By: Tom Breen
Video games that pit players against human-looking characters may be more likely to provoke violent thoughts and words than games where monstrous creatures are the enemy, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Wake Forest University.
“The Perception of Human Appearance in Video Games: Toward an Understanding of the Effects of Player Perceptions of Game Features,” published in the May 2013 issue ofMass Communication and Society, comes as lawmakers and the public are freshly debating the possible risks that violent games may pose to impressionable players.
“It’s important to think in terms of risk factors,” says Kirstie Farrar, associate professor of communication at UConn and the lead researcher on the study. “The research clearly suggests that, among other risk factors, exposure to violent video games can lead to aggression and other potentially harmful effects.”
In the study, 148 participants played the first-person shooter Quake 3 Revolution, in which the gamer battles onscreen opponents whose appearance can range from human-like to completely non-human, such as a giant floating eyeball. Farrar and colleague Rory McGloin, an assistant professor-in-residence, along with Wake Forest professor Marina Krcmar, a former UConn faculty member, then used a series of tests to measure participants’ levels of verbal, cognitive, and physical aggression.
Participants who battled what they perceived as human-looking characters in the game were more likely to have aggressive thoughts and words than those who had shot down monstrous nonhuman characters.