Oh Great, A Current Affair Has Discovered Fortnite

Fortnite might not have been the first battle royale game to get large, but it’s quickly becoming one of those games that becomes part of the mainstream conversation around games. Unfortunately, that sometimes means exposure of the wrong kind. Enter stage right: A Current Affair.

“The latest video game craze is violent, addictive and free, and the kids love it,” ACA advertised, promoting their story into Fortnite with this image:

A program into Fortnite aired this week, although unsurprisingly it focused less on the game and more the minors playing. “Some of my friends can’t actually get games like these,” one kid said on the program, adding “their parents just think it’s not very good”.

Described as a Hunger Games-style game with a “deadly, serious premise”, ACA’s program warns that children as young as 9 are playing Epic’s battle royale epic.

After a quick cameo from former Kotaku managing editor Seamus Byrne talking about “stranger danger” issues and classification, a child and adolescent psychiatrist specialising in gaming warned – with no prior context – that “they can actually show higher rates of aggression themselves”.

“There are many risks involved in playing violent video games,” Dr Philip Tam says. He’s quoted on the 9News website as advocating a “sensible, calm collaborative approach” to limiting children’s screen time though, an common approach echoed by other medical professionals.

It’s the kind of story we’ve seen in the media for a couple of decades: new video game gets hugely popular, A Current Affair comes out about the “potential dangers” facing children. The show aired similar concerns at the height of the Pokemon GO craze with lines like “family warning” and “Pokemon Panic”.

Obviously: don’t play games to excess. Doing anything to excess puts your well-being at risk in all manner of factors, and gaming isn’t excluded from that. But announcing giant warnings about “higher rates of aggression” without referencing anything doesn’t help. Just ask the American Psychological Association: last year they published a statement asking that media and politicians stop linking mass shooting to video games due to a lack of evidence.

Correlational and longitudinal studies of youth suggest that violent video game exposure does not meaningfully predict youth physical aggression or violent crime (DeCamp, 2015; Przybylski & Mishkin, 2016; Surette & Maze, 2015; Ybarra et al., 2008). Some research has suggested that youth with more aggressive personalities may seek out violent games; however, violent games do not increase assaultive behavior among such youth (Breuer et al., 2015).

Further, little clear evidence has emerged that youth identified as “at risk” due to elevated mental health symptoms are influenced to become more aggressive due to exposure to violent video games (Ferguson & Olson, 2014; Engelhardt et al., 2015.)

Further, evidence from societal data examining video game violence use has yet to document that such use is predictive of violent crime (Ferguson, 2015b; Cunningham et al., 2016; Markey, Markey & French, 2015). Similar absence of predictive relationships has been observed for violent movies (Dahl & DellaVigna, 2009; Markey, French & Markey, 2015.)

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