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How you play, not what you play

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Adventure games, everyone still knows them from school, strengthen confidence, courage as well as the ability to communicate with each other to achieve shared goals. The prosocial impact of these games is accepted in the field of education. But can this effect be transferred to the more and more realistic console and online games when played in a cooperative mode?

The opinion that video games lead to more aggressive behavior and make us fat, stupid and lonely, prevailed for a long time. Meanwhile more studies are published, which show that cooperative gameplay actually can have positive effects on us. Gamers pursue a shared goal in these games and work together to achieve it. Their own triumph is dependent on the success of their fellow players.

This effect was examined at the Ohio State University with test persons playing games like Halo 2 and Call of Duty either in the cooperative or in the competitive mode. Afterwards they played a game used in behavioral science where cooperative behaviors leads to the best result. It showed that those who had played in the cooperative mode beforehand approached their task jointly as well. Therefore the researchers concluded that not the subject of the game determined its effect but the way it is played.

Similar studies were conducted at the University of Innsbruck in Germany, accompanied by the Austrian Science Fund FWF. In study the team differentiated between cooperative and competitive types of players and observed them over a longer time to record their thought and feeling patterns. As part of an experiment they let the test persons play games in both modes, just like the Ohio State University. Afterwards they examined to what extend the gamers showed empathy or prosocial behavior. Their conclusion: Games that require a common approach encourage cooperative behavior in real life.

We are looking forward to future scientific learnings.

If you like to read more about this topic:

FWF: Can video games teach us how to behave? Research focuses on the positive effects of computer games