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Study: violent video games reduce violent crime

Despite the best efforts of Fox News to keep America's population cowering behind its curtains with increasingly shrill reports about death and mayhem on the streets, crime levels in the USA have been falling for 20 years.

According to the new data published by the FBI, those figures have seen an even sharper drop in the last two years which can be attributed to a number of factors according to the BBC (opens in new tab).

Top of the list is the so-called 'Obama Effect' which posits that African American youngsters have been so inspired by the USA's first black leader that they're turning away from the crimes with which they were disproportionately involved and getting educated instead.

A fall in the demand for crack cocaine, fuelled by better education on the dangers of the devastatingly-addictive drug and aggressive policing of those involved in its use and distribution, have also contributed to the falling crime figures.

Smarter policing aided by technology, including vehicle number plate recognition and crime mapping which pinpoints trouble hotspots, has also had an impact.

Controversially, there's also a theory which suggests that the increased availability of legal abortion has pushed down the crime figures over an extended period as fewer babies are born to low-income single mothers.

Higher levels of incarceration, the end of the Baby Boomer era, and reduced levels of lead in petrol have all been linked to the apparent drop in crime levels, as have changes in the way crimes are reported and categorised.

Many crimes - violent and otherwise - go unreported because the victims of those crimes know that hard-pressed police forces will do little or nothing about them.

It has also been suggested that the proliferation of mobile phones and CCTV cameras has also had a deterrent effect on criminals, with the prospect of being exposed on YouTube far more frightening to most than a trip through the courts or possible incarceration.

But it's the theory that violent video games may have contributed to the overall drop in crime levels, and those of violent crimes in particular which really caught our eye.

An academic study recently published in the US suggest that playing violent video games may actually reduce the level of violent crimes, not least because of the amount of time and energy today's complex games take to play. Basically, if you're stuck indoors popping virtual caps in digital asses you are to all intents and purposes incapacitated.

Although a number of psychological studies have found a positive relationship between violent games and real-world aggression, they don't take into account the way games divert that aggression into harmless activity.

The study (opens in new tab) (link to PDF) uses some complex maths to prove its point that incapacitation outweighs the effects of increased aggression but comes to an unusual conclusion.

"Violent video games, like all video games, may reduce violence paradoxically while increasing the aggressiveness of individuals by simply shifting these individuals out of alternative activities where crime is more likely to occur.

"Overall, violent video games lead to decreases in violent crime," the report states. monitors all leading technology stories and rounds them up to help you save time hunting them down.