Published on February 11th, 2011 | by Bryant Kazmerzak, Contributor
Fox News Paints Imaginary Line Between Rape And Gaming
(NOTE: Due to what I am assuming is proper etiquette when discussing topics such as these on the Internet, I would like to warn readers that there are potential sexual assault trigger topics within this post. Please read at your own discretion, and don’t chew my ass out for being “insensitive”. You’ve been warned.)
Do violent videogames cause young men and children to develop a psychological predisposition to commit violent physical and sexual crimes later in their life?
That is a question that society has been asking itself ever since the heyday of Mortal Kombat, back when Senator Joe Lieberman was fighting to have it removed from store shelves.
But, in fact, this topic goes back even further, back when videogames were just simple vector graphics. MTV was long accused of poisoning the youth of America with it’s televised “explicit” rock and roll videos of beasts and scantily clad women, with music that was surely the crooning of Satan himself.
Before that, Dungeons & Dragons was lauded as being a “gateway to a life of satanism and debauchery”, and if you asked anyone who has ever read a Chick Tract what they thought of D&D back in the 80s, they’d probably say something to that extent.
Before that, it was marijuana and crack cocaine. Well–okay, marijuana isn’t that bad, but crack–yeah, I can see why crack would be on the list.
But before that, comic books were being accused of being bad for the youth of America. Yes, back in the golden age of comics, back when the heroes of today were just starting to get their shit into gear, parental and special interest groups were convincing people that comic books, with their tales of fantastic adventure, “cartoonized” violence and inhuman feats of strength, were warping the minds of youngsters.
Back when I was a junior and senior in high school, I wrote a very detailed report on whether or not studies showed that violence in videogames were actually responsible for violence in youth. I don’t have it here with me, and I don’t remember the essay verbatim, but the gist of it all was that the research that has been carried out by universities and private firms suggest that there is little to no correlation between the two.
And yet people still say shit like this.
People, I am a fairly straight-thinking person. I like to believe that there is good in this world, and that the intelligence quotient of the average person is greater than that of a common Savannah Baboon. I also like to believe that I am a fairly well-informed person and, as such, am able to come to educated conclusions based on results and answers from various sources. But I am at a loss for (nice) words with which to use to describe the disgust and the frustration I feel when I read reports like these and hear/see “news” on this matter.
First of all, let me be clear: Rape isn’t funny. Despite living in a world where “Family Guy”, “South Park”, and “30 Rock” make rape jokes that usually are quite humorous, the actual offense and the long-lasting psychological marks it leaves on victims are not funny at all. That being said, people who use such a heinous offense and play the victim card as reason to support an argument or to support a campaign against something they find marginally offensive disgusts the living hell out of me, more so than Seth MacFarlane, Trey Parker, Matt Stone, or even Alec Baldwin ever can or will.
Recently, the perceived support of rape and rapists by the folks at Penny Arcade was brought into light after PA posted a comic in August, 2010 that spoke of a male gnome being, “… Woken up every morning with savage blows…”, and, “… Being raped to sleep by the Dickwolves…”, which, as such, was a hilarious return to the “old” form that Penny Arcade was so famous for to begin with. And, yes, being a comic that routinely makes jokes about pedophilia, murder, sodomy, homosexuality, current events and pop culture, somehow one word in a comic that wasn’t even about rape was enough to spur some uptight feminists into taking near-militant action against Penny Arcade. How did they respond? By posting a tongue-in-cheek apology, and then making a t-shirt. Which, by the way, I wasn’t able to procure before PA took it out of the store.
Such a small potatoes thing, right? So why do people make such a big fuss about such a small thing? I’m sure that if PA had said instead of being raped to sleep nightly by mythological creatures that have erect penises for limbs (NSFW), he was torn to shreds by another mythological creature with scissors and Ginsu blades for limbs and having his head and innards impaled on spikes out on market row, people would have been okay with that.
Because, you know. People are screwed up (NSFW).
So, this week, imagine the combined rage of nearly every self-respecting gamer when Fox News decided it’d report on Bulletstorm‘s violence and graphic sexual innuendos, which really is fine and good for them. The game’s violent as all hell, and reporting on the graphic nature of the game is par for the course where it comes to today’s media. But, just like they did back in 2008 when they reported on Mass Effect’s sex scene, they decided to go the extra mile and bring in an “expert” in the form of self-described (which is a stretch, really) “media psychologist”, Carole Lieberman.
Christ. We just cant be rid of these people. If it isn’t one Lieberman, it’s another.
So, what does Lieberman 2.0 have to say on this matter? Oh, not much, except for the fact that explicit games “trigger rapes”. According to Ms. “Subject Matter Expert Hero Person”, “The increase in rapes can be attributed in large part to the playing out of [sexual] scenes in videogames”, which she is quoted as saying in an article on Fox News’ website which was titled, sensationally, “Is Bulletstorm The Worst Video Game in the World?”.
Remember how I said earlier that I am disgusted by people who play the rape card to garner attention and make harmless things look bad? Well Ms. Lieberman here is no exception. If I could invent a new scale on which to measure my level of disgust toward people or things, I’d have to give Ms. Lieberman 8.75 “Turned-Down-Chicago-Style-Deep-Dish-Pizzas-Due-to-Lack-of-Appetite” out of 10.
After Wired.com requested to speak with Lieberman so that she may further clarify what she meant by her statement, she failed to cite any studies, evidence or legitimate statistics that she may have used to come to her conclusion.
Which may be in part due to suffering an affliction of not existing in any capacity.
“I don’t know where [Lieberman] would get any evidence for this opinion,” said Iowa State University professor Douglas A. Gentile, who studies the relationship between media and violence. “There’s really very little to substantiate her claims in research literature.”
Gentile, who has has been researching violence in all media including videogames since 1999, has written books and studies about the psychological effects of videogames. In a phone interview with Wired.com, he said that hardly any mainstream games contain any real sexual content, and that Lieberman, “is extrapolating farther than science actually allows her to”.
Lieberman’s interview with Wired contained claims of “countless studies” in which there is a connection between games and violence, and yet she couldn’t name a single study or relevant videogame besides possibly Bully, which she referred to as, “that game where it took place in an academy…”.
For those not in in the know, Bully by Rockstar Games was a controversial tale of a troubled teen in a preppy private school who got into trouble with teachers and students alike by playing pranks and beating up jocks. And, despite Rockstar’s previous track record, the game was rated T for Teen and didn’t contain nor reference any brutal stabbings, shootings, rapes, or murders, despite these things happening in real life.
Ms. Expert later emailed Wired with a citation from a study titled “Violent Video Game Eddects on Aggression, Empathy and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries”, which is available here (.pdf). The study, headed by Gentile’s colleague at Iowa State, Craig A. Anderson, doesn’t bear any mention to rape or sexual assault, and, as Mr. Gentile said, “There are no studies [that link videogames to rape] that I know of”.
Lieberman was lashing out at Bulletstorm due in part to the mention of graphic sexual activity that describes the “trick shots” that can be performed during gameplay. For instance, by killing multiple enemies at once, you accomplish what’s called a “gang bang”. And, before you ask, no, there is no sexual content in the game itself. After all, this isn’t BMX XXX.
It probably doesn’t need to be said, but no researcher with a single shred of dignity would even attempt to draw a connection between gaming and rape.
In the book “Handbook of Computer Game Studies”, Jeffrey Goldstein and co-author Joost Raessens say:
“All the studies that have examined the effects of videogames on aggression have only involved measures of possible short-term aggressive consequences,”
Goldstein and Raessens wrote:
“The majority of the studies on very young children … tend to show that children do become more aggressive after either playing or watching a violent videogame but all these studies were based on the observation of a child’s free play after playing a violent videogame [emphasis original]. There is much speculation as to whether the procedures to measure aggression levels [are] methodologically valid and reliable.”
Add this lack of evidence to the real statistics that show that rape cases have decreased by 85 percent since they 1970’s, and you have a real winner.
So, the gist of all of this is that Fox News, in standard Fox News fashion, decided they’d stick their nose where it didn’t belong and is now being beaten about the head and shoulders yet again for lack of compelling evidence and for bringing in someone who didn’t know what the Fark she was talking about. As usual. However, she is quoted as saying, “Obviously I know what I’m talking about or I wouldn’t be called upon to testify in front of Congress”, and, “I’ve been doing this research for over 20 years…. It’s all about violence, it all applies to rape. And it has been done on videogames less violent or less sexual than the current one that we’re talking about.”
Oh noes, guys. She is an expert. Hide yo kids, hide yo wives, and hide yo husbands, because them gamers be rapin’ errybody out there!
GAMINGtruth will be following this as it unfolds further, and we will be pursuing communication with actual experts to get their input on this debacle. Because, you know. That’s what real journalists do.
If you are an expert on the matter, please feel free to email us at news@GAMINGtruth.com, subject line “Fox News Paints Imaginary Line Between Rape and Gaming”.
–Spread the truth!