New study shows cooperative gaming makes you a better person (more or less)
A new study from researchers at Texas Tech University concluded that there are several cooperative gaming benefits, including increased social behavior.
People that are secure in their own, unfounded belief that gaming causes people to go insane were just dealt another blow. According to Engadget, a new study conducted at Texas Tech University claims that cooperative gaming may actually make you more social and increase your empathy towards others in real life.
The study was conducted by John Velez, an assistant professor of journalism and electronic media in the College of Media & Communications. The study was meant to test how people that play cooperative violent, and non-violent games then react to social situations.
The results of one study showed that playing cooperative games not only improved the gamers social aptitude, it actually eliminated any negative affects that violent games may or may not have. In another study that focused on non-violent games, playing cooperatively with a teammate – online or in person – increased helpful, pro-social behavior, both in and outside the game.
Of course, people that are convinced that all mass murderers became that way because they played Call of Duty probably won’t be convinced otherwise, but there is some interesting science to back it up.
“What we found was cooperative play seems to have the biggest effect in terms of decreasing aggression toward other people,” Velez said.
“We found that playing with a helpful partner increases the expectation of others to reciprocate that pro-social behavior and generally be helpful. That applies to not only the teammate, but to others as well. The other interesting thing we found was when playing with a helpful teammate, you’re nicer to the other team you just competed against that tried to beat you, even though you don’t expect them to give it back to you.”
One study was conducted using two groups playing violent games. One group played Halo: Reach, while the other played the game Time Splitters. Half the participants played cooperatively, while the other half played solo.
Afterwards, the groups were given the chance to blast their partner or foe with a loud noise. Those that played cooperatively were noticeably less antisocial than the control group.
“Generally, people playing cooperatively seemed to really focus on and value those relationships that are going on when they are playing,” Velez stated in the release. “They focus more on the social aspects and focus less on the violence and aggression. It’s more important to them to think about how they’re interacting with other people. Since most video games are played this way nowadays, it’s an important factor to think about when talking about violent video games and their negative effects.”
Helpful partners vs unhelpful
To further test the theory that cooperative gaming can improve social behavior, Velez conducted a second study as well. In this study, a group of gamers were asked to play non-violent games, but with a twist.
The first was NBA Street Homecourt. Players were paired with either a helpful teammate, or an experimenter posing as a teammate who deliberately acted unhelpfully. The second was Prisoner’s Dilemma, a game about money, where you tried to end up with the most money, but donating money to other players doubled its value.
In both cases, the players with helpful teammates were then significantly more likely to help out in social situations.
One of the key aspects of the studies also showed that those that cooperatively online with helpful teammates showed the same increase in social behaviors in real life as they did when playing in person. That partially negates the possibility that the results were as much because of the risk of social awkwardness – meaning it wasn’t just that people didn’t want offend the people sitting next to them.
Velez plans to continue the study with a larger section of cooperative games, including larger games that support more players.
“In every game there is a different type of cooperation you can do that provides different avenues to cooperate with each other,” Velez said. “I want to explore when does this pro-social effect happen the most and when you can start to predict what type of game in the future creates the most pro-social effect.”