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.

 

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In a Dark Dark Web (and other stories)

Whether you’re too young to remember, or the hyper-speed news cycle has rendered your long-term memory functionally obsolete, you may find it difficult to recall the tumultuous 1990s discussions about broad multimedia censorship.

Image result for pewdiepieThere have been violent video games since the 1970s, but the 90s really drove home the visceral content both figuratively and literally. Video game creators were generating some of the most “realistic” gore-fests audience have seen, and games like Mortal Kombat and Doom were selling like hotcakes on home consoles and computers.

Shit really hit the fan in 1999 when Democrats found out that the Columbine school shooters played violent video games and listened to anti-social music. Turgid leaders from both the Democrat (Both Clintons, Lieberman, Gore, etc) and Republican (basically just Newt Gingrich) sides demanded action to investigate the impact of violent video games; and look into measures to ban media content deemed anti-social or “dangerous.”

In 2011, the Supreme Court ruled against California’s desire to place sales restrictions on certain video games. Conservative Justice Scalia argued in favor of studies that showed no correlation between video game violence and real world violence in any greater degree than any other media not being called into question, and that restrictions would be an affront to the First Amendment.

Thankfully, the federal government is notoriously incompetent, and the penultimate legislation we got from this time was a largely irrelevant rating system for TV shows, Records, and Video Games.

Democrats throughout the 2000s, in conjunction with their desire to decrease or eliminate the sale of firearms, still sought to investigate the responsibility video games had for real world violence. Seizing and opportunity to shield against a 2nd Amendment onslaught, the NRA and various Republicans began to raise concerns about the inundation of young people by violence in video games and various media.

President Obama and Joe Biden called for a complete investigation into video games and video game developers in hopes of getting broad-based support for their plan to ban firearms.

Activist groups called on video game developers to stop working with gun manufacturers to license real gun designs and brands in realistic wartime video game franchises.

Somehow, now that President Trump is discussing the content of violent video games, the media is calling it a right-wing distraction from the “real discussion” of banning firearms. Many on the Left now assert that there is absolutely no link between violent video games and real violence, completely ignoring their previous platitudes, because now that argument has become a distraction from their anti-gun agenda.

Image may contain: 2 people, people sitting and textThe war against accountability is being waged on all fronts. But one thing is becoming increasingly clear: alienation and increasing rates of autism diagnoses (almost entirely amongst young males) are turning people (read: boys) inward, isolated, and creating a breeding ground for anti-social behavior.

While the average psychologically healthy male can play hours of video games, watch gory movies, and engage with internet pornography, it isn’t difficult to imagine the impact on all of these habitual behaviors constantly drilling into the consciousness of the unhealthy mind.

Young males have broadly been experiencing an increase in unhealthy desensitization toward violent and sexual behaviors. Does that mean it creates an increase in a normal male’s desire or conscious ability to commit violence? Of course not; however it undoubtedly exacerbates the likelihood of this behavior in the abnormal, anti-social male brain.

Our culture chooses to ignore the laissez-faire attitudes we’ve created toward media, thus generating a complete lack of conversation and allowing real issues to fester while we pretend to rally against “bullying”, “systemic oppression”, and other scapegoat concepts.

Companies like Facebook and Twitter create algorithms to weed out bad words and offensive speech because they feel it is their moral obligation to control content on their platforms. Yet, somehow, they free themselves from all liability when a sociopath uses their platforms to live-stream a killing spree, rape, or torture.

Image may contain: 1 person, textMedia outlets across the globe, with a complete and total lack of self-awareness, focus in on the irreverent behavior of young people on Tik Tok, Twitch or YouTube who flock to entertaining characters like PewDiePie, flaunting objectionable language and politically incorrect memes, while lambasting and further alienating the very people who flood those platforms yearning to speak freely.

In all aspects of life, more freedom means less violence. More speech and open dialogue means fewer people being made to feel like their voices aren’t heard. When you marginalize voters, they stop being honest in polls. When you threaten the removal of religious freedoms, freedom of speech, or freedom to defend against tyranny, you create a cultural mindset of being hunted down.

Then, the media literally hunts you down, doxxes you, creates public demand to shut you down. In a free society, and probably in any society, a calculated attempt to make an entire population socially and politically voiceless will have serious psychological implications. When that “population” is the entirety of historic and modern western culture and civilization, those implications can be severe and unpredictable.

Image may contain: 1 person, textThe acts of violence that get the most international media attention are not as common as they seem; far less common than the acts of violence we see examined solely on local news. But we are made to feel we are in the midst of a great civil war, an ultimate Armageddon, and things are only getting worse. And maybe, mentally, we aren’t far off.

The simple truth is that there are easy and practical ways to combat aggression and anti-social behavior. And that’s through more speech. We need real conversations with those who spend a majority of their lives plugged in to forum sites and games; conversations that don’t end in their vilification or alienation. We need cultural discussions about the impact of certain attitudes and behaviors in music, movies and other media–and about how, while art often reflects life, we need to know how to mentally separate the two.

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Talking Nerdy, Ep. 201: Father’s Day for Bastards

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Taylor Swift is now Queen of Asgaard / Gun hysteria / Facebook debates are AIDS / The trial and error of making America great again, in Japan! / Walking Dead seems to be wasting a lot of everyone’s precious time / Game of Thrones gives Joe visible goosies / Ghostbusters trailers get worse / Happy Father’s Day from Matt Berry / E3 and the shrugging off of VR games / South Park makes good games / No time for Review Brah

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