ESA, Researcher Clash Over Upcoming Kids And Gaming Study

The ESA has issued a warning over a "flawed" upcoming study that alleges a link between video games and mental health problems in children, but the study's author tells Gamasutra the research is solid.
The Entertainment Software Association (ESA) has issued a warning over a "flawed" soon-to-be-published study that alleges a link between video games and mental health problems in children. The study was authored by Douglas Gentile (pictured), who runs the Media Research Lab at Iowa State University, a researcher who has been criticized in the past for exaggerating the purported harmful effects of video games. Richard Taylor, SVP for communications and industry affairs said in statement: "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." "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." Taylor went on to specifically attack the methodology in Gentile's forthcoming study. "Its definition of 'pathological gaming' is neither scientifically nor medically accepted and the type of measure used has been criticized by other scholars," he said. "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." But Gentile told Gamasutra in an email that it's "surprising" to him that the ESA would characterize him as "anti-game," as he claims himself to be a gamer, and has written studies supporting the positive effects of games. "Although the ESA claim that this study is flawed, they give no credible evidence of significant flaws," he said. "Furthermore, the article was subjected to peer-review by independent experts in a top medical journal, experts whose interest is in evaluating the quality of science." "In addition, the ESA statement includes inaccurate statements," said Gentile. "For example, their claim that the prior study had a mistake in methodology is incorrect; there was a mistake in using the word "representative" to describe the sample." "The sampling method was, in fact, an industry standard approach used by Harris Interactive," he said. "Regardless of the details, the statement by the ESA is evidence of them doing their job to try to protect the interests of the video game industry." "My position is and always has been that games are powerful, and that they can have many effects. Some effects are beneficial, others can be harmful," Gentile continued. "The various effects depend upon many different features, upon amount of time spent with the games, and possibly upon characteristics of the player. By being aware of both the potential benefits and potential problems, families can maximize the benefits while minimizing the harms." [UPDATE: Added Gentile's response.]

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