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 No longer are gamers stuck with playing against the computer, no longer are sports rosters outdated, no longer is the game you purchase the final version of the game.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.

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