Smoking Prevents Lung Cancer!

Actually it doesn’t. But such a headline would make as much sense as one that reads “Video Games Cause Youth Violence”. In other words if you believe that playing video games leads youths to become more violent you would also need to believe that smoking prevents lung cancer, as this ARS Technica article points out:

The story you won’t hear, because it doesn’t sell, is that as gaming gets more popular violent crime has gone down. “The reality is that…as violent video games have become more prevalent, violent crimes have decreased dramatically. This is true both for police arrest data, as well as crime victimization data,” an article in the Journal of Investigative Psychology and Offender Profiling stated. The data is striking.

This is certainly not to say that violent video games are necessarily responsible for this decline, even partially. However, this certainly cuts away the basis of any belief that violent games are promoting societal violence,” the article claims. “The correlation (an astonishing r = -0.95) is simply in the wrong direction. This would be akin to lung cancer decreasing radically after smoking cigarettes was introduced into a population, which is simply not the case.”

gamedata

That’s not to say that there are not a few individuals for whom playing violent video games causes violent reactions. Humans are peculiar creatures. There is also some small percentage of lung cancer patients who have never smoked a cigarette.

But the long term trends are clear. You can not plausible suggest that video games cause violence in the general population of youths unless you put forth a hypothesis of why youth violence has gone down while the amount of video game playing has gone up.

Full disclosure: I don’t play video games and I don’t let my children play violent video games. The former is due to lack of personal interest and the latter is a due to personal values.

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