Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime

41 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2011 Last revised: 5 Feb 2013

Scott Cunningham

Baylor University

Benjamin Engelstätter

University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt; Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) - Information and Communication Technologies Research Group

Michael R. Ward

University of Texas at Arlington - College of Business Administration - Department of Economics

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: April 7, 2011

Abstract

Video games are an increasingly popular leisure activity. As many of best-selling games contain hyper-realistic violence, many researchers and policymakers have concluded that violent games cause violent behaviors. Evidence on a causal effect of violent games on violence is usually based on laboratory experiments finding violent games increase aggression. Before drawing policy conclusions about the effect of violent games on actual behavior, these experimental studies should be subjected to tests of external validity. Our study uses a quasi-experimental methodology to identify the short and medium run effects of violent game sales on violent crime using time variation in retail unit sales data of the top 50 selling video games and violent criminal offenses from the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) for each week of 2005 to 2008. We instrument for game sales with game characteristics, game quality and time on the market, and estimate that, while a one percent increase in violent games is associated with up to a 0.03% decrease in violent crime, non-violent games appear to have no effect on crime rates.

Keywords: Video Games, Violence, Crime

JEL Classification: D08, K14, L86

Suggested Citation

Cunningham, Scott and Engelstätter, Benjamin and Ward, Michael R., Understanding the Effects of Violent Video Games on Violent Crime (April 7, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1804959 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1804959

Scott Cunningham

Baylor University ( email )

One Bear Place #98003
Waco, TX 76798
United States
254-710-4753 (Phone)
254-710-6142 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.scunning.com

Benjamin Engelstätter

University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt ( email )

Max-Planc-Str.
Dieburg, 64807
Germany

Centre for European Economic Research (ZEW) - Information and Communication Technologies Research Group ( email )

L7, 1
D-68034 Mannheim
Germany
+496211235134 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.zew.de/en/mitarbeiter/mitarbeiter.php3?action=mita&kurz=ben

Michael Robert Ward (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Arlington - College of Business Administration - Department of Economics ( email )

330 Business Building
Box 19479
Arlington, TX 76019
United States
817-272-3090 (Phone)
817-272-3145 (Fax)

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