The Impact of Violence in Video Games

Violence in video gamesViolence sells but many fear it may negatively impact those who partake in watching violent movies, television shows, and especially video games. It seems plausible that if violence in fact increases brand awareness when combined with video games that we will see more violent video games capitalising on in-game advertisement.

Is this a bad thing?

Although the findings are not firm, it seems likely that violent video games lead to more successful in-game advertising.

The Real World Example

For those who play video games, a completely new world has opened up over the last decade as these gamers (and their games) become increasingly connected to the internet. No longer are gamers stuck with playing against the computer, no longer are sports rosters outdated, no longer is the game you purchase the final version of the game. Many video games are played strictly on the internet.

Beyond the entertainment value of incorporating the internet into gaming, there is a monetary value. In-game advertising is certainly nothing new. However, the addition of the internet to in-game advertising allows for a dynamic experience.

The ability to use the internet to target and change in-game advertisements has created a completely new opportunity to capitalize on ads in ways that has never allowed before. And with this comes an increased desire to spend money on in-game advertising, which will certainly lead to more of it.

This seems harmless to all but the gaming purests whom are bothered by advertisements fudging with their gaming experience. This begs to question whether or not an in-game advertisement can even be effective if the individual who is suppose to see the ad is too busy killing Nazis! One must also consider whether or not an advertisement in a game where you kill Nazis is going to be as effective as say, Sonic the Hedgehog. It turns out, that such questions are beginning to be answered by researchers.

Who Are They?

Andre Melzer, Brad Bushman and Ulrich Hoffman, The University of Michigan The University of Amsterdam and University of Luebeck.

What They Did

Melzer, Bushman and Hoffman developed a 3D driving simulator that allows for researchers to manipulate the scenery (specifically, though not exclusively, billboards) in the game.

Users were split into two groups. The first group played a non-violent version of the game in which they were rewarded for running over geometric shapes. A second group played the violent version of the game. The only change in the game was that users were rewarded for running over innocent pedestrians (it may be worth noting that when an individual ran over a pedestrian, a loud screaming sound reinforced the act).

Throughout the game billboards were placed in the scenery which displayed 64 corporate brands which were proven (through prior testing) to be well-recognized brands by the general public. Following completion of the simulation, users were given a surprise memory (consisting of two parts) test as well as a questionnaire.

The Memory Test

The first aspect of the memory test presented users with blurred versions of real brands, some of which were in the game, and some were not. The second aspect was a ‘free recall’ test in which users listed as many of the brands they saw while playing the game as they could.

The Questionnaire

The questionnaire served a few purposes but the most significant question asked the user whether or not the game was violent.

The Results

As expected, most users correctly identified whether or not their version of the game was violent (as per the questionnaire). There was no difference in the amount of brands that were recalled by users in either version of the game (that is to say that on average, non-violent game players recalled an equal amount of brands as the violent game players). Interestingly though, users who played the violent version of the game were quicker to identify which brands were actually in the game compared to the non-violent game players.

What Does It Mean?

Truthfully, the study is somewhat lacking, and this is recognized by the researchers who intend on further developing the study. For example, they set up an eye-tracking system in the game but unfortunately it malfunctioned for most of the trials.

Having said that, it appears that violent video games may lead to an increase in awareness of advertisements presented in-game. When the users played the violent game they appeared more ready to identify brands that they saw while playing the game.

Violence sells but many fear it may negatively impact those who partake in watching violent movies, television shows, and especially video games. It seems plausible that if violence in fact increases brand awareness when combined with video games that we will see more violent video games capitalizing on in-game advertisement.
Is this a bad thing? That is for you to decide.

Alcohol, Violence and Aggressive Individuals

alcohol and violencePart of the awesomeness of being human is the diversity of our personalities. Put another way, different people act differently. We act differently from each other in all situations: at work, at play, when we’re tired, when we’re cranky, and when we’re drunk!

There are some standard effects of being drunk but many will agree that there are different types of drunks too. Most of these ‘types’ are harmless but most everyone that has been in a bar has encountered the aggressive drunk.

Why are some people more prone to being violent when they drink? Is there something measurable; something predictable? It turns out, it seems there is.

Consideration of Future Consequences

The Consideration of Future Consequences scale (CFC) attempts to measure a person’s ability to consider future consequences of an action taken now. People that score lower on the CFC test are less able to consider the consequences of their actions. Probably not surprising, aggressive individuals tend to score lower on the CFC Scale.

Alcohol and Consideration of Future Consequences

One of alcohol’s trademark effects is that it reduces people’s ability to make intelligent decisions. People under the influence of alcohol tend to act without thinking. In other words, they tend not to consider the consequences of their actions.

The Study

To test whether certain people were more prone to being aggressive while under the influence of alcohol, Bushman, Giancola, Parott and Roth wanted to test if individuals with low CFC scores were more aggressive while under the influence of alcohol.[1]

A random group of individuals were measured on the CFC scale and then broken into two groups, either drinking a placebo drink or an alcoholic drink. Participants were then subjected to a inter-personally adversarial competitive task. This tasks pits two individuals against each other, with the winner allowed to administer an uncomfortable but otherwise harmless shock to the loser. The nature of the reward allows psychologists to measure a certain level of aggression.

The Results

The results showed that individuals who drank alcohol were more aggressive than those who were not and those with lower CFC scores were more aggressive than those with higher CFC scores. The most aggressive group were individuals with low CFC scores who drank alcohol.

Conclusion

As with many psychology studies, the tested population was limited to young college students. Having said this, the study seems to make it clear that individuals with traits that often lead to a more-aggressive personalities (low CFC scores) in combination with alcohol, tend to lead to more aggressive behavior.

What’s this mean? It’s probably not an illusion that some people are more aggressive than others while drunk. Furthermore, I’m sure you can think of one or two people that fit that bill that also have troubles making wise decisions even while sober.