STUDY: Violent Video Games Turn Teens Into Fat, Weakling Killing Machines

By Shamus
on Dec 8, 2008
Filed under:
Video Games
No time to write anything of substance for today, so let me recycle some old content to appease you.

In Grand Theft Auto, kids can pretend to be physically able to perform acts of violence.
In Grand Theft Auto, kids can pretend to be physically able to perform acts of violence.
A new study released by the Institute for Responsible Entertainment revealed today that today’s “hyper violent” video games cause teens to spend hours in a limp, slack-jawed state of simulated mayhem.

Dr. Colin Jenkins, who performed the study said, “It is truly alarming… these kids spend hours playing
what amounts to a murder simulator, while at the same time getting less exercise than someone who is asleep. This means the kids will have an amazing propensity for violence, and be in abysmal physical condition. This is dangerous for the kids, and mildly dangerous for the people they might someday try to harm.”

One of the test subjects, a 15 year-old Danny Larson, demonstrated one of the games in question. The game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, shows Danny’s character robbing an old woman using a baseball bat. When asked about the game’s violent content, Danny’s father replied, “A baseball bat? Hell. I can’t imagine him leaving the house, much less using sports equipment.”

All of the test subjects showed signs of too little exercise, being either scrawny or overweight. Dr. Jenkins, summing up his findings said, “These kids could be a real threat to society if they ever got off their asses and did anything.”

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201636 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

From the Archives:

  1. TashunkaSapa says:

    Worthy of The Onion.
    Also, first. :)

  2. Kel'Thuzad says:

    No time to type? What’s wrong?

  3. Kevin says:

    Whew! I read “violence,” and “substance,” and got scared! This was much better.

    BTW, what guidelines do you observe for your kids and videogames?

  4. UtopiaV1 says:

    Good lord… is this a study that DOESN’T create false sensationalism and undue panic in the population by blaming all adolescents violent behavior on video games? This has to be a first.

  5. henebry says:

    This IS from the Onion, yes? It has all the classic signs.

    Okay, I’m posting and I’ll update in a minute after I’ve googled the text.

    ************Post Google Update***************

    OK, I was wrong. Worthy of the Onion, but written by Shamus himself. That’s my new conclusion.

    Evidence that this is fictional news:
    1) Dr. Jenkins doesn’t seem to exist, except as an electrical engineer in G Britain;
    2) No real science study would give names of its subjects, as this breaks rigid codes of ethics.

    Evidence that this was authored by Shamus:
    Text entered into Google in quotes returns hits from this blog and nowhere else on the internet.

  6. Zerotime says:

    I’m amazed that people are still able to read something on a blog and not immediately think that it was written as satire.

  7. Shamus says:

    Kevin: That is a really complicated question. When it comes to buying games FOR the kids, they really only get “E for Everyone” Wii titles.

    But sometimes they end up in my office when I’m playing a PC or Playstation game, and the rules governing whether or not they are allowed to stay vary greatly depending on the kid and the game. (The oldest is concrete and totally unfazed by animated blood. The youngest is extremely sensitive and can become nervous just hearing that animated violence HAPPENED, even if she didn’t see it herself. I keep her far away from any kind of violence except for the cartoony stuff. So my system is not based on age or content nearly as much as it is on personality.)

    But getting down to the real answer to the question: I draw a distinction between “general violence” and “violence against sentient humans”, which isn’t something that ESRB ratings really deal with. Mowing down fanged monsters is one thing, killing humans (even clearly evil Nazi-type humans) is another matter entirely. I try to avoid them seeing the latter, although I have let them see parts of the beginning of Half-Life 2 and talking about the nature of a police state and what that means. (It actually turned into a WWII history lesson, which was cool.) But other than the times with HL2 they don’t really get to see realistic violence against humans.

    I don’t kow when that will change, but I don’t expect there to be a single age for all my kids.

  8. Shamus says:

    henebry: Yes, I wrote this back in… 2003 or so. I had a satire site back then. It’s long gone now, the domain lapsed and turned into a junk portal.

  9. Hal says:

    Just remember Shamus, if you get too busy, you have a host of readers who would give their left kidney to expose themselves to your audience.

    Wait . . . I mean guest writer! Guest writer!

    Also, kudos for being a responsible parent with the games. A few months after GTA4 was released, a survey found that it was the most popular game in the US for boys ages 12-15. Argue however you want over who the target audience is, the main reason kids that age are able to play GTA4 is because their parents bought it for them.

  10. ArcoJedi says:

    Shamus: So my system is not based on age or content nearly as much as it is on personality.
    Hal: …kudos for being a responsible parent with the games.
    I felt this needed to be restated and emphasized. Everyone paying attention?

  11. houser2112 says:

    Shamus: OK, so maybe the site itself is defunct, but do you still have the content? I’d be interested in seeing it.

  12. DaveMc says:

    I SOL’d (snickered out loud). Well done.

    Also, I’d second the idea that if you have old content lying around from a now-defunct site, it would be nifty to see it.

  13. Snook says:

    Amusing. I knew you had a satire site, and if this is the quality of the content, I’m sad I never saw much of it.

    However, I will point out that I get more exercise playing Rock Band than I ever did doing much of anything else. I can work up a sweat in 5 minutes playing drums.

  14. DaveMc says:

    While I’ve got you here, I have something I’ve been wondering: I often click on the banner ads on the site, with the idea that by doing so I’m generating X cents worth of income for you (Shamus, not the rest of you), and thus sort of vaguely supporting the continued existence of Twenty Sided. My question is: does it matter at all what I do *after* I make such a click? Do you get bonus points if I let the page load fully, or click something else on the page? Or is the click-through the only thing that’s measured?

    (I suppose question 0 should really be: Am I right in assuming that clicking such ads is doing you a tiny but nonzero bit of good?)

  15. I hear that Dr. Jenkins is a huge World of Warcraft player, and so this makes him a big hypocrite.

    Actually, considering that Shamus wrote this before WoW even existed, let alone Leeroy Jenkins, the name must be entirely coincidental.

  16. Shamus says:

    Okay, I knew mentioning the old site would bring about a desire to see the old content. I’ll link it, with the following warnings:

    * Bad: It was mostly political humor, which I no longer enjoy.
    * Worse Still: It was topical news-based humor, and has gone stale.
    * Even More Worse: It was political, and my political leanings have undergone great shifts since it was written, meaning I now disagree with many of the positions I advocated.
    * Worst of all: This was early in my attempts at humor writing, and it’s not nearly as strong as my more recent work.

    The most famous bit I did was this:

    http://www.shamusyoung.com/lemon/issues/timeline.php

    Which was FARKed (back when FARK was big) and Slashdotted on the same day, and was even printed in some periodicals. (It’s not political, it’s a timeline of the internet.)

    With those warnings given, here is the link, with the disclaimer that I’m really, really not interested in opening up any political discussions here, and I’d rather be friends than argue about politics.

    http://www.shamusyoung.com/lemon/issues/archives.php

  17. scarbunny says:

    DaveMC: You can find this article in the archives here :http://www.shamusyoung.com/lemon/issues/index.php

    I assume this is a rip of the original satire site in question. Some very funny stuff.

    *EDIT* Dammit Shamus beat me to it, guess its only fair it is his site. :b

  18. Shamus says:

    DaveMc: Correct. Clicking on ads that interest you very directly supports this site.

    (I have to be very careful here, the terms of the system I’m using expressly forbid telling people to just blindly “click on ads”, and I want to make sure I’m honoring that agreement.)

  19. DaveMc says:

    Well, I would certainly never blindly click on ads. I keep my eyes open the entire time. And in all honesty, the ads do link to things that are reasonably interesting, and do match the general interests that brought me to the site in the first place.

  20. Illiterate says:

    Shamus —

    You left out the 2001 spam worm outbreak “I send you this file” I was just remembering that the other day, and had to google to find out just how old of news it was.

  21. Olly says:

    “One of the test subjects, a 15 year-old Danny Larson, demonstrated one of the games in question. The game, Grand Theft Auto: Vice City”

    I’m sensing a problem right there where a 15 year-old is playing a Mature rated game (17+). I imagine that this means that the game comes from his own personal collection; in which case one has to wonder how Danny came to own the game, maybe they should have asked that of his father…

  22. radio_babylon says:

    maybe its because i didnt read enough of the archived material, or maybe its because im particularly dense on modays but… im still trying to figure out from your “lemon” material what your political leanings were then and where they might have moved to now… it seems to me you spread the scorn pretty evenly. have you become more conservative, or more liberal? or mostly the same, just less scornful of the other side (whichever side that might be)?

  23. Kris says:

    I figured it was Satire when there was no link to the actual study. But I still got a good chuckle out of it. :)

  24. Lain says:

    Well, a satirical intention or not, here in Germany we got exactly the real problem! Mostly sportive, but uneducated kiddies of foremost – but not only – foreign heritage play that games in reality and wonder, why the land in jail!

    First with PC, then they get no education or job, dont speak a correct German, meet together, do mostly Martial arts sports and ARE that hyperaggressive, because they almost get no chance for a better education or even a acceptable job.

    I dont mention their parents….

    One here famous example is this:

    http://video.google.de/videosearch?client=firefox-a&rls=org.mozilla:de:official&channel=s&hl=de&q=Ubahn+schl%C3%A4ger&um=1&ie=UTF-8&sa=X&oi=video_result_group&resnum=5&ct=title#

    But believe me, the dark numbers are much higher. Mostly in our big Ciies like Frankfurt, München, Berlin, Cologne, the Ruhrgebiet (an area around the river Ruhr about 15 cities with one directly next to another without much natur between.)

  25. Helm says:

    Yes Lain because obviously NOBODY who spoke proper German could ever be bad (To paraphrase The Simpsons there)

    Before this turns into any kind of flame war it’s a joke K ?

  26. Angie says:

    “These kids could be a real threat to society if they ever got off their asses and did anything.”

    LOL! Good thing they don’t, then. :)

    This reminds me of a comment a friend made many years ago, that they should remove the weight sets from prisons and replace them with comfy recliners and big-screen TVs, and provide all-you-can-eat junk food. [grin]

    Angie

  27. Illiterate says:

    Angie,

    careful.. next thing you know they’ll start providing convicts with videogame consoles and doctored versions of Fable, KOTOR, Fallout3, all doctored so that doing any “naughty” things causes instant death. Eventually they should be conditioned towards fluffy-bunny nice behavior.

  28. Cuthalion says:

    I’d agree with the premise of this article if it weren’t for the fact that games like GTA and Halo seem to be the ones that athletic, non-nerdy people actually play. Still, I don’t expect that games would be a major factor leading to violence. If they even contribute at all to some violent crime, I’d expect that there’d be bigger issues (family trouble, etc.) and that the games would be a symptom of a pre-existing problem, not a factor that “made them do it”.

    Hilarious article though. I recognized it, but I thought I had read it earlier on this blog rather than on the lemon…

  29. Phoenix says:

    *sigh*
    @Lain: Always nice to see fellow Germans spreading clichés about teenagers and adults with “migration backgrounds” (as we like to call them in an attempt to be politically correct). And then trying to prove it with a video showing one of the worst incidents of violence in Germany in the last decade, I guess… (I wished I had an eye-roll-smiley…)

  30. Mr. J says:

    Wow, thank you Phoenix for taking the words right out of my mouth. I couldn’t have put it any better way.

  31. Nathan says:

    I have looked quite a bit into the research that is behind claims like the ones that Shamus was spoofing, but I have never been convinced by it. They get results, but they only do so by making some really bizarre assumptions, ignoring a lot of other important research being done by other groups, and generally assuming that what they are arguing for it true. Also, as far as I am aware no one has ever done naturalistic studies (i.e. researched someone playing a videogame in a halfway normal setting) or long term studies (i.e. ever checked to see if what marginal effects on aggression measured in a test even last more than a few minutes, let alone have a severe effect on personality) on the effects of videogame upon aggression and violence.

    Besides, most people who use such “studies” as arguments for condemning such games tend to ignore the fact that the very same research says that the daily news and old cartoons like Tom and Jerry are just as bad if not worse than stuff like GTA. Further, such “research” doesn’t even distinguish between “aggressive actions” and “aggressive language” half the time, so they count yelling at someone to be just as bad as shooting someone for the purposes of being “damaging to minors”. This research completely ignores story elements and the like, and instead focuses on raw count of “acts of aggression”, often pulling such acts out of context in order to establish a test. This isn’t even getting into the fact that there is no necessary link between the “aggressiveness” they test for and any actual probability of a person performing a criminal or violent act…

    Basically, I think you can pretty safely ignore a lot of what “media violence” researchers say.

    Edit: Alright, does anyone know how to change this avatar thingy? I seriously can’t stand it much longer…

  32. MuonDecay says:

    However, I will point out that I get more exercise playing Rock Band than I ever did doing much of anything else. I can work up a sweat in 5 minutes playing drums.

    That’s probably a bad thing.

    An ideal, normal person is supposed to get somewhere around 30 minutes of aerobic exercise (as in things which cause heavier breathing and a significantly elevated heart rate) per day. Not necessarily every day but regularly, spread out evenly, and in that quantity.

    With that in mind, that sort of fitness level (this is just for your everyday person mind you, not for fitness nuts) should leave you where you’re not really exerting yourself much playing rock band compared to your usual workout.

  33. Lain says:

    @Phoenix: “Always nice to see fellow Germans spreading clichés about teenagers and adults with “migration backgrounds” ”

    At first, I dont care their foreign background, its only an ovious fact, that this children have the most problems here – and make them. I tried to mention, that there are also enough german people to do something like that.
    Secondly, I didnt try to prove something. I wanted to show, that there is some reality in that satirical article of Shamus. I wanted to visualize it, thats all.
    Third, it wasnt even one of the worst incident, its only the most famous.
    And last but not least, I dont know, where you live here but Im living near Cologne. I hear enough stories of a friend, who is teacher in Cologne-Chorweiler.

    I see that kind of people every day on the street with their behaviour. For me, the obvious missing of education of school and the own family IS a problem. And as I mentioned before, I dont care their migrational background, I care their behaviour.

    Also I have only a small space to state my point of view. So I need to state it directly, so Im sorry, if I touched your feelings.

  34. ehlijen says:

    I forgot who first said it (maybe someone here knows?):

    If video games really did affect children, shouldn’t there be an entire generation out there dedicated to jumping around in dark rooms, listening to repetetive, electronic music and munching magic pills?

    Btw:
    Was there ever a study that tried to find out whether violent criminals played more ‘cowboys and indians’ (or whatever it is called in your area) than other children?

  35. Phoenix says:

    @all: sorry…
    @Shamus: Since I already wasted my first post on this discussion with Lain, I want to use this opportunity to thank you for writing this blog. it’s always a pleasure to visit you site!
    @Lain: You’re not “touching my feelings”, don’t worry. Crude generalizations like yours just make me kind of angry, because I actually happen to have some professional knowledge about the city districts you cite, and of course their population. But whatever… I’m tempted, but I won’t start a flame war in my favorite weblog.

  36. Jeff says:

    @ehlijen:
    Ravers seem a bit young to be like that from video games. :P

    @Cuthalion:
    True, the nerds play these games, but they also play games where they throw fireballs around. Whereas the wannabe ‘gangstas’ and self-professed bad-asses tend to be disinterested in zap guns going pew-pew, but are very much into the carjacking and random hooker mugging.

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