Research: As Violent Video Game Sales Climb, Violent Crime Among Youths Decreases

February 13, 2013 -

As part of a New York Times article (as reported by Polygon) on the study of violent video games, a new study emerged showing that a decline in violent crime, even as sales of violent video games more than doubled. The study was conducted by a group of economists from three universities - Scott Cunningham from Baylor University; Benjamin Engelstätter from the Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) - Information and Communication Technologies Research Group; and Michael R. Ward from the University of Texas at Arlington - College of Business Administration - Department of Economics.

Here's the methodology used for the study, from the research paper:

"Our study uses a quasi-experimental methodology to identify the short and medium run effects of violent game sales on violent crime using time variation in retail unit sales data of the top 50 selling video games and violent criminal offenses from the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for each week of 2005 to 2008. We instrument for game sales with game characteristics, game quality and time on the market, and estimate that, while a one percent increase in violent games is associated with up to a 0.03% decrease in violent crime, non-violent games appear to have no effect on crime rates."

Ultimately the study found that between 1994 and 2010 the number of violent crimes among youth offenders dropped by more than half, even as video games sales have more than doubled since 1996.

"We found that higher rates of violent video game sales related to a decrease in crimes, and especially violent crimes," Dr. Michael Ward told the New York Times.

Even Iowa State University psychologist Dr. Craig A. Anderson concedes to the New York Times that violent video games are not the largest factor when it comes to real-world violent acts, though he does still insist that they do have a significant impact on children:

"None of these extreme acts, like a school shooting, occurs because of only one risk factor; there are many factors, including feeling socially isolated, being bullied, and so on," Anderson told the New York Times. "But if you look at the literature, I think it's clear that violent media is one factor; it's not the largest factor, but it's also not the smallest.

"At the very least, parents should be aware of what's in the games their kids are playing, and think of it from a socialization point of view: what kind of values, behavioral skills, and social scripts is the child learning?" he added.

You can read the full research paper here.

Source: New York Times by way of Polygon

"Woman beating her fiance while playing video games in their living room" © 2013 wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock. All rights reserved, used with permission.


Comments

Re: Research: As Violent Video Game Sales Climb, Violent ...

Economists... So basically anyone with some simple math skills could have come up with this correlation as long as they had access to the data?  not saying that's bad.. but it doesn't actually seem like a scientific study, just math.

Re: Research: As Violent Video Game Sales Climb, Violent ...

Of course data like this is only a small piece of a puzzle when understanding causal relationships between events, I think the point of this statistic is to bring light to the cognitive bias called "focus on minutia". There is a large body of evidence to show that people in general make arguments around, focus too much on, and often over estimating the influence of minute considerations in any argument while ignoring the overall picture.

In this case the minute detail is the potential for video games to cause violent behaviour, the larger picture here is the large amount of data that shows that while violent video game consumption increases violent behaviour in youth (the demographic we tend to consider in the argument) is decreasing.

The law of large numbers suggests that given a sufficiently large sample set we can draw strong evidence about how these two things are correlated, and simply ignoring this information in favour of a few very weak and inconsistently reproducable studies is mind numbingly irrational.

 
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