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PraiseChaos avatar 2:52 PM on 01.29.2008  (server time)
Psych Prof's View On Mass Effect and Cooper Lawrence

Cooper Lawrence is pretty ignorant, and I enjoyed watching the drama unfold as gamers took it on themselves to fix her ignorance. I started to wonder how other psychologists actually feel about this woman and what she has to say. I set out to get an opinion from a psychologist. Unfortunately, the only psychologists I know are professors at my university.

This is the e-mail I sent to a local professor. I've edited his name to keep anyone from spamming him like they did to Cooper (not that anyone would.)

Dr. ****,

My name is Kel Cecil. You may remember me from your presentation about
violence in video games. I brought the game Manhunt 2 to your attention
and discussed Department of Justice statistics showing a decreasing
crime rate among youth in recent years.

Recently Fox News did an unfair segment about the video game "Mass
Effect" for the Xbox 360. Fox New's "experts" ranted about the sexual
content in the game. The truth is that the segment in question lasts
under a minute and is no more revealing than anything I see on prime
time TV. Cooper Lawrence also sites some statistics that go against
every statistic I've heard. The video game community is in a bit of an
uproar about what we feel in unfair and sensationalist reporting at the

I'm writing to ask two questions. My first question is just a reminder
for myself. The Department of Justice statistics about youth violence
and video games can be found at this site:

There is also a handy time line that shows the creation of popular game
consoles during this time. When I mentioned this data, I believe you
said that these statistics don't show anything conclusive. Why is that?

My second question is about the Fox News segment itself. Do you think
that a psychologists have the right to create and take part in stories
like this if they have not played the game? If you do think it's right,
then please explain why and how one can have a full understanding of the
game if you have not fully experienced it?

Here are some links, in case you have not seen the segment:

A brief overview with video of the actual segment:
A transcription of the segment:
The game publisher's response to the segment:

Also, here are the Entertainment Software's Association's statistics
about the average age of gamers:

Thank you for your time.


Kel Cecil

I finally received a response from him today:

Thanks for your questions.

Regarding correlational data (like DOJ or FBI statistics), it's difficult to control for other factors that influenced an apparent decline in crime. For example, you may notice that the link you provided shows a decrease in violent crime that begins sometime after the Clinton admintration took office. In that administration, 10,000 new police officers were hired to reduce crime, the economy (and unemployment) declined rapidly, and many other factors co-occured at the time of release of certain violent games.

More importantly, the DOJ data do not account for big changes in US demographics (the percentages among the age groups vary widely over time, affecting crime stats).

Regarding your second question:

As to the news show, no, I do not watch Fox news.

I note that the "expert" on the Fox news clip you linked was not in fact listed as a professor, scientist, or psychologist, but a "psychology specialist". I've never heard of that profession before. It's also worth noting that most research has studied violence in video games, not sex. Sex is so rare in U.S.-released video games that it's not a big issue. I don't know what data the Fox "expert" was referring to.

I do think she can offer an opinion about the effects of a game she hasn't played, in the same way a physician can offer an opinion about the effects of cocaine without personally using cocaine herself.
If you want to do further research on the effects of violent video games, I cannot recommend you consult game industry or similar websites. The best impartial, scientific work is this new volume on the subject.

The Professor

I can understand what he's saying about the DOJ data, but I don't think Cooper claiming that Mass Effect is full of sex is like a physician talking about the effects of cocaine at all. I'm having a very hard time understanding how the two are alike.

This professor also notes that Fox refers to her as a psychology specialist. He comments on that, but I think her education is listed on her website. As I recall, the best she has is a Masters and is perusing her Doctorate.

How do you guys feel about this? I'm pretty sure no one will agree with the analogy, but how about the Department of Justice statistics?

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