Grand Theft Childhood


This is going to be very, very interesting. In  2004, Dr Lawrence Kutner and Dr Cheryl K. Olson (interview here), co-founders and directors of the Harvard Medical School Center for Mental Health and Media, began a $1.5 million study funded by the U.S. Department of Justice on the effects of video games on young teenagers. In contrast to previous research, they studied real children and families in real situations. And now they have written a book about their findings.

This book just talks about the same common sense attitude towards gaming that you have found on this forum. However it flies in the face of the hysteria that we keep hearing from a litany of ignorant self publicists.

Published by Simon & Shuster on April 15 this book will change our industry forever. Here are some of it’s findings:

Video game popularity and real-world youth violence have been moving in opposite directions. Violent juvenile crime in the United States reached a peak in 1993 and has been declining ever since. School violence has also gone down. Between 1994 and 2001, arrests for murder, forcible rape, robbery and aggravated assaults fell 44 percent, resulting in the lowest juvenile arrest rate for violent crimes since 1983. Murder arrests, which reached a high of 3,800 in 1993, plummeted to 1400 by 2001.

Well that’s one in the eye for Gordon Brown (who has said that video games cause knife crime) and all the other idiots who don’t understand video games and so blame them for all the ills of the world.

The U. S. Secret Service intensely studied each of the 37 non-gang and non-drug-related school shootings and stabbings that were considered “targeted attacks” that took place nationally from 1974 through 2000. (Note how few premeditated school shootings there actually were during that 27-year time period, compared with the public perception of those shootings as relatively common events!) The incidents studied included the most notorious school shootings, such as Columbine, Santee and Paducah, in which the young perpetrators had been linked in the press to violent video games. The Secret Service found that that there was no accurate profile. Only 1 in 8 school shooters showed any interest in violent video games; only 1 in 4 liked violent movies.

That totally debunks “School Shooting Expert” and misinformed anti game campaigner Jack Thompson. Is he now going to apologise for misleading the American public?

Academic research on video games and kids has typically focused on games played in isolation. Yet for many young teens in our surveys and focus groups, friendship was a major factor in their video game play. Forty percent of middle-school boys and almost a third of girls agreed that one attraction of video games is that “my friends like to play.” Roughly one-third of both boys and girls said that they enjoyed teaching others how to play video games. 
According to Bill, another parent, “Most of the interaction my son has with his buddies is about solving situations within a game. It’s all about how do you go from this place to that place, or collect the certain things that you need, and combine them in ways that are going to help you to succeed.”
Wendy saw a similar pattern with her son: “Jody and Alex talk constantly in the car and everywhere else about the games and the characters, so it’s part of their friendship, part of what they do and what they like to play…. And they give each other help sometimes when they get to different levels.”

Which disproves Prince Charles and all those who have portrayed gaming as an anti social solitary activity.

The book covers many other key issues such as sex in video games and the effect of games on children’s development. And it comes down repeatedly against the ignorant doom mongering politicians and journalists who use the public stage to spout their ignorance. People like Hillary Clinton and Keith Vaz.

Also you would assume that the Tanya Byron review has now totally had the rug pulled from under it. If ELSPA have any sense they will buy a copy of this book for every member of the House of Commons and for every newspaper editor (especially the Daily Mail) in the country. There really is no more excuse for people getting on a soapbox and spouting idiocy about Video Games. Because now, for the first time, we have a credible, properly researched academic study that explains what the realities are.

Pre order this book from Amazon. I have. If you are an industry professional it is the most important book on gaming. It will change gaming forever because the industry will henceforth be far less nervous about tackling difficult issues within games which up to now would have attracted ignorant hysteria from the obvious suspects. Gaming content will change to be far closer to that of books and films. This change will enormously enhance the emotional engagement that is possible within a game to allow a wider range of genres. And will bring about games that appeal to an even wider audience. Ultimately this book will add billions to the annual revenue of the video game industry.



  1. Reaffirms what I have always believed: Kids are smart. Provided some parental guidance and discretion video games can actually be beneficial to young people. If there were adequate educational softwares available we may even find them to be incredibly educational. Programmers may end up shaping the future more than they realize. Woot!

  2. I have said it before, and I will say it again: if Jack Thompson can prove beyond a single doubt in my mind that violent video games will most likely lead to violence in general, I will go onto Fox news with him and say to the world how Jesus himself taught us to hate video games.

  3. There are times when I hate being right… and this is not one of those times. Finally a victory for common sense.

    A sorely needed one, I might add.

  4. Interesting, I wonder if you have read Dr. Craig Anderson’s latest book: “Violent Video Game Effects on Children and Adolescents: Theory, Research, and Public Policy”. I wonder the contrasts between the two books.

  5. i am a hardcore gamer and do to my strong hold on games. i have not seen a difference in the mind of me and my friend to follow gaming violence. i believe that you people have no write to take one side of this argument. which i believe makes grand theft childhood a great book and argument cause it looks at both sides of the argument in sted of just one.

  6. my appologies to all if this turns out to be a long post..but here goes ( i’ll try to keep it brief)

    what computer games mean to me… a (brief) history.

    i’m a 40 year old male and a single dad , living in the UK.

    i was born in 1968 before the advent of computer games , and my first experience of them was at aprox 7 years old when i first discovered “space invaders” in a holiday camp arcade ,
    ( it was in england on the south coast, and ofc it rained for most of the week we were there.)

    and i was hooked , as where many kids of that day.

    i kept my room clean for 3 solid months before my 8th or 9th birthday so i could have an Atari 2600 when it launched in the UK for my birthday.
    and i was allowed to play when my chores and homework was done

    i held down 2 paper-rounds and a 1 evening a week cleaning job ( with my uncle ray) at aprox 15 years old so i could buy myself a Sinclair 48K spectrum to play with.
    to all intents and purposes it taught me one great lesson in life.

    if you want something, get off your backside and work for it.
    an ethic and ethos i carry with me to this day.

    early “type in the directions/ actions” role playing games brought to me the love of all forms of role playing games, i still have my first edition “dungeons and dragons” books on my bookshelf.
    so we used to role play in school, and it increased my circle of friends.

    i used to play war games, and through that i developed and increased my love of military history, something i still study avidly to this day.

    i used to work as a counter clerk for the post office, and during the “dole-office” strikes of the late 80’s when people were banging on the glass screen and screaming for their money at me all day long ( i was in the wembley P.O. and it was a run down inner city type of area in London)
    and computer games would help me unwind after a rather stressed day at work.

    i never fancied car racing games much, but konami ( i think) released a motorcycle racing game that i enjoyed immencely…whether this is responcible for me buying a motorbike / or if it was a responce to the “less than wonderfull” option of public transport is subjective, but in due course i became a voluntary motorcycle instructor for my local council for 2 nights a week for a couple of years (until i had my accident)

    the love of history, and the love of roleplaying games gelled together when i met a bunch of role players from the slough area circa 1989, and they introduced me to the rather fun world of re-enactment, and i bacame a “dark age saxon”…(then a viking, as they had nicer kit) a hobby (and a lifestyle)
    that would see me doing “school shows” – to help educate children – part of the key stage 3 in history sylabus, give me weekends away in nice places , and in the due course of time , some very nice AND FREE holidays all over Europe, to entertain and inform the public.
    the ( for want of better words) melee combat training, brought me a much greater sence of self-disipline , and with it , a sence of self worth, (and again,a greatly expanded circle of friends)
    it was these friends, training, and underlying belief in myself that was the only things that helped me to “keep it together” after the breakup with my ex-partner, when i thought i’d never see my kids again, without it i may very well have ended up as a suicide statistic. (my own dad passed away when i was 3 1/2 years old, and the thought of losing my kids and possibly never seeing them again drove me close to utter despair)

    Then i went back to university at 28, games were both relaxation and a way to socialize with the other lads on my course,plus sometimes ideas come easier when your not actively thinking about them (kind of like when people decide to ” sleep ” on a decision
    when 1/2 way though the course i had an 18 month court case to fight( i’m not willing to divulge information about this on an open forum) to regain custody of my children , gaming again became a major part of my ” need to de-stress” routine.
    again , the friends, melee training and sence of self dignity , kept me on course , and stopped me from going off the rails, and in due course i gained full custody of my children

    now-a-days , gaming is both
    a reward for good behavior for my kids,
    and also a great tool for bonding with them…
    i never lose on purpose, but their hand/eye co-ordination and their fast thinking mean i still lose a fare amount of the time, who knows , maybe i’m getting old 😛
    a good social networking tool for me. I’ve been playing MMO’s (mass multiplayer online role playing games) since 2001
    ( i just missed “UO”) and back in the day when i had no money to socialize, no babysitter so i could go out, and a reduced circle of friends since i wa to an extent “cut off” from the average “lets go down the pub” social life, it kept me in contact with the outside world.’s come, to an extent, full circle…..i now “reward” myself with “game time” for getting the washing , and washing up done, and doing all my house chores done.

    surreally it’s like being 8 years old again, … only with greying hair , and a larger “beer belly”.

    and my appologies to all for the length of this article and any typo’s it may contain, and for those who read it through , my thanks.



  7. needless to say … i’ve never stabbed anyone with a knife.

    but then , it’s easier to blame the games if your a politico,
    rather than the run down urban areas of housing, the rampant rise of commersialism/materialism , lack of jobs, etc etc etc…..
    that politicians are supposed to look after as polititians

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