Over the weekend, Kevin McCarthy blamed violent video games for mass shootings. Donald Trump did the same at a press conference on Monday, blaming “the brutal video games that are now popular” for generating “a culture of violence.”
Coming from a man who ran on a pledge to “bomb the shit out of ’em” and has frequently floated the prospect of pardons for accused war criminals, this is a little rich.
It also ignores that, despite the widespread availability of video games in Europe and Japan, the United States has a considerably higher murder rate than any other wealthy country.
Indeed, while America’s total crime rate is slightly higher than the rest of the world, our homicide rate is significantly higher because assaults involving weapons are much more likely to result in death than assaults involving knives, bludgeons, or fists.
The problem is with guns.
However, because many people (including myself) find violent video games innately repulsive, it’s natural for people to wonder if video games aren’t adding to the problem. So it’s crucial to note that, according to the most recent research, a quasi-experimental study by Scott Cunningham, Benjamin Engelstätter, and Michael R. Ward, video games do not cause violent crime. Time spent playing video games, on the other hand, limits the amount of time that young men can be naughty.
According to the research, popular new game launches result in reduced crime.
The basic research strategy is straightforward: Compare “weekly aggregate violent crime incidents from the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS) to the volume of sales of violent video games among the top 50 best-selling video games from 2005 to 2008 — and relate it to a marker for violent behaviors — weekly aggregate violent crime incidents.”
They employ both time-series and instrumental variable modeling, and regardless of how you slice it when a popular violent video game is released, violent crime decreases, not increases.
According to the researchers, the strategy is what criminal justice specialists refer to as “incapacitation” – if you’re home on your sofa playing video games, you’re not out on the street causing trouble. This technique is universally acknowledged for methods to spend time that mainstream society finds unquestionably healthy. Teenagers who work part-time during the summer, take studies after school, or join a sports team for fun Keep themselves out of trouble and away from the streets. Although video games are a more stigmatized pleasure than athletics, the essential principle remains the same. You’re not committing crimes if you’re too busy playing video games.
Nonviolent games are preferable to violent games.
Ward’s original work merely demonstrated that having many video games available reduced crime in general. Similarly, the current paper’s core causal mechanism says nothing about the virtues of violent video games – it only says that playing games reduce crime.
A previous body of laboratory-based psychology research suggests that violent video games enhance hostility.
As a result, the incapacitation effect could be hiding a more crime-inducing psychological impact on players. Under the circumstances, you might be doing good if you can move game developers and users away from violent games and toward peaceful ones. You don’t want to suffocate the overall appeal of video games as a business because gaming time will be substituted for criminal activity as well as more harmless pastimes.
But, while this data is intriguing and worth considering, it can’t be stressed enough that the United States’ homicide rate is significantly higher than that of peer countries on a scale that dwarfs any putative gaming-related consequences.