Aggression in Games – Y U MADBRO?!

Aggression in video games, where to start…

Recently I have discovered some studies discussing co-op in violent video games and their affects on aggressive behaviors. A popular study that have been conducted multiple times before is to have people play certain games, one group typically plays a violent game and the other group plays a nonviolent game, and then they give the people 2 letters and ask them to finish the word. If they finish the word with something associated with anger or violence (KI – Kill, etc.) it generally tells us that they are in a more violent or aggressive mindset.

The studies I found involved cooperative game play and found that people who played violent co-op games (Halo and Halo 2 were used) we found to be friendlier or more cooperative with other players, as opposed to the players who played the single player campaigns of the games, or played strictly single player games.

That’s cool an all, but aren’t those games the ones we typically see issues with when it comes to players being dicks to one another?

I suppose if a group of people who know each other, or who are in the same room are tasked with playing a game cooperatively they will be nicer to each other.

That’s not the way the real world works. Games like Halo and Call of Duty have team multiplayer, they have co-op, however, in the online multiplayer they still pit players against each other as individuals. People need to get the highest kill count, or “that asshole stole my kill!”. Granted, teams that communicate, and work well together, and focus on success as a team tend to perform better and also tend to play better with others, but those aren’t the people we need to worry about.

So, interesting study, but I do take some issue with it, what is important to me is that people are looking into it and that there are results.

On that note, I feel like games like Portal 2 and Mass Effect 3 do a wonderful job of getting gamers to work together. Portal puts people in a position where they must depend on each other to proceed through the level. Mass effect puts players up against a common AI foe, although there is the sense of personal achievement.

When it comes to aggression in games, and influencing player behavior the way information is delivered can greatly affect the way people react to games. Positive reinforcement in games will do wonders to improve player relations. Studies have shown with children that by changing the way in which you present information will change how it is perceived. For example “If you don’t clean your room you won’t get ice cream” versus “If you clean your room I’ll give you ice cream”.

By taking punishment out of the equation the child is more likely to clean their room and do it without arguing. Small things similar to that, rewarding good behavior, rather than threatening punishment upon good behavior might help with the way people interact in online video games. Granted, I discussed how I approve of ArenaNets’ actions with the player bans, and I still stand by them. To some extent if we as an industry are going to start expecting people to act a certain way online, we need to begin enforcing it, although punishment is fairly ineffective without rewards. That is to say, we need to reward good behavior if we are going to punish bad behavior.

Simple, right?




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