Scholars Ask US Psychologists to Stop Demonising Video Games

A recent study by the American Psychological Association suggests that there is a connection between video game violence and real-world violence. The inflammatorily-named “Task Force on Violent Media” paper, released by the APA, states:

“The research demonstrates a consistent relation between violent video game use and increases in aggressive behaviour, aggressive cognitions and aggressive affect, and decreases in pro-social behaviour, empathy and sensitivity to aggression.”

The APA, however, has a sordid history of attacking video games, and by using less than scientific methods to facilitate its smears. Thankfully, a group of 230 academics have been paying attention, and have written an open letter to the APA asking it to stop its biased attacks on video games, calling its accusations “misleading and alarmist”.

The letter accuses the APA of cherrypicking data to support its pre-existing position, a trick that is not only unethical but fundamentally unscientific:

“The entire article of studies absolutely ignores all the contrary studies – something that seems wildly ethically unsound. It’s certainly relevant to gather together studies on the subject, but such selective choosing implies something else is afoot.”

Amongst the ‘papers’ cited by the APA study, very few were related to its conclusion, while one wasn’t even a scientific paper but rather a parents’ guide to Christmas shopping for their kids. The objecting scholars also attack a 2005 paper published by the APA, entitled “Resolution on Violence in Video Games and Interactive Media”, which served as a jumping off point for “Task Force on Violent Media”:

“We express the concern that the APA’s previous (2005) policy statement delineated several strong conclusions on the basis of inconsistent or weak evidence. Research subsequent to that 2005 statement has provided even stronger evidence that some of the assertions in it cannot be supported.”

The letter, though polite and non-confrontational (the writers don’t play video games, obviously), absolutely owns the APA, exposing its bias, poor science, and unethical behaviour, and all without writing a paper called “Being a Member of the American Psychological Association Makes People Lie”.

Thank you Rock, Paper, Shotgun for providing us with this information.

Image courtesy of GameSkinny.

Wozniak, Hawking, and Musk Warn Military Against Using Artificial Intelligence

A cabal of over 1,000 experts in the field of computing, engineering, artificial intelligence, and even prominent officers in the US Army, have signed an open letter, hosted by the Future of Life Institute, imploring the military to deprioritise its implementation of artificial intelligence. The signatories of the letter, entitled Research Priorities for Robust and Beneficial Artificial Intelligence, believe that “intelligent agents,” or “systems that perceive and act in some environment,” are not yet compatible with current AI technology, and that the social benefits of AI should be examined and tested further before military use is explored.

As the letter puts it:

The progress in AI research makes it timely to focus research not only on making AI more capable, but also on maximizing the societal benefit of AI. Such considerations motivated the AAAI 2008-09 Presidential Panel on Long-Term AI Futures and other projects on AI impacts, and constitute a significant expansion of the field of AI itself, which up to now has focused largely on techniques that are neutral with respect to purpose. We recommend expanded research aimed at ensuring that increasingly capable AI systems are robust and beneficial: our AI systems must do what we want them to do. The attached research priorities document gives many examples of such research directions that can help maximize the societal benefit of AI. This research is by necessity interdisciplinary, because it involves both society and AI. It ranges from economics, law and philosophy to computer security, formal methods and, of course, various branches of AI itself.

Amongst the signatories are Professor Stephen Hawking, Tesla and SpaceX entrepreneur Elon Musk, and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, all of whom have voiced concerns over artificial intelligence in recent months, plus prominent members of Google’s DeepMind team. Notably absent is Ray Kurzweil, Director of Engineering at Google, who has predicted that the human brain will merge with computers by 2030.

Image courtesy of NYU.

Angry employee’s open letter to EA over SimCity’s series of server bloopers

EA recently put up an apology for problems that many players are facing in SimCity so far, saying that the only reason this is happening is because a lot more people logged in than they initially expected in comparison during BETA, admitting that its a mistake from their end. To dull the pain, EA is offering its SimCity players a free PC downloadable game within EA’ stable. These games will be available to be downloaded on March 18th as they’ll send an email to its players giving them instructions on how to redeem their free game.

But recently, an EA employee with username “DissappointedEA” has expressed his anger via an open letter towards EA management in Reddit, which is now being deleted. Forbes and some redditors who claim to be working for EA as well were able to confirm that the person who posted the open letter is an artist at EARS as he provided an email from EA Executive Vice President and Chief Talent Office Gabrielle Toledano to address about International Women’s day.

The employee mentioned in the open letter that EA should have patched the game to allow offline play and accuses the company that it lacks integrity, shrugs off accountability and brought down itself as an anti consumer, all of which goes against EA’s own official list of company values mentioned under their “About Us” site.

This is the copy of the now-deleted open letter:

“To the executives at EA, from one of your employees

I am deeply embarrassed by the troubled launch of Sim City and I hope you are too. When I walk around our campus and look at the kind of talent we’ve collected, the amenities we have access to and the opportunities working at such a big company affords us, I can’t imagine how for release after release, EA continues to make the same embarrassing, anti-consumer mistakes. We should be better than this. You should not be failing us so badly.

Another thing I see when I walk around our campus are massive banners that display what are said to be our company values. They are on posters on every floor, included in company-wide emails and hanging above the cafeteria in bright colors. You even print them on our coffee mugs so we see them every day. But somehow when planning the launch of Sim City, you threw them all out the window.
Most important of the values you are ignoring is Think Consumers First. What part of the Sim City DRM scheme, which has rendered the game unplayable for hundreds of thousands of fans across the globe, demonstrates that you are thinking about consumers before you are thinking about yourselves? Does “first” mean something different in boardrooms than it does to the rest of us? Does the meaning of that word change when you get the word “executive” in front of your title?

You can’t even pretend that you didn’t know consumers would be angry about this. Common sense aside, consumers complained about this during your public betas. In fact, when one of them posted his criticisms on the forums, he was banned! You tried to silence your critics. The same thing is happening now as users write in to demand refunds. What part of this behavior aligns with our company value to Be Accountable?

What you’ve demonstrated with this launch is that our corporate management does not believe in our core values. They are for the unwashed masses, not for the important people who forced this anti-consumer DRM onto the Sim City team. This DRM scheme is not about the consumers or even about piracy. It’s about covering your own asses. It allows you to hand-wave weak sales or bad reviews and blame outside factors like pirates or server failures in the event the game struggles. You are protecting your own jobs at the expense of consumers. I think this violates the Act With Integrity value I’m looking at on my own coffee mug right now.

On behalf of your other employees, I’d like to ask you to fix this. Allow the Sim City team to patch the game to run offline. If Create Quality and Innovation is still a core value that you believe in, then this shouldn’t be a hard decision. Games that gamers can’t play because of server overload or ISP issues are NOT quality. Be Bold by giving the consumers what they want and take accountability for the mistake.
Finally I’d like to ask you to follow the last company value on the list in the future: Learn and Grow. When you made this mistake with Spore, the company and all your employees suffered for it. You didn’t learn from that mistake and you are making it again with Sim City.

So please, learn from this debacle. Don’t do this again. Grow into better leaders and actually apply our company values when you make decisions. Don’t just use them as tools to motivate your staff. With the money, talent and intellectual property available to EA, we should be leading the industry into a golden age of consumer-focused game publishing. Instead we’re the most reviled game publisher in the world. That’s your fault. Things can only change if you actually start following the company values and apply them to every title we launch.

A Disappointed But Hopeful Artist at EARS”

Possibility exists that this employee won’t be nameless for a long, considering that both EA management and the internet would love to track down and identify him. However, it goes without saying that EA will have to brace themselves for another epic PR nightmare if they are successful to find the identity of this employee and fired him/her.

In any case, hopefully this disaster will teach EA or any publishers on how not to release a game.