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Video games make you fat and depressed! Right? Wrong... Probably.

Do video games make us fat? I dunno - but the CDC certainly don't know either. Sitting on your arse all day probably does though.

Article written by Jack Charles Adams [jack]
Published in Gaming at 00:00 on Saturday, 5th September 2009

A previous anti-gaming poster campaign by the CDC - ''In the interests of a healthy America.''

A previous anti-gaming poster campaign by the CDC - ''In the interests of a healthy America.''

A team from the United States' CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recently conducted a study - to be published in the October 2009 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine - that reckons that those that play video games are fatter, more depressed and more reliant on the internet than those that don't.

Like its slothful depiction of video gamers, however, it was a half-arsed study with lazy conclusions that weren't put into any meaningful context. I can conduct a study right now that will prove that this CDC study is faulted and that the team in charge of it don't know how to conduct proper studies and/or conclude logical results from their studies.

Firstly, the research was conducted in the Seattle-Tacoma area "because its internet usage level is the highest within the US." Though the logic in this isn't expressly stated (either in the study or by the BBC's coverage), it is inferred that they see a correlation between internet usage (and subsequently media uptake) and video gaming. Given the close ties between the video games and the internet (the latter being the largest growing and soon potentially dominant platform for the former), this is an understandable link, but if you're trying to draw conclusions from a study that should be relevant to the nation as a whole, it's a pretty fundamental that you choose a sample of people that are representative of the nation as a whole. By choosing the area richest in internet users - and not an area with a more average internet usage level that is typical of the entire nation - you're immediately adding one big caveat to any of you're findings before you've begun. Not that the CDC would acknowledge this, mind.

More anti-gaming propaganda from the CDC - Looking at the state of those cars and the ''play for real'' slogan, it's all I can do not to accuse the CDC of asking gamers to die in horrible car crashes.

More anti-gaming propaganda from the CDC - Looking at the state of those cars and the ''play for real'' slogan, it's all I can do not to accuse the CDC of asking gamers to die in horrible car crashes.

Straight away, this explains the study's conclusion that the average video gamer is "older than first thought." Internet usage is inherently dependent on the latest of technologies, and as is typical with technology the majority of adopters fall within the 'young adult' age group: most of those who aren't on the web fall into the older age groups. Though of course we do not know if the average age of internet users in Seattle-Tacoma is higher than that of other US regions, given that the largest capacity for increased internet users falls within the older age groups, it is likely that this area is home to some of the older internet users. And as aforementioned, those familiar with the 'net will be more familiar with games and thus more likely to be gamers.

Despite the rather basic faults of the study, it goes on to find that gamers are "less healthy, fatter, and more depressed than non-gamers." Now, despite the fact that these findings are already rendered invalid by their faulty base, I'm not going to deny that with a proper study on a proper sample (conducted by at least half-competent people) this could well prove true. But the sheer lack of perspective offered by the study (and delightfully ignored by any of those idiots pushing the anti-gaming agenda) is quite startling.

Video games have long been associated with pretty grim lives.

Video games have long been associated with pretty grim lives.

First and foremost, the study abstains from discussing the causality issue. While it may be true, for example, that female gamers are more depressed and less healthy than female non-gamers, the study cannot prove that gaming causes this lack of health and happiness. Though lazy journalists with a rather overt, integrity-compromising agenda may happily infer that this is the case, there is no evidence to suggest that it's true. People who take insulin injections are more likely to have diabetes - does this mean that insulin injections cause diabetes? Of course not - that female gamers may be "less healthy" could be entirely irrespective of their gaming habits as there's no evidence that gaming would cause a weakened immune system, or indeed anything else that might constitute "less health." Perhaps those who are less healthy are less able to partake in other hobbies, and therefore turn to the welcoming world of video games with their relative ease of accessibility? Either way, the evidence isn't clear.

As for female gamers being more depressed than their non-gaming counterparts, well - I'd be surprised that the CDC didn't use logic to explain this one if it wasn't so abundantly clear that they're collectively devoid of any. Video games, like any form of escapism (not that this is the only purpose of games, of course, but it remains an asset for many game genres) will naturally attract those that already unhappy with their lives. Unhappy people don't wish to indulge themselves in the source of their depression, and so subsequently will look for distractions: video games can provide that escapism.

According to the insightful and ever-dependable BMI measurement, this man is ''obese'' and his fat content is a serious health issue. If I was him I'd be more worried about the buckets of steroids I took every night.

According to the insightful and ever-dependable BMI measurement, this man is ''obese'' and his fat content is a serious health issue. If I was him I'd be more worried about the buckets of steroids I took every night.

This lack of thought to explain the correlations found by the study also extend to its findings about male gamers, who apparently have a higher average BMI than non-gaming men. For those not familiar with BMI, it stands for Body Mass Index, and is simply a ratio of weight to height. It is one of the most simplistic, ambiguous and - without context - faulted measurements of weight. Used in this study to suggest that gaming men are "getting fatter," the BMI scale ranges from underweight through to obese, with little mention of the obvious caveats (that it doesn't take into account a person's frame or their muscle content, for example). It's an obvious and oft-alleged stigma associated with games; that they're a sedentary activity and subsequently will make you fat. Supposing that this was true - again, alas, there is little perspective given by the study. Perhaps gamers are fatter because their weight prevents them from competing in more active hobbies - being fat never stopped someone from being good at games, but how many professional sports personalities are fat (putting Frank Lampard Jnr to one side - metaphorically of course, to do so literally would take the power of a small lorry)?

Apparently, the study found that male gamers are more reliant on the internet too. In the area of the US with the highest internet-usage, playing games where the internet is often the requisite platform. Wow.

This lack of acknowledgement to the many admonitions of the study are consistently ignored by those attempting to peddle the obvious negativity that is subsequently implied by the conclusions. It's lazy journalism to substantiate any opinions on the basis of this study, except that of "this study is useless and inconclusive," and any attempt by those using this study to suggest that games are the cause of the various imperfections in the lives of those studied suggests they have a harboured grievance against video gaming. Probably because they were crap at Street Fighter II.

Though it may well be the case that playing video games does, directly or indirectly cause people to be fatter, less healthy and more reliant on the internet, this certainly isn't the study that proves it - and while I'm waiting for the study that does, I'll fire up some Left 4 Dead.

Related Links:
BBC News on the CDC study
Tags: Video games, video gaming, getting fatter, more depressed,

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Comments

Jack Charles Adams [jack]

05/09/09 @ 00:54

The more active based systems with motion-recognition like the Wii or the Microsoft's upcoming Project Natal will probably push further stigma upon tradional games too...

theholyroar.com

Aldi [unregistered user]

12/09/09 @ 10:09

Actually, it has been proven that playing games stimulates the part of the brain that gives stoners the munchies hence the fatty fat fats.



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About the Author

Name: Jack Charles Adams
Username: jack *jack is a Site Admin
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