Some politicians and media personalities have suggested that violent video games have a negative effect on society, especially in the wake of school shootings and other real-life acts of violence. Many groups have called for video game manufacturers to tone down simulated acts of violence in their games, and some governments have banned violent games outright due to the perceived effect that violent games might have on their users.
A new study from a Gothenburg-based research group sheds some light on how violent games affect online gamers and suggests that the link between real-life and in-game violence is more nuanced and less straightforward than previously believed.
How In-Game Violence Transfers To Real Life
The researchers’ hypothesis essentially centered on the concept of transference, which is regularly cited by violent video games’ opponents to describe how gamers become desensitized. Many politicians and media pundits have hypothesized that gamers are rewarded for in-game acts of brutality. The gamers then transfer this reward system to real-life interactions, which may make them more likely to act violently.
Jonas Linderoth, Ulrika Bennerstedt and Jonas Ivarsson authored the study. The researchers spent hours monitoring gamers and played online violent video games themselves to determine whether the reward system in popular violent video games was sufficient to transfer into real-life violence.
The Benefits Of Teamwork In Online Gaming
The group found that online video games actually encourage cooperation and teamwork. Gamers who did not organize with their teams ended up doing worse in online rankings than gamers who were willing to work together.
Ivarsson noted that successful gamers also needed a good sense of timing and sophisticated skills to succeed in online play. However, teamwork was practically indispensable, and aggressive gamers were less likely to succeed. The researchers note that gamers may positively benefit from online teamwork, and that these gains might outweigh the perceived negative influence of simulated acts of violence.
The group published their findings in the International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning under the title “How Gamers Manage Aggression: Situating Skills In Collaborative Computer Games.” The team’s work calls the entire debate on violent video games into question and certainly offers a different perspective on one of the most hotly contested political and social issues in recent memory.