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Violent games don't really beget violence

Date

Michael Duffy

THE BIG IDEA

<em>Grand Theft Auto IV</em> ... gameplay involves stealing cars and committing other violent crimes.

Grand Theft Auto IV ... gameplay involves stealing cars and committing other violent crimes.

VIOLENT video games do not encourage crime. They prevent it.

Although hundreds of psychological studies show playing these games makes people aggressive, until fairly recently no one had looked to see if that mood change led to more crime.

In fact it doesn't, because the gamers spend so much time staring at a screen instead of on the street committing crimes.

"Many young people would rather stay at home and play Grand Theft Auto than go out and steal a real car" ... Ray Carroll.

"Many young people would rather stay at home and play Grand Theft Auto than go out and steal a real car" ... Ray Carroll. Photo: Tanya Lake

As the executive director of the National Motor Vehicle Theft Reduction Council, Ray Carroll, puts it: ''Many young people would rather stay at home and play Grand Theft Auto than go out and steal a real car.''

He believes this helps explain the decline in car thefts in the past decade.

The commander of the NSW Police Property Crime Squad, Detective Superintendent Greig Newbery, sees the same cause in the 50 per cent drop in property crime: ''It's hard enough to get kids out of the house to kick a football around … let alone to do a break-and-enter.''

One reason we think violent games lead to violent behaviour is because of killers such as Anders Breivik, who played violent games.

But this is not logical: 90 per cent of boys play games, but few commit murder.

Research backing up this more benign view of violent games has an interesting implication: maybe instead of locking up criminals, we should be giving them game consoles.

For research into video games: papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers .cfm?abstract-id=1804959.

For research into violent films: nytimes.com/2008/01/07/business/media/07violence.html.

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