Comparing Violent Crime Rates To Violent Game Releases

April 12, 2008 -
Do violent video games make people violent?

Some critics believe so and are determined to legally restrict the sale of violent video games to minors, despite some significant practical and constitutional hurdles.

These include the fact that, even if they can't purchase violent games, some kids will still find ways to play them; that many of the perpetrators of supposedly game-linked violent acts were over 18 and wouldn’t have been affected by proposed video game laws; and that such legislation has an 0 for 9 record in federal court challenges.

And yet, the anti-game laws keep coming.  One would think there’s an epidemic of violence in this country.  One would think that as video games have grown in popularity, violent crime has gone up.

But it hasn’t.

Take a look at this nifty chart we came across on Wired earlier this week (although, truth be told, we’ve seen this chart before. In fact, GP saw it mentioned by Dr. David Bickham of Boston’s Center on Media and Child Health at Penn State last week, although Bickham downplayed its significance). 

Using data from the U.S. Department of Justice, the chart plots the rate of crime victimization per 1,000 citizens over the past couple of decades. Superimposed over the graph are several violent games, depicted chronologically by release date.  One will notice that where DOOM is introduced the line graph takes a nose dive and continues falling all the way through the releases of Postal, Mortal Kombat, and GTA.

Neat, eh?  Of course, the data is pretty broad.  It encompasses many types of violent crime such as robbery and simple assault, includes all age groups above 12, and details victims instead of offenders.  What violent game critics would likely be more interested in is a graph plotting the number of juvenile homicide offenders over the years.

So we poked around the DOJ a bit and dug up this, a graph of homicide offending rates by age.  Looking at the graph, one will see that murders committed by 14 to 17-year-olds peaked in 1993 (again, DOOM) and started to fall from that point reaching their lowest level recorded by 2002.

Does this prove that games haven’t caused an increase in youth violence?  No, and social scientists would scoff at such an over-simplistic comparison, due to the many factors at play in crime and violence.  After all, who’s to say that without violent games the precipitous drop in youth violence over the last decade and a half wouldn’t have been steeper?

Still, despite the alleged harmful effects of violent games, the number of youth homicides has been on the decline for many years now.  It makes one wonder what's really driving some critics' urge to legislate games.

-Reporting from San Diego, GP Correspondent Andrew Eisen

Comments

@Tonkarz
"Western Europe and Australia spring to mind"

Australia, yes, but they still ban extremely violent games... cause they don't have an R18 rating yet...so a game comparison wouldn't work that well...

Western Europe no, they joined together into one great alliance and have had a vast change to laws and populations(members can't prevent immigration... which is a huge change from their anti-immigrant policies) and a vast change in beliefs... The US cannot be compared to this since we had a stable 50 states formation for a while and have had large amounts of immigrants since the founding of this country...

So while looking at Australia for games which they did release is useful, the main nation which we can compare the statistics to is Canada...

Actually this type of simple comparison really doesn't mean anything significant, and we certainly can't say video games have caused the decline. Still it does provide empirical evidence that there has not been any type of increase in violent crimes during the period in which these games entered the market. And in fact we see here that we know that violent crime has decreased during this period. But while this comparison isn't particularly useful, we already know that the evidence we have thus far suggests that playing violent video games does not lead to any type of significant increase in violent behavior or propensity to commit violent crime. This comparison just provides indirect empirical validation of this.

Actually based upon what we know about crime, it is likely that video games have had very little impact on the crime rate one way or the other. However I would not go so far as to say that the popularity of violent video games, along with other violent media, has had no net impact on our culture. But, at the same time we just can't at this point in time reliably connect exposure to violent media and violent behavior.

My real point was that that is more evidence for video games preventing violence then vice versa, infact alot more, and I really highly doubt they would prevent violence either

My real point was that that is more evidence for video games preventing violence then vice versa, infact alot more, and I really highly doubt they would prevent violence either

I did a news post close to this one but I used the U.S. Department of Justice crime numbers to show Game console systems are directly linked to the rise in Drug use.

http://www.olgn.net/archives/video-game-systems-and-the-rise-of-drug-use

My 13 year old son came home from school yesterday extremely upset that he was verbally attacked for having dreadful parents that allowed him to play violent games. The fact he stood up and aired his opinion that he was a well balanced stable kid who comes from a loving family, has had top grades throughout school and also has a number of hobbies paid for by his hard working parents, his teacher still compared him with two teenage child killers. Im livid that nothing gets more attention than people blaming outside influences for their problems. My son has never been smacked or subjected to abuse and has the confidence and respect for his friends and teachers. Anyone with a normal train of thought knows that kids who kill dont come from happy loving homes, but hey if we can put it all down to a game then it gets their abusive parents of the hook.

[...] Naturally, Grand Theft Auto’s release has re-ignited public debate over how games affect kids and whether new laws are needed to protect children from the gratuitous violence found in many video games. GTA has been a favorite target of politicians for the past eight years, and the usual suspects like Jack Thompson and Tim Winter have predictably spoken out against GTA IV. But parental controls are more robust than ever, as Adam has documented, and some have even suggested that kids should be playing Grand Theft Auto.  Despite the recent explosion in hyper-realistic violent games, violent crime rates have been dropping across the board. Maybe games like GTA are just another harmless outlet for kids to express violent behavior, much like playing cops and robbers. [...]

This is just a fake fact to promote Grand theft auto and increase sales for the latest game.

The statistic you anti gamers set out are just used as a scare tactic to get people who go against it to get votes and or support!

Re:

How is this Promoting GTA, all it shows is that crimes have gone down, Oh wait, i need to look at this through your eyes.

It has a picture of GTA so it is promoting it.

Besides, how will this one picture increase sales, maybe some guy who lives on the West coast will see this and goo , Wow the rates of crimes have gone down, that makes me want GTA.

call me! whiston532@hotmail.com

 

Re: Wacko Jacko

How is this Promoting GTA, all it shows is that crimes have gone down, Oh wait, i need to look at this through your eyes.

 

It has a picture of GTA so it is promoting it.

Besides, how will this one picture increase sales, maybe some guy who lives on the West coast will see this and goo , Wow the rates of crimes have gone down, that makes me want GTA.

call me! whiston532@hotmail.com

Re:

It's per 1000, it is essentially an average. As a population grows, you'd still expect the percentage to stay the same. Note how previous years to Doom's release, when there would have been equally consistent population growth, the results stay roughly the same. Population growth wouldn't affect the graph, not least because the DOJ wouldn't have misleading tables in their records.

 
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