ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – They teach you how to shoot and how to kill, but there’s new evidence that violent video games may actually reduce violent behavior.
A UT Arlington Economist is part of a team that published the research last month, and it boils down to a very simple concept… the more time kids spend playing games, the less time they have to get into trouble.
“I said ‘Okay, I’m going to have to bang on this result a little bit harder to see if it holds up,’” said professor Mike Ward.
It’s the third video game related study for the UT Arlington economics professor, who said he didn’t expect his results.
The statistical analysis is complicated, but one study showed when game stores in a county, including North Texas counties, grew by one percent, crime rates dropped a tenth of a percent, double the amount they dropped because of sports.
Last month Ward expanded on the work by comparing game sales year over year with violent crime rates. No matter how popular violent games were, it always resulted in a drop in violent crime.
“Video games not only cost money, but they also cost time,” he said. “It takes a lot of time to beat the game, and so all those hours you’re playing the game are hours that you’re not getting into trouble.”
Ward compared it to midnight basketball leagues for kids when he lived in Chicago, and it made sense to directors at the Boys and Girls Club in Fort Worth.
On a Monday afternoon there recently, 200 kids crowded into the facility and a good two dozen focused on the Xbox 360 and its Kinect motion controller.
Microsoft donated the systems to the club, which uses it to attract kids into the facility.
It wasn’t a violent game they were playing, but director Daphne Stigliano said it had the same desired efect.
“We don’t want them to be on the street, unsupervised, or home alone unsupervised. We want them here,” she said. “A number of our kids would potentially be doing things that they shouldn’t be doing. or you know they don’t intend to do anything bad but they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time”
Ward’s study doesn’t argue with psychological work that has shown increased aggression in kids who spend long hours with violent games.
In fact, the drop in crime with violent games was slightly lower than when games for general audiences were most popular.
But Ward says for now, it shows cracking down on video games may not be an effective way for communities to immediately crack down on crime.