Less Crime in U.S. Thanks to Videogames

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Less Crime in U.S. Thanks to Videogames

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The rate of crime in the United States has dwindled in the last 20 years while gaming has increased.

Conservatives and hate-mongers like Jack Thompson always point to videogames as the root of all violence and evil in this world. After all, it makes a certain amount of sense in small minds that participating in violent games might lead to actual acts of violence. If that were truly the case, the rise of more realistic games would have lead to an increase in violence across all lines of American society. Modern Warfare 2 sold more than 10 million copies, there should be 10 million more murders out there. The evidence, however, shows that violent crime has actually decreased in America since 1991. You know what didn't exist in 1991? The first-person shooter.

In a report on the BBC website, writer Tom Geoghegan posits several reasons why crime has lessened in the States from better police work to, sadly, the greater frequency of legal abortions for poor women. But reason number nine on the list? The growing popularity of videogames.

"A study released last month suggested videogames were keeping young people off the streets and therefore away from crime," wrote Geoghegan. "Researchers in Texas working with the Centre for European Economic Research said this 'incapacitation effect' more than offset any direct impact the content of the games may have had in encouraging violent behavior."

The paper cited was written by Michael Ward, an economist at the University of Texas at Arlington. In "Understanding the Effects of Violent Videogames on Violent Crime," Ward and his colleagues argue that all the studies saying that games cause aggressive violence are bunk.

"To many in this field, it is logical to assume that if exposure to violent media causes aggression in the lab, that it will therefore cause aggression when exposure occurs non-randomly outside the laboratory, including other outcomes associated with aggression, such as crime and violence," Ward writes.

"We argue that since laboratory experiments have not examined the time use effects of videogames, which incapacitate violent activity by drawing individual gamers into extended gameplay, laboratory studies may be poor predictors of the net effects of violent videogames in society. Consequently, they overstate the importance of videogame induced aggression as a social cost."

Ward goes on to say any possible short term "aggression" that videogames may elicit is mitigated by the time it takes to play them. Basically, if you are playing Manhunt, you probably don't have enough time to plan a real one.

"We find that the social costs of violent videogames may be considerably lower, or even non-existent, once one incorporates the time use effect into analysis," Ward said. "Insofar as our findings suggest that the operating mechanism by which violent gameplay causes crime to fall is the gameplay itself, and not the violence, then regulations should be carefully designed so as to avoid inadvertently reducing the time intensity, or the appeal, of videogames."

Based on this paper, the people who think that regulating videogames may help society and decrease crime might actually make murder more prevalent by limiting the supply of games to our youth. Think about the delicious irony there.

I wish the findings of this paper were available for the Supreme Court Justices as they debate whether California's law making it a crime to sell M-rated games to minors is constitutional or not. Here's hoping the Justices are doing their homework and reading The Escapist. :)

Source: BBC and "Understanding the Effects of Violent VideoGames on Violent Crime"

Permalink

Now if news like this would just get picked up by the media at large.

Greg Tito:

...Conservatives and hate-mongerers...

I dislike the bias against conservatives there. No offense, but that almost turned me off the article, seeing that I'm kind of conservative myself (usually, though, I call my beliefs "my beliefs" rather than conservative, since I wouldn't join a party that would have me as a member.) Being a conservative doesn't mean you hate videogames. Hell, I don't support any restrictions on them. (Ahem, I'll stop now, before this turns into a rant.)

On topic: I'm glad to see that research is starting to support the other side of the "video games cause violence" thing. I was starting to think the media might have given up on giving us gamers a fair chance. Maybe now, they'll start at least considering that they could be wrong.

Media wouldn't go for something like this if President Obama himself played video games.

Oh wait! Witcher 2...

This is good news :D

It's just a shame most people will never notice this information or pay attention to it, so video games will unfortunately get just as much hate as they have been getting...

meh, violence in real life's too much work... and has real world consequences blah, blah, blah...

Ah yes, most murders with a pc now do their thing on 4chan.

As nice as this is, it's important to remember correlation does not equate causation.

Heh, that Critical Miss comic comes to mind...

Scientist 1: Video games are linked to an increase violent behaviours!

Gamers: ARG HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT IT'S CORRELATION NOT CAUSE AND YOU'RE ALSO FAT!

Scientist 2: Video games are linked to a decrease in violent behaviours!

Gamers: HOORAY FINALLY SOME RESPECT LOOK AT ALL THIS SCIENCE!

For the record, I don't think games cause violence. I just think this is pretty funny :P

To prove a point, you know what else happened in 1991?

The end of the Cold War.

That was the real cause of there being less crimes. Obviously.

(by the way, these guys didn't even do an experiment from what I'm reading. It's all theory)

I was literally about to post this. Talk about weird timing.

Plus, games make people fat, lazy slobs apparently. Getting up to murder someone is just too much work.

No I'm not serious, calm down.

Sadly, I agree this is just gonna be passed by by the media . . . it seems the mass media at large are simply in the buisness of selling fear, and that's all people are buying up. Stories like this don't support their typical "product," and it wouldn't interest the public at large.

Give it time, this scapegoat has about run its course - it's nearing the time for the media to move onto other fry-fish.

RandomMab says it true: http://xkcd.com/552/

Also: I can't see how this is good news. It's not like it says that games draw people away from violence because they can make them more tolerant or they can release their anger through them. It says that young people don't turn to crime because they don't have time and do nothing to refute the studies showing that people become more violent through games: "Oh, yes, these studies might or might not be true, but it doesn't matter because people don't have the time to commit crimes".

Can't you see what's wrong with this? If you don't have the time to commit crimes, it means that you don't have the time to do other things as well, some of which are beneficial: go out, make friends, socialize, volunteer, whatever.

The fact that games take away your time is an argument against games, not for them. Playing games should be seen as a leisurely activity, running in parallel with other aspects of our lives.

In any case, that's how I see it. Am I the only one who doesn't see this as good news?

Correlation does not mean causation, saying you have an Economist to argue your side is like going down the street asking for someone to agree with you to prove a point. For every economist there is an equal and opposite economist. Do not let your unfounded insecurities in enjoying games to scrap the bottom of the barrel to find other people's justifications to prove what you want to prove.

The declining crime rate paired with video games is pretty hilarious, and certainly an argument against extreme alarmist, but we need to remember that Correlation is not Causation. Video games probably have 0 effect on crime, and we should not abandon out scientific objectivity in favor of pushing our agenda. That's what people like Jack Thompson do.

I do, however, GREATLY appreciate the effort gone to to point out the lack of external validity in aggression studies: Most video game and violence studies are not experimental, and likely draw a connection between lonely, angry, already violent individuals having no outlet except games. Those few that are experimental make no distinction between aggression in a lab and real life aggression, which is ludicrous at best. Now, I just want to hear someone ask about the increased level of aggression post video game versus, for example, post football game. I think that after a tense sporting game, the sports fans are probably a little bit more prone to violence then someone finishing a round of Starcraft.

TheAceTheOne:

Greg Tito:

...Conservatives and hate-mongerers...

I dislike the bias against conservatives there.

I agree, it's a hasty genaralisation and it shouldn't be in the main article. Though personaly I do think the two overlap from time to time, but that's an opinion best reserved for the comment section. ;)

OT: Good to see that gaming is doing some good in the world. Though now that there is reasearch to suggest gaming keeps kids "of the streets" my guess is that there could be one between gaming and drug use to pass the time as well.

If there is it would probably be cheaper to go and buy your kid Skyrim then to make it go to rehab.

Prince Regent:

TheAceTheOne:

Greg Tito:

...Conservatives and hate-mongerers...

I dislike the bias against conservatives there.

I agree, it's a hasty genaralisation and it shouldn't be in the main article. Though personaly I do think the two overlap from time to time, but that's an opinion best reserved for the comment section...

...if there is, it might be cheaper to buy your kid Skyrim than send it to rehab

Lol, when I saw the "You have been quoted", I was expecting a flame war to have started because of what I said, not support~ Thanks, person! :D

Prince Regent:
...if there is, it might be cheaper to buy your kid Skyrim than send it to rehab.

I'm gonna need rehab *for* Skyrim, haha

(Sorry for the inexact quote.)

As much as it supports video games, I am dubious. We treat anti-gaming studies with suspicion, so I'd do the same here, especially as they don't cite exact evidence or correlation.

However, I think we can all agree that sociopathic killers, muggers, and gang members tend to get that way through a poor social experience; hating cops, hating classmates, hating everyone. Games bring people together, which not only makes the case for video games, but also that we should heavily focus on multiplayer and community-based games...UNLIKE what a certain fast-talking British-Australian believes.

This title will never be on CNN, FOX, or NBC.

Is this a news article or a blog post? I'm thinking the latter, since it opens with vitriolic rambling & then proceeds to do what every anti-gamer gets bashed for: latching onto one study that suggests a correlation under certain circumstances using incomplete data, & proclaims it to prove the insurmountable truth.

Also, you appear to have misread the concluding paragraph, as:

Based on this paper, the people who think that regulating videogames may help society and decrease crime might actually make murder more prevalent by limiting the supply of games to our youth. Think about the delicious irony there.

appears to be derived from the closing paragraph:

page 25-26:
Our findings also suggest unique challenges to game regulations. Because GAM
proposes that the individual playing violent video games is developing, accidentally, a biased
hermeneutic towards people wherein they believe they are in danger, then the decrease in
violent outcomes that we observe in our study - the incapacitation effect from time use - may
be masking the long-run harm to society if these violent behaviors are developing within
gamers. This suggests that regulation aimed at reducing violent imagery and content in games
could in the long-run reduce the aggression capital stock among gamers, but potentially also
cause crime to increase in the short-run if the marginal player is being drawn out of violent
activities. This may be too costly a tradeoff, and may not pass any cost-benefit test. But
another possibility is that individuals who play games could be regularly taught to recognize
these errors in their framing of situations, which theoretically would reduce the aggressive
capital and thus reduce any negative outcome that is determined by the amount of aggression
the person has built up, without losing the short-run gains from crime reduction.

In said paragraph, they are hypothesizing that violent videogame exposure over a prolonged period, if not countered through educational or other means, could lead to an increase in violent crime in the long term. But banning games to counter this long term increase would have the effect of increasing violent crime in the short term, as those with violent tendencies would no longer have an alternate time sink to channel their aggression through. There point is not "lol noobs gaming doesn't do no harm to me dawg" but that there is no net cost benefit, & potentially a net loss, to society in its attempts to reduce violent crime rates if games were to be banned.

delicious irony is delicious...

mmmmmmm... in your face, tasty!

I like how people keep having one-sided arguments here about whether video games cause violent behavior or no.

I mean seriously people, it's like you keep trying to convince everyone here that they don't, when EVERYONE HERE ALREADY THINKS THAT.

I'm just saying. If you want to have a legitimate, intellectual debate, at least take it somewhere where at least one person has a different opinion from you.

Now, normally this would be fine and dandy as an article, and I'd have no problem with it.

However, I read that report earlier today, and you're right. Video gaming is the ninth theory on the list, alongside Obama being elected, abortion being legalised in some places (therefore reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies, which through many reasons would theoretically lower crime rates) and a reduction in petrol poisoning.

I'm not even sure why I've taken issue with this article. Its a sound theory (got nothing to do: antisocial behaviour. Videogames? Something to do = less antisocial behaviour) and I would consider it pretty solid.

However, this article seems to be touting an example of correlation not causation.

Oh, and statistics can be easily manipulated.

...

Seriously, I don't know what irked me about this article. I agree with it!

Lets watch the media shove this under the carpet...

Speaking from personal experience a few years back, yeah, of course they help, good for venting, especialy for young teenagers, say the ones getting bullied day in day out...

Greg Tito:
Conservatives and hate-mongerers like Jack Thompson always point to videogames as the root of all violence and evil in this world.

Yeah, like that fascist right-wing Republican-loving video-game-banning Leland Yee.

Scaring parents for easy votes is a bipartisan initiative.

carpenter20m:
RandomMab says it true: http://xkcd.com/552/

Also: I can't see how this is good news. It's not like it says that games draw people away from violence because they can make them more tolerant or they can release their anger through them. It says that young people don't turn to crime because they don't have time and do nothing to refute the studies showing that people become more violent through games: "Oh, yes, these studies might or might not be true, but it doesn't matter because people don't have the time to commit crimes".

Can't you see what's wrong with this? If you don't have the time to commit crimes, it means that you don't have the time to do other things as well, some of which are beneficial: go out, make friends, socialize, volunteer, whatever.

The fact that games take away your time is an argument against games, not for them. Playing games should be seen as a leisurely activity, running in parallel with other aspects of our lives.

In any case, that's how I see it. Am I the only one who doesn't see this as good news?

It is good to see that I am not the only person who sees this "study" as a bad thing. Besides that the actual article is just talking about a bunch of random things that have happened in the past year. I feel that the stardard correlation does not equal causation arguement has to be said especially from somebody who plays video games.

[quote="carpenter20m" post="7.295773Can't you see what's wrong with this? If you don't have the time to commit crimes, it means that you don't have the time to do other things as well, some of which are beneficial: go out, make friends, socialize, volunteer, whatever.

The fact that games take away your time is an argument against games, not for them. Playing games should be seen as a leisurely activity, running in parallel with other aspects of our lives.[/quote]

The argument isn't that gaming takes away your time, it's that gaming gives you something to do on your free time that will pretty much never deteriroate into comiting a crime.
Think of it this way: For every screaming douchebag that gets an odd sexually frustrated high from murdering people on Black Ops, is one less screaming douchebagon the streets where he could actually do some harm to someone.

SirBryghtside:
Heh, that Critical Miss comic comes to mind...

Scientist 1: Video games are linked to an increase violent behaviours!

Gamers: ARG HOW DARE YOU SAY THAT IT'S CORRELATION NOT CAUSE AND YOU'RE ALSO FAT!

Scientist 2: Video games are linked to a decrease in violent behaviours!

Gamers: HOORAY FINALLY SOME RESPECT LOOK AT ALL THIS SCIENCE!

You mean this one, which I am ever so grateful that it was made. Perfectly illustrates the incredibly biased tendencies of gamers who like to think that they aren't biased.

Mr. Tito, I already commented on your last, and to be perfectly honest, horrendously biased article on how, well, horrendously biased it was. I don't want to have to do that again. So instead, I'm just going to quote another guy;

Cousin_IT:
Is this a news article or a blog post? I'm thinking the latter, since it opens with vitriolic rambling & then proceeds to do what every anti-gamer gets bashed for: latching onto one study that suggests a correlation under certain circumstances using incomplete data, & proclaims it to prove the insurmountable truth.

Also, you appear to have misread the concluding paragraph, as:

Based on this paper, the people who think that regulating videogames may help society and decrease crime might actually make murder more prevalent by limiting the supply of games to our youth. Think about the delicious irony there.

appears to be derived from the closing paragraph:

page 25-26:
Our findings also suggest unique challenges to game regulations. Because GAM
proposes that the individual playing violent video games is developing, accidentally, a biased
hermeneutic towards people wherein they believe they are in danger, then the decrease in
violent outcomes that we observe in our study - the incapacitation effect from time use - may
be masking the long-run harm to society if these violent behaviors are developing within
gamers. This suggests that regulation aimed at reducing violent imagery and content in games
could in the long-run reduce the aggression capital stock among gamers, but potentially also
cause crime to increase in the short-run if the marginal player is being drawn out of violent
activities. This may be too costly a tradeoff, and may not pass any cost-benefit test. But
another possibility is that individuals who play games could be regularly taught to recognize
these errors in their framing of situations, which theoretically would reduce the aggressive
capital and thus reduce any negative outcome that is determined by the amount of aggression
the person has built up, without losing the short-run gains from crime reduction.

In said paragraph, they are hypothesizing that violent videogame exposure over a prolonged period, if not countered through educational or other means, could lead to an increase in violent crime in the long term. But banning games to counter this long term increase would have the effect of increasing violent crime in the short term, as those with violent tendencies would no longer have an alternate time sink to channel their aggression through. There point is not "lol noobs gaming doesn't do no harm to me dawg" but that there is no net cost benefit, & potentially a net loss, to society in its attempts to reduce violent crime rates if games were to be banned.

I'll cut this short and say, please stop with this crap. To be completely frank, it's degrading to journalism as a whole. It's one of the reasons why nobody can ever take video game journalism seriously.

Deshara:
The argument isn't that gaming takes away your time, it's that gaming gives you something to do on your free time that will pretty much never deteriroate into comiting a crime.
Think of it this way: For every screaming douchebag that gets an odd sexually frustrated high from murdering people on Black Ops, is one less screaming douchebagon the streets where he could actually do some harm to someone.

The way I read the article, it says that the "other" studies don't factor in the incapacitation factor: the fact that those screaming douchebags don't have time to commit the crime since they're too busy playing video games.

Besides, think about it. Even if you are right, the elimination of murderous douchebags also means the elimination of legitimate human relationships. I know, I am taking this to the extreme, but so is the douchebag example. Games shouldn't be regarded as that, not at all. They have their own merits, their own advantages and, yes, their own disadvantages: whoever thinks that it's a good thing that people waste 10 hours a day raiding a dungeon they had raided the day before, is mistaken.

There are negative aspects in games: we should embrace them and try to change them, instead of trying to make them look like they're good for us.

Unfortunately, this isn't as good as it seems.

Video games were only 1 out of 10 possible reasons why crime rates in the US are down.

The real reason could be due to less crimes being reported, a change in the way crime figures are collected and analysed, or one of the other 9 speculated reasons on the list.

This article could just as easily be titled "Less Crime in U.S. Thanks To Bad Crack", "Less Crime in U.S. Thanks To Abortions" or "Less Crime in U.S. Thanks To Obama".

EDIT: If it is actually true that there is less violent crime in the U.S. because of videogames, does that mean a lot of gamers are actually violent criminals at heart, and perhaps videogames do attract and appeal to violent people?

"Videogames don't cause violence and there is no connection between simulated violence and real life violence... by the way did you hear that if gamers weren't inside playing games they'd be out committing violent crimes, causing the national crime figures to skyrocket"?

This is ridiculous. If you give someone something to do, they certainly will most likely not go and murder the next guy who comes along. But, I would never attribute video games to lesser crime rates. There are way too many factors to assume that video games has any effect on this number at all.

Correlation =/= causation....

In the summer time, crime rates spike, as do the frequency with which people eat ice cream, so the natural assumption must be that eating ice cream makes people more likely to murder someone?

While I respect the analysis of time use, just because it's not murdering doesn't mean it would have any effect on it. Besides, when I plan all my murders, they are never in the hours that I would be playing video games.

All joking aside, the media won't pick this up because it fits neither conservative, nor liberal ideals.

"A study released last month suggested videogames were keeping young people off the streets and therefore away from crime"

In other news: World of Warcraft's citizens afraid of going outside after dark. 1200% rise in number of Gangsters in Azeroth. :P

Seriously though, people have been murdered IRL because of thefts of swords in MMO's etc.
And then there was the kid who murdered his dad and claimed he was Cloud Strife.

But yeah, games are indeed a much better time waster than shanking old ladies in the street because you are bored.

Video games are the modern equivalent of a punching bag, when you're pissed go spend an hour beating the crap out of it so you don't hurt somebody. Good to see a mainstream media outlet finally showing the benefits of games rather than demonising them.

Maybe the escapist should have done its homework and actually read the study?
First of all, the authors are Scott Cunningham, Benjamin Engelstätter and Michael Robert Ward. Three different authors from three different institutions. Don't just arbitrarily reduce it to one.

Second of all, I like how you left out the end of the conclusion:
"(...)regulation aimed at reducing violent imagery and content in games could in the long-run reduce the aggression capital stock among gamers, but potentially also cause crime to increase in the short run if the marginal player is being drawn out of violent activities"
"(...)individuals who play games could be regularly taught to recognize the errors in their framing of situations, which theoretically would reduce the aggressive capital(...)"

So yeah, the study is less about "gamers aren't aggressive psychopaths" and more about "leave those maniacs to their games or they'll become a harm to society. Alternatively, just put them into therapy."

Surely just like you want the media to see gamers.

So, wait the key to lowering violence is to make video games MORE addictive? Did I read that article right?

o_O

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