Tobold's Blog
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Do video games reduce crime?

Recessions lead to unemployment, which tends to disproportionally fall on the young. Thus in previous recessions there was a strong correlation between unemployment and crime: Angry young men with nothing else to do hanging out at street corners usually leads to no good. Not so in this recession. Although unemployment is up, crime is down, by around 5 percent. How come? Economist Lawrence Katz suspects video games.

Basically angry young man living out there aggression in a video game not only keeps them too busy to commit crimes in real life, it also gives them an outlet for their anger. Better they play GTA than break into real cars.

Who would have thought that video games would get such nice press?
It would actually be interesting to do some proper research on this. But I wonder how the methodology to support the hypothesis would be. Not to mention the social misconception on video games and thus the difficulty of obtaining a grant.
Good spin, that. It may even be true! :)

I've recommended it before, but if you haven't read it yet I still sincerely recommend you spend an evening or two reading Steven Johnson's 2005 book "Everything Bad Is Good For You". It addresses several points like this one. For a very interesting (sort of) counterpoint, read Nicholas Carr's article in the latest issue of Wired entitled "The Web Shatters Focus, Rewires Brains".

Fun stuff!
Makes one wonder if Lawrence Katz happens to play GTA when he's not at work...
They also found a correlation between porn and rape, as well as lolicon (cartoon child porn) and pedophilia.

Apparently we can trick our brains and reduce the chance of committing violence in Real Life.
Its always tricky to correlate high frequency and low impact data (playing games) to low frequency and high impact (crime) in any reliable scientific manner.

Maybe you could try a qualitative approach. Like give away free xbox systems with a few games to everyone in some cities with a certain crime rate and see if they diverge from those who didn't get anything.

Maybe those who get nothing should be given something else of equal value. A gift card for clothes perhaps.
Oskar, that sounds like an expensive test, but considering how much some universities spend on things...
I have known an awful lot of unemployed people in the last 10 years, and computer games are definitely lifesavers if you're unemployed and bored. Per-hour - and if you have no job you have a lot of hours - they offer more immersive occupation than just about anything else.

And boredom can be truly corrosive, leading to anger, depression, and violence.

Yay for computer games!
no at least not in america. Back during Clinton we woke up and remembered what our grandfathers knew that more police actually out on the street being visible and seen reduce crime.

Our crime rate has been going down ever since. Despite the impression The modern media tries to sell of the world falling apart
No no Tobold you have it all backwards. Video games are responsible for crime in the world! :P
Everyone knows Hot Coffee corrupts your grandsons and Doom players are decidedly unwise to allow on your campuses.
Follow-up question: Does virtualizing crime make it not a crime?
@Grimmtooth: Virtualizing it makes it either against NPCs which have no rights or against players who have given their consent to be the potential victim. Unless you mean cyber-crime, in which case, also no, because it's not illegal if you don't get caught and Russia doesn't seem to mind its citizens stealing our identities.
@Klepsacovic - most assuredly, it is not a crime by the letter of the law unless real material damages are realized, and we're just now seeing that sort of thing hit the courts (much to Charlie Stross' annoyance, i.e. Habbo Hotel).

But does the concept of "crime" stop at "the letter of the law"?
@Hugh: "I have known an awful lot of unemployed people in the last 10 years, and computer games are definitely lifesavers if you're unemployed and bored."

If you're unemployed and bored, how about this for an idea: go look for a job!!!
"If you're unemployed and bored, how about this for an idea: go look for a job!!!"

You can only fill out so many resumes/apply to places. You're going to run out of places to look, sooner or later. Jobs don't exactly fall into your lap just because you're looking for one. ;)
Crime is whatever we write down and say is illegal.
This may be the first sign of the end. Someone NOT blaming video games for violence?
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