Oh frick. Guys, I started writing an essay, and it's late, because I didn't finish on time. No, this isn't for school. Yes, this is the rough draft.
Mass Effect is a recently released RPG (Role-Playing Game) which features a supposedly very sophisticated storyline and action-filled game play. For some reason, FOX news attempted to make a story about a controversial issue that never existed. In order to show the 'debate' they brought in one Cooper Lawrence to voice her opinions. Unfortunately, that's exactly what she did - opinions were spouted with absolutely no basis in reality.
She begins her tirade of ignorance by mentioning that "thirteen year olds have never seen PlayBoy - because they're not supposed to" 1. She seems to be under some sort of illusion that adolescent males live in utter ignorance of basic anatomy, while saying their nightly prayers and begging for redemption for these unpure thoughts. That children are incredibly ignorant of their own rising sexuality. It's a nice thought if you happen to have teenaged offspring, but completely ignores fact: "in the years immediately before wide public access to the Internet, a 1986 study of 600 teenagers in the US, “found that 91% of the males and 82% of the females admitted having been exposed to X-rated, hard-core pornography.”2 These numbers speak for themselves. In a full 22 years, with the birth of a more sexually saturated society AND the internet, it is borderline denial to claim that teenagers have never seen pornographic material.
Lawrence then continues that Mass Effect is "for adults, but who's playing video games? Adolescent males, not their dads,"1. This completely flies in the face of all industry-released figures. For example, the Entertainment Software Association released that "sixty-seven percent of American heads of households play computer and video games," and "the average game player is 33 years old and has been playing games for 12 years," firmly relegating Lawrence's statement to what is obviously a heavily biased opinion 3. The ESA goes on to note that "women over the age of 18 represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (31%) than boys age 17 or younger (20%)" which states that statistically, Lawrence's age group is more likely to play Mass Effect than the teenage boys she is 'protecting'.
Lawrence's next statement "The damage is this: we know that all the research that shows that violence has a desensitizing affect; well, sexuality does too." This starts off with a flawed premise, because there are no actual studies that have proven this statement. At best, the studies involving violent video games merely proved that violent images desensitize persons to violent images, which is a redundant statement at best. If Lawrence wants to conclude that violence desensitizes violence, then why isn't she calling for the banning of certain movies and TV shows? In addition, the conclusion doesn't even follow from the premise if you were to assume it was true. Following that leap of intuition, seeing Mario collect a number of coins as he runs across the screen should desensitize us to petty theft, seeing any number of video game characters ingest impossible amounts of food should desensitize us to gluttony, seeing sophisticated wit and jokes should desensitize us to humour, and seeing poorly done artificial intelligence should desensitize us to illogical and flat-out stupid decisions. It is, frankly, ridiculous to believe that perceiving a set stimulus will not altar our behaviour. Isn't that what the definition of stimulus is? What we perceive and change our actions to accomodate?
Lawrence's ill-informed rant continues on, trying to gain a momentum that is largely weighted by uninformed opinion. She assumes that a teenager playing violent or even sexual games will become psychopathic and incapable of seeing others as human beings"because this is when the developing mind is happening, this is when they're first deciding who they're going to be, who their identity is, this is when social development is happening,"1. She seems to be describing aspects of very young children - perhaps even toddlers - and attributing them to teenagers. They are no longer little children that need to be protected from the real world; they understand death, they understand the obvious aspects of their society and most even have a passing knowledge of what happens when genitalia interact. There are teenagers who live on their own and will for years. They're still children, but they can fend for themselves rather easily if the situation calls for it. Their minds have already developed, and they are on their last few steps before they enter the adult world. In our society, it's really more of a safety net to allow the immature ones to catch up to the mature, so that the fifteen year olds who can't handle the responsibilities of alcohol aren't given free reign of the stuff. Trying to protect the adolescents who are ready will not help them; if anything, it'll lead them to thinking the world is a safe place they don't need to take seriously.
The points Lawrence has said so far has led to this rather ageist thinking - that teenagers are incapable of separating reality from fantasy. Without ever even trying the game, she thinks that "they see women as these objects of desire, as these, you know, hot bodies,"1. It is particularly interesting to note this criticism directed towards a video game that has huge elements of its game play engaged in social interaction - and even more in dialog - than something like a slasher flick. In the same breath, she 'observes' that "they don't show women as being valued for anything other than their sexuality,"1 which is incredibly ironic as the main character "can be man or woman,"1 can end up never falling in love, and whose love scene in question is less than two minutes long in a game whose play-through spans a purported thirty hours. The coup de grace to this stream of misinformation is that Lawrence mentions how the protagonist "[decides] how many women he wants to be with,"1. Apparently, there are only four people in the entire galaxy one can 'get mature' with: "Ashley Williams for males and Kaiden Alenko for females, or xenophilic romance with the asari squad member, Liara T'Soni. Players can also have a sexual encounter with the Asari Consort, Sha'ira,"4. In addition, "you can actually play through this game without the sexual situation ever happening," notes Lawrence's debate partner Geoff Keighley 1.
Lawrence then proceeds to dismiss all of Geoff's valid points by misinterpreting yet another source - but at least this time she cited it. Her exact words being "I gotta go with the research, and the research says there's a new study at the University of Maryland right now, that says that boys that play video games cannot tell the difference between what they're seeing in the video game and the real world if they don't have a real experience,"1. This is blatantly - I cannot stress this enough - blatantly twisting what the study found. A simple internet search gathered it, and a mere skimming found what Lawrence appears to be referencing: "adolescents and young adults are seen as especially vulnerable because they are less likely to recognize the source of these impulses,"5. The quote is actually referencing an increase in "impulsive behavior, shortened attention span and low-level aggression in general," not the utter disassociation from reality that Lawrence describes. As an aside, more pedantic than anything, what did she hope to accomplish by adding "if they don't have a real experience," behind it 5?
The ramifications of this never-ending torrent of slander and libel which are blatant lies being aired on National television are frightening. A motley collection of conspicuous lies is flung at the viewer throughout the piece:"In some parts of this you'll see full, digital nudity ... You have to pick up the box and look at the rating ... I have not played this game,"1. The ignorance of the reporters and their willingness to let untruths go live speaks ill of journalistic integrity. EA has issued a letter "appealing to [FOX's] sense of fairness" to correct their mistakes, but has not yet received a public reply 6.
Please help me cite my sources?
1 Fox News, " 'Se'Xbox?" Fox News official site.
5 University of Maryland, "Students See Video Games As Harmless, Study Finds" Wishington Post http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A1421-2005Feb5.html (Feb 6, 2005)