Much fretting about violence in video games is rooted in the worry that the games will foster violence in the real world. (If I shoot enough extra-terrestrials in “Space Invaders,” I might end up shooting extra-terrestrials in real life.)
Earlier this week on the NYT’s Economix blog, David Leonhardt speculated that, in fact, violent video games might be partly responsible for the level or declining rates of violent crime during the current recession. He cites earlier research suggesting that violent movies reduce violent crime.
Ryan Sanger recently discussed similar dynamics in the realm of pornography: increased access to porn seems to correlate with reduced frequency of rape. As Sanger notes, the implications for the debate over simulated child pornography could be especially controversial.
None of the research is anywhere near decisive. But if it turns out that porn and media violence have positive social consequences, the rubber will meet the road on the issue of government regulation of content. We’ll be in a situation in which the utilitarian justification of a set of related laws changes its valence. It’ll be interesting to see the debate unfold.
The Duty to Obey the Law
By David Lefkowitz, UNC Greensboro (October 2006)