Only days after the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C., which is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the U.S., called on the Entertainment Software Rating Board to refine its video game rating system for violent video games, the ESRB said no. The APA made the request after its task force made up of doctors found that there was “a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behavior.” However, the ESRB called the group’s suggestion “misdirected or mistaken,” citing studies that suggest parents already trust the rating information and have a depth of information available to them already.
The ESRB said that two surveys show that parents “are familiar and trust the ESRB rating information” and cite one conducted by Hart Research (have no idea who funded this one) and also the FTC. According to the FTC report from eight years ago, 87% of parents are aware of the ratings and 73% regularly check them when buying games. Also, it showed that 87% of parents are satisfied with the rating information provided by the ESRB.
The APA task force found that violent video games “lead to aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect and decreases in pro-social behavior, empathy and sensitivity to aggression.” However, the study found “insufficient research” to link violent video game play to criminal violence.
The task force reviewed more than 150 research reports published before 2009. “While there is some variation among the individual studies, a strong and consistent general pattern has emerged from many years of research that provides confidence in our general conclusions,” said Mark Appelbaum, PhD and task force chair, in a statement. He also said “What researchers need to do now is conduct studies that look at the effects of video game play in people at risk of aggression or violence due to a combination of risk factors.”
The APA report stated that “No single risk factor consistently leads a person to act aggressively or violently. Rather, it is the accumulation of risk factors that tends to lead to aggressive or violent behavior.” They stated that violent video game use is one such risk factor.
What is undeniable is that the evolution of video games geared to kids has changed over the years from such simple beginnings as Pong, Asteroids, and Pac-Man into detailed 3D scenes where the player becomes an active participant in the game whether it is driving fast, fighting or shooting people.
While the ESRB cited reams of information about how they rate their games which are available on their website and via a ratings app, they said they are open to more conversation about this topic. Said an ESRB spokesperson: “We have spoken with the APA members in the past and are open to continuing a dialogue with them to better understand their viewpoint.”