Do violent video games result in an increased level of violence among young people?
It's easy to say yes. It seems to make sense. It allows us to direct our efforts at a specific source. But consider research reported in the New York Times:
The proliferation of violent video games has not coincided with spikes in youth violent crime. The number of violent youth offenders fell by more than half between 1994 and 2010, to 224 per 100,000 population, according to government statistics, while video game sales have more than doubled since 1996.
In a working paper now available online, Dr. Ward and two colleagues examined week-by-week sales data for violent video games, across a wide range of communities. Violence rates are seasonal, generally higher in summer than in winter; so are video game sales, which peak during the holidays. The researchers controlled for those trends and analyzed crime rates in the month or so after surges in sales, in communities with a high concentrations of young people, like college towns.
“We found that higher rates of violent video game sales related to a decrease in crimes, and especially violent crimes,” said Dr. Ward, whose co-authors were A. Scott Cunningham of Baylor University and Benjamin Engelstätter of the Center for European Economic Research in Mannheim, Germany.
This does not mean that violent video games are not contributing to some of the violence that we have recently seen from young men in this country. There are statistics in the New York Times piece that also lend credence to the argument.
It simply means that there are no easy answers to this difficult question, and we must be wary of latching onto the easy answers, lest we ignore the ones more difficult to surmise.