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Response and Rebuttal Part 2: A Target for Criticism
posted by: Chris Martin
date posted: 12:27 PM Tue Sep 12th, 2006
last revision: 12:33 PM Tue Sep 12th, 2006

Click to read.This final part of the two part \"Response and Rebuttal\" editorial concludes thoughts in the debate between Garrett G and our Production Editor Chris Martin over the article \"Videogame Violence Causes Subdued Reactions.\" While at first, emotions had run high and heavy at the beginning of Part 1, by the end of Part 2 they end on more friendly terms than we had anticipated.



We do not always get as thorough and well stated responses as yours, and thank you for being concise and composing an honest, insightful reply. There are no hard feelings I hope - I would rather be engaged in a debate of this kind (heated, but justified heat) than read another misinterpretation or spin of scientific study.

I should begin, I believe, with a response to not knowing how scientific studies work to inform future scientific endeavors. Simply, to ignore that all science informs future science would be terribly irresponsible; in this, there is importance in what Mr. Carnagey has found. I\'m not going to deny the intrinsic meaning of his studies, that games cause desensitization. The converse has been disproved in his - and others\' - studies. No, I am familiar with the scientific process. Maybe my concern is, and I think that you\'re with me on this, that I do not want scientific theory to \'fall into the wrong hands,\' as it were. You write: \"As for politicians, they do what they can to stay in office. They are living, walking conflicts of interest.\" I think my reaction to reading this was \"SNAP! Nicely put.\" But scientists also do what they can for money, grants, or whatever, which conventional wisdom suggests that means going after what\'s hot at the time. Politicians, scientists, journalists...they all have intentions that meet at a crossroads called The Media which does not always continue them on their predetermined path. Of course, being one of the aforementioned three myself, I am not separate from this truism. Perhaps the only thing that distinguishes myself, and the other writers here at GamesFirst.com, is that we don\'t get paid. Nope: nothing. I\'m not fishing for sympathy or understanding: I\'m a master\'s student and I\'m used to being poor. But, I see why my response can be interpreted in a way I had not intended, \"headhunting\" Professor Carnagey. You write, \"The mainstream media just tends to place too great a value on something that makes for a good headline, and games journalists - intentionally or not - have a knack of turning what is not newsworthy into hotly-debated news by mentioning it,\" but this is the way of all media, at whom shall we aim our bullets of disapproval?

As you say, \"I can\'t believe that you don\'t think most gamers wouldn\'t pick up your quoting of that article and think Carnagey was another Jack Thompson follower - just look at the many of the responses to Kim Thompson on the two Joystiq posts. Even after her response, she\'s being personally attacked and her research - and rational, reasoned, supported suggestions for helping the ESRB police itself - are being called useless for all the wrong reasons.\" First off, it is naive of me, I guess, to assume higher of our readership than I do, but I think your response illustrates the contrary. Second, Carnagey is not, in any way, shape or form, in the dugout with someone like Jack Thompson, neither is Dr. Kimberly Thompson. They are not even playing the same sport as ol\'
Jack. Jack Thompson is another matter, and has refused discourse with us because we have poked so many holes in his criticism of game journalism and the industry in general. I cannot say we\'re cleansed of spin - we are a video game site after all - we do try to keep it minimal, or, like our discourse, able to be rebutted. But, rest assured, it wasn\'t posted to drum up a readership.

I don\'t think my article does depict Carnagey as another guy out to slay the video game industry. I\'ve received other positive responses to the article which have *not *been like this: \"OMFG, that sci guy sucks he\'s going down ROFL!1!1!!!\" - they were as intelligible and well put as your response, some commenting on the same jaded feeling left by these studies. The same feeling I had when I posted. And I know that it\'s The Media\'s fault, as it always is, for deciding, in their own interest, to print what\'s hot this minute. I was, I admit, caught up in this feeling.

More to the point I am veritably disgusted with the internet\'s explosion of anti-scientific sentiment. This is, I suppose, why satire sites like Somethingawful.com make me gleeful. Internet really does make you stupid - that is, if you\'re looking in the wrong place. You write, \"The problem today - really, for the last 20 years, but especially now - is that every study with any sort of salacious result gets an immediate, unscientific interpretation from the media. Blogs create that infamous echo-chamber effect, amplifying that unscientific interpretation of scientific data into a tempest.\" Yes. Blogs and forums are usually the wrong place. It is easy for a misinformed person to post to one of these forms of print without abnegation. I won\'t bother naming those sites. We can\'t do anything about them. They\'re not taking any hits from misrepresenting facts. But we are. Our readership is much smaller and much more targeted than the 4-year-old to thirtysomething age-group of forums. What I\'m trying to say is, thank you for being one of those readers. We don\'t respond to the types of emails I commented on in the previous paragraph.

I believe scientists, like artists, should be able to take and respond to criticism for their studies. When their findings are complete other scientists look at them, learn from them, and expand upon them with new studies. Likewise an artist\'s work is left behind for future artisan study and criticism of theory. But we\'re kidding ourselves, science is not art, however artful it is. Or is it? Hideo Kojima recently stated that \"games are not art.\" Well then, neither are film, short stories, poems... Each and every form of creation houses an artform within it,denying this would be denying life itself. And with each art comes validity - either intrinsic or extrinsic. And scientists should have to defend their studies for validity because validity is important to everyone, not just other scientists. And you write, \"if we take our lumps from scientific studies by overreacting to or dismissing them, then we aren\'t really participating in the debate. Rather, we need more people who follow Williams\' example - taking this raw data and applying new experiments to try to create a scientific explanation of the effects of videogame violence.\" We also need to question the what is presented to us, because assuming that everything we\'re presented with isn\'t capable of human error, this includes science, is a grave err. But, anyway, that\'s human, or so the saying goes. Or as you put it, \"Studies like Carnagey\'s - which, being performed by humans with their biases, will naturally be flawed.\" Over this we are in agreement.

While I believe your sincerity when you say, \"If gamers consider games to be above the scientific process and its flaws, then I should lose hope of gamers ever winning credibility outside of their own community,\" I do not believe that you find yourself with gamers looking out at the world, but as an /other/ looking in. If this is the case, I would like to attempt to illustrate what gamers feel. Studies showing videogames having an adverse affect on people (i.e. make them dim to violence) can and have forced legislation against games, effectively censoring them. No one wants another book burning, thought that\'s about as far-removed as panic gets. So far, Freedom of Speech has been upheld in the supreme court, but we are all a little worried that one day, due to some study - hypothetically - done on video game violence, it won\'t be. I\'m joking, but I\'m also being serious. Also, I bring up whether you are a gamer not to turn the other cheek and dismiss your comments, but to remind you that the tension felt from within an industry under fire is great. I do see that many journalists have /turned/ to scientists as an outlet for this heat, blaming them for the results of their studies and criticizing their work. You write, \"But you ask scientists to use more common sense in their study topics - scientific study, by its definition, ignores prevailing common sense. Research is performed to prove or disprove what people consider to be \'common sense,\' as it once was common sense to believe the Earth was flat and that the Sun and stars revolved around it.\" This is taken slightly out of context. I did not use common sense in the context of what science should be aiming at disproving. Science is always evolving and disproving new things. I meant common sense on behalf of the studier, in this case Carnagey, for taking his results a little further like Williams did. But I was, truly, shocked that desensitization came so quickly in Carnagey\'s study from playing games. This was not sarcasm, if you had previously thought it to be.

I am going to turn over the debate of Dr. Kimberly Thompson\'s work to others, as it is a different debate entirely. Her study I believe to be sound in exposing errors in the ESRB (something I believe should police itself a little closer - and at least play the games they rate). Her results are essential to initiate a change. This is just my opinion. Hers is an end result, a penultimate goal of the study, obviously knowledge, the goal of all science, is the ultimate. The ESRB needs a change, and there are many articles, studies, and forums out there saying the same thing - I guess this shows forums aren\'t /entirely /the black rumor holes we think they are.

But yes, there is a risk relating to posting a game study story when a scientist is involved. That is that reader opinion may or may not view that person negatively. So far, I haven\'t had any name-calling or negative feedback regarding Mr. Carnagey. Now, I\'m not going to apologize for what I posted. I\'m disappointed that you feel I have \"blacklisted\" Mr. Carnagey. You mention being worked up over what others have said and it maybe has carried over to my article, I understand that, people get worked up. But then you state, \"While you didn\'t intend it, you made Carnagey a marked man just by dropping his name, when - more likely - if his research truly didn\'t mean anything, perhaps he shouldn\'t have been brought up in the context of the Daily Mail article.\" Perhaps, but that\'s Daily Mail\'s problem. I don\'t intend to cost Mr. Carnagey his PhD: this would be a mistake on the committee\'s part. I also think that his study should stand on it\'s own, regardless of outsider criticism. I am not marking Carnagey as an enemy of the gaming public; while you might believe I do, have, had, marked him, I believe you are reaching for something that isn\'t there. Digging for what I never buried. What I did bury is the overall jaded feel violence in games studies has left myself and many other gamers who end up hearing about it. I\'m using these results to reflect the overall impression the gaming public gets from studies of this kind. I hope this response shows this is the case.

Now, new games journalism works like this: the editorial often reflects on the differences of those who write on games and those who buy the games. Often, new game journalists doesn\'t even review games, but describe it with anecdotes or references to popular culture. If we are to be very literal, my article shows, though I didn\'t use any anecdotes or pop references this time, the effectively jaded atmosphere many new games journalists (like me) have due to our mostly repetitive but always technology-oriented mode of entertainment. Otherwise, I just failed to show this and it only depicts my own feeling of diminishing returns regarding video game violence studies. It\'s either one or the other. I\'m not saying that excuses my comments. Let\'s say if it\'s the latter, readers would realize the article was just one writer\'s opinion. According to feedback, however, it appears to be the former. If I had not commented, I believe we wouldn\'t be engaged in this game-journalist discussion right now, and that would be undesirable for me. Printing Mr. Carnagey\'s name is part of journalism of any sort. This is the \"who, what, when, where, why, and how\" that we\'re all familiar with. The article post about Mr. Carnagey was not changed or depicted in anyway but objective, I assure you. The comments below were very subjective, my opinion on the topic - this is why I directly linked to my email. So people could engage in discussion over it. Discussion is beneficial to even scientific study.

But I entirely agree that the media is making it worse. And my target, perhaps, should be media sites like Daily Mail or Kotaku or EvilAvatar for how posts spiral out of control in their hands. This time, however, my target was an idea, not a man, not Carnagey. I meant to reflect, ironically, how the study\'s desensitization was much like my own desensitization on studies of this sort. This is what I hoped to show. To my question \"And I ask you, are you surprised that gamers, over the years, have become skeptical of anything targeting their beloved hobby?\" you respond, \"No, nor am I surprised of any fan of any hobby they love being skeptical of anything targeting their beloved hobby. But anger and dismissal need to get out of our toolbox for coping with those things, and we need more understanding of the scientific process that goes into making these studies if we\'re to continue constructively and convincingly criticising them.\" Indeed we must. But that does not mean we should neglect to criticize at all.



Garrett got back to Chris after the weekend, here\'s what transpired:


Very sorry for the slow response - I only just (1 hour ago!) returned
from Bellevue and PAX and went right into work. I\'ll respond a bit
more this evening.

Just an aside, though, in reference to my, \"gamer
cred\" - I\'m not only a lifelong gamer (starting with a
ColecoVision when I was 14 months old), but also a media employee, a
paginator for a smallish daily newspaper.

Also, yes, I realise I was reaching in saying that Carnagey was now
blacklisted because of your post. I was reaching so far to paint a
games journalist with the stereotype brush that I mostly missed and
painted most of the gamer community instead. Between Joystiq/Kotaku
commenters, forum posters, and most gamers I personally know, less
than a handful go beyond fanboy wars and the attack-the-messenger
mentality. Unfortunately, it took these very thorough e-mails between
us for me to get over that hump and understand what you were really
getting at. Just going by what\'s published on gamersfirst.com, I fell
into a bit of a self-laid trap, thinking that your site\'s audience was
the same as many others\' and jumping to denounce the perceived, but not
real, bait of Carnagey\'s study.

I understand now that we\'re pretty much on the same track. Later, I
might get into some of the differences that remain, but for now I\'ll
hold up the white flag of truce. I thought I was fussing at another
Adam Sessler wannabe, and I ended up getting schooled instead. :)



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