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BBC: Video games reduce violent crime

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A gamer enjoys "Dead Island" at E3 2011 - Getty Images

While there's no end to the people who steadfastly maintain that things were better in the '80s and '90s, there's one fact they can't
dispute: It's safer these days.

Violent crime in the U.S. has dropped precipitously since 1991; robberies and murders are the lowest since the mid-1970s. And the BBC says video games could be partially responsible for the improvements.

While the news outlet admits that the reasons for lower crime rates are something no one will ever agree on, it points to a recent study from a Texas researcher that the immersive qualities of games are keeping people glued to their couches.

In other words, argues Dr. Michael Ward of the University of Texas, even if you believe games bring out violent tendencies in people, those negative effects are outweighed by the fact that the urge to keep playing them keeps those people off the streets.

Put even more simply: Want to make sure you live in a safe neighborhood? Look for one with lots of gamers.

"[Areas with] more game stores are associated with significant declines in crime rates for six of eight categories of crime," said Ward in a topic summary for his findings. "Analogous proxies for other youth related leisure activities - sports and movie viewing - do not have a similar effect. Finally, I find that mortality rates, especially mortality rates stemming from injuries, also are negatively related to the number of game stores."

Games, of course, aren't the sole reason the BBC cites as the reason for the crime rate drops. Everything from the increase in camera phones (which increase the odds of someone capturing pictures of people committing crimes) to the aging Baby Boomer population to a fall in demand for crack cocaine are also theorized.

Still, it's refreshing to know that the urge to play just one more level (or mission) could be keeping the streets safe.

"Video games not only cost money, but they also cost time," says Ward. "It takes a lot of time to beat the game, and so all those hours you're playing the game are hours that you're not getting into trouble."

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