Study: Gore Does Not a Fun Game Make

By  |  Tuesday, January 20, 2009 at 11:09 am

Instinctively, you’d think the flying giblets and gore of first-person shooters like Half-Life add a bit of visceral fun to the game, making it more attractive to players. A new study out of the University of Rochester disputes that idea.

Researchers in the graduate department of social psychology found that violent content doesn’t motivate people to play, at least not any more than a game without guns or swords. The research consisted of 2,670 gamer surveys and two experiments.

For the experiments, researchers created custom mods of Half-Life 2, one that focused on shooting enemies with a shotgun and another that required psychic powers to float opponents “up very serenely into the air before evaporating,” according to lead author Andrew Przybylski. He said roughly five percent of the subjects showed aggressive tendencies, but most said the added violence didn’t increase the game’s fun factor.

There is one point that’s missed here: Attacking someone with psychic powers is still violent on some level. Heck, the act of stomping on a goomba has aggressive undertones. Those examples aren’t as sensational as Halo or Grand Theft Auto, but the message — that a conflict should be dealt with through aggression rather than mediation — is the same.

That’s why I’m surprised to see Iowa State University psychologist Craig Anderson throw his support behind the study. Anderson has published several reports that attempt to link violent video games and aggression. He’s a polarizing figure, if only because pundits and politicians use his work as fodder for their own agendas.

“A common belief held by many gamers and many in the video game industry –that violence is what makes a game fun – is strongly contradicted by these studies,” Anderson said in an e-mail to The Canadian Press. He then talks about satisfying gamers’ “competence urge” without resorting to violence.

“Whoever does this well will be able to tap into a much larger market,” he wrote.

Even if his support is somewhat contradictory, I can’t say it’s unwelcome. Finding middle ground between video games’ cheerleaders and detractors is the key to resolving the whole violence issue,  and this is a step in the right direction.

Be the first to comment

Read more: 

Comments are closed.