struck off as it should. Taking a position in a media debate, even a poorly evidenced one doesn’t and shouldn’t

    • Ovno says:

      In making the verdict on the sanctions, Dr Surendra Kumar, the panel’s chairman, said Dr Wakefield had “brought the medical profession into disrepute” and his behaviour constituted “multiple separate instances of serious professional misconduct”.

      In total, he was found guilty of more than 30 charges.

      Dr Kumar also explained the reasoning for striking Dr Wakefield off.

      “The panel concluded that it is the only sanction that is appropriate to protect patients and is in the wider public interest, including the maintenance of public trust and confidence in the profession, and is proportionate to the serious and wide-ranging findings made against him.”

      According to all the evidence I can find (via google search) his bringing of medicine into disripute was one of the main factors influencing the GMC’s discision to strike him off the register.

      So he did get struck off for taking a position (or rather starting) a media debate that has lead to serious damage to the reputation of vacination and medicine in general.

      And as for if taking a position in a media debate should get you struck off or at least sanctioned, if you use your position as a practicing doctor to give creedance to completely baseless ideas, then yes I think it should in some cases, debate is one thing but actively promoting bad science and bad medicine in particular can lead to all sorts of problems (like kids dying because they didn’t get vacinated) and therefore is gross profession misconduct (in my opinion).

    • Ovno says:

      Edit not working, that bit was quoted from the BBC

      link to news.bbc.co.uk

    • Archonsod says:

      @ Onvo:

      The reason he was charged with bringing medicine into disrepute was the way he conducted his research, not his publications. He not only ignored ethical guidelines, he actually broke the law on several occasions.
      Most employers will sack an employee for bringing the company into disrepute if they pick up a criminal record; the medical board are no different.

  39. Premium User Badge

    Gassalasca says:

    John Walker: a real journalist.


  40. Nick says:

    stop having different opinions to me!

  41. sqrrl101 says:

    Just joined up to say THANK YOU for wading through this idiot’s bullshit to coherently dispel her disinformation. I can only hope that as many people as possible read this rather than swallowing the typical Fox news lies uncritically.

  42. toastmodernist says:

    Think preaching to the converted is more ‘lol u mad, videogames are amazing’ rather than reasoned, critical journalism that actually looks at / interrogates the sources of spurious claims.

    Absolutely nothing deconstructive about it though, just saying.

  43. SimonHawthorne says:

    Quick google scholar search for Dietz 1998 threw up this:

    link to videogames.procon.org

    Looks like it was Sega Genesis games as well…not exactly important, but I never had a Genesis so I feel left out.

  44. bigtoeohno says:

    This is a great article man. You’ve done your homework, seemingly a lost art. Perhaps off topic but this is similar to a war we’re fighting in Australia. We currently have no R18+ rating for video games, meaning some games (few actually most are just scaled back to fit our top m15+) are banned. Our laws simply haven’t kept up with the digital age. Despite numerous petitions, one recently got a bs amount of support, we can’t even get the parliament to even look into it. One extremist attorny general from one of our seven states has been holding it back sighting the exact same firm but otherwise vague opinions, complete with his own set of hilarious quotes which are failing me atm(i’d find some only I’m on my phone and internet searches can be labourous). For some reason at some point he was given a bogus sub-title/jurisdiction over media ratings and parental control giving him final say on whether this brought up in the lower house. So we’re left with watered down games ex: left for dead 2 had no blood which sounds like no big deal until u see the silly rushed animations we got instead, if we get them at all. What I respect the most about your piece however is you keep your bias’ well in check creating a great point of reference. What we’ve had here however is a number of people sending very ‘passionate’ letters or failing that actual death threats to said attorney generals house. Pro-active yes effective not so much. My rant from Australia.

    Oh No Its Big Toe

    • drewski says:

      The one Attorney General – Michael Atkinson of South Australia – is no longer in that position. Currently the regulations regarding classification of videogames in Australia are “being reviewed”, with the matter due for consideration again in March.

      The Federal Government’s own survey indicates 98.4% of Australian adults support an R18+ rating for videogames, incidentally.

  45. Xercies says:

    Even if it is like preaching to the choir i think the choir should know about these things anyway because sometimes the choir just dismisses things like this without digging up further evidence. I like that John Walker is all about investigative journalism and getting deep into these things.

  46. Lacero says:

    There’s a world of difference between an unfair bias against violent games and claiming thousands of studies prove they cause rape.

  47. jplayer01 says:

    This article needs to be featured in every newspaper, on every news show. Like, immediately.

  48. toastmodernist says:

    casual misogyny doesn’t really help anyone with anything.

  49. TheApologist says:


    I share your frustration in many ways, but it is useful to distinguish between a discussion of the effects of violent or sexualised media on behaviour, and the problems of videogame content being dominated by immaturity, sexism, racism, homophobia and so on.

    They’re both really important, and not totally unrelated, but I think they are different things.

    Interesting to note that RPS primarily deals with one debate and not the other.

  50. Saul says:

    Good work, Walker.