Don't Blame Call Of Duty For Teenage Suicide

A British coroner has sparked anxiety among parents by linking Call of Duty, one of the most popular video games in the world, to teenage suicide.

John Pollard says Call of Duty has "figured in recent activity before death" in three or four of his inquests and that parents should not let their children play the 18-rated game.

Teenage suicide is a tragedy for any family and those affected will naturally want reasons why their loved ones have taken their own lives. There are hundreds of scientific studies on suicide and many risk factors have been identified, including psychological, environmental and genetic or biological factors. Conditions such as mental illness and substance abuse can also heighten the risk.

There have been very few studies examining the relationship between suicide and videogame playing and those that have don't necessarily implicate the games as triggers.

A 2011 US study of 30,000 teenagers reported that those who spent more than five or more hours a day playing video games were slightly more likely to have thought about suicide. A similar finding was also reported in a large national German study of more than 15,000 teenagers in 2010.

But these studies highlight a correlation -- not causation. No study published on this matter has demonstrated causality. They have only been able to show, at best, that there may be an associative link among those that play excessively every day.

One of the major problems with research in this area is that studies typically fail to take into account all the other types of suicide and violence that people are exposed to on a day-to-day basis. That includes suicide and violence on the news, in films and television and the suicide and violence people witness in their own lives and local community.

What's more, academic journals tend to only publish studies that show statistically significant findings. That means they are more likely to publish a study that suggests a link between playing video games and subsequent suicide or aggression rather than those that do not.

While there's a growing body of research (particularly in the US) claiming a link between violent video games and behaviour, most of it doesn't follow players over long periods of time.

Much of the research has also been experimental and carried out in non-ecologically valid settings, such as in the laboratory. In fact, all of the measures used to assess "aggression" are proxy measures that are not related to actual violent actions because it is unethical to try and induce actual anti-social and violent acts within a research experiment.

As a result, I don't think any scientific research shows a proven link between videogame playing and subsequent suicidal or violent behaviour (and certainly none showing the link between gaming and suicide).

The press is currently referring to four teenage suicides in particular in the wake of Pollard's comments. All four teens are alleged to have played Call of Duty but there is nothing in the reports suggesting causation.

However, if the papers are to be believed, all four teenagers were excessive game players. My own research has shown that excessive (and particularly addicted) videogame players often play excessively as a way of escaping other negative aspects of their lives. If excessive gaming is symptomatic of other underlying emotional, family or social problems, I wouldn't be surprised to find increased levels of suicide among this group because they are already experiencing negative problems to begin with.

The teenagers may have had an inherent trait towards playing violent videogames that meant they sought out games such as Call of Duty. Videogames may have had an influence in informing how they might have done something or given them ideas but they are highly unlikely to be the root cause of suicide. If I played Call of Duty all day, every day, I really don't think it would heighten the risk of me becoming suicidal.

I must have watched and read about thousands of suicidal events (both fictional and real) and I have played violent videogames -- but it hasn't changed my behaviour in any way (at least I don't think it has). Saying that, I'm a father to three screenagers and I don't let them play violent videogames. Just because I don't personally think the evidence shows there's a link, that doesn't mean there isn't any effect. It's that science has failed to demonstrate a conclusive cause.

This is not about putting the blame on the game. At best, playing videogames like Call of Duty might be a minor contributory factor to suicide. But it shouldn't be a scapegoat.The Conversation

Anyone seeking support and information about suicide prevention is urged to contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467.

Mark Griffiths is Director of the International Gaming Research Unit and Professor of Gambling Studies at Nottingham Trent University. He has received research funding from a wide range of organizations including the Economic and Social Research Council, the British Academy and the Responsibility in Gambling Trust. He has also carried out consultancy for numerous gaming companies in the area of social responsibility and responsible gaming.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Picture: campuspartymexico


Comments

    Its a bit like saying 95% of all teen suicides eat lunch.

    Therefor you should stop eating lunch and the suicide rates will go down

      Death rates may go up as a result, but at least they won't be suicides!

      The problem is 90% of Male Teenagers play CoD, I suppose I was safe I when was a teenager with Wolfenstein, Doom, Duke Nukem 3D and Quake which of course are all much safer than CoD for ______ Reasons.

        Yep, it's that old A Current Affair reliance of 'correlation = causation' rearing its ugly head again.

          Did you see the one where an young kid was getting depressed he kept getting murdered in the R18+ Rust? No asking the Parents WTF it's R18+ but talking about how bad Video Games are of course.

          Edit: Didn't realise Rust has no rating but does have an Age gate on Steam so I still say the Maker thinks it's Adults Only.

          Last edited 02/06/14 1:40 am

      Haven't you heard? 100% of suicides have consumed the chemical dihydrogen monoxide.

    I don't think its what these people are doing/ getting that's necessarily the problem. I think it's what they are not doing/ getting. Whatever that may be.

    If you are in a position where you would want to take your own life, you must be feeling an emptiness or like you don't have something and that makes life not worth living right?

    I am no expert, but I am worried that people try too hard to pass the blame to 'brainwashing' instead of dealing with the problem that the youth seem to have less and less to live for.

    Same deal with all the shootings I suppose. But thats just my 2 cents, like I say, I'm no doctor or anything.

    Last edited 01/06/14 1:36 pm

      I think more than anything, we just live in an age where denial of responsibility is such a massive thing that it comes before rationality. A good example of this are the trivial law suites that happen in the states, its like nobody is willing to admit they were wrong are messed up and its much easier to point the finger at something or someone else (especially if the people in charge have no interest in defending said object).

      THIS JUST IN... THE MONKIES HAVE TAKEN OVER.

    I think its a bit stupid to make the correlation. I found that video games really helped me when I was having mental health issues. It provides a temporary escape from the monotony.

      Same here. As a teenager I suffered from depression, and video games were a temporary escape to my problems. For a few hours I didn't have to think about life, just concentrate on whatever I was playing. I was lucky. I got better and didn't end up as a statistic for someone to use against something they don't understand while ignoring something else they clearly also don't understand. Excessive gaming isn't the cause but a symptom, and so-called "experts" need to understand that.

      It provides a temporary escape from the monotony.

      I think the problem, if there even is one, is that video games do too good a job of that. It's really easy to cut yourself off from the world and avoid dealing with problems until you reach an absolute breaking point. Online games where you can just keep playing forever like MMOs and multiplayer FPS games in particular provide a 24-7 place to hide.
      When abused it can be as effective at numbing your problems as drugs and alcohol, only with games your family won't intervene, you won't get arrested and you have to go to sleep sober. I could definitely see someone playing Call of Duty all night, deciding to go to bed at 3AM, then crashing back to reality with nobody around to talk to.

        It's really easy to cut yourself off from the world and avoid dealing with problems until you reach an absolute breaking point.

        ABSOLUTELY! The problem remains. Gaming, like alcohol or drugs, just lets you put a "stopper" on the bottle for a little while longer. Anyone having problems dealing with mental health issues .... FOR GOD'S SAKE, see someone about it. Gaming is not the answer. It's just a distraction from dealing with the real issue.

        Last edited 02/06/14 12:15 pm

    It's not suicide. It's just that "mistakes were made".

    It seems to me that the problem with this accusation is xenophobia. Those who oppose video games commonly did not grow up with them.

    Take the recent shooting in the US. People blamed video games because the shooter played World of Warcraft, and in his YouTube video detailing his plans of revenge, quoted the game's antagonist (most likely echolalia due to his Asperger's).

    If actual homework were done, it was quite obvious that had an inferiority complex because of his virginity, and assumption of it being due to his mixed race and mental condition, which then led him to "hate humanity" and desire revenge.

    So, while correlation of video games could in fact be linked to suicide, as the author has said, it does not equal the direct cause.

      Yeah. The need to find a scapegoat, in this case gaming (Or any general claim of brainwashing or influence etc.) instead of the actual emotional cause.

      In the case you mentioned, the massive emphasis society puts on peoples image and of course the extreme negative connotation, especially in schools/ universities in the states, towards virginity.

      It's a social disorder that should be fixed, but instead they are blaming something with a bias (They like, for instance, to blame gaming but not other forms of violent media.) while more and more people take their lives and the lives of others because of the ridiculous amount of value placed on social image (Be that due to marketing to sell products to 'boost' self esteem or bullying) and of course the access to guns (and the borderline 'obsession' with them) in the states.)

      Makes me sad that the, supposedly, educated people cannot see past their own xenophobia/ bias (In this case towards gaming) and hence are not helping anyone, but are in fact pushing people into FURTHER isolation. Ironic.

      Last edited 01/06/14 4:21 pm

    100,000,000+ copies of COD sold; lots of are people playing it. Chances are, out of the many in suicides any given week, that a handful played COD that same day.

    I'm not gonna lie, in the past I had some time where I was really down and things were hard for me. It wasn't because of games. Games fucking helped me. They kept me occupied so I didn't think about offing myself. I don't mean it like that, when I wasn't gaming I wanted to kill myself. I only ever felt like that once and that was when i was at my lowest. Gaming kept my brain focused on other things. It didn't matter what game I played whether it was CoD or even Minecraft. I am not saying GAMING SAVED MY LIFE. I am saying it sure as hell did help me.

    Now I have been a gamer all my life and while you could say that is why I got depressed and blah blah but no. It was other reasons. To say games like CoD causes teens to go out and shoot people or even commit suicide is dumb. Sure those things might happen but they happen because those people are mentally unstable. I sure as hell didn't have the urge to go murder people when I was down. That was years ago and as of now. I am completely fine. I didn't feel to comfortable sharing this but. I thought people should know that this.

    Also what the fuck are ratings even used for on games anymore. No parent seems to care about it and they wonder why there kids act like little shits and swear when they are handing it to them.

    "John Pollard says Call of Duty has “figured in recent activity before death” in three or four of his inquests and that parents should not let their children play the 18-rated game."

    It says right there that the game is 18 rated... maybe, just maybe, the rating is there for a reason.

    Y'know, I'm just saying.

    I don't believe that games are related to suicide... but I do believe that some parents should exercise some damn restraint.

      Same goes for any media IMO.

      Content made for mature audiences is just that and theres no reason my 12 year old cousin should be playing GTA and CoD. But he does and ironically his mother tells him he can't play Infamous 2 because Nix is dressed all skimpy.

      I don't think it's that the parents don't care. I think it's that they buy the whole: "But I can make the game age appropriate by turning off gore." Which was my cousins argument, which frankly doesn't change the type of interactions happening on screen, just the amount of blood.

      Not to mention the peer pressure to play those games because CoD and Assassins Creed are cool. He's 12 and Assassins Creed 3 (not the 'more fun, less serious' ones... Assassins Creed 3!) is his favourite game just because his friends say so, because they have bought into the marketing I suppose? IDK. I'm no psychiatrist but damn it Ratings are there for a reason!

    A video game never caused anyone to commit suicide directly. It might be possible for someone to be "tipped over" the edge due to events in a game, but it's not the game itself that's responsible. For example, if someone got into a fight with their friends and broke off contact with them in an MMO and later commits suicide because they feel loneliness - that's not the game, that's the fact that he or she feels lonely.

    If someone killed themselves due to a game, or events in a game, then they must have been in a pretty precarious situation already. Games have never, EVER caused someone to go from fine to suicidal - how could they? How could a game like COD ever cause anyone to kill themselves? Those games are power-fantasies, not sad or depressing works of fiction.

    The fact that children who play more than 5 hours of video games a day think about suicide is not an indictment of video games. It's an indictment of their life. People who excessively play games usually do so because they are socially isolated and games are a good way to escape thinking about said isolation. Rather than blame the game, we should think: "Why are these kids playing 5+ hours of video games every single day?"

    It sounds to me like a clear case of DHMO poisoning. People exposed to DHMO have been found to do all sorts of terrible things. Hitler was exposed frequently.

    In other news: In a group of people who engage in a particular activity frequently, many people were found to have engaged in that activity shortly in the day before they died.

    Parents are advised to prevent their children from going to the toilet at all costs.

    I would ask why this story even makes the news. Sadly I think we all know; journalists appreciate the opportunity to create a meaningless story with a semblance of fact that they know somebody will pay for. Rather indirectly, this is probably something for which we *can* blame the Internet.

    Last edited 02/06/14 2:43 am

    You know, I wonder what the next public scapegoat will be after video games. Virtual reality, surely? Maybe it'll be smart watches. Or maybe it'll be asparagus. Those damn vegetables are turning teenagers into reckless hooligans!

    Well written rebuttal - can a copy be sent to every newsroom. MSM love to hype up correlations as causation because it makes good headlines.

    I think its more a case that if people are depressed. Gaming is probably one of their coping mechanisms/way to escape.

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