30 May

Being bad at video games (not to be confused with being bad at video games)

My upcoming book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet has put me on the lookout for intriguing articles on the gaming world, especially those that parents might find interesting or useful.

Today, “‘Bad’ video game behavior increases players’ moral sensitivity” caught my eye:

New evidence suggests heinous behavior played out in a virtual environment can lead to players’ increased sensitivity toward the moral codes they violated.

That is the surprising finding of a study led by Matthew Grizzard, assistant professor in the Department of Communication, and co-authored by researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Texas, Austin.

“Rather than leading players to become less moral,” Grizzard says, “this research suggests that violent video-game play may actually lead to increased moral sensitivity. This may, as it does in real life, provoke players to engage in voluntary behavior that benefits others.”

The study, “Being Bad in a Video Game Can Make Us More Morally Sensitive,” will be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.

The name of that study sounded familiar. Didn’t I read something about that recently?

Not exactly. “Being Bad at Video Games Ups Aggression” was about something else entirely:

Video game playing can make you angry or aggressive. But it seems that the key factor may not be the violence. It’s the player’s incompetence at the game that’s behind the ramped-up emotions, whether they’re upping their kill count in Grand Theft Auto 3 or simply trying to solve a puzzle in Tetris.

That’s the take-away from a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. [Andrew K. Przybylski et al, Competence-Impeding Electronic Games and Players’ Aggressive Feelings, Thoughts, and Behaviors]

I’m curious to find out more about the subjects in the Grizzard study, especially their ages. How old does a player typically need to be in order to experience that increased sensitivity?

But in the meantime, all you writers and editors out there, drawing a clear distinction between “being bad” and “being bad” would be a good idea.

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