Researchers: Games With Human Opponents Make Players More Aggressive

Researchers at the University of Connecticut and Wake Forest University claim that when players fight against human-looking opponents, those players become more aggressive. They even go so far as to say that games with these types of opponents in them may be more likely to provoke violent thoughts and words than games where monsters are the enemy. The findings are part of a new research paper called "The Perception of Human Appearance in Video Games: Toward an Understanding of the Effects of Player Perceptions of Game Features," which was published in the May 2013 issue of Mass Communication and Society journal.

The study chose 148 participants to play Quake 3 Revolution, which features a range of both human-looking enemies and monstrous-looking enemies. Kirstie Farrar, associate professor of communication at UConn and the lead researcher on the study, was helped by colleague Rory McGloin, an assistant professor-in-residence, and Wake Forest professor Marina Krcmar, a former UConn faculty member.

After participants played the game, researchers used a series of tests to measure participants’ levels of verbal, cognitive, and physical aggression. Participants who battled what they perceived as human-looking characters in the game were "more likely to have aggressive thoughts and words than those who had shot down monstrous nonhuman characters," according to researchers.

"The more human players perceived the aggressive targets to be, the more verbally aggressive they were and the more violent words they generated,” the research notes. "Although we predicted that less human targets would result in more aggression, players seemed to be more aggressive after perceiving more human targets."

While the study claims to find increased levels of aggression, it also shows that there was no increase in levels of physical aggression after playing games with human looking characters.

Researchers plan to continue the research on this topic -including a study that uses realistic-looking gun-shaped controllers to see if that has any effect on players’ aggression. They also want to research if playing violent video games desensitizes players to violent media and violence in general…

"We can talk about violent video games and aggression all day, but we need to be careful," cautions McGloin. "We’re not going to find one answer and be able to say, ‘This game’s good, this game’s bad.’ It’s never going to be that simple."

You can read the research here.

Source: University of Connecticut


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  1. 0
    NyuRena says:

    That's what I initially figured as well, since people naturally get aggressive when they play ANYTHING competitively. No one would want to study that connection because then we'd be moving into the sacred territory of "sports".

  2. 0
    Sajomir says:

    Y'know, I honestly thought this research was referring to human opponents vs AI opponents. I was thinking "ok, I can see myself trash talking and doing other 'agressive' behavior against human players while playing a game."

    But no, this was about the appearance of what we're blowing up. Meh :\

  3. 0
    Wymorence says:

    That "readable" research linked (the URL doesn't work btw, just comes up with a GP page saying the page can't be found) isn't really readable from the look of it. It gives you a preview of the first PDF page and any further reading can be done only if you shell out $37 US.

    Also seems like an awful small study test group, an old PS2 game (monstrous characters? more later), and an unknown idea as to the participants' personalities.

    The "monstrous characters" part also confuses me a bit, as (going off Q3's list of characters) the only "monstrous" ones I can find are Klesk, Tank Jr., Uriel, Sorlag, and Orbb. And 4/5 of those have a fairly humanoid silhouette from a distance.

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