October 15, 2007

Another Article about Gaming and Libraries, Same Old Story

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.

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10 Comments

  1. Gonna have to file this post under “keep handy”. Love the numbers.

    Comment by royce — October 15, 2007 @ 6:54 pm

  2. Jenny,

    Thank you for addressing it (again)(and again)(and I’m sure again). It’s a discussion we all need to be prepared to have. I’ve run into this argument before. Especially in academic libraries, the more research and stats there are the stronger the case. So while my files on video game violence and aggression are large there are many counter studies out there as well.

    Thanks for pulling stats together to assist us in making these arguments.

    Paul

    Comment by Paul — October 15, 2007 @ 7:20 pm

  3. The article in the local paper (Fort Worth, not Forth Worth) was more positive:
    http://www.star-telegram.com/metro_news/story/267754.html

    Comment by Amanda — October 15, 2007 @ 7:39 pm

  4. […] in Libraries Article (and Commentary) The Shifted Librarian has some interesting commentary on a recent Dallas Morning News article about Gaming in […]

    Pingback by Gaming in Libraries Article (and Commentary) « UW-Madison SLISIT — October 15, 2007 @ 7:41 pm

  5. thanks Jenny for pulling all those links in to one place for easy access… we know what gaming has done for our teens and our library… most grownups who venture into the Young Adult area are truly appreciative and understanding but every now and then you have that one that rolls their eyes and says “I believe you have created a monster! They need to be learning about books!”… thanks for the hard facts…

    Comment by Iris Shreve Garrott — October 15, 2007 @ 10:05 pm

  6. […] Another Article about Gaming and Libraries, Same Old Story The Shifted Librarian » Another Article about Gaming and Libraries, Same Old Story […]

    Pingback by Another Article about Gaming and Libraries, Same Old Story « Suggested Reading — October 16, 2007 @ 1:22 pm

  7. I’d be curious to see if anyone has presented this information to Dr. Killen, or tried to determine where her data comes from. All in all, though, I’d say it was a fairly positive article, and fairly representative of the sea change in attitudes toward gaming as a means of understanding the world.

    It seems like a few years ago the framing (description of games in the library –> naysaying –> more positive examples) would have been inverted. It could have been something like “Library Wastes Taxpayer Resources on Donkey Kong.”

    Comment by Toby — October 16, 2007 @ 4:01 pm

  8. Despite where Dr. Killen found her data, countering her with data provided by the Entertainment Software Association seems a little self-serving, kind of like asking the American Enterprise Institute to come up with some numbers to prove going into Iraq was good for Americans ;-)

    I think games could be used to develop useful skills, but most of us play them purely to entertain ourselves. Libraries are adding them to their collections because they are on the verge of going out of business and this is an easy way to pull up their sagging numbers. There is nothing wrong with providing an arcade in your library but it seems disingenuous to pretend that it is anything else.

    Comment by Jorca — October 16, 2007 @ 9:58 pm

  9. You’re right Jenny! The media has to find a scapegoat and previously it was television and now it’s videogames. The studies out there are contradictory. I hope it won’t take 20 more years for there to be a general acceptance of the true value of learning from videogames. Thank you for citing the 2006 Summit Report on Educational Games by the Federation of American Scientists. They really are leaders in trying to educate the public and in trying to forge the differences of opinion between commercial vendors and educational institutions. Thank you!! Ann

    Comment by Ann Crewdson — October 17, 2007 @ 7:48 am

  10. […] Jenny Levine at The Shifted Librarian commented with a link to a previous post of hers about video games in libraries. […]

    Pingback by Library Attack » Blog Archive » Have gamers taken over libraries? — January 22, 2008 @ 6:51 pm

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