Violent Games Don’t Make Us Violent In Real Life, Scientists Say


Recently, a group of scientists at the University of York held a series of experiments to find out if there’s a link between violent video games and antisocial human behavior. Despite games’ “tattered reputation”, researchers found no proof of them having negative impact on player’s behaviour or increasing aggression with its violent content.

The purpose was to prove or disprove the theory saying that video games have ‘priming’ effect on us. This would mean that when we recurrently see violence in games, it gets much easier for us to use the same concept (violence) and change our behavior in real life.

Dr. David Zendle and his colleagues from the Department of Computer Science made several studies involving 3,000 participants. In one of them, they had to play one of two games - drive a car avoiding collision with trucks, or play as a mouse being chased by a cat. After playing the participants were shown pictures of various objects and beings, including animals and vehicles, and asked to categorize them appropriately.

Should a person who played a cat-mouse game label animals faster than vehicles or other objects, that would mean he’d immersed himself in that game’s concepts. Scientists, however, observed no change in the speed of reaction to pictures across both groups. 

What about realism? It became the subject of another study by Zendle and his fellow scientists, where they experimented with different manifestations of realism in games and their possible effect. Realism doesn’t always mean realistic graphic; true-to-life character behavior can also make the game feel like it’s real.

They used two combat games: one had characters whose movement and behavior were based on ‘ragdoll’ physics, and the other one was set in an animated world that looked quite real. Following the play session, participants had to solve a word puzzle, whose results were later analyzed by scientists to estimate the degree of violence in the used words. 

A similar test was conducted with a war game. It was made in two versions: the first one had enemies acting like real-life soldiers, while the second one didn’t have characters behaving in a real manner. 

The research group of the University of York compared results of both tests and concluded that they found no evidence of game’s realism affecting the players or encouraging their violent behavior. 

It must be noted that the studies involved only adults, and hopefully their next research will be focused on measurement of the effect of games on kids and teenagers.
Posted by Renatus on March 16, 2018