This time it’s in the Dallas Morning News and the article is called Video Games Encourage Teens to Check Out Libraries.
The good news: We learn that the Forth Worth Public Library is creating a room dedicated to gaming. Can’t wait to learn more about that!
The bad news: Yet another newspaper story that lets someone (this time a professor at the University of Maryland) get away with sweeping generalizations about gaming. Melanie Killen claims, “a vast majority of the games have negative content and the consequences can be destructive, including increased impulsivity, aggressive behavior and shorter attention spans,” without providing any proof at all.
Whether that’s her fault or the newspaper’s, let’s just nip this in the bud right now in case you encounter this argument at your own library.
First of all, 85% of the games sold in 2006 were rated E (for Everyone), E+10 (ages 10 and up), or T (for Teen). That means only 15% of video games sold in 2006 where rated for adults, so that’s hardly a “vast majority.” Only 4 of the top 20 games sold in 2006 were rated M (Mature) (PDF). That would be 1/5, which means the “vast majority” of games sold were actually appropriate for kids and teenagers.
Second of all, let’s define what we mean by “destructive” and “aggressive behavior,” because as video games have become more popular, youth violence has actually dropped, despite those stories that grab all the headlines.
Third, “impulsivity” and “shorter attention spans” can be attributed to many things, not just video games. If I’m not mistaken, these arguments were made against television forty years ago, so it’s not like this is something new and it’s not like you can blame video games as the master evil behind these problems. In fact, one wonders if shorter, less complex newspaper stories that fail to provide facts or links for further information or, you know, evidence/data/research might contribute to that trend, too.
What’s really ironic is that Killen is later quoted as saying, ” ‘There is a concern in our society about the preparation of the next workforce in terms of reading and math and science skills,’ she said. ‘We should be doing everything we can to facilitate that, and I think that allowing video games to go in libraries is a bad signal.’ ” If you run into this misguided assumption yourself, you can point folks to this report or this report or this report (PDF), which discuss how gaming can help with exactly those things.
The worst part? They cite a figure for the number of libraries offering console or PC gaming programs that is flat out wrong, all the more curious since the summary of the survey is available online (PDF). Had they bothered to point to it from the article, they might have gotten it right. Sadly, the DMN doesn’t allow comments or trackbacks, so their readers will never know just how wrong the paper got this story. Luckily, the rest of us do.