The so-called evil and corrupting influence of violent video games has been a hot topic ever since the first bulky Space Invaders machines were clumsily installed into arcades and bars the world over. Any number of crimes, wayward teens and the general downfall of society have all been linked to the millions of cartoon pixels a lot of us see on our screens every day.
But now one of the media’s favorite whipping boys could well be spared more public floggings, thanks to both science and a little common sense.
Morgan Tear and Mark Nielsen, both from the University of Queensland, Australia, conducted a lengthy survey and experiment as to whether immersion in violent games makes users less pro-social, and even less willing to donate to charity.
The results will be unsurprising to those of us who are able to distinguish games and the actions performed in them from reality. As the study’s results quite clearly state:
- Violent games have no bearing on pro-sociality compared to non-violent games.
- Increasing violence to ultraviolent levels has no effect on pro-sociality.
Users were given three categories to play with. “Non-violent” included Portal 2 and Modnation Racers, while the “violent” and “ultra-violent” groups dealt with different titles from the Mortal Kombat and God Of War series.
Thankfully, scientific studies can be a complicated process, and Tear and Nielsen devised two very clever ways to determine whether or not their human guinea pigs were close to going on a murderous rampage or not. Unlike tabloids or pressure groups with an axe to grind who will quiz sugar-loaded kids on how cool guns and explosions and stuff are, Tear and Nielsen put their charges through the wringer.
After playing games from all three of the assigned categories, two tasks were given. First they were asked to complete a number of puzzles, then told to choose the puzzles they felt were suitable for another study involving a cash reward. The study’s abstract theorized that participants, now less pro-social after committing heinous acts in the virtual world, would choose the harder puzzles so as to prevent other people from gaining any rewards. This hypothesis was quickly refuted by the results, which showed the complete opposite occurring.
The second task was a little more obtuse, but almost ingenious in its conception. Those taking part were handed an amount of money for finishing the original study. Before being allowed to leave they were asked to complete a survey for a children’s hospital, then left to their own devices with a donation box near to them. Guess what? There no negative effects on donations either. It’s almost as if the years of scaremongering was just hysteria. Surely not!
Tear and Nielsen acknowledge that the data may potentially be flawed when they say “participants were possibly sensitive to the hypothesis at some level” but overall “this experiment adds to the growing body of evidence suggesting that violent video game effects are less clear than initially thought.”
Of course, the variety of the video game market and the massive differences in time individual players spend on their machines means there are still plenty of variables and lots more research to be conducted. But for now, here’s the summary: If you’re building worlds in Minecraft, racing around tracks on Mario Kart or ripping people’s spines out on Mortal Kombat, it doesn’t matter!
Destructive Creations, progenitors of Hatred, a game due to be causing an outrage on a front page near you soon, spoke exclusively to BaDoink about the results of this study.
Asked whether violence in video games is at a peak or there isn’t enough, their CEO, Jaroslaw Zielinski, said: “It’s not violence, it’s virtual violence. Those are two different things. I think the current amount is okay as it is. I can’t exactly tell what ‘level’ it is right now, it’s rather uncountable. Hatred isn’t more violent or brutal title than many others.”
However, even when the evidence is right there for you to look at, some people will still stick their head in the sand. The fight continues!