I want to extend a double congratulation to Ms. Arline Kaplan for giving to this issue the importance it deserves and also for presenting a well-balanced report of the multiple angles introduced into the discussion of the possible connection between violent video games and future aggressive actions.
I must confess that until 1997 I supported Dr. Tanay’s interpretation of the relationship between the gruesome violence in some video games and future acts of violence. Actually, I still do but my perspective has evolved from causation to worsening of already-existent pathology. My conversion was the result of reviewing the files of hundreds of youths (1996-99) that have gotten into legal troubles. I specifically looked for any common traits among those that were attracted to the music of Marilyn Manson and/or Wicca. Among several findings, many of them had psychotic mania that was triggered by amphetamine-like drugs prescribed for diagnoses they never had: ADHD, Oppositional-Defiant Disorder and Conduct Disorder. Of note, from 2005 to 2007 I engaged in a similar observation (different state) and the outcomes were very much alike.
My position is that individuals prone to violence find validation and a safe outlet in the type of video alluded in Ms. Kaplan’s fine report. In other words, they expend hours playing those games because they already have a problem which many times is misdiagnosed as depression. I have argued before that antidepressants (ADs) only precipitate suicidal thoughts and behaviors in bipolar patients and I wish the FDA will correct its “all-included” approach in the warning of suicidality for this type of medication. This is a completely different discussion but I want to remind those that prescribe ADs to bipolar patients that no even one case of OCD (without co-morbid bipolar disorder) with suicidal thoughts, even on high doses of antidepressants, has been published by any journal in the world.
Simply put, alcohol is legally available and most people don’t become alcoholic. In support of my view I want to mention a 2008 Pew Research Center study that showed that 74% of adolescents played car racing games and the next category was puzzles with 72%. First-person shooters came in 10th place with 47%. Still the same study informed that two thirds of the youths admitted playing violent video game at some point and that most parents don’t believe that such activity will affect the social outcome of their children.
Finally I would like to discuss the following paragraph:
“Knowing students’ risk for aggression can help school officials determine which students might be more likely to get in fights or possibly bully other students, according to Gentile, who runs the Media Research Lab at Iowa State University. He said he can get “over 80% accuracy” in predicting which child is at high risk for bullying behavior by knowing 3 things—“are they a boy, have they gotten in a fight within the past year, and do they consume a lot of media violence.”
I believe that Dr. Gentile idea is correct but for a different reason, the genetic endowment. Just think of these questions: Who buy the games, who decides what is allowed in the household and what is not, what is the degree of mental stability of the parents or their involvement in the lives of their children?
In the end, I believe, all boils down to the wisdom of one old observation: the apple never falls far from the tree. In concrete terms and paraphrasing the political pundits’ “follow the money” I would suggest that in medicine we “follow the genes.”