Sunday, August 26, 2007

Jeff Freeman ends the videogame violence debate

I'm not reading Jeff Freeman's Mythical Blog often enough. The reason for that is that I can't decide whether Jeff is way more intelligent than I am, or whether he is plain crazy. Either option scares me a bit. He has this absolutely brilliant satirical style, which is at times really, really hard to understand. But knowing about Jeff's interest in the subject of how to correctly use statistics and graphs, which often takes the form of making fun of those who don't, I did get the joke on this post on videogame violence.

Jeff takes offence with some graphs showing that crime by some measures has gone down, and trying to link that to videogame sales, which have gone up. To counter that he draws a graph of real data showing that real world piracy has gone up in the last two years. Given the large number of pirate MMOs that have been released or are under development in the same period, there is an "obvious" connection. :)

What that should tell us is that you shouldn't believe any graph or statistic you haven't manipulated yourself. The connection of videogames to violence is a very, very complex issue, which simply can't be captured in any simple graph. You can't argue it in absolutes. Playing GTA isn't likely to turn you into a criminal. But pretending that extensive occupation with violent videogames leaves no traces in a person's psyche at all is similarily ridiculous. Neither side has be very helpful in this discussion, because both sides have just been throwing outrageous sound-bites, false proofs, and other ridiculous arguments. A "GTA made me do it" T-shirt is not a sensible approach to a serious question. Nor is a demand to ban all video games.

And Jeff, you forgot Tales of Pirates in your list. :) And Bounty Bay Online, but that is the same as Voyage Century Online, only repackaged and sold more expensively. Now *thats* a real case of piracy, if you ask me.

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