The Post-Mortem on the APA’s Dead-On-Arrival Policy Statement On Video Games

Back in August the American Psychological Association (APA) released a new policy statement on video games in which they acknowledged video game violence can’t be linked to violent crimes, but asserted that such games provoke milder acts of aggression. I held off commenting on this policy statement, curious to see what reaction it would get from the press.

Initially, the policy statement got picked up by the gamer press which, predictably, was rather skeptical. Then followed a small flurry of page-6 regurgitations of the APA’s press release in newspapers. Very soon after, however, news organizations such as BBC, CNN, SkyNews and Newsweek that took a deeper look at the policy statement largely turned negative against the APA. There were concerns that many members of the task force that produced the policy report had potential conflicts of interest. And there were considerable methodological flaws with the meta-analysis (a statistical summary of previous studies) the task force had conducted.

Indeed the narrative soon became less to do with problems with video games and more to do with problems with the APA itself. Arguably, this was not the kind of press the APA needed for an organization recently identified as having colluded in torturous interrogations of detainees in the war on terror. What went wrong?

First, the APA created the appearance that they had “stacked” the task force with members with strong anti-game opinions. Two of the members had signed an anti-game amicus brief supporting the regulation of violent video games during a Supreme Court case back in 2010. One member had signed another public statement linking games to societal violence, and a fourth had published research articles —> Read More