ESA goes on offense regarding 'flawed' video game study

The Entertainment Software Association recently issued a press release calling the credibility of an article which will be published in the February issue of Pediatrics (which we're sure you all subscribe to) into question. The article is penned by Iowa State professor Douglas Gentile, whose previous essays attempt to link gaming with addiction and alcoholism. The article in question is equally inflammatory: It attempts to draw a connection between video games and mental health problems in Singaporean children.

The ESA claims that Gentile's "definition of 'pathological gaming' is neither scientifically nor medically accepted and the type of measure used has been criticized by other scholars." The group's senior vice president for communications and industry affairs Richard Taylor added "We commend credible, independent, and verifiable research about computer and video games. However, this research is just more of the same questionable findings by the same author in his campaign against video games."

We'll have to wait until the February issue of Pediatrics arrives before passing our own judgment. We'll make sure to share our insight on the rest of the articles therein as well -- we've got a few choice words to share about a certain exposé on Spongebob Squarepants-themed tongue depressors.
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FLAWED VIDEO GAME STUDY TO BE RELEASED NEXT WEEK
Study Produced by Author with Long Anti-Video Game History

January 13, 2011 – WASHINGTON, DC – An upcoming article in the February issue of Pediatrics contains a flawed study from longtime video game critic, Douglas Gentile. In the study, Gentile seeks to link video game use to mental health problems in children in Singapore. This is the latest report from a researcher who has a long history of attacking video games based on claims that have been the subject of substantial criticism. Gentile has been specifically criticized by other scholars for exaggerating the purported harmful effects of video games.

The study, authored by Gentile, contains a variety of flaws. For example, its definition of "pathological gaming" is neither scientifically nor medically accepted and the type of measure used has been criticized by other scholars. Other outcomes are also measured using dubious instruments when well-validated tools are readily available. In addition, because the effect sizes of the outcomes are mainly trivial, it leaves open the possibility the author is simply interpreting things as negatively as possible.

"We commend credible, independent, and verifiable research about computer and video games. However, this research is just more of the same questionable findings by the same author in his campaign against video games," said Richard Taylor, senior vice president for communications and industry affairs at the ESA, which represents computer and video game publishers. "There simply is no concrete evidence that computer and video games cause harm. In fact, a wide body of research has shown the many ways games are being used to improve our lives through education, health and business applications."

Gentile publically acknowledged a mistake in the methodology of a similar study published in Psychological Science last year. The error – which he acknowledged to ABC News in a blog posting after publication – arises from the fact that the sample group for the study was not randomly chosen. Instead, it was a "convenience" sample of individuals who agreed to participate in the survey, a significant factor that greatly compromises that study's purported findings.

As noted in a recent article in The New Yorker ("The Truth Wears Off," December 13, 2010) the scientific community is currently engaged in some soul-searching about the validity of research findings. Replication of findings, the hallmark of sound science, is often difficult or not achieved. Such problems may be caused by flawed methodology, publication bias, selective perception or selective reporting results.

"Throughout our nation's history, those critical of new entertainment forms have sought to blame those creative works for society's ills and some of have sought to use flawed research to support their theories," said Taylor.

The Entertainment Software Association is the U.S. association dedicated to serving the business and public affairs needs of companies publishing interactive games for video game consoles, handheld devices, personal computers, and the Internet. The ESA offers services to interactive entertainment software publishers including a global anti-piracy program, owning the E3 Expo, business and consumer research, federal and state government relations, First Amendment and intellectual property protection efforts. For more information, please visit www.theESA.com.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.