Do violent games reduce violent crime?

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Violent games

Violent games are often blamed for violent crimes. I take it as a sign that the world believes in the power of gaming’s art – in the past people burned controversial books, or heavy metal music, or horror movies. But new research implies that maybe violent games are actually good for real life crime.

Considering the frequent blame game, it makes sense that researchers decided to look into the claims to see if they held any merit. The results of the research aren’t finalized, but there is certainly a correlation between the release of major game titles and a decrease in crime.

We always have to be careful with correlational data. Correlation doesn’t mean causation. But we haven’t just looked at sales of games and violent crimes. We have taken into account trends in the data. We remove stuff that typically happens, like a spike in murders during summer and high sales of games near the Holidays, and it’s still negative. To me what is most amazing is that is never positive. It is always statistically negative.

The study’s co-author, Patrick Markey explains that there could be a variety of explanations for this. It could be that those who are attracted to violence tend to be those who enjoy these games and use it as a form of catharsis. Alternatively, when a big game comes out, more people are sitting in front of a screen instead of out in the world where they might become victims of crime. Whether it’s that the criminals or the victims are at home, the reality is that gaming seems to be good for real life crime statistics.

While I haven’t engaged in real world violence, I can certainly attest to the power of catharsis from games. When I’m angry or upset, it just feels so good to play something that lets me stab/shoot all the things. Do you think this correlation makes sense, or is there another explanation of causality that you would assume is the case?

Last Updated: September 15, 2014

Zoe Hawkins

Wielding my lasso of truth, I am the combination of nerd passion and grammar nazi. I delve into all things awesome and geek-tastic. I believe people should stop defining themselves and just enjoy playing games, so let’s get on with it!

  • OVGrounded new game+++

    If only Hitler had COD and Live speak during his childhood.

    • Alien Emperor Trevor

      He’d probably SWAT Poland with a panzer division. I’m pretty sure he’d be a hardcore gamer who wouldn’t take losing well.

      • Brings a new meaning to rage quit…

        • OVGrounded new game+++

          lol best Honeymoon gift ever.

    • Admiral Chief Assassin

      Best camper ever, plenty kills, only one death πŸ˜›

    • Admiral Chief Assassin
      • OVGrounded new game+++

        Im sure that if it was not for videogames there would be many more megalomaniacs aimlessly running around needing a release on poor society.

        • Yes, I mean can you imagine having some dude like you on the loose?! 0_O

          • OVGrounded new game+++

            Putin has nothing on me.

    • Sageville

      Imagine how many prospective “Hitlers” are out there right now!

      The only thing preventing them from taking over the world is a controller and constant game releases…

      • OVGrounded new game+++

        and Metacritic revies πŸ˜›

    • Hammersteyn

      Speaking of balls (from previous article) apparently Hitler only had one

      • Anon A Mouse

        The other one was taken out by a sniper in Sniper Elite πŸ˜‰

    • Koevoet

      Hitler on teamspeak – “Mommy they dont play nice everybody is against me”

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    Sure I can see it… if a significant number of violent criminals are avid gamers who put aside their murderous impulses for a week long GTA session because they commit violent crime for fun instead of perceived need. Otherwise it seems a bit silly.

  • Rags

    What’s that saying. Games don’t cause violence. Lag does.

    • Admiral Chief Assassin

      You said it

    • Hammersteyn

      PVP does for me, at least till I get good at the specific game.

  • Ross Woofels Mason

    Criminals like video games too? People tend to stay home and play video games?

    It’s people looking for a connection where they want to find a connection. You could probably find the same stats if you put enough time into watching chocolate bars and violent crimes.

  • Jonah Cash

    Woke up yesterday morning to find that my boats engine was stolen over night…. I sat on my coach and shot people the whole day in the Crucible!! It really helped a lot… I was very calm the whole day!!

    • Shame bro. That sucks.

    • Admiral Chief Assassin

      [inserts “I should buy a boat” meme]

      (sidenote, my condolences, what did they steal?)

      • Jonah Cash

        Only the engine!! But that is the most important part!! You can mount an engine on a door and it will be as good as a boat, but a boat without an engine is just a canoe!! And I aint rowing anywhere!!

        • Admiral Chief Assassin

          I was actually asking what engine did you have

          • Jonah Cash

            I had a 50hp Honda 4 stroke… It sniffed petrol…

          • Admiral Chief Assassin

            *sigh*

        • Hammersteyn

          [inserts “I should buy a engine” meme] πŸ˜›
          Just kidding, I hope the thief trips and falls with the engine crushing his nuts

    • Dutch Matrix

      Uhm… I am sorry about the boat engine. Being a victim of crime myself (twice) you have my sympathies. But I MUST ask this: Is sitting on your COACH not a bit, I dunno, aggressive?

      • Jonah Cash

        Hahahaha!!! Spring die Afrikaner in my weer op en tik soos ‘n moroon in Engels!! Hahahaha

      • Anon A Mouse

        He was playing CoD, teabagging is the norm.

    • OVGrounded new game+++

      I bet the police think he is a Videogamer, and Thief is to blame.

    • Gareth L (That eXCheez Guy)

      That’s really kak! Sorry, dude.

    • JJ the Reus

      Eish man, and you don’t live very far from me. Luckily I don’t have anything of value to steal.

      • Admiral Chief Assassin

        …what about your make-up collection?

        • JJ the Reus

          hmphhh

    • Hammersteyn

      FFS, hope the police can help. I suck at PVP at the moment, but I’ll grind it out for the legendary gear

  • I can see how this could be true. I mean I use games to vent, have done for decades. Gods I am old…

    • OVGrounded new game+++

      The problem these days is that gamers cant get to vent away in their own worlds now that everything is social. They just go nuts when an 8 year old caps their ass in COD.

      • Very true. But I think there will always be games that won’t make you play online.

        • OVGrounded new game+++

          Im not so sure of that. Especially after Destiny raked in half a billion in 24hours and The Elder scrolls has ditched the SP game for more on-line bollocks.

          Like the start of the golden Horse Armour DLC that disgusted every gamer in early 2008. The frog will boil slowly.

    • Anon A Mouse

      Don’t know why you needed games to vent, you do have a brother don’t you?

      • Three actually πŸ˜‰

        • Hammersteyn

          Ive got one, but he fights like shit

          • Anon A Mouse

            Mine’s three years older than me, gave me a good fight while I were still in primary school, after that I had to use gaming.

  • Alien Emperor Trevor

    I wonder if they included instances where frustration while playing video games led to physical violence – like dying again in Dark Souls or when someone insistently wants you to stop in the middle of a MP game for just a minute to do something silly like, oh I don’t know, see why a photo won’t display on the TV. Hypothetically, HTF SHOULD I KNOW?

    • OVGrounded new game+++

      More like self constraint. On the verge of letting the beast out before throwing the console out of the window and snapping the control pad over your brothers head, you remember that this shit is expensive.

      Breath in breath out.

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        Spare the controller, spoil the child πŸ˜‰

    • Dutch Matrix

      That is a study I would fund if I won the lotto.
      My mom innocently walked in on me whilst I was busy playing a video game. I cannot recall the game, only that it was one of those god awfull frustrating games that makes you consider putting your fist through the screen whilst yelling obscenities at the developers mother.
      My mom asked me to go buy a bread. But the look I have her was all my rage at the developers, chanelled to her.
      My mom cried. I kid you not. She cried. Apparently she got the idea I hated her for interrupting my game… It was then that I realized it is only a game…

      • Alien Emperor Trevor

        I know I shouldn’t laugh, but lol, your poor mom. I honestly don’t mind them asking me stuff while I’m playing a game, but don’t ask me to pause a MP game… I can’t, because it’s MP. sigh.

        • Dutch Matrix

          Hey, I really felt like crap that day.
          Another bad thing: When they ask you something during a boss fight. And you say: Just after I kill this boss. And they go: YOU ONLY CARE ABOUT THAT GAME! MY MOM WAS RIGHT ABOUT YOU! I HATE YOU AND I HOPE YOU CRY TEARS OF BLOOD BEFORE YOUR EYEBALLS MELT! WAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!

  • Gareth L (That eXCheez Guy)

    There’s a weird interpretation here that the criminals play video games and don’t commit crimes while doing so, which is plausible, I guess. I find it more likely that the stats drop because the would-be victims are huddled away safely at home playing the games.

    I can’t help noticing that the highest crimes / lowest sales sit at around the middle of the year, which is the American end of semester and Summer break (party time!). The lowest crimes / highest sales sits at the American winter and holiday season (home and family time).

  • JJ the Reus

    Since I’ve started playing violent video games, which was when I was about 10, I’ve only killed seven people, four cows and fifteen monkeys. So, no, it definitely hasn’t changed my violent tendencies.

  • Hammersteyn

    It sure does, we haven’t had another World War again. Or maybe it’s a coincidence?

  • Brady miaau

    Is this like the makers of Rapelay (A terrible thing) saying they hoped to reduce actual rapes?

    And Diablo II, Classical ,music blaring in the background, doing Mephisto or Baal Runs after a tough day at work. Oh yeah, that worked.

  • Koevoet

    I don’t think any standard criminal plays games to start with, in SA anyway

  • Ryanza

    Don’t want to get into this. So I’ll keep it short.

    Video games has shit to do with crime. Violent video games has shit to do with violent crimes.

    Life experiences and life circumstances has everything to do with crime and violent crimes.

  • Tom Krager

    Most of the ppl in this world doing crime are not the type of ppl that game regularly. I happen to know a lot of unsavory ppl.

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