Despite the fact that video games have been invariably blamed for a multitude of violent criminal acts over the last decade, some researchers are actually making the claim that the increased proliferation of video games are among the factors helping reduce crime in the United States.
A recent study titled ‘Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime’ suggests that video games are actually helping reduce crime, by allowing gamers to play out certain violent situations in video game terms.
It’s a strange study – a study that suggests that while games actually increase the aggressiveness of individuals, participation in gaming actually reduces their potential to commit crimes. It’s a strange paradox.
These analyses are suggestive of the hypothesis that violent video games, like all videogames, may reduce violence paradoxically while increasing the aggressiveness of individuals by simply shifting these individuals out of alternative activities where crime is more likely to occur. 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 video games.
And then later…
[R] egulation 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 26 activities.
So, according to the study, video games do increase aggressive behaviour, but despite this, still help in reducing criminal activity, and its too dangerous to tinker with that balance.
To be perfectly honest, I remain sceptical. It seems like a spurious correlation. Proving that video games increase aggressive behaviour is practically impossible; proving that video game use has helped decrease crime is probably even more difficult.
To be taken with a pinch of salt, I think.
The study can be downloaded and read here.