Video Games and Violence Update

by Robert VerBruggen

The New York Times has a balanced look at the evidence. As I’ve written before, there are ways in which video games might plausibly increase violence — but there are also ways in which video games might decrease violence, it’s not really possible for social scientists to disentangle all the relevant factors, most of the existing research is of questionable value, and overall game violence has been rising while real violence has been falling.

I found this new research especially interesting, because it supports a theory I floated in the article linked above:


In a working paper now available online, Dr. [Michael R.] Ward and two colleagues examined week-by-week sales data for violent video games, across a wide range of communities. Violence rates are seasonal, generally higher in summer than in winter; so are video game sales, which peak during the holidays. The researchers controlled for those trends and analyzed crime rates in the month or so after surges in sales, in communities with a high concentrations of young people, like college towns.

“We found that higher rates of violent video game sales related to a decrease in crimes, and especially violent crimes,” said Dr. Ward. . . .

No one knows for sure what these findings mean. It may be that playing video games for hours every day keeps people off the streets who would otherwise be getting into trouble.

Of course, all we really need to do is wait, because the federal studies the Obama administration is calling for will surely clear all of this up.