15 September, 2010

Common Sense

written by Blain Newport on Wednesday, 15 September, 2010

I read a lot of gaming press. It's largely press releases with a touch of opinion. "Such and such company announced that such and such game will have such and such feature, and here's what I think about that." It's the nature of a business built on supplying rabid gamers all the details about upcoming games and supplying advertisers as much daily exposure as possible. But once in a while, that system fails us.

A lot of outlets covered a press release from Common Sense Media. It said that 72% of adults would support a law banning the sale of "ultraviolent" games to minors. Gamasutra covered it. Joystiq covered it. G4 had an almost four hundred word rant about how dumb people are. BitMob had a blurb. I'm sure it was covered all over.

But nobody I saw doubted it.

I'm not a journalist, statistician, or legal expert. I'm not going to deliver a smoking gun. But I'm surprised that nobody thought it was worth a few minutes of Googling (which brought me to an LA Times piece on Common Sense Media) to make sure this was on the up and up.

First off, the press release never mentions the California law (AB 1179) currently in front of the Supreme Court. Common Sense Media sponsored AB 1179. Doesn't that connection seem vaguely important?

Additionally, CSM obtained their statistics by ordering an online poll from Zogby International. When the Wall Street Journal graded pollsters after the 2006 elections, they found Zobgy's telephone results were in line with competitors' margins of error. But their online polls had "at least twice the average miss of four other polling operations". More recently (August 2010) the New York Times' political polling blog FiveThirtyEight refused to use Zogby online polls which "are associated with by far the worst pollster rating, and which probably should not be considered scientific polls".

I understand that the press release + opinion = article grind is a necessary evil, but when it's a press release from a group that is trying to deny our hobby First Amendment protection, it's worth double checking.

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