A recent study by Texas A&M International University chair and associate professor, psychology Dr. Christopher J. Ferguson shows that childhood media consumption is not a predictor for future adult criminal behavior.
The long-held (and as of yet unproven) argument has been that violent video games or other violent media have a direct causation to violent crimes like school shootings. But according to a new study from TAMIU, genetics, environment, the lack of
maternal nurturing, and a number of other factors combined are better predictors of adult criminality. The TAMIU study used data from a National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which included a representative sample of U.S. adolescents.
Dr. Ferguson said:
We basically find that genetics and some social issues combine to predict later adult arrests. Despite ongoing concerns about media influences, media exposure does not seem to function as a risk factor for adult criminality.
Genetics alone don't seem to trigger criminal behavior, but in combination with harsh upbringing, you can see negative outcomes. In our sample, experiencing maternal warmth seemed to reduce the impact of genetics on adult criminality.
Researchers also noted that other factors such as family environment, peers and socioeconomic status can also be predictors of adult criminality. The research also found that being exposed to maternal affection may have the potential to
decrease criminal behavior in individuals who might otherwise be at risk.
People may object morally to some of the content that exists in the media, but the question is whether the media can predict criminal behavior. The answer seems to be no.
...So, back to Saint's Row IV. Could the game be banned in Europe under the Pegi system? The answer, for Britain at least, is effectively no. Pegi is a ratings system not a censorship board and has no remit to ban retail releases.
However, in situations where a European member country has legislation that may be contravened in the product, Pegi will advise publishers that they may well be breaking laws.
In the UK, video game content is governed by the 1984 Video Recordings Act and its subsequent updates, which Pegi has to take into account when rating games. We'd be talking about paedophilia, or any form of discrimination likely to incite
hatred, says operations director, Peter Darby. We've got a chair and vice-chair who are designated by the secretary of state to make a decision on whether a game should be given a certificate for release in the UK or not. Obviously that
doesn't effect the rest of Europe, that's just for the UK. But that's the process we would use to effectively ban a game in the UK. There's quite a long process leading up to that, though. We have an expert panel that will look at it and advise
on whether it breaches the law or could be deemed harmful. We have Tanya Byron and Geoffrey Robertson QC and the psychologist Dr Guy Cumberbatch -- they wouldn't make a decision, but they'd look at the game and advise us on the sorts of things we
need to take into account. Pegi is not a system that in itself bans games. But we will warn publishers to be careful where they release a title, because it could contravene laws.
So what happens in the event of a controversy? Does the government start trying to question the process? The DCMS will never get involved in us coming to a rating decision, says director general Laurie Hall, a veteran of the home video
business in the early 80s, when the video nasty controversy erupted. If Keith Vaz raises a question in parliament or whatever, they may ring us to ask what we have to say about it; we'll say our piece and that may be their reply to Vaz in
parliament. But they're at arm's length.
The article also comments on the 18 rating for the recent Tomb Raider release:
So why was Tomb Raider an 18? Before the game's release last year, there was controversy over a single sequence, referred to in an interview with the game's executive producer, where Lara is tied up and sexually threatened by a male captor. It
turns out, however, that by Pegi rating standards, the moment was so fleeting it didn't register. I don't even think I marked it 16 for sexual violence, says Davies. It just didn't go far enough . No, Tomb Raider received an 18
certificate thanks to a mere handful of gory death animations. Most of the violence is 16-rated, continues Davies. But there's a particular part where Lara goes down a zip wire and, if you fail to jump off in time, she is impaled
through the abdomen and jaw by spikes. That counts as gross violence. It's basically anything that makes you go, 'eugh' .
The Acting Director of the Censor, Board Donald McDonald, has announced that Saints Row IV was the first computer game in Australia to be banned under the Guidelines for the Classification of Computer Games that commenced on 1 January
The Classification Board classified the game RC (Refused Classification). In the Board's opinion, Saints Row IV, includes interactive, visual depictions of implied sexual violence which are not justified by context. In addition, the game includes
elements of illicit or proscribed drug use related to incentives or rewards. Such depictions are banned by the computer games guidelines.
Meanwhile Jeff Strain, the Executive Producer for the Microsoft game, State of Decay , has said that this has also been banned by the Australian Censor Board. Strain explained on a games forum:
State of Decay has been refused classification by the Australian Classification Board. We've run afoul of certain prohibitions regarding the depiction of drug use. We're working with Microsoft to come up with options, including changing names of
certain medications in the game to comply with ratings requirements. Whatever our path forward, it's going to take a bit.
The Australian Classification Board has issued a report detailing why Saints Row IV was banned in Australia. According to a statement sent to GameSpot, the game was banned on the grounds of implied sexual violence , pertaining
specifically to the Alien Anal Probe weapon and the use of illicit drugs referred to as alien narcotics . The report outlines the reasons in detail, stating:
The game includes a weapon referred to by the applicant as an 'Alien Anal Probe'. The applicant states that this weapon can be 'shoved into enemy's backsides'. When using this weapon, the player approaches a (clothed) victim from behind and
thrusts the weapon between the victim's legs and then lifts them off the ground before pulling a trigger which launches the victim into the air.
A weapon designed to penetrate the anus of enemy characters and civilians constitutes a visual depiction of implied sexual violence that is interactive and not justified by context.
Smoking the 'alien narcotics' equips the player with 'superpowers', which increase their in-game abilities, allowing them to progress through the mission more easily. During the mission, onscreen prompts guide the player to 'Go to deal location'
and 'Get drugs'. In the board's opinion, there is insufficient delineation between the 'alien narcotic' available in the game and real-world proscribed drugs.
Publisher Deep Silver has issued a statement announcing the developer's intention to create an edited version of the game.
The Censor Board has supplied IGN with a report that outlines the reason State of Decay was banned:
The game contains the option of self-administering a variety of medications throughout gameplay which act to restore a player's health or boost their stamina. These medications include both legal and illicit substances such as
methadone, morphine, amphetamines, stimulants, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, codeine, aspirin, trucker pills , painkillers and tussin. Of these, methadone, morphine, and amphetamines are proscribed drugs and the term stimulant is
commonly used to refer to a class of drugs of which several are proscribed.
Players obtain drugs by scavenging for them in the environment or by manufacturing them in a Medical Lab . When players find drugs in the environment the name of the drug appears onscreen and the drug is also represented by a visual icon
such as a pill bottle or syringe. Within the Medical Lab players are prompted to make substances such as Potent Stims , Mild Stims and Painkillers . The laboratory includes a research library and chemical
When administering drugs, the player is briefly depicted moving a pill bottle toward their mouth. The sound of pills rattling in the bottle accompanies the depiction. The name of the drug appears onscreen along with its representative icon.
Consumption of the drug instantly increases a player's in-game abilities allowing them to progress through gameplay more easily. The Applicant has stated that a player can choose not to make any drugs or scavenge for them, but it would be
very difficult to complete the game without some form of medication .
In the Board's opinion, the game enables the player's character to self-administer proscribed drugs which aid in gameplay progression. This game therefore contains drug use related to incentives or rewards and should be Refused Classification.
The newly designed Kinect for Xbox One may run afoul of a bill called the We Are Watching You Act, if it becomes law. The law sponsored by Congressmen Michael Capuano and Walter Jones, requires companies to explicitly ask consumers
for permission to store their data. The device would also have to inform the user how the data is collected and who will see it after it is collected. If the user declines to allow the device to record and share data the company would have to
offer a new service that is the same as the existing one save for its ability to record. For Kinect, this would force Microsoft to add a whole new level of disclosure.
Think about what you do in the privacy of your own home and then think about how you would feel sharing that information with your cable company, their advertisers and your government.
Surely a listening spycam in your living room is a far too tempting a facility for secretive spooks. They will surely try for remote access. Hopefully turning off the box at the mains should be enough to put the Trojan horse to sleep, but you
never know. Quite sizeable batteries could easily be hidden in the electronics. Perhaps best to invest in some sort of muffle/cover when not in use.
Update: Even Forbes has its say on Microsoft control freakery
A TV advertisement for the zombie game sequel Dead Island: Riptide has been banned by Australia's advert censor.
The ad, plucked from the game's opening cinematic features a young couple choosing to blow themselves up rather than face the zombie hoard.
According to Australian website Mumbrella claimed:
The ad is too graphic in terms of its depiction of suicide, particularly the final image of the man hanging from a tree because it may be very traumatic for those who have lost a family member to suicide.
The Advertising Standards Board upheld the complaints, claiming the issue of suicide is a very significant community concern and (the Board) considered that the use of images which are strongly suggestive of suicide is not appropriate in the
context of a television advertisement for a computer game.
The Effect of Violent and Nonviolent Video Games on Heart Rate Variability, Sleep, and Emotions in Adolescents With Different Violent Gaming Habits
By Malena Ivarsson, BA, Martin Anderson, MD, Torbjorn Akerstedt, PhD and Frank Lindblad, MD
Objective To study cardiac, sleep-related, and emotional reactions to playing violent games versus nonviolent video games in adolescents with different gaming habits.
Methods Thirty boys (aged 13--16 years), half of them low-exposed (1 hour/day) and half high-exposed (3 hour/day) to violent games, played a violent games/nonviolent video games for 2 hours during two different evenings in their homes. Heart rate
and heart rate variability were registered from before start until next morning. A questionnaire about emotional reactions was administered after gaming sessions and a sleep diary on the following mornings.
Results During sleep, there were significant interaction effects between group and gaming condition for heart rate. There was also a significant interaction for sleep quality, and sadness after playing.
Conclusions Different combinations of the extent of previous violent games and experimental exposure to a violent games or an nonviolent video games are associated with different reaction patterns---physiologically, emotionally, and sleep
related. Desensitizing effects or selection bias stand out as possible explanations.
New jersey State Assemblyman Sean Kean has introduced two bills that stem from reports that Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old shooter behind the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn, owned some violent video games, including
games that carried a '17' rating, mature.
Kean's legislation would restrict the sale of video games rated mature or adults only to minors.
Officials in several states have attempted to pass laws that would prohibit the sale of certain video games to minors, but none have succeeded. Citing First Amendment protections.
The first bill proposed by Kean would prohibit retailers from selling video games that are rated mature or adults only to anyone under 18. The second would require the presence of a parent for a minor to purchase a violent video
Any retailer found to be in violation of either bill would be subject to a $10,000 fine for the first offense and up to $20,000 for each subsequent instance; be forced to cover any punitive damages to the minor who purchased the game; and could
be on the receiving end of a cease-and-desist order from the state Attorney General's Office.
Though both of Kean's pending bills are currently backed by a small cadre of Republicans. Assembly members from the other side of the aisle have also taken on the violent video game debate. Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender (Union) is
preparing a bill that would ban violent video games from public places such as arcades.
Last year, a law was passed in South Korea to prevent gamers under sixteen from gaming during a six-hour block at night. A year later, the consequences are expanding.
When the law went into effect July 1, 2012, Sony temporarily took down the PSN Store. Sony had hoped to get it back up sometime later in 2012, because it needed to revamp the PSN to comply with the new law. That apparently meant that there
were no new PSN games and no other downloadable content during this blackout.
This week, Sony Computer Entertainment Korea announced that the PSN is finally returning to South Korea starting May 16. However, people under the age of 18 will not be able to use the PlayStation Network at all.
According to Sony's South Korean arm, it was difficult for them to come up with a system that could limit game play time for minors as well as a system to verify parental permission. Thus, the PSN in South Korea will soon be ages 18 and up only
as verified via a credit card.
A state lawmaker in New Jersey, Linda Stender, is planning to introduce legislation that would prohibit public spaces such as amusement parks, movie theaters, bowling allies, or restaurants from making video games rated mature [17
rated] or adults only available to play.
Under the proposed legislation, business owners could face fines of up to $10,000 for the first offense and $20,000 for repeated offenses.
In a statement introducing the proposed legislation, state Assembly Stender claimed that while violent video games don't necessarily cause violent behavior, they can play a role:
Children today are exposed to violent images more than ever. Violent video games can desensitize children to violence and give them a warped version of reality where violence and death have no consequences outside their TV screens.
However her proposed legislation could face legal problems not only because video games are considered a form of speech protected under the first amendment, but also because the mature ratings she is appealing to have not historically been
applied to the arcade games she is specifically targeting anyway
The Australian Government wants to make some changes to how the classification system works in Australia, and one of these is to make the computer games censorship process cheaper for small developers.
Jason Clare, Australia's minister for home affairs presented a raft of changes last week at the Standing Council on Law and Justice meeting. One of which was to Enable the use of automated classification decision making systems, starting with
a pilot for mobile and online computer games.
What this means is that the Australian Classification board and their classifiers will not need to rate every single video game or app that is released in Australia. There is a tremendous cost for this classification and it's stopping a lot
indie developers getting their games into the marketplace.
The pilot program for automatic classification may only start with online and mobile games (which currently don't have classification) with the program to be extended to all digitally distributed titles such as the ones released on the eShop.
Noting the inconsistency of video game ratings between various rating agencies. Perhaps the box ticking, better safe than sorry, PEGI 18 rating is contributing to high age ratings not being taken seriously by parents