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Study to link gaming with mental illness

ESA counters, labels report "dubious".

A forthcoming study which claims to establish a link between gaming and metal health problems in children has been junked by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) as "questionable" and "dubious".

Although the exact contents of the report, authored by Iowa State University researcher Douglas Gentile, have yet to be made public, it's angered the ESA enough to coax a statement from senior VP Richard Taylor.

"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 videogames cause harm," Taylor continued. "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."

According to the ESA, the methodology used in Gentile's report just isn't sound.

"Its definition of 'pathological gaming' is neither scientifically nor medically accepted and the type of measure used has been criticised by other scholars.

"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."

Gentile, who has a long history of research into the alleged negative side-effects of gaming, issued a retort via Gamasutra.

"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."

"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," he added.

"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 maximise the benefits while minimizing the harms."

We'll have more to say on this one as soon as Gentile's report gets published, but in the meantime we'll take the time to remind you that a different set of eggheads recently claimed gaming helped youngsters do better at school and stay away from drugs. Who to believe, eh?

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About the Author
Fred Dutton avatar

Fred Dutton


Fred Dutton was Eurogamer's US news editor, based in Washington DC.

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