Daily Mail and Metro mislead over gamer study

Yesterday Jenny Hope published an article on the Mail website that had a clear message: ‘How video games blur real life boundaries and prompt thoughts of ‘violent solutions’ to players’ problems‘. The very start attributes this message to ‘researchers’:

Some video game players are transferring their screen experiences into the real world – prompting thoughts of ‘violent solutions’ to their problems, say researchers.

They then go even further and suggest that such incidents have already occurred:

The findings come after sailor Ryan Donovan was sentenced to 25 years in jail for shooting dead an officer on a nuclear sub to copy the violent video game Grand Theft Auto.

Grand Theft Auto – a game in which player freedom allows them to commit many different types of crime – is perfect tabloid fodder, given that people in real life can also choose to commit many different types of crime. The Metro also covered the story, but as essentially a free copy of the Daily Mail I won’t even bother finding or linking to it.

Suffice to say the researchers have complained to SPOnG about the misleading coverage:

The co-author of a study into the behaviour of computer game players has slammed the Metro and the Daily Mail for their sensationalist, biased and plain wrong reporting on “Games Transfer Phenomena”. He revealed to SPOnG today that mainstream journalists twisted the findings to suit a negative story.

Professor Mark Griffiths explained to SPOnG the nature of the original study, which saw a sample of 42 gamers aged between 15 and 21 thinking about performing gaming acts in real life, and said the Metro’s report – which suggested gamers could not tell the real world from fantasy – was inaccurate.

“For one thing, we never said that in our paper,” the Professor said, “and for a second thing, the findings don’t even hint at that. The press release I put out yesterday regarding this study was completely neutral, not one negative thing in there.

“The Metro, they obviously had an agenda – because all [the reporter] said was that he just wanted to know about the negative stuff. I told him that the paper was primarily positive, or at least neutral. He said ‘I don’t want to know about that, I want to know the negative stuff.’ So I just went through what we did, what we found and what we are doing next.”

SPOnG have a full copy of the study to allow readers to see the original research and make their own minds up. Sadly, the Daily Mail reporter also had access to the full study in advance of writing the story, as the Professor continues:

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years – you learn to take the rough with the smooth. But I stand by the research. That paper has exactly what we said and what we didn’t say. The Daily Mail had an advance copy of that paper for about 48 hours, in fact, and the journalist was reading back sections to me. So she knew what was in it, but decided to just write her own story anyway.”

As usual when it comes to almost any piece of research, the media narrative was written long ago and will be repeated irrespective of what the study actually says.

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