Expert Explains That Video Games Don't Cause Violence

Despite what you may have heard from President Trump, video games don't incite violent behavior. Brut spoke to an expert about how politicians and pundits turned them into the "bogeyman." 🎮

Considering the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime

Economist Michael R. Ward has been studying the connection between video games and violent crime for years. Ward’s 2011 study found that when a popular but violent video game is released, violent crime actually goes down. “We must stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. We must stop or substantially reduce this, and it has to begin immediately.”

Video games are an increasingly popular leisure activity. As many of best-selling games contain hyper-realistic violence, many researchers and policymakers have concluded that violent games cause violent behaviors. Evidence on a causal effect of violent games on violence is usually based on laboratory experiments finding violent games increase aggression. Before drawing policy conclusions about the effect of violent games on actual behavior, these experimental studies should be subjected to tests of external validity. The study uses a quasi-experimental methodology to identify the short and medium run effects of violent game sales on violent crime using time variation in retail unit sales data of the top 50 selling video games and violent criminal offenses from the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for each week of 2005 to 2008. We instrument for game sales with game characteristics, game quality and time on the market, and estimate that, while a one percent increase in violent games is associated with up to a 0.03% decrease in violent crime, non-violent games appear to have no effect on crime rates as stated by Michael Ward in the scholarly journal “Abstract”.

The link between violent video game exposure and aggressive behavior is one of the most studied and best established. Since the earlier meta-analyses, this link continues to be a reliable finding and shows good multi-method consistency across various representations of both violent video game exposure and aggressive behavior. In the wake of mass shootings, video games are often blamed and threatened with legislation.