Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Australia's fun police

New South Wales (Australia) Police Chief Andrew Scipione wants restrictions on violent video games because he thinks they cause crime.

There exists a literature on whether violent games affect crime rates. The best evidence I've seen says that while violent games get violent people excited about violence, they also reduce crime. How? By keeping violent people in their houses playing violent video games where they'd otherwise be going out to do violent things. They call it "voluntary incapacitation"; prison is "involuntary incapacitation". Or see this one.

At least the technology section of News.com.au is a bit less credulous of Scipione's claims.

It's worth remembering that Scipione also reckoned that the Collins and Lapsley measure of the social costs of alcohol use, a $15 billion figure largely based on costs heavy drinkers impose upon themselves via lower life expectancy, lower wages, and spending on alcohol, was actually a measure of the costs of alcohol-caused crime. I don't know whether he still thinks that the Collins and Lapsley number represents crime costs, but he's still pushing for some fairly serious restrictions on alcohol availability.

The Chief of the Fun Police?


  1. Whether he succeeds in changing policy the metaphorical horse has not only bolted from the stable but has already been superseded by the motor car. Physical game stores are gradually closing (http://www.atomicmpc.com.au/News/305472,game-actually-now-really-over-for-game.aspx) as their business is eaten up by direct-download online stores like Steam, and to a lesser extent by illegitimate download sites. Any attempt to regulate legitimate retailers will simply make consumers substitute to 'piracy' for the games they want.

  2. Doesn't Australia have some big nationwide mandatory internet filter that gets rid of anything that makes Gillard sad?

  3. That scheme was piloted in 2009 but implementation seems to have stalled. A couple of the large ISPs have adopted it voluntarily (meaning consumers can effectively choose whether to have their internet filtered). I guess there's only so far moral panic will get you in driving policy before you have to come up with some valid arguments.

  4. Oh! I'd thought it was mandatory in Oz; it's voluntary here, and my choice of ISP weighed filter-policy pretty heavily.