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Study: Violent Video Games Linked To Decreasing Crime Rates

by Matt Miller on Jun 22, 2011 at 01:21 PM

A recent study indicates that video games may be keeping young Americans from committing crime, even when those games are particularly violent.

Several laboratory studies and analyses have focused on the possible ways in which exposure to  violent video games can increase aggressive impulse in young people. However, a recent study aims to take a broader look at the equation. Specifically, "Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime" (Cunningham, Scott, Engelstätter, Benjamin and Ward, Michael R.) takes a look at the idea that people playing video games inside are not outside committing crimes, even if those games are violent and even if there is an increase in aggression.

The study ultimately concludes that "violent video games lead to decreases in violent crime".

In the study's introduction, the case is laid out in relatively understandable terms: "In this paper, we argue that since laboratory experiments have not examined the time use effects of video games, which incapacitate violent activity by drawing individual gamers into extended gameplay, laboratory studies may be poor predictors of the net effects of violent video games in society. Consequently, they overstate the importance of video game induced aggression as a social cost. We argue that since both aggression and time use are a consequence of playing violent video games, then the policy relevance of violent video game regulation depends critically on the degree to which the one outweighs the other. If, as we find in our study, the time use effect of violent video games reduce crime by more than the aggression effects increase it, then the case for regulatory intervention becomes weaker."

The study was quoted in a recent BBC article that discusses 10 possible reasons why the US crime rate has been falling. Thanks to Kotaku for spotting the story.

What effect do you think this study should have on lawmakers looking to limit access of violent video games to children? Do you believe a study like this should have any bearing on the soon-to-release ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court on Brown vs. EMA?