The science is settled! A new study published in the journal of Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking has confirmed what many already suspected was true: video games don’t cause sexism. After examining a number of games containing allegedly “sexist” tropes and monitoring the gamers who played them, a team of three psychologists from the University of Cologne found no evidence that videogames can cause real-world sexism.
Breitbart readers are no doubt sceptical of hasty claims to scientific authority, so allow me to explain why this study is worth paying attention to. Firstly, it was a long-term study, taking place over the course of three years. Much of the confusion around whether games cause violence is due to the confusion of short-term effects with long-term ones. It was once erroneously argued that short-term increases in aggression following certain video games proved they cause violence. Later studies found that these effects did not persist over time. The fact that this study took place over three years allowed the researchers to separate long-term effects from short-term ones.
The study also involved a very substantial sample size. This is important, as small samples are more likely to be skewed by outlier effects. Attempting to generalize the results of small studies to the wider population can lead to whopping great errors, such as the notorious “1-in-5” statistic that spread panic about sexual assault on US campuses. The smaller your sample, the less reliable your results.
But enough about methodology. If you want a full analysis of the strengths of the study, this post from a statistician and #gamergate supporter provides an excellent explanation of why this study is so significant. Let’s turn to what it means for the wider debate.
Firstly and most obviously, it is a blow for the neo-puritans and their narratives. For would-be censors, demonstrating harm is always something of a holy grail. Whether it’s ‘A Clockwork Orange’ or ‘Grand Theft Auto’, the argument that certain types of expression are not just distasteful, but also harmful to society, has been central to the rhetorical tactics of censors for over a century. Like the studies that persistently demonstrate that games do not cause violence, this will set back the ambitions of censors for some time.
— Christina H. Sommers (@CHSommers) April 7, 2015
In a shocking turn of events, video games do not cause sexism. http://t.co/Bh4rce8IvY
— Adrian Chmielarz (@adrianchm) April 7, 2015
Large study (N=824) finds that sexist attitudes are not related video game preferences or amount of daily use http://t.co/qh5yRc53p9
— Claire Lehmann (@clairlemon) April 7, 2015
— Tim H.E. Allanse (@KachoArinoDesu) April 7, 2015
Gamers, game developers and academics react to the study.
However, even an authoritative study like this won’t stop the narrative. As an idiot said recently, “everything is sexist, everything is racist, everything is homophobic”. Don’t expect a little thing like a 3-year longitudinal study to get in the way of fervent paranoia like that. I’m sure they will continue to recycle debunked, Jack Thompson-era data to make their case. And I’m sure sycophants in the mainstream press will continue to fawn over them. The ride never ends, as they say.
So far, the prize for most misleading headline goes to a featured post on Gamasutra. Just read it for yourself. One gets the impression that the author watched one too many episodes of House of Cards and decided that he, too, could be a spin doctor.
Even so, the amount of moderates who are prepared to give them a hearing will continue to dwindle. As it becomes increasingly apparent that their arguments have no legs to stand on, more neutral observers will realise that fact-free puritanism dressed up as progressivism is still fact-free puritanism.
Expect this study to be cited, cited, and cited again. In fact, i suspect it will be cited so often that SJWs will build programs to autoblock anyone who tweets the link. Echo-chambers need strong walls, after all. Gamers always suspected that the hysterical arguments hurled at their hobby were high on rhetoric and low on evidence. And now they have the science to prove it.
So concludes one of the most heated and absurd debates in the history of the internet. No, of course rescuing Princess Peach doesn’t make you sexist. No, playing Grand Theft Auto won’t turn you into a homicidal rapist. But you already knew that.
Follow Allum Bokhari on Twitter @LibertarianBlue