Video games make the people who play them aggressive and violent. This is what many media outlets, people, and organizations would like to make you believe. A lot of the people who play these games would argue otherwise. It is perhaps the biggest debate in the entire gaming world. It is the fundamental point brought up in the argument against video games. This question has been brought to the attentions of researchers who took it upon themselves to try and conclude the argument. However, even the academic community is to some degree torn on this issue. Some say that video games do increase aggressive behaviour while others say it’s only a short term effect, while others still say that it is the nature of the game player that is important (i.e.) the person is naturally aggressive. A study done by Triberti, Villani and Riva had a slightly different idea of the third point.
The researchers looked at the morals of the players based on their character selection/creation preferences. The idea was, if evil, immoral characters had more appeal the player would be more aggressive, and less empathetic. The study took around 220 gamers who were given several questions in different areas such empathy, aggressive tendencies, affinity towards ‘evil’ video game characters and so on. As suspected by the researchers, moral positioning not only related to aggressive behaviour, and low empathy, but it also was shown to be a predictive factor, i.e. moral positioning can be used to gain an idea of one’s aggressive behaviour and empathy levels.
What does this mean for gamers and video games? This study suggests that the nature of video games is not as important as the nature of the player who plays the games. Suggesting that video games create tendencies of aggression and apathy may not be a correct assumption. It does suggest people with a more ‘evil’ moral position may be more drawn to characters and games which share similar morals; which, in turn can show these people are more aggressive and less empathetic. This could be used as a way to find out the tendencies of people in a more inconspicuous way. The greater appeal of an evil character may show a more aggressive person.
This study does not leave video games off the hook. There are still many areas that can be explored and this subject is very complex. Although this study can help the case of video games, this debate will rage on for years to come.
Triberti, S., Villani, D., & Riva, G. (2015). Moral positioning in video games and its relation with dispositional traits: The emergence of a social dimension. Computers in Human Behavior, 50, 1-8. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2015.03.069