Hardcore Gaming Rewires Your Brain According To Bad Science

In the latest story we’re sure anti-gaming trolls will barf up to prove that media they don’t like is bad, a bunch of Chinese scientists submitted a badly done study that amazingly happens to agree with the Chinese government that video games are bad for you and make you prone to making bad decisions. You know, because the problems of China have nothing to do with their corrupt, censorious organ-harvesting government and society still reeling from about three or four centuries of unrest. It’s WoW that’s responsible.

What’s shameful is that publications with actual credibility like Scientific American aren’t immediately laughing this study, which concludes excessive Internet and gaming use results in “reduced inhibition of inappropriate behavior” and “diminished goal orientation.” It’s like that study that said video gamers were more likely to be anti-social stoners, only this time it’s got MRIs so it must be true!

Let’s look at all the problems with this, shall we?

  • The study is predicated on the idea that Internet addiction is real and can be quantified, when addiction itself is a complex area of study that scientists are currently unsure about, and Internet addiction is incredibly controversial.
  • The addiction in question was “self-assessed”, i.e. an actual professional familiar with the research didn’t do it, the test subjects did it. The survey used is considered the best self-assessment tool at the moment.
  • Speaking of those test subjects, there were eighteen “Internet addicts” and eighteen “normal” people in the study who used the Internet less than two hours a day. If that seems overly small to conclude that gamers are all rabid zero-attention-span freaks, you’d be correct.
  • The study was published in a journal you have to pay to be published in (but at least is peer-reviewed, so there’s that).
  • The study, needless to say, lines up perfectly with what the Chinese government wants its people to think about that nasty Internet. We shouldn’t trust a study from a country that spent billions of dollars constructing the biggest firewall in the world to keep its citizens from Googling “democracy”.

What’s most shameful, though, is that people do these studies and so rarely take away the obvious lesson: when people are unhappy with their lives, they look for a way out. The problem isn’t that video games exist: the problem is that people are miserable and want to do something that makes them feel good. That marijuana study concluded that people who play video games 14 hours a day have few friends and low self-esteem. Well, no $#!t. Which do you think came first? WoW, or the low self-esteem?

The MRIs just make things worse because they use scientific instruments to give the impression of collecting objective data when really this is just the same crap with some brain scans stapled to it. The first question out of any scientist’s mouth really should be “So, what proof do we have that the games caused this, as opposed to people with these problems seeking out gaming?”

Instead, we get another video game scare piece. Note to Scientific American:

Shame on you.

[ via the apparently more objective Gizmodo ]