Maybe our relationship with video games isn’t so simple

Every time a seemingly random act of violence occurs, our brains rely on social and cultural clues to bring some sense of reason to what is potentially unreasonable. Our brains, however, have another natural response to contradicting stimuli or irrational behavior; and that’s called “cognitive dissonance.”

Screen Shot 2019-08-06 at 3.44.48 PMCognitive dissonance occurs when one is aware that something is observably true (such as the unhealthy and psychologically violent online behavior associated with video game addicts) but refuse to connect the dots to other observations (such as one of these mentally unstable fatherless autistic boys going out and hurting people) due to a perceived political stance (such as the fear of being ideologically aligned with people you don’t like).

Because a lot of out-of-it politicians and boomer parents have been making connections between violent media obsessions and actual violence for decades, many people have determined that it can’t possibly be true. But, as it turns out, it is.

First, we should outline the reasons people experience cognitive dissonance when addressing this topic. People are obsessed with simple causation.
“Does marijuana use cause heroin use? No? Well, then the two can’t possibly be related.”
“If you watch Professional Wrestling, do you have a 100% chance of putting your friend through a card table? No? Well, then there must be no connection.”

When we consider studies and data in terms of black and white causation and correlation, we have a habit of ignoring the underlying data that is often not addressed by the study in question.

And that’s where we are with video game addiction…and the dark web culture that dwells in it.

America has the highest level of video game sales. So saying that other countries play video games and don’t have many mass shootings is irrelevant. Other countries have higher rates of suicide than the United States. Does that mean that suicide isn’t an issue, or that alienation mixed with video game addiction don’t increase suicidal thoughts?

Well, as it turns out, all of the studies that you see your friends referencing on social media regarding video games being a contributing factor to aggressive behavior are demonstrably and horrifyingly incomplete.

Researchers have essentially determined that normal video game use (violent or non-violent) lights up very important parts of the brain. It can help normal young people and middle aged folks engage in team work, play, feel small senses of accomplishment, and increase social activity. That’s what all of the studies you’ll hear about will explain.

Unfortunately, you’re not hearing the studies that relate to video game overuse and addiction on the unhealthy brain. Those studies are tougher to conduct. It’s not exactly like you’re going to have volunteers raising their hands saying “I’m an introverted sociopath, research me!” Nor would you necessarily want to test long-term video game use on the chronically suicidal.

Video games, because they engage the user on a participatory level, connect psychological experiences in complex ways. And the science has shown this for decades. You could have a violent reaction toward feelings of failure, a psychological connection to your online persona, or even make unhealthy real-world substitutions for digital fantasies.

If video games didn’t have psychological impact that was well-researched and considered, we wouldn’t have things like micropayments and delayed gratification in mobile games. Scientists know how gaming impacts human minds. And they know how it impacts diseased minds. Most importantly, they know that most minds aren’t diseased, so as long as we don’t talk about it, no behavioral change needs to be discussed.

The problem with wanting to have real conversations about sociopolitical or cultural data and how it impacts the human condition is that most people you observe discussing “science” are people who are woefully out of date and arrogant when it comes to actual research…

…and we tend to have an issue admitting that behavior we often engage in may actually be destructive for certain people. They will accuse you of wanting to censor their hobby, or buying into some artificial social construct that one can not engage in A without resulting in B.

The fact remains that all addictive behavior is similar with similar treatments and similar psychological profiles. However, not all addictions have dark corners of the web to which they can retreat, hole-up, and cultivate that behavior discussing kill counts and violent fantasies.

fullsizeoutput_260Of course video games aren’t solely to blame for violent behavior. Neither are movies, music or any other form of art. But to ignore the psychological impact that an unhealthy relationship with any aspect of media can have in certain individuals, and the proliferation of manipulated data to dissuade others from honestly discussing the matter, absolutely ensures that the problem will fester and grow irreparably.



Soundtrack to the Week (If you care)

Recovery—Eminem: “Fuck my last CD; that shit’s in the trash.” Eminem drops some knowledge in his latest release, reminding us that we fell in love with him for his personality and passion. If you haven’t heard the full album yet, you’ve likely heard the single, Not Afraid; so take your response to that song, multiply it by infinity, and that’s how much you should love this record. It’s incredible that the rapper can so easily transition from barely poetic novelty-hip hop nonsense to this genre-defining masterwork. The bar has been set. Next time anyone plays anything off Relapse, push them down a flight of stairs.

Thank Me LaterDrake: At some point, we have to get past the fact that Drake was Jimmy from Degrassi. He clearly goes above and beyond to crush the association between him and teen melodrama, and it’s a damn shame that it’s not working. Most of his lyrics, while captivating and melodic, are at their core—psychologically immature. But we’re still listening, so fuck it. Keep doing what you do, Drake. After all, Blink 182’s still doing songs about the girls who broke their hearts in high school, and they’re, like, 40.

The Almighty Defenders—The Almighty Defenders: We’re a bit behind with this one—released in September 2009—but we’ve obviously not been paying enough attention. One could call The Almighty Defenders a “super-group,” if one recognized either of the amazing bands involved. The band is made up of The Black Lips and King Khan and BBQ Show, joining forces for the first time to produce 11 incredible “spirituals” that conjure up a dream of walking awkwardly into a Baptist Church only to realize the party’s being hosted by Satan with every blues, jazz, and rock god playing the devil’s music.

Teargarden by Kaleidyscope Vol. 1: Songs for a Sailor—The Smashing Pumpkins: Surely the length of the title is more impressive than the actual album. To call this a “new Pumpkins album” is the rambling of a madman. Billy Corgan probably decided that it would be a fun experiment to see how much people who still buy CDs would pay for a CD. Answer: way-too-fucking-much. You probably won’t find this release for less than $30, as it comes in a wooden box with a little marble obelisk for some reason. The EP is 4 songs that wind up being a combination of Zwan and The Decemberists—which, in theory, would be pretty rad…but in practice, it’s wholly unsatisfying–especially when you try to pass it off as Pumpkins.

Brothers—The Black Keys: It’s nice to see The Black Keys switching up their sound, if only slightly. Not that I’ve grown weary of their perfected straight-forward rock n’roll/blues, but after an already extensive catalog, it’s pleasant to see some variation on the theme. I’m ashamed to say that I hadn’t actively listened to The Black Keys before they were featured in the 2007 film Black Snake Moan, despite them having been around for the better part of the last decade. I was a fool, and I now accept the error of my ways.

Rebirth—Lil Wayne: I have to be honest and say that it took a while for Weezy to grow on me, but this album is such solid fucking gold that I feel mentally disabled for ignoring Lil Wayne for so long. We should all offer our thanks to Aerosmith and Run DMC for creating the genre of “Rap Rock” despite Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock, etc, etc, etc. The difference, of course, is that Lil Wayne is a legitimately talented rapper who decided to rock out for an album, and we’re glad he did. His collaborations with Eminem, the gorgeous Nicki Minaj, and the power ballad “Die for You” are possibly the greatest tracks here, but that’s like saying that the white and red Smarties are the best. They’re all wonderful, so just shut up and eat your fucking candy.

Alex G/likes when rappers are able rhyme words that should never, ever, ever rhyme.