BOOM Salad Interview #3: Dr. Ceranoglu shares his thoughts on violence, video games, and why kids have fun playing Grand Theft Auto.

kids playing

(Editor’s Note: The following interview was recorded this past September, exclusively for BOOM Salad.)

BOOM: Greetings Dr. Ceranoglu and thank you for your willingness to share your thoughts with our readers.

Dr. Ceranoglu: You are welcome.

BOOM: If I may, what is it that interests you about the subject of so-called, “violent-video games” and their effect on behavior?

Dr. Ceranoglu: The reason that [the subject] has been interesting to me is that in all of this conversation about video games, I think we are missing the big picture, because the conversation has been high-jacked or dominated, with concerns about the violence, and the link between the video games and violence. But the research on that is, at best, equivocal. There are a lot of flaws, that you have already mentioned [on BOOM Salad] so I am not going to go into that in detail, but there are a lot of flaws in terminology, definitions, or the parameters that they are using.

BSI3-CER-Quote-1

In all this, we are missing a bigger picture.  There are some non-controversial effects of video games and media in children’s lives. When it comes to sleep, when it comes to attention, when it comes to academic performance, and other experiences in the child’s life, which is being displaced by time spent on video games. That’s what we’re missing, we have missed out on that conversation because our attention is [predominantly] on violence.

The studies that I look at are interesting to me because they tell about the relationship between the video game and video game play and [their effect on] attention or cognitive functions of a child, and these studies are done, usually, by neuroscientists.

BOOM: Over the last three months, BOOM Salad has interviewed several leading scientists that have conducted research, specific to video games that have violent depictions. In one such interview, a noted proponent, and one of the pioneers of the anti-violent video game argument, stated that, “there is no [clinical] definition for a violent video game.” By saying that it would seem that he has compromised his own research, or at least undermined the claim that his findings demonstrate a link between aggressiveness and the playing of, “violent-video games,” since, according to him, there is no such thing. How do you respond to that?

BSI3-CER-QUOT-21Dr. Ceranoglu: The problem is that [the definitions being used by these studies are] not coherent. They are fuzzy at best. Not only are the definitions incoherent, but they are not uniform.  What they are measuring is not necessarily descriptive of the problem at hand, or violence or aggression. [For instance], one of the tests they use for cognitive precursor is they have people play a violent-video game, and then they have them do a fill-in-the-blank test. First of all, a person is not a machine. How that person reacts to something on that one occasion, does not necessarily carry over if the circumstances were completely different. I see kids play Call of Duty, and [other] violent games, and they make jokes and laugh about it (see Video below). But, when they see the real thing in the emergency room, they are scared to death, just like you or I would be. They react just like everyone else. People are not machines.

BSI3-CER-QUOT-3

BOOM: So then Doctor, what should we be looking at?

Dr. Ceranoglu: First off, should we really look at if video games cause violence or not? Is that what we should be looking at in expense of other priorities? Is that where we should be spending our research dollars? What about poverty? Or, the socio-economic climate that’s going on? Where parents are being pushed out of homes, chasing two or three jobs, because they can’t make ends meet. [Life] is much more than the video game. Shouldn’t we start with that [as our guide]?

Once we have all the questions answered and problems solved, maybe then we can start looking at the effect of video games. In that situation we should start with comparative studies that gather data to a minute detail of what kids are doing at home, with friends, outside, their athletic involvement, their academic involvement, their family structure, family approaches, and video game habits, and what is their aggression or violence or delinquency in later years.

The Uncanny Violence of Video Games, PART IIa: “The Thin Red Line Between Violent- and Competitive-Aggression.”

The Thin Red Line Between

Editor’s Note.

Towards the end of the twentieth century, medical researchers and behaviorists all over the world were looking at the similarities between so-called, “violent media,” such as film and TV, and video games that depicted violence in their gameplay. For many, and certainly all of those who generously gave their time to BOOM Salad in interviews, and other assistance, their motives were simple, protect those who are amongst the most vulnerable in society: children and young people. For this reason, BOOM Salad acknowledges and honors the efforts of these women and men of science, and others who have sought to shine a light on why and how video games affect those that play them, why they make us go “BOOM!” as it were, and the corollary effect of video gaming on society in general.

Over the past few months, BOOM Salad has interviewed several researchers considered to be amongst the first to study the relationship between behavior and video games, including Dr. Vincent P. Matthews, Chair of Radiology, Medical College of Wisconsin; Dr. Yang Wang, Associate Professor, Medical College of Wisconsin, Division of Imaging Sciences; and Dr. Brad Bushman, Professor of Communication and Psychology, Ohio State University. The premise of their investigations was based on the assumption that violent-video games are a genre of violent media (see the clinical definition of “violent media” below). As such, previous research suggested that high exposure to violent-video games would likely cause increased aggression in cognition, affect, and arousal. From this starting point, researchers were able to rely on the confidence of medical studies conducted over the past 60 years that have consistently demonstrated the causal relationship between high Violent Media Exposure (VME) and aggressive bias and behavior.

Like their predecessors and contemporaries, the individuals we spoke with were world-class researchers with sufficient funding to establish the credibility of their results. Thus, to challenge the veracity of their findings would be misguided and unfruitful. That is not to say that we agree with their conclusions, quite the contrary, we do not, and for what we believe to be good reasons.

In the following, Part IIa and IIb of the Uncanny Violence of Video Games, BOOM Salad will demonstrate a fundamental error in the theory at the heart of the anti-violent video game argument, while at the same time offering an alternative hypothesis as to how and why these games affect our behavior. Our goal, much like that of the doctors we interviewed, is to root out the cognitive and behavioral context that underlies the ever-increasing fascination with video games in global society. Only by understanding what compels individuals to play the games, can we better determine how it is affecting them and their behavior.

As always, it is our Primary Objective that you will enjoy and be challenged by our efforts. – BOOM.

Figure 1: Violent Video Game Exposure.
Figure 1: The face of aggression?

How do we determine how someone is feeling? One way, is by examining his or her expression (see Figure 1). Do they look happy, or sad? Are they smiling, or are they frowning?

Another way is through listening to their voice and analyzing their vocal expressions. Do they sound happy or angry? Are they saying words that would indicate happiness or aggression? Through these and other clues, humans “predict” the feelings and actions of those around them.

But even with the availability of all this visual and auditory data, we can never be 100% sure how someone is feeling. Why? Because emotions are “unobservable states” that “dynamically change”[1]. In other words, emotions cannot be viewed directly, we cannot see into a person’s psychology and understand, as they do, how they are feeling. Moreover, emotions can change in an instant.

For example, when we consume visual media, like film and TV, it is not unusual to feel different emotions as the program progresses. At one moment we are fearful, and then another, hopeful or relieved, and perhaps even at the end, we might feel happy or euphoric, all within the span of two hours. The Entertainment industry relies on this powerful ability to visually and emotionally engage its viewers, as a form of incentive to pay for its products.

Given this, the best we can do in assessing how one is feeling at a particular moment in time, is in observing and interpreting her or his behavior and mannerisms. Most of the time, this is sufficient to accurately assess someone’s current emotional state, but because of our own limitations to perceive the “unobservable,” we make mistakes resulting in a misinterpretation of a person’s actual feelings.

To increase the reliability of these observations, medical researchers and behaviorists have developed a number of theoretical models. One of the most important of these is known as the “reinforcement learning model (RL)”[2]. The RL provides a useful methodology to understanding so-called, “rewards-based behaviors.”

According to the RL, rewards provide an incentive that leads to what is known as, “operant conditioning,” in which a person will voluntarily change her or his behavior and behavior paradigm to receive a reward . For example, a child is promised a reward if she or he does well on a math test (see Figure 2). To attain this reward, the child voluntarily changes her or his behavior by studying more or paying more attention to homework assignments. When the reward is received, these changes in behavior become part of the behavioral algorithm used by the child to determine her or his actions in a given environment.

The Uncanny Violence of Video Games, Part IIb, “The META of Video Gaming.”

The META of Video Gaming.What is the so-called “META” of video gaming, and why is it important to video gaming as a culture and cognitive exercise? By “cognitive exercise” I mean the experience of gaming as a rule- and rewards-based event that requires one’s cognitive functions to perform successfully and routinely. In this context, it is possible extrapolate the consideration of META to apply to all forms and genres of gaming that rely on cognitive function for performance. Likewise, it can be said with some confidence that the META of video gaming is derivative of the META of all gaming.

But what do we mean by META? And how is it related to gaming as a “competitive” cognitive exercise?

The theory of a “Meta” for video gaming is not new but perhaps, newly discovered, in that more attention is being paid to its creation and maintenance as a cognitive knowledge structure. These act as inputs to the formulation of behavior scripts that define an individual’s actions and reactions given a specific environment[1].

As one participates in a competitive activity, such as “chess”, or volleyball, they develop a knowledge structure that reflects her or his continuously evolving strategy to achieve the game’s Primary Objective[2]. Here, the word “strategy” includes the adaptive learning of the game’s mechanics, as well as, the player’s various functions within the gaming environment. Moreover, it is influenced and recognizable by its constantly changing, tactical expressions.

Given this definition, the META of video games such as “Flower” can be equated to the evolving strategies and tactics necessary to complete each map (see Video below).

With repetition, a player becomes more proficient through trial and error, thereby informing and rewriting her or his META for the game. META efficiency, therefore, is analogous to performance proficiency. In other words, the more proficiently a player performs in the attainment of the game’s Primary Objective, the more efficient the META upon which the performance is based. In this way, performance proficiency and META efficiency are directly tied to repeated play and exposure to the game.

Figure 1 is a visual representation of the creation and maintenance of the META for the video game, “Flower.”

Figure 1: META of "Flower."
Figure 1: META of “Flower.”

FuzzeePickle: Fiera…Feroz…y una Mujer Sin Compleja de Culpabilidad!

"That Pickle has HAIR!"
Figura 1: Señorita FuzzeePickle, “Ese pepinillo tiene pelo!”

Durante la última década, la comunidad de videojugadores ha sido testigo de mucho más de la evolución rápida (algunos la llamaría “la revolución”) de sus plataformas y del contenido del videojuego; ha observado también el aumento constante del número de mujeres jugadores de los juegos que tradicionalmente se han visto como masculinos, tal como First-Person-Shooter (FPS).

Según el ESRB, las mujeres comprenden 40% del número total de los videojugadores en los EE.UU. (haga click aquí para más información). De ellas surgen un número creciente de CHINGONAS CRUELES y FEROCES, como la que entrevistamos para la EDICION #2 de BOOM Salad, que se conoce con el nombre de FuzzeePickle (FP; véase Figura 1). Desde esa entrevista, el BOOM ha recibido un gran número de solicitudes para escuchar más de Pickle y estamos completamente de acuerdo. (La entrevista que sigue se grabó exclusivamente para la Edición #3 de BOOM Salad. Favor notar que muchas de las Figuras de abajo están vinculadas a los contenidos de video).

BOOM: “Buenas noches, Fuzzee, ¿qué hay de nuevo?”

FP: “No mucho.”

BOOM: “Primero, permítame decirte, “bienvenida de nuevo al BOOM,” nos entusiasma escuchar lo que tienes que decir.”

FP: “Bueno, les agradezco por invitarme.”

BOOM: “Bueno, Fuzzee, comenzamos con unas pocas preguntas fáciles. ¿Está bien?”

FP: “Sí, claro.”

BOOM: “¿Muy bien, hace cuánto tiempo has sido jugadora de video?”

FP: “He jugado los videojuegos desde pequeña, como de cuatro años de edad. Mi hermano y yo siempre jugábamos el Sega Genesis. Siempre jugábamos el Sonic the Hedgehog… (véase Figura 2)”

Figura 2: Sonic the Hedgehog
Figura 2: Sonic the Hedgehog

BOOM: “¡Ah, qué bien!”

FP: “Sí (Se ríe), después de eso, no jugaba los videojuegos por mucho tiempo. Luego volví a jugar, empezando con X-BOX, y eventualmente empecé a jugar el PS3.”

BOOM: “¿Bueno, cuántos años tenías cuando empezaste a jugar de nuevo?”

FP: “Como 12, 13, quizás.”

BOOM: “¿Qué es lo que te hizo volver a jugar?”

FP: “Efectivamente fue Battlefield: Bad Company. Luego mi hermano se interesó en Call of Duty (COD), así yo empecé a jugar eso y desde allí seguí jugando.”

BOOM: “¿Jugabas algo de FPS cuando eras más jóven?”

FP: “Sí, jugaba Golden Eye 007 con mi hermano todos los días. (véase Figura 3)”

BOOM: “Así que aún desde tu juventud, eras aficionada a los que llamemos “videojuegos violentos” como el FPS. ¿Qué te atrajo de ellos?”

FP: “Creo que es el hecho de que cada vez que se juega, el escenario es distinto. Cuando juegas una y otra vez vas a morir en diferentes momentos y también haces cosas diferentes. Siempre es distinto, así se entusiasma a ver qué pasará.”

The UNCANNY Violence of Video Games, Part I: “GAM, VME, and the Acronyms of Aggression.”

Figure 1: Violent Video Game Exposure.
Figure 1: Violent Video Game Exposure.

For nearly 20 years, medical researchers, psychologists, and behaviorists, throughout the world have sought to determine if there is a link between the development of aggressive behavior and repeated exposure to violent video games like Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty (see Figure 1). Using research from previous studies on the effects of Violent Media Exposure (VME) on cognitive behavior as the basis of their hypotheses, these well-intentioned medical experts have demonstrated, time and again, that playing violent video games has a residual effect on the brain and the mechanisms responsible for aggressive and violent thoughts and actions. Their conclusions are similar to the one expressed in the article, EFFECTS OF VIOLENT VIDEO GAMES ON AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR, AGGRESSIVE COGNITION, AGGRESSIVE AFFECT, PHYSIOLOGICAL AROUSAL, AND PROSOCIAL BEHAVIOR: A Meta-Analytic Review of the Scientific Literature (2001), which states:

” A…review of the video-game research literature reveals that violent video games increase aggressive behavior in children and young adults [italics ours]. Experimental and nonexperimental studies with males and females in laboratory and field settings support this conclusion. Analyses also reveal that exposure to violent video games increases physiological arousal and aggression-related thoughts and feelings. Playing violent video games also decreases pro-social behavior.”

Thus, the consensus of many in the medical research community is that violent video games are harmful to those who play them, and represent a potential threat to public safety when the effects of repeated exposure elicit a violent response.

And yet, in numerous conversations and interviews conducted by BOOM Salad with several long-term, violent video gamers, those who have played violent video games consistently for 10 years or more, we found, without exception, that, contrary to increasing aggression and violent tendencies, these games were seen as providing an almost therapeutic effect upon the player by helping to reduce the anxieties and stresses of daily life.

A clear discrepancy is, therefore, evident between the conclusions of medical research and the experiences of those who routinely play these games. In this, the first of a three-part series on the relationship between aggressive and violent behavior and repeated exposure to violent video games, the BOOM takes a deeper look at the research and inferences that are at the heart of the anti-violent video game argument, beginning with an examination of what is known as the General Aggression Model (GAM, see Figure 2).

Figure 2: The General Aggression Model (GAM)
Figure 2: The General Aggression Model (GAM)

BOOM Salad Interview #2: FuzzeePickle: Fierce…Ferocious…and Unapologetically FEMALE!

"That Pickle has HAIR!"
Figure 1: Miss. FuzzeePickle

Over the past decade, the video gaming community has witnessed more than the rapid evolution, some would say ‘revolution’, of its platforms and gaming content, it has also observed a steady increase in the number of female players in what have traditionally been viewed as male-oriented genres, like the First-Person-Shooter (FPS).

According to the ESRB, women comprise 40% of the total number of gamer’s in the United States (click here for more information). Of these, is a growing number of HEARTLESS and FIERCE, BADASSES like the one we interviewed for BOOM Salad’s ISSUE #2, who goes by the name: FuzzeePickle (FP; see Figure 1). Ever since that interview, the BOOM has received a number of requests for more of the Pickle, and we agree wholeheartedly. (The following interview was recorded exclusively for BOOM Salad ISSUE #3. Please note that several of the Figures below are linked to video content).

BOOM: “Good evening Fuzzee, what’s going on?”

FP: “Not a whole lot.”

BOOM: “First let me say, “welcome back to the BOOM.” We are excited to hear what you have to say.”

FP: “Well, thanks for having me.”

Figure 2: Sonic the Hedgehog.
Figure 2: Sonic the Hedgehog.

BOOM: “So Fuzzee, I want to start off with some easy questions to kind of get us rolling, that ‘ok’ with you?

FP: “Yeah, sure.”

BOOM: “Great, so how long have you been a gamer?”

FP: “I have been gaming since I was pretty little, about 4 years-old. Me and my brother would always play the Sega Genesis together. We would always play Sonic the Hedgehog…(see Figure 2)”

BOOM: “Nice.”

FP: “Yeah (laughs), afterwards, there was a long period of time when I didn’t play video games. Then later, I got back into it with the X-BOX and eventually transitioned onto the PS3.”

BOOM: “So how old were you when you started playing again?”

FP: “About 12, 13 maybe.”

BOOM: “What was it that brought you back?”

FP: “It was actually Battlefield: Bad Company. Then my brother got into Call of Duty (COD) so I started playing that, and just went on from there.”

BOOM: “Did you play any FPS when you were younger?”

The Panopticon in my Bedroom: The Role of Prison Discipline in Video Gaming in the 21st Century. (Part I and II)

Editor’s Note: This treatise is in no way intended as an attack on the gaming industry, community, or culture. BOOM Salad is both honored and privileged to consider itself a card-carrying member of all three. However critical or controversial the conclusions of this paper, as revealed in Part II, they are motivated by three goals: 1) To dispel the myth that these games are simply ‘childish diversions’; 2) Admit publicly that the rating system is toothless and therefore, of little or no consequence. And finally, 3) As willing participants and a mature community, gamers have a responsibility to protect future gamers: our little sisters and brothers, daughters and sons, grandchildren, etc. from harm in the ever-evolving phenomena we call “gaming”. That these risks to young players exist is well-documented. That we can do something about it, is not. This essay is an effort to begin that process responsibly and respectfully to all involved. In the end, it is our sincere hope that you may enjoy it. -BOOM.

Figure 1 Battlefield 4: Operation Locker: Enemies raining down on me in a bombed-out Panopticon.
Figure 1 Battlefield 4: Operation Locker: Enemies raining down on me in a bombed-out Panopticon.

“…at the periphery, an annular building; at the centre, a tower; this tower is pierced with wide windows that open onto the inner side of the ring; the peripheric building is divided into cells, each of which extends the whole width of the building; they have two windows, one on the inside, corresponding to windows of the tower; the other, on the outside, allows the light to cross the cell from one end to the other. All that is needed then, is to place a supervisor in a central tower and to shut up in each cell a madman, a patient, a condemned man, a worker or a schoolboy… They are like so many cages, so many small theatres, in which each actor is alone, perfectly individualized and constantly visible.” – Michel Foucault describing Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon prison design, Discipline and Punish, 1975.

Video games have been a part of my life since my childhood days growing up in Silicon Valley during the mid to late-seventies. I can still remember playing the first video game console, PC, and arcade games that would become the genesis of the video game revolution of the late-20th century.

But at a certain point, just like my Wolverine comics, “blue” my baby blanket, and my horde of football, baseball, and basketball cards, I gave it up for something better: girls. Afterwards, I played video games only sparingly and mostly solitaire and chess. Thus, the feeling of play never matched the fond memories I have of a youth misspent in the darkened, cavern-like, mall arcade circa 1982 (see Figure 2). Continue reading The Panopticon in my Bedroom: The Role of Prison Discipline in Video Gaming in the 21st Century. (Part I and II)

‘Death Dealing From Above’: The DdFA sits down with BOOM Salad to chat about puppies, kittens, and blowing-up virtual people with C4.

The KING lives!
The KING.

Amongst the hundreds of clan names listed in the leaderboards of both Battlelog and BF4Stats, there are few who can strike fear in the hearts of their adversary like the DdFA. The following interview with their leader, KING-DYLAN666 (KD), and members Hard-J (HJ), and FuzzeePickle (FP), was recorded this past May, exclusively for BOOM Salad.

BOOM: Greetings and welcome to the first of our BOOM Salad interviews, where every month, we will feature a player or clan that we feel is important to gaming and the gaming community as a whole. Our first interviewees hail all the way from the Great Northwest of Canada.

Their leader, who goes by the enigmatic tag KING-DYLAN666, is ranked in the top 1% in 13 of the 22 categories listed on the website BF4Stats, and in the top 5% in all categories (see Part I of “The Panopticon in My Bedroom” for more info on the KING). On Battlelog, he is currently at the top of the list in total number of Kills and Time Played, and ranks second in total ScoreIn fact, in all of the leaderboards, he ranks high in Division 1.

BF4Stats Profile of KING-DYLAN666.
BF4Stats Profile of KING-DYLAN666.

BOOM: KING, it is an honor and a privilege to have you as our premier guest, how are you doing?

KD: Yeah, I’m pretty good. How are you tonight?

BOOM: Great KING, thank you. Also with us are the KING’s second in command, Hard-J, how are you sir?

HJ: Hello, I’m good, how are you doin?

BOOM: I’m doing well thank you. Last but not least we have one of the female members of DdFA, the talented and equally dominating FuzzeePickle, is it ok if I call you “FUZZEE”?

FP: “Yeah, that’s fine. Everybody does.”

BOOM: Excellent. Thank you FUZZEE, welcome to all of you, and a big welcome to all of our readers.

Continue reading ‘Death Dealing From Above’: The DdFA sits down with BOOM Salad to chat about puppies, kittens, and blowing-up virtual people with C4.

Where Smart People Go BOOM!

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