Gamebusters week 3: Violence in video games
It has long been believed that violent video games led to violence in real life. Proponents of this theory point to several of the more popular cases, such as Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the two teenagers who carried out the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colorado. These two were fervent Doom players.
They also point to cases such as Tim Kretschmer, the German 17-year-old who killed 15 people a decade after the Columbine massacre utilizing moves from the game Counter Strike. These are just two of the many examples, which have led to many to conclude that violent video games are the cause of violence in kids.
This theory has provided conflicting studies, however. Some studies of kids and aggressive video games have turned up evidence that the conventional wisdom is indeed correct. Other studies, however, have turned up evidence that contradicts conventional wisdom.
One 2005 study, for example, asked people from age 14 to 68 to play 56 hours of the massively multi-player online role-playing game, Asheron’s Call 2 during one month. This study, according to PhysOrg, showed that there was no noticeable change in aggressive behavior in the group that was asked to play. There was also no increase amongst gamers compared to the control group that did not play this game.
It should be noted, however, that some psychologists believe that many of the studies connecting real-world violence to video games are biased, according to Science Daily. With so many factors that could incite violence that may not be accounted for in any studies conducted, it would be easy to claim that they are indeed biased, one way or the other.
But what of real-life crime statistics? Do they support the theory that violent video games promote violence in kids? If we simply compare the rise of game sales from 1999 to 2007 with the reported homicide rates committed by those 18 and under, the answer is simply no. During that time, sales rose from $5.5 billion to $9.5 billion. Crime (at least crime among youth) in that time period, meanwhile, actually decreased.
According to the FBI, the total number of people 18 and under arrested for homicide in 2007 was 1,063. Compare this to 1999, when games were not selling as well. In 1999, the total number of people under the age of 18 arrested for homicide was 1,648.
These statistics certainly seem to show that conventional wisdom regarding violent video games and kids is indeed incorrect. In fact, if we ignore the studies and simply go by the increase of game sales and the statistics reported by the FBI, it seems that violent video games may actually act as a bit of a deterrent.