Video game violence has been a subject of contention over the years, being blamed for tragedies such as high profile back-to-back mass shootings which have been reeling the U.S. Although it is easy to believe that spending large amounts of time killing other people in a realistic virtual environment would make it easier for them to do the same in real life, can violent games actually produce the opposite effect?
A study conducted at Brock University put this notion to test, studying Canadian students playing the violent first person shooter (FPS) video game, “Call of Duty: Black Ops.” The students played a cooperative mode known as “Cooperative Zombies,” forcing them to work together to kill as many zombies as possible before both the players are eliminated. The testers told some players that they were playing alongside a University of Buffalo student and a student from Brock University, their own school.
When playing against an American student, the result was a considerable reduction in prejudice against the University of Buffalo students and Americans. This reduction in prejudicial opinions was not found in “friendlier” groups such as Canadians nor outgroups such as ethnic minorities. The ability of the cooperative game to engender a sense of teamwork and break down social barriers spoke volumes as to the potential of stress and teamwork on reducing intergroup prejudices in general. Although the students played against zombies, a fictional A.I. controlled group, other studies using a real outgroup of people resulted in elevated amounts of prejudice towards that group.
Real-life applications of the study
In addition to reducing prejudice amongst college students, this study has major military application as well. Although allies are often forced to fight together, they still carry attitudes of superiority and prejudices against each other that reduce their ability to effectively operate as a unit. The United States Army has already been employing the use of video games in pre-battle training with the U.S. Army funded PC game “America’s Army,” as well as sponsoring the “Call of Duty” franchise itself, the game used in the study. Having troops utilize the cooperative modes of gameplay with future real-life allies has great potential to reduce prejudices and facilitate teamwork when the time comes.
Although the study suggested a reduction of prejudice amongst cooperative outgroups, the question still remains of whether it can lead to increased violence against the group they are playing against. Group mentality can be powerful in its ability to bring people together and equally effective in uniting them against a common enemy. Although this may be helpful in a war scenario, it does have the potential to increase group violence against “other” groups amongst civilians, giving the critics of violent shooters more ammunition.
The insight gained from this study also extends to non-military exercises as well, such as training for pilots who often co-pilot with strangers. This also includes any job that requires teamwork with people they are not familiar with. However, the question still remains of whether violent games lead to violence in general.
Cooperative modes produce sense of brotherhood
Another study (Adachi & Willoughby) shed some light on the issue, suggesting that although there is a correlation between aggression and violent video games, it is dependent on the context, or how the game is played versus the nature of the game itself. Playing a game on single player, where it is only the person versus A.I. controlled players, was found to have a stronger correlation with aggression and anti-social behavior in general, whereas the modes requiring teamwork produced a sense of brotherhood and cooperation, reducing aggression, at least amongst the teammates.
The age-old adage of “an enemy of my enemy is my friend” applies to this situation. Although it is not surprising that the enemies now working together are forced to overcome their biases for the sake of teamwork, the question still remains of whether that foregone violence and aggression is merely channeled into their common enemy, maintaining if not increasing the overall level of violence and prejudice.
Seeking treatment for mental health
Although everyone is affected psychologically by video games differently, they do have the potential to develop an addiction or impulse disorder in some people. Though there was no direct connection between the two, it has been observed that teens spending a considerable amount of time on these platforms might be afflicted with mental health disorders like depression.
Adeona Healthcare, the leading renowned mental health care provider for adolescents aged 12 to 17, offers evidence-based treatment approaches for social media addiction and teenage depression treatment. We provide comprehensive evidence-based teenage depression treatment programs that can be personalized to ensure that the teen’s treatment goals are met. To know more about our center, call our 24/7 helpline (888) 997-3966 and speak to a representative. You can also chat online with a member from our admissions team for further assistance.