Violent video games can actually increase a player’s moral awareness

Above: Gears of War

Image Credit: Microsoft

Go ahead and play Grand Theft Auto V, where you can run over anyone with a car. Shoot it out in Call of Duty to your heart’s content. And make those tough decisions in games like The Last of Us and Watch Dogs about whether to pull the trigger or not. None of it is going to make you more violent, new research claims — and it may actually make have the opposite effect.

A new study (as Gamasutra reported) concludes that violent video games may actually make players more sensitive to violence in real life and help them become more aware of the moral codes that they are violating in games, even as these works receive blame for the alleged roles they play in school shootings and other acts.

Matthew Grizzard, an assistant professor at the University at Buffalo, and researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Texas, surveyed more than 185 random participants.

“Rather than leading players to become less moral,” Grizzard said, “this research suggests that violent video-game play may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity. This may, as it does in real life, provoke players to engage in voluntary behavior that benefits others.”

The study, “Being Bad in a Video Game Can Make Us More Morally Sensitive,” said that being immoral in a video game can cause feelings of guilt, which can lead to more acceptable social behavior in real life.

“We found that after a subject played a violent video game, they felt guilt and that guilt was associated with greater sensitivity toward the two particular domains they violated — those of care/harm and fairness/reciprocity,” said Grizzard.

“Our findings suggest that emotional experiences evoked by media exposure can increase the intuitive foundations upon which human beings make moral judgments. “This is particularly relevant for video-game play, where habitual engagement with that media is the norm for a small, but considerably important group of users.”

The study participants played a shooter game as either a terrorist or as a United Nations soldier.

“An American who played a violent game ‘as a terrorist’ would likely consider his avatar’s unjust and violent behavior — violations of the fairness/reciprocity and harm/care domains — to be more immoral than when he or she performed the same acts in the role of a ‘U.N. peacekeeper,” Grizzard said.

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Evren Kiefer
Evren Kiefer

A single study isn't enough to change the scientific consensus. The scientific consensus isn't enough to change perceptions... So no.

Anthony Kritikos
Anthony Kritikos

Counter Strike headshots are nothing like real life headshots in that there's realistic blood and gore and an actual person dying. I doubt most players would go "Woahhh nice headshots bro! 10 points!" What a ridiculous statement to make.

Paul Pauly
Paul Pauly

I still say it desensitizes people. Play enough counter strike or something and seeing a headshot IRL won't nearly be as traumatic after watching it thousands of times in front of the comp.

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