Video Games Make Better People

July 1st, 2009 | Sources: Economist

Research suggests that violent video games promote aggressive thoughts, and probably, violence itself. The thing is, not all video games are violent. In fact some actually reward socially constructive behavior like sharing things or saving the planet.

afterthiswesavetheplanetCould these so-called “pro-social” video games foster salutary behavior in players?

Two recent studies suggest the answer might be yes.

In the first, Iowa State’s Douglas Gentile, a noted video-game researcher, and his colleagues asked 161 students to play one of 6 games for 20 minutes. Some were assigned Ty2 or Crash Twinsanity, which feature wall-to-wall violence.

Others were told to play Chibi-Rob!, in which players help video characters with chores, or Super Mario Sunshine, in which participants erase graffiti and eliminate pollution. A control group got to play neutral maze games like Pure Pinball and Super Monkey Ball Deluxe.

After the session, the scientists asked participants to select from a smorgasbord of easy, medium and hard puzzles that a partner would complete, and told them the partner would receive a gift upon their successful completion.

Students assigned to the pro-social games were more likely to select easy puzzles for the partner, while those assigned violent games selected the more difficult puzzles.

In the second experiment, Tobias Greitemeyer and colleagues from the University of Sussex asked 46 students to play either Lemmings, a pro-social game, or Tetris, a neutral control.

After the session, the scientists asked students to complete story lines such as what happens after a driver nearly collides with a bicyclist. Lemmings players proposed endings characterized by fewer aggressive thoughts, responses and actions than Tetris players.

Alas, the medium is rarely the message. Both write-ups will be published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.


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