“The Rise in Violent Crime has been Caused By…”: A Blast from the Past

Once again an atrocity has happened and people look for a simplistic scapegoat.  People always blame guns, of course, but this time they’re again bringing out the old canard about “violent video games.”  I’ve dealt with that claim before.  So, without further ado:

Well, today I saw a police officer on a video repeating an old claim that violent video games are part of the reason for the rise in violent crime.

I’ve seen similar claims about the availability of guns, about divorce rates, about taking prayer out of schools, about decline in religious (particularly Christian) fervor, and many other things.

There’s just one problem:  violent crime isn’t rising.  Oh, there’s been a slight increase in the last few years, but only slight in comparison to what it’s been in the recent past.

So, let’s take a look at crime rates and violent video games:

Mortal Kombat was particularly noted as a fighting game where one graphically killed ones opponents.   Wolfenstein 3D and Doom were among the first fairly realistic “first person shooters”.

Now, I’m not going to claim that the reduction in violent crime is a result of these games release.  Correlation does not equal causation.  But what it does show is that the claimed link to “violent video games” and any rise in crime is ridiculous because crime hasn’t risen.  If playing these kinds of caused people to commit real-life crimes we would expect to see a rise in crime coupled with the games becoming available and popular.  We do not.

Have many violent criminals played these kinds of games?  Probably.  But then lots of people have played these games so that’s to be expected even in the absence of any causal connection.  Or perhaps there’s a causal connection the other way.  Perhaps those prone to violence are more likely to play violent video games.  That would give you a higher percentage of violent playing the games without the games being any kind of cause.

There are all sorts of possible reasons that folk might see a connection between video games and violent crime.  It may seem “reasonable” to them that what they “practice” in the game they might try to do in reality.  But the simple fact is, there is no increase in violence to explain.

So this is just one example of many, where people try to use something that, for whatever reasons they want to restrict, as an “explanation” for crime and violence.  You have to agree with their restriction, right?  Why not?  Don’t you want to reduce crime and violence?  What kind of monster are you?

The only problem with that is that what they’re wanting to restrict often has little or nothing to do with actually causing crime and violence.  That’s not even to consider whether the restriction itself is even more dangerous than the crime and violence  it’s supposed to combat.  Why, yes.  The cure can be worse than the disease.

It’s especially nonsense when the rise of the thing they’re wanting to restrict is accompanied by a fall in crime and violence.

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One thought on ““The Rise in Violent Crime has been Caused By…”: A Blast from the Past”

  1. Or, perhaps, people use “violent” video games as a “safety release valve” for violent impulses. I know that when I’ve been frustrated at every turn throughout my day, I’ll fire up Unreal, key in God mode, load myself with the entire arsenal, and turn off gravity. Then play with the Redeemer (man-portable nuclear-tipped guided missile, you’re guiding it from a “missile’s-eye” view, which is just *so* *much* *fun*…) and I end up feeling rather better after an hour or so.

    Or, if I’m feeling particularly vicious that day, I’ll stick to proximity mines. They will CHASE YOU AROUND and TAUNT YOU while they’re trying to catch you so they can explode! Oh, such fun! “My mom can run faster than that!” “You take that one, I’ll get this one!”

    Doom, Wolfenstein, or Duke3D in God Mode is also good for relaxation, but they don’t have the Redeemer or the Prox Mines…

    Like

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