Silly study: Violent games make you ‘comfortably numb’ to the pain of others

It never ceases to amaze me just how far some “researchers” will go to “prove” that videogames are harmful. From blowing airhorns to electric shock tests, some truly wacky and rather unscientific tests have been conducted to show the effects of gaming, but this one — a study that claims to show how games make players “comfortably numb” — is stunning in its convolution.

Let’s just look at the press release on the matter:

320 college students played either a violent or a nonviolent video game for approximately 20 minutes.  A few minutes later, they overheard a staged fight that ended with the “victim” sustaining a sprained ankle and groaning in pain.

People who had played a violent game took significantly longer to help the victim than those who played a nonviolent game—73 seconds compared to 16 seconds. People who had played a violent game were also less likely to notice and report the fight. And if they did report it, they judged it to be less serious than did those who had played a nonviolent game.
In the second study, the participants were 162 adult moviegoers. The researchers staged a minor emergency outside the theater… The researchers timed how long it took moviegoers to [help]… Participants who had just watched a violent movie took over 26 percent longer to help than either people going into the theater or people who had just watched a nonviolent movie.

Yes, according to Michigan Professor Brad Bushman, this exercise in randomness “clearly shows” that “violent media exposure can reduce helping behavior.” Bushman then namechecks Pink Floyd, suggesting that violent gamers are “comfortably numb” to the suffering of others.

I mean … seriously? Are we seriously just plucking random staged occurrences out of a hat to “prove” things now? You can make someone play a violent game, pretend to hurt your ankle, then measure how long they take to help and that’s proof? I wish I was comfortably numb to bullsh*t, then maybe I wouldn’t care so much.

Jim Sterling