Video game violence and realism do not affect player behaviour, study shows

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Gamers play video games during the opening of the world's largest computer games fair Gamescom in Cologne, Germany, August 22, 2017. REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

The next time you hear someone say that video games are making you more aggressive, you might want to point them towards a recent study done by the University of York. The research team has concluded that there is no evidence supporting the idea that a person’s behaviour goes hand in hand with violent video games.

Two separate but connected studies focus on the concepts of realism and “priming.” For the latter, the researchers asked participants to play two games: one where they play as a car avoiding collisions, and one where they play as a mouse avoiding a cat. Afterwards, participants were asked to categorise a series of images as vehicle or animal.

Dr David Zendle from the University of York’s Department of Computer Science said that the effects of “priming” would involve the participants associating the images more quickly. However, the results show otherwise. “Participants who played a car-themed game were no quicker at categorising vehicle images, and indeed in some cases their reaction time was significantly slower,” Zendle said.

The first study, titled “No Priming in Video Games,” is published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour.

The second study focuses on realism and how it theoretically affects a person’s aggression. The research team, however, did not focus on graphical (visual) realism. Instead, they zoomed in on real-world behaviour emulated by ragdoll physics, an animation procedure that allows three-dimensional models to move the way objects do in real life.

Participants were asked to play two combat games, one with ragdoll physics and one without. Both titles were reportedly realistic graphics-wise.

After the game, players were tasked with solving word puzzles to see if they would lean towards violent word associations. The conclusion merely supports the results of the first study. “We found that the priming of violent concepts, as measured by how many violent concepts appeared in the word fragment completion task, was not detectable,” Dr Zendle said. “There was no difference in priming between the game that employed ‘ragdoll physics’ and the game that didn’t, as well as no significant difference between the games that used ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ solider tactics.”

The second study, titled “Behavioural Realism and the Activation of Aggressive Concepts in Violent Video Games,” is published in the journal Entertainment Computing.

Dr Zendle emphasised the need to focus on other aspects of “realism” to see if results would be different. “What happens when we consider the realism of by-standing characters in the game, for example, and the inclusion of extreme content, such as torture?” The research team has also noted that the study was only tested on adult participants.