Former FBI profiler says games do not cause violence

Mary Ellen O'Toole says video games are just one risk variable for those who may act out violently; Parents Television Council president calls for better ratings systems.

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Former Federal Bureau of Investigation senior profiler Mary Ellen O'Toole does not believe video games cause violence. Speaking on Face The Nation (run by GameSpot parent company CBS), O'Toole said games are just one variable in a much wider spectrum of risk factors for those who may act out violently.

"It's my experience that video games do not cause violence," O'Toole said. "However, it is one of the risk variables when we do a threat assessment for the risk to act out violently. And my experience has been [that] individuals who are already contemplating acting out in a violent way, if they are also emerged 24/7 in violent videos, to the exclusion of other activities, and they're isolated, and they're actually using these videos as planning or collateral evidence in terms of how to do it better, what equipment to buy, how to select the victims, how to approach the crime scene. If their use is educational materials for the offender to do the crime better, that's what we take into consideration."

"But again, it's important that I point out as a threat assessment and as a former FBI profiler, we don't see these as the cause of violence; we see them as sources of fueling ideation that's already there," she added.

""It's my experience that video games do not cause violence. However, it is one of the risk variables when we do a threat assessment for the risk to act out violently. "--O'Toole

Also speaking on the matter was Parents Television Council president Tim Winter, who agreed that video games do not--by themselves--cause violence. However, he argued the topic is especially important to address today, when media has become a 24/7 activity for children.

"This isn't an all-or-nothing; it's not zero percent, it's not 100 percent. But it is a percent of the problem, and we have to address it," Winter said. "The parents are grandparents that are watching this show today understand in their hearts already that this stuff is harmful to children. And it's even more harmful now that you have 24/7 digital media hitting children through multiple platforms."

Winter also called on ratings groups and the industry itself to do a better job helping parents to understand the content of a given game. He pointed to a game in which players can kill, urinate on, and set ablaze a police officer, though it's unclear which title he was referring to.

"It's not just a parent's obligation. I think the industry has to have a responsibility," he said. "When you have a video game that allows a player to shoot a police officer, walk up to that police officer and urinate on him, douse him with gasoline and set him on fire, and listen to him scream as he burns to death. What kind of sticker do you put on the box to warn a parent about that?"

President Obama recently announced a $500 million, 23-point plan that directs the Centers for Disease Control to conduct further research into the relationship between virtual violence and real-world violence. Separately, Utah representative Jim Matheson has introduced a bill to Congress that would make Entertainment Software Rating Board ratings legally enforceable.

Discussion

260 comments
Zoberk
Zoberk

The guy who was talking at the very end of the video seemed to be ready to attack other opinions. It's always like that with closed-minded backwards thinking people. They stick to an ideal and try to suppress opposition through aggression or violence. Such a shame that there was someone like him among such a group of logical and respectful people. It's a good thing he didn't get much chance to talk, cause he was about to oppose scientific facts with rage.

blitzinD
blitzinD

The research has already been done, several times. Here is one of the latest studies:

http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/~caa/abstracts/2005-2009/05APA.pdf

 There seems to be some issues of semantics between "aggression" and "violence" perhaps but the evidence is in... has been for ages.  Watching and playing violent media does affect us as children and adolescents. So we need to be asking ourselves why we are going through all of this "debate" again (seems to happen every 5-10 years)? To me it is all just theatre and no one really cares about people dying because corporations are making too much money selling us violence. But when something big happens we have to appear concerned for a suitable length of time afterward. Mark my words, nothing significant will come from these discussions. In my life I have seen them many times before and yet games and TV shows have become more and more violent not less. I assume that trend will continue.

soulfulDAGGER
soulfulDAGGER

The picture of the lady in the article would make a great " caption this". I'll get things going..

"Holy sh#% Killzone for PS4 looks amazing. Can I get upgrades?"

Gxgear
Gxgear

I would like Mr. Winter to direct me to this video game he was referring to, so that I may finally realize my dream of shooting, urinating on, and lighting police offers on fire.

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

It's not just a parent's obligation."
I'm sorry, come again? As a parent it IS your obligation to take care of your child. Part of that is being involved enough to know what the hell is going on their life. Something as basic as "What games do they play" should be something you can name off the top of your head.

IF you can't something as simple as that, you fail as a parent.

"we don't see these as the cause of violence; we see them as sources of fueling ideation that's already there"
Isn't it amazing what happens when someone who isn't an uneducated jackass gives their opinion.

How anyone can disagree with this is mind-boggling.

As for the ESRB, the "ratings system" works perfectly. It's not an error on their part that parents are too oblivious to look at the package. Do they need to raise awareness? Yeah, probably... considering 38% of americans don't even know what the ESRB is. (Read: 38% of Americans are too stupid to READ)

This comes down to 2 issues. American's are violent because of the culture we live in. Not the media we entertain ourselves with.

The second, is that parents are ridiculously stupid. Pay attention to what your kids are doing if you are that concerned.

Frankly, I think censorship is wrong. Morally wrong... but if you care so much to get all tight in the pants regarding what your children play... get off your ass and take control of the situation.

RenegadeGR
RenegadeGR

Finally some infomations to those idiots who dont know crap about evidence is comming from some people who actually knows how to find evidence. (ps i disappoint obama.)

santinegrete
santinegrete

Finally some unbiased good news about this. I know it's not properly "news" that videogames doesn't cause violence, but her professional opinion is.

maitkarro
maitkarro

A co worker who has a wife and two children, he is one of the top workers he is funny and it's fun to work with him and from him I heard about the game Postal 2 (the game where you urinate on others and to very nasty stuff to others) and he loved it. See games don't make people violent, people have to be violent in the first place to get violent over a game content. As I see games don't make violent people, it just refines the mind of a person how it's possible to be more violent, it's up to the person to act up on it.

Valen_Ca
Valen_Ca

"Winter also called on ratings groups and the industry itself to do a better job helping parents to understand the content of a given game. He pointed to a game in which players can kill, urinate on, and set ablaze a police officer, though it's unclear which title he was referring to."

I am sorry but what part of the large ESRB rating that states the age group as well as provides content descriptors is to difficult for parents to understand? Those ratings are there for a purpose, if parents are to impatient, stupid or illiterate to read them then whose problem is that? Honestly about the only thing that the industry can do at this point to help out is to force parents to sign a form saying that they understand the rating of the game and the content before being able to walk out of the store, or checkout in the case of online purchases, with it.

Yamakoichi
Yamakoichi

Never did understand how video games were the root cause of violence according to the NRA, especially when they teach kids to torture and harm animals for fun..... Is that not what serial killers do prior to human kills?

Ayato_Kamina_1
Ayato_Kamina_1

"And it's even more harmful now that you have 24/7 digital media hitting children through multiple platforms."

 You know what happened back in my day? Parents actually did their job of raising their children. There was no "stick the child in front of the TV so I can go and do what I need to do" it was do some chores, go out and play for a bit, then when that's done you can play some video games or watch some TV. It's THAT kind of balance that children these days are missing, and it's not because of the 24/7 media accessibility, it's the lazy-ass parenting.

And as far as the ratings systems go, rated M for mature games shouldn't be bought for children anyway. That's kind of obvious... You wouldn't allow your child to watch R-rated movies so I don't see why parents go out and buy these games for their kids. I imagine most of them think "it's just a game, what's the harm" then later on they're all like "oh, I can't believe the evil that my child has been playing" where if they had done their job in the first place they'd have not bought it. How can they then go and blame the industry for their own stupidity?  

/rant over

carolino
carolino

i knew that long ago.. can i work for FBI?

please ?

botsio
botsio

YEAH!THEY WERE GETTING ON MY NERVES!NOW SHE HAS PUMPED SOME SENSE INTO THE MINDS OF THE ACCUSERS!

cdog21
cdog21

"When you have a video game that allows a player to shoot a police officer, walk up to that police officer and urinate on him, douse him with gasoline and set him on fire, and listen to him scream as he burns to death."

What game was this?!

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

There must be something unique with Americans that separates them from the rest of the human species who play the exact same games but without the [supposed] real world violence.

johnnyauau
johnnyauau

I think the National Riflie Association thinks they're invincible due to politicians, both Democrats and Republicans (some), still pro-gun in terms of keeping guns at home, shooting criminals and as a self defense. They use fear that if the president take their guns away, we gonna vote him down or shoot him down.

Anyway, the link between violent games that make gamers violent is just a distraction. The second amendment is a double edge sword. As long as Americans keep the guns at home, the unpredictability may come if people are under stress or gets to the point where good citizens turn evil because of their love of guns and believe guns is there "freedom".

pvspartan36
pvspartan36

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Back up. The Parents Television Council didn't try to completely steamroll games in a statement? Am in some kind of weird alternate reality?

That being said, the ESRB does a damn fine job of rating games. If it's been said before it's been said a thousand times: it's the parents' or guardians' job to pay attention to not only the ratings but the content descriptions as well. But government well never man up and target them because the politicians will lose those adults' votes.

And as for that game they described: you put an M rating on that with a ton of violence descriptors. Maybe even an AO rating. Not that hard.

BlendThree
BlendThree

Finally, the government showing a little common sense. Let us hope this is the start of things to come!

anaccsa
anaccsa

@VenkmanPHD i agree with the whole "video games don't cause violence" point, but, just out of curiosity, how did you come to the conclusion that americans are violent because of their culture, but their media has nothing to do with it? What's media and what's culture to you?

VenkmanPHD
VenkmanPHD

@santinegrete Pft, it seems to be news to everyone I've explained the issue too. People are dumb, I wish more of them were super-violent and would attack other stupid people.

rock7568
rock7568

@Yamakoichi too bad morons like you dont know crap about the NRA. they dont teach kids to harm or kill animals for fun. maybe you should get out in the real world and away from your game console.

BigCat2K20
BigCat2K20

@Ayato_Kamina_1 I agree with everything you said. The type of balance (Chores, outdoor activity & entertainment)today's children need these days. But, some of parents forgot about that & they let entertainment raise them. Anytime ex FBI profiler has to say those things, that lets me know that some parents are just downright lazy.  Memo to some parents: do your job & stop letting the government raise your children.

saucex4
saucex4

@Ayato_Kamina_1 It's the problem with description of "video game". This is often thought of as something childish, and that only "kids do". So ratings often do not mean anything to parents that are not technologically proficient. 

I teach part time, and I always tell parents over and over, that you must stay ahead of your children when it comes to technology. This is the modern parents' responsibility. They have only themselves to blame if their children get their hands on content not rated for their age group.

pvspartan36
pvspartan36

@BlendThree Technically not the government, as she is a -former- FBI profiler. But it's nice to know that people outside the industry haven't labeled us as the spawn of Satan.

Gxgear
Gxgear

@yomonkey @Gxgear mad props to him for remembering a decade old game :D

cdog21
cdog21

@Jonno621

Seriously?! I remember hearing that it was took violence to a ridiculous level, but you can actually do all that?

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

@shenhua1337

As a non-American, I do believe America has a lot to be proud of. But I would like to believe most Americans aren't proud of violence within their country. Outside of their country, I think they have a lot to boaster about, but also some definite moments of despair and shame (namely in the 60's/70's).

flammable_zeus
flammable_zeus

@Gxgear Yeah you can get Postal 2 on Steam now. It's pretty terrible but it's worth a laugh.

fillup0
fillup0

No really, you can piss on command. I've played the game, but yeah.

shenhua1337
shenhua1337

@cdog21 @Jonno621 I'd assume you can do some of the things, like kill a cop or set him on fire. The rest was put together in good ol' sensationalist fashion. But it's just my thought, I haven't played Postal 2, just Postal 1 and it had none of these.

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

@modernsocks

You're too kind! 

As it is late here in Sydney, please forgive me, but I must seek the sleep I so desperately wanted all day.

I would love to keep the conversation alive, so check your inbox soon. 

Cheers! (:

modernsocks
modernsocks

@Devils-DIVISION @modernsocks Far be it from boring, I rather find myself lacking this level of stimulating conversation and I should hope to keep this going for as long as I can.

Despite religion having that reputation as 'the beast that refuses to die', I do believe it's ever so slowly becoming more of novelty. Atheism is at all-time high of twenty percent of the American populace, which is a significant increase just within my lifetime.

Right you are about appropriate conduct, however, my optimism dictates that in any given era there will always be a growing number of people who focus on progress, the most important of which, in my opinion, being the advance of science and the expansion of our reach beyond those stars which indeed do not dictate your character.

I'll chalk it up to being a woman, but, I am, whether for better or worse, a dreamer in that I so choose to believe that mankind will eventually learn to take responsibility for our choices and actions rather than thrust responsibility onto such inanimate objects, presumed entities, or other such nonsense.

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

@modernsocks

I believe some of the chains from the youth of our species can be shaken off, but I would argue some simply cannot be shaken off, and religion would be one of those those, which is why it still resonates today. I apologise if I've now added to the lack of offence giving that existed between us previously, but I believe that humans have a propensity towards social beliefs, than beliefs that are formed through reason. 

I'll speak for myself, but I for one am so made that I cannot believe, for instance, that the arbitrary position of celestial objects dictate my character at birth, etc. Perhaps this has some relevance to Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences--because it interests me that I can be so incapable of believing something that so many are entirely capable of believing.

That 'appropriate conduct' arena is unfortunately ruled by the somewhat solipsistic subjectivism of those who think everyone has an equal share to the truth. Thus, we go back to evolution and extermination, and I too share your views that history has shown that reason prevails... eventually. 

More to write, but I would rather not bore you, nor would I like to give people seizures when they see a wall of text.

modernsocks
modernsocks

@Devils-DIVISION @modernsocks At the rate of progress which I've observed both in and before my time, that of which has not been long yet, I quite optimistically believe that, as we shake loose the bonds of our youth as a species, that is our misconceptions of the world we live in and how to appropriately conduct ourselves therein, our maturation into a people that doesn't concern itself with trivialities is likely soon after what I hope is a brief period of trial and error.

Devils-DIVISION
Devils-DIVISION

@modernsocks

You and I are in total agreement, sir/mam!

I like your resoluteness and optimism. It sounds like a future an admired Sagan never lived to see, and one I hope I get to see. Time passes by quicker than the process of transition; I just hope we don't need to wait to long for your wishes to come true.

In any case, I'm sure you don't need my approval--but I'm keeping my fingers crossed too. (:

Cheers!

modernsocks
modernsocks

@Devils-DIVISION @modernsocks Hehe, yes, an entirely unnecessary breed. We're still trying to work out the kinks in a system we'll likely just have to replace so many decades from now, but, if time heals all wounds let's hope that includes political and pseudo-moral wounds; ignorance and the like. Barring that, fingers crossed for evolution or extinction to take swift course.