Many modern video games involve collaborative play, contrary to some commonly-held beliefs. A series of studies from Texas Tech University finds that collaborative video game play can impact real-world social behaviors. People who play collaboratively with helpful partners are less likely to be aggressive in social situations after the game ends. The findings suggest that the social interactions and behaviors involved in video game play encourage pro-social behavior.
The researchers investigated how cooperation in violent and in non-violent video games affects behavior in social situations after the game is over. In the first study, participants played a violent video game, Halo: Reach, in cooperative mode. Afterwards, participants had the opportunity to behave aggressively to their partner or their competitor. Then the researchers repeated this test comparing the behavior of participants who played alone and others who played cooperatively. Participants who played cooperatively demonstrated less aggressive behavior afterwards. Cooperative players were also less aggressive than those who played alone.
In the second study, participants played a non-violent sports game, NBA Street Homecourt. Participants played against an experimenter who they believed was simply another participant. The experimenter purposely played in either a helpful or unhelpful way. After the game, helpful players were more likely to help each other out than people with unhelpful teammates were.
In the last study, participants played a game called Prisoner’s Dilemma. In this game, each player received an amount of money with the option to keep the money or to donate it to a partner or an opponent. Donated money doubled in value, while money players kept maintained its value. This test demonstrated that people who played cooperatively were more likely to donate money without the expectation of a reward.
“What we found was cooperative play seems to have the biggest effect in terms of decreasing aggression toward other people. We found that playing with a helpful partner increases the expectation of others to reciprocate that pro-social behavior and generally be helpful. This applies to not only the teammate, but to others as well,” explained study author John Velez, assistant professor of journalism and electronic media.
The research suggests that many video game players value the social relationships in gameplay, focusing on socialization more than aggression. The findings also indicate that video game behavior is complex and may be an important way to help people learn pro-social behaviors.
This research is published in the journal Communication Research and Computers in Human Behavior.
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