Violent Video Games Contribute to Dropping Crime Rate, Study Suggests

As it turns out, all that warning that violence in video games is bad for your brain may be...well...wrong.
According to a recent paper based on studies at the University of Texas,"Overall, violent video games lead to decreases in violent crime."

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The paper was referenced in an article by the BBC which examines the drop in crime rate that has occurred in America for the last 20 years. The BBC article cites 10 possible reasons for this drop, though the increase in violent video games is arguably the most counter-intuitive. Other possible reasons include a decrease in children's exposure to lead (which can cause behavioral problems) and the spread of cameraphones (criminals are wary of the increased possiblity of being caught on camera).

The study, which was done at the University of Texas, does not rule out negative effects of video games on players—in fact it concluded that the playing of violent video games can cause aggression, but in a positive way. "Though there is evidence that violent video games cause aggression in a laboratory setting, there is no evidence that violent video games cause violence or crime. In fact, two recently published studies analyzed the effect of violent media (movies and video games) on crime, and found increased exposure may have caused crime rates to decrease." The decrease in violent crime in relation to violence in games is a direct result of the "incapacitation effect". Put simply, if you're inside playing games, you're voluntarily not outside commiting crimes.

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You may be thinking All right, but what about that aggression brought on by gaming? You've got to put down the controller some time. What then? The University of Texas concludes that "The time use effect of violent video games reduce crime by more than the aggression effects increase it...nearly all the laboratory evidence that currently exists has only uncovered very short-term [aggression]" In other words, players with agressive instincts are essentially getting it out of their system in the virtual world, and able to go on less agressively in the real one.

Illustration for article titled Violent Video Games Contribute to Dropping Crime Rate, Study Suggests

Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime [via Social Science Research Network]

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DISCUSSION

Some one needs to introduce this researcher to a little thing in the United States, which is where it appears his data comes from, called Roe vs. Wade. For those that don't know, this is a landmark legal case in the united states that lead to the legalization of abortion.

If you are wondering why this is relevant, you just have to look at the time line. Row vs. Wade was decided in 1973. A little over 18 years later, those unwanted children that had been aborted rather than born would have reached their peak criminal ages. But instead of an increase in crime, as had been happening up to that point, crime rates, not just violent, began to drop off, as show in the diagram above. Does aborting unwanted children rather than have them raised by parents that did not want them or could not care for them, or have them raised in the foster care system, lead to a decrease in criminal activity, maybe or maybe not, but it's certainly a better correlation than violent video games.

Violent video games first appeared in the 1970s, and crime rates continued to rise for nearly 20 years.