media release

March 1, 2010

Gaming industry mirrors ‘big tobacco’ in denial of violent gaming effects

Gaming industry claims that the link between violent computer games and aggressive thoughts or behaviour is unproven are reminiscent of the tactics of tobacco companies in questioning the link between smoking and lung cancer, the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL) said today.

ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said there is overwhelming evidence linking violent video games and aggression. Research also shows that violent computer games, because of their interactive nature, have a higher impact on their players than similar film content has on its viewers.

“At a time of strong public disquiet about depictions of violence in the media, the continued rejection of the R18+ rating for games would maintain the primacy of protecting vulnerable young people, as a principle in public policy above that of allowing people to read, hear and see whatever objectionable material they want,” the ACL stated in a submission to the Attorney-General’s Department opposing the introduction of an R18+ classification for computer games.

Mr Wallace said that commercial interests obviously have a stake in presenting the view that the link between violent video games and aggression does not exist and he urged the consultation’s secretariat to carefully analyse the source of information supporting this claim.

In the 2009 paper ‘Video game effects confirmed, suspected and speculative: A review of the evidence’, Barlett, C.P., Anderson, C.A. & Swing, E.L. spell out the clear link, stating: “Multiple studies have found overwhelming evidence to suggest that exposure to violent video games is causally related to . . . aggressive feelings, aggressive thoughts, and physiological arousal . . .  aggressive behaviour, and other variables.”

Mr Wallace also pointed to serious flaws in the consultation process over this issue, saying that the development of a submission template which respondents were encouraged to use invited simplistic, formulaic responses which wouldn’t effectively weigh up the real issues at stake.

“The discussion paper itself also says nothing about the nature or content of R18+ games and takes an issue with the potential for strong social impact and reduces it down to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ question. In this way it appears to be predicated towards an outcome that does not respect the complexity of this critical social issue – reducing it to a show of hands,” Mr Wallace said.