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Gaming to thank for falling US crime rate?

Study: violent games keep kids off the street.

It might come as news to CSI fans, but murder and robbery rates have been on the decline in the US since 1991, with an especially sharp drop reported in the last two years.

As summarised today by the BBC, the various hypotheses put forward to explain the trend include better police work, decreased demand for crack cocaine, the "Obama effect" and, perhaps surprisingly, the increased popularity of gaming.

A study carried out in April by researchers in Texas working with the Centre for European Economic Research has rejected the widely-held perception that games potentially make consumers more violent, and instead insisted that the pastime is actually helping to keep them occupied and off the streets.

Titled Understanding the Effects of Violent Videogames on Violent Crime, it claims that an increased volume of violent game sales over the given test period has corresponded with a decrease in criminal incidents reported to law enforcement officers.

The report's basic argument is that any anti-social tendencies that games might inspire in users is offset by the time it takes to play them.

"We argue that since laboratory experiments have not examined the time use effects of videogames, which incapacitate violent activity by drawing individual gamers into extended gameplay, laboratory studies may be poor predictors of the net effects of violent videogames in society," wrote the report's author, economist Michael Ward

"Consequently, they overstate the importance of videogame induced aggression as a social cost."

Take that, Keith Vaz.

Those with an appetite for algebra and reams of impenetrable data can download the full report from Social Science Research Network.