Christopher J. Ferguson is a psychology professor who often appears on television to defend violent video games. He grew up during the satanic panic of the 1980s and is all too aware that adults tend to be hysterical about youth culture.
“Generally, be suspicious of people who” save children “by trying to restrict people’s access to fictional media,” says Ferguson in episode 420 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy Podcast. “In general, it doesn’t work very well when it comes to the look of the data.”
According to Ferguson, older researchers have often linked video games to real-world violence based on poor research, and many of them have been slow to correct their mistakes.
“In her honor, the American Psychological Association has recently made it clear that violent video games are not associated with actual violent crimes,”
Ferguson’s colleagues weren’t always grateful to him for pointing out their mistakes. “I’m honest, some of it was pretty bad,” he says. “You might think that aggression researchers would model collegiality – if they were really concerned about aggression – but unfortunately not.”
And while it is becoming increasingly rare for politicians to blame video games for real-world violence, President Trump has cited video games as a possible cause of Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s shootout in 2018.
“President Trump raised this issue of video games and then everyone on the left fell into the other boat, which I think says a lot about today’s politics,” said Ferguson. “For whatever reason, the right wing of politics seems to have made it their problem that half of the population shut down. I think at least half of the population is no longer worried about it. “
Listen to the full interview with Christopher J. Ferguson in episode 420 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (over). Check out some highlights from the following discussion.
Christopher J. Ferguson on Satanic Panic:
“I really remember how, as a teenager, I went through this media morale and watched what it’s like to be a teenager, and how people say these things about the culture that you enjoy that just sounds ridiculous And I think, to the extent that I’ve been able to hold onto those memories, it has made me a little more awake when people are using new media and new technologies today, for some reason it seems to a lot of people to be difficult to remember when I was a teenager when people complained about rock music or dungeons & dragons or whatever the moral panic of the day was, and then apply it to, “I do my kids and the entertainment, who enjoy the same? “
Christopher J. Ferguson on Mass impact::
“In 2008 this panic was over Mass impactwhere it had sexual content and people imagined it was a completely pornographic game. It was in the Fox News and got a lot of press. And if you actually play the game – it took about 35 hours to get to the scene in question. In terms of people trying to take advantage of pornography, it was really a big investment – you end up seeing a woman’s buttocks and that’s about it. A comic graphic version of a woman’s back, and that was the extent of it. This is common with a lot of moral panic, the real concern is being exaggerated inappropriately, and when you actually look at the media in question, it’s not as bad as people say. “
Christopher J. Ferguson visiting the White House:
“Old people tend to think that today’s youth are much worse than their generation. So I think Joe Biden got a version of this story from someone and repeated it, and to his chagrin, I actually had a graphic that I could pass around that showed the opposite. In this situation I actually stopped him and informed him that he was wrong. Probably one of the worst moments in my life. I happened to have this graphic that wonderfully demonstrated this massive drop in youth violence since 1993. I hope this was revealing for him and may have limited the Obama administration’s focus on video games after the Sandy Hook shootings in 2012. “
Christopher J. Ferguson on psychology research:
“We have people coming in and playing a game – either non-violent or a violent video game – and then we let them do what I would really call prank level aggression. We’re talking about giving someone a spicy sauce in a sandwich if you know they don’t like spices. … Many scholars did these experiments and then talked about mass shootings, so we quickly switched from hot sauce to gun violence. It may be interesting to know that after playing a violent video game, people were a little more malicious, but this is different from gang violence or the like, and that has largely been lost, as was the case in the previous literature on violent video games to the public sold. “
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