Monday, July 16, 2007

Video games and crime?

Steve Sailer's been dealing with another potential explanation, lead, for the significant downtrend in violent crime rates that occured in the nineties after having risen steadily throughout the eighties. He blew up Steven Levitt's explanation by, essentially, pointing out that data at the national level clearly contradicted what the abortion-cut-crime theory would predict. There's also the crack epidemic and a burgeoning incarceration rate that meant more thugs removed from society. Identifying any single factor to explain such a complex phenomenon is inevitably going to come up short to some extent.

Still, I wonder how video game sales track with criminality in the US. I've not been able to find historical numbers extending back into the mid-nineties and before. Tracking at the national level is difficult enough--by market is probably impossible prior to the mid-nineties when video games became a cultural staple. If known numbers are floating around out there somewhere, please let me know.

A 'hypothesis' goes something like this: The teen homicide rate shot up the year of the video game 'crash' in 1983. Nintendo resuscitated the market in the late eighties. Sega responded with the Genesis in 1990. Nintendo countered with the Super NES the following year. With 16-bit systems taking video game graphics and play control to a captivating new level (recall how stunning Sonic 2 was for 1992), and a nationally-released movie to premiere what would become one of the best-selling games of all time under the belt, the homicide rate peaked in '91 and began its steady decline (which is now reversing, presumably due to demographics). All of this was now available at home, without requiring a bunch of young punks to meet up at a seedy arcade in town. A new avenue for pent-up male aggression had now become mainstreamed, and as the complexity of this interactive opiate grew, so idle hands no longer were thanks to the control pad.

If nothing else, it'd be interesting to see the strength of the inverse correlation between violent crime rates and video game sales.

9 comments:

MensaRefugee said...

Bleh,
So Im all alone in thinking Sonic 1 had the best graphics on the Mega Drive?

Audacious Epigone said...

Mensa,

Yes. But you might make a case for best music :)

agnostic said...

Yes. But you might make a case for best music :)

Ha, in Metroid the music from Kraid's lair alone whoops almost every other video game music out there.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kcJaezDlQU4
(starting at about 4:40)

Simon's Quest owns Sonic, e.g. the final level:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxj9Bcy71Fk

Ocarina of Time? That's probably the best music. Remember Gerudo Valley?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aS43TihANi4

I haven't played video games in about 10 years, except the Castlevania ones for the GBA (by emulator). Watch at about 5:18
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5g712ngXFBs

Sonic... please.

Audacious Epigone said...

Agnostic,

Well, it's not fair to compare 8 bit Samus with 16 bit Sonic. But Green Hill Zone obliterates your excerpt. This is one of the better video game tracks out there. Come on, now!

And moving to Sonic 2, I'd put Metropolis up against Ocarina of Time.

Still, if we're going up to 16 bit, it's hard to top Chrono Trigger. The Kingdom of Zeal is a melodic masterpiece (right at 4 minutes in)!

And Dracula's Castle is great for sure.

For more neotenous musical indulgence, what do hear at 3:42-4:02? A couple of brothers throwing down in the streets of Big City, USA, perhaps?

Audacious Epigone said...

The Metropolis one should be started 30 seconds in.

Jun said...

You mean like how increased access to pornography (via the internet) has (maybe?) reduced the numbers of rapes?:

http://www.law.stanford.edu/display/images/dynamic/events_media/Kendall%20cover%20+%20paper.pdf

Audacious Epigone said...

Jun,

Something similar, if not even more plausible. While I could probably be swayed either way with pornography (complements or substitutes for real-world sexual pursuits), criminal violence isn't something that must be expressed somewhere and on a regular basis(like sex will be).

The transferability of video game violence (although this is progressively becoming less true as games become more and more realistic) to real-world violence isn't nearly as lucid as porn to rape is.

MensaRefugee said...

OT,
But brilliant PSX/PC music from Silent Hill 2!

http://youtube.com/watch?v=tysvNGGFN3M

Audacious Epigone said...

Mensa,

That's some spooky stuff. Thanks for giving me nightmares!