Reality Check - Could being Good or Evil in games affect real life?

Cam investigates whether playing as a good or evil character in a game could affect the way you behave in real life.

Discussion

154 comments
Wensea10
Wensea10

That is a great question and you have to be careful what you play; this is mostly with mature games because some of the aspects can be controversial.

adrianlev
adrianlev

I really hope they honour your request for experiments revealing the effects of time, Cam.  I'd guess that the time it takes for the effects to diminish and the intensity of them is roughly proportionate to the time exposed to the stimulus and the intensity of it.

runnermpls
runnermpls

It has always been about mental age and never about content.  10 year olds (for the most part) are not mature enough to play M rated games with bloody executions and morally dark choices.  Simply, their brains have not developed enough to correctly process this kind of information, and it may have effects on their ability to empathize or recognize extreme behavior.  Now, age is somewhat relative, there are 10 year olds who ARE very mature, and 25 year olds who still think like children (my brother is one of them).  Also, this isn't unique to video games - movies, comics, etc. that glorify "evil" should also be reserved for those mature enough to process the information.


A mature adult who understands make-believe and fantasy can appreciate games that allow them to take a darker path without real world consequences.  We all have negative emotions, and we learn not to act on them.  Children haven't yet developed that filter.

Dizzy1976
Dizzy1976

Isn't that Infamous : Second Son

Don_Shadio
Don_Shadio

can anybody tell me which game is being played at 00:44 in this video?

ronan32
ronan32

Well in game i usually play the good guy because being evil in a game goes against who i am. You can still feel the effect of being evil even if it's just a game. killing a mother and her child in a video game will still have an effect on you. i think a lot of people who play evil characters are probably just doing stuff they are not brave enough to do in real life. For some it might be to relieve stress. I cannot just turn my personality on and off  even in games, even in games my morals hold firm. Maybe i am just not much of a roleplayer.

dark_death78
dark_death78

I cannot believe this has actually been published, by the APS of all... For crying out loud. So many issues with the study.


1. Serving chilly is not necessarily evil, that's a subjective opinion. If anything it could be considered a little hilarious.
2. Serving chocolate COULD be considered evil just as much as chilli, the UNKNOWN recipient could be allergic, and the person serving it is under the impression they MUST consume the entire amount.

3. ANY CONCLUSIONS draw can ONLY express a correlation, and not a cause and effect. Playing a video game did not MAKE the person serve chilli or chocolate. Playing a video game might influence a particular disposition however.

4. The study did not attempt to explore at all whether they are testing for TRAIT personality features of the individuals, or just the state based personality inclinations. IT IS IMPORTANT TO KNOW, that trait and state are very differing. A person might have a happy trait disposition, where the MAJORITY of their life they express themselves happily, however this does not mean that they do not express in the opposite way sometimes (state based). Observing a state based action is NOT indicative of a personality trait.

5. Were the participants followed afterwards? How long were these conclusions applicable for? Is it being suggested that these participants are now forever more inclined towards evil or good? Or is it just for 5 more minutes?

6. The article stated that they used an "(ANOVA) revealed the predicted interaction effect, F(2, 188) = 35.91, p < .001, ηp2 = .28, but no main effects" - BUT NO MAIN EFFECTS. Which means they did not find what they were looking for or what they concluded in the end. WTF. The conclusion APPEARS to be draw entirely from experiment 2 which apparently only just had a significant finding. Even this should be verified.


This is a terrible study by any measure. I have completed a masters up to this level, and if I came across this article, I would NOT cite it. I cannot believe it was published, it fails on so many basic levels of good science.


Also, twice as many people is actually a small amount. It's only 50% more. It's saying that out of 5 people, 1 person gave more chilli than the breaking point. That is, 2 gave chocolate, 3 gave chilli. No big deal

And yes, I like chilli, and I would've been disappointed if someone gave me chocolate instead. I would do the same for the other person. That does not make me evil, and this study can go poo itself.

RuthlessRich
RuthlessRich

That's very interesting, but you have to be so careful reading anything like this. I think the sample size IS big enough, contrary to one or two comments. At least, big enough to spot a correlation. Especially as they did the experiment twice and achieved similar results. But you have to consider a lot of other facors - the class of people being tested for one. If the experiment was done at a university then those 100 or so people were probably all students. More specifically than that, the majority of those students probably worked in the same department as the researchers (let's say the computer science department). Even further, the students volunteering for the experiement would have represented those of a more adventurous or outgoing disposition. So it's possible that "100 gamers" actually means "100 outgoing 18-22 year old computer science students who had nothing better to do that particular day". And they are supposed to represent mankind! Of course, it's also possible that they made their sample out of people of all ages and backgrounds, but unlikely.

lunaticrichard
lunaticrichard

To me the research looks a bit dodgy and doesn't make a good point one way or the other .

also the group of tested people is way too small to say any thing about anyone . But that is my opinion on a lot of studies these day's . I mean ; How can you make a statement about what people do or like if you only test 100 or a 1000 people ? To me that's just unbelievable .

I know that's the way these studies are done , but i just don't agree on the basic presumption that they make running these studies .

Just my 2 cents .... 

KZombie
KZombie

I'm a helpful guy in real life, but in KOTOR I went down in a very dark path.

Nevsek
Nevsek

The utility of this study seems pretty limited.  It is merely verifying an effect that we have known about for many years, priming.  Priming can be easily accomplished with virtually anything.  When the subsequent task is rather simple (like choosing chocolate or chili sauce), the effect is even more pronounced.  But, a particular priming event does not typically last for long periods of time, and complex moral decision making works, cognitively, quite different.  Certainly, the results may be very valid, but I scope is likely quite limited.  

SevenOfEleven
SevenOfEleven

This study puts a loaded shotgun in the hands of the enemies of videogames. 

It does not matter if there are issues or disclaimers, the anti gaming folks will love this. Its a study from scientists, though the antigames do not need research to push their agendas.


I would also would like to know the age group too.


I am curious if any of the anti games groups pick this up.


There was a TED talk that covered some benefits to playing videogames.

I don't know if I have the link.

TooCoolForYou
TooCoolForYou

Asking if being good or bad in a game affects the way you act in real life is like asking if violent video games make you more violent. It doesn't depend on the games but the person themselves. 


I played the Mass Effect trilogy as an evil character. I find it fun to be evil at times in games. But it's still a game to me. Everything I do is all virtual. In real life, I'm nothing like the characters I play in the games I play. 


Chupacabra3332
Chupacabra3332

I´ve been playing GTA IV and some of the tasks Bellic has to do are too immoral for me sometimes. Worst thing so far, throwing the stabbed body of some woman to the ocean just because her husband thought he was cheating on him. This game is absolutely not for kids. Even If Its hard to believe, that task left me a little bit concerned about the game. Yeah It was an optional task, but you end up knowing about the husband´s crime just when you reach the parking lot.

The game sometimes has "Ironic" moments tho. Like when Bellic goes to that attorney interview, and he ends up saying "Looks like I didnt get the job" after you wack him. I dont know why but I laugh hard after that phrase. Must have been the way Niko talks" Pure irony I guess.

wretch1d
wretch1d

Absolutely after playing Goat Simulator i now need to headbutt people and sacrifice people to the Devil goat god....actually the good and evil thing if anything will bring out what you already have inside you, not plant any seeds, now back to headbutting

alexbartle
alexbartle

Its strange me and my friend both play games like fallout and oblivion. Im quite passive and always play evil characters. He on the other hand is more aggressive ha in the flesh (hope he dosent read this) and he always plays as good characters.

Maybe we like to play our opposites? 

Johny_47
Johny_47

That Mass Effect bit was great, missing Feedbackula already hey cam? I think it'll be very noticeable on the weekend, some people might get withdrawal symptoms =P


I think the research is a load of crap and really who cares. I play a game like Elder Scrolls how I'd do it if I was actually there more or less, I don't go through just being a saint, just good, and I don't go through it being a brainless barbarian either.


Geogyf
Geogyf

It is why we have those adult ratings.

Some games are not meant for kids, as kids are more malleable at this age and may misinterpret some actions of the hero.


On a side note, many studies about games have NOT found a corellation about games and physical violence.


If they had found a big enough corellation, you can be sure some US senators would jump at the chance to corellate games with guns.

sephsplace
sephsplace

1:10, poor choice Cam, I would of gone with "I miss feedbackula"

adam0598
adam0598

I always believed how a person plays a video game character, in regards to behavior/choices, is an extension of himself/herself. So choose wisely.

Jimmy191280
Jimmy191280

I refuse to play the bad guy or evil characters in video games. I will never play games like Grand Theft Auto. 

ronison123
ronison123

whats this bullshit?? im always playing the bad guy and im the nicest guy i know!

p.s. all of these researchers should burn in hell

Ailurusf
Ailurusf

Two extensions would be interesting here. One, the characters being played were 'fighting enemies', i.e. engaging in violent behavior. Does this suggest that the effects observed come from vigilantism/bullying? What if the game characters did something else, like exploring? 

Two, the second part of the experiment seems like a harmless prank, suggesting that people might be more prone to mischief rather than to being mean. What if the options given were a bit less 'harmless'? Psychologists have never been opposed to using (small) electrical shocks on their test subjects.

XCyberForceX
XCyberForceX

One other group that would be interesting to see in this test is age groups.  Are specific age groups more prone to transferring their game play decisions to real life than others.  

empiricaltony89
empiricaltony89

Very interesting but I feel the number of participants in both of the tests was way too small to come to any significant conclusions it need to have a sample of 1000 people or even more to have deffintitive results.

Verenti
Verenti

I want to know why chili sauce is the nasty thing to do? Personally if you gave me a paper cup of chocolate and a paper cup of hot sauce, I'd take the hot sauce every time. I mean, there is a reason I put it on everything. Surely I'm not alone in this preference for spicy food over sugary food.


But I think the real take away here is that people who are invested in something take on traits of something. I'd guess that this is the same force that makes people tense their muscles when watching an action movie.


I don't think this research is particularly useful, because the purpose it serves is a political tool of moralists to condemn hobbies like our own.

cratecruncher
cratecruncher

I agree with Cam's hunch that the effect is just a mood hangover from playing the game and would wear off quickly.


Back when I was a teenager I used to love gokart racing at a place called Malibu Grand Prix here in the US.  I noticed that I always drove like a lunatic on the way home!  Thankfully it was very temporary.

sorintitus
sorintitus

To be honest, I'm always "hurting" when I play the dark/evil side. That may be the reason why I have never finished a game as the bad guy. An I mean never. It must be the way I am built.

P.S. Please don't cancel this show too. I'm still waiting for new content from you guys to make up for the cancellation of Feedbackula and The Waiting Game.

jonespantalones
jonespantalones

I would like to see the home players' choices were beyond punishment with hot sauce if their choices they really had drastic effects on the lives of anonymous strangers, which would be their choices. 

There is no sense to analyze the behavior of the good and evil without taking into really bad situations, hot sauce is a prank, people do not care to prank others.

nalancheel
nalancheel

Moral system in games, especially in RPG's is awesome. When playing most times I'm picking choices I recall as the good ones (or at least the "better", or "less harmful to others" if the choice is blurred). I'm just simply view myself as a character and I pick choices I would pick in a real life too if I was in such a situation. Sometimes I care about characters too much to do something which could harm them in any way possible even when I know they are not real, but there was an episode on this before. But there are as well those characters that I hate like this white shirt bastard in Hotline Miami which killed me 4 times in a row. When I finally got to him I was mashing buttons on my Xbox pad with hatred in eyes as I was watching as his brain decorating the furniture. When he started to look more like a jam I calmed and asked myself "what the heck am I doing?". This character was the one I hated in games the most, but when I finally killed him (or turned into tomato juice) I turned off the game and all the emotions wore off. I wasn't into killing another people or even do any harm to the them. I guess such studies are hard to be proved, because gamers will never agree that their games have any affect on them and the media will pick parts that suit them like "Being bad characters makes you a bad man", or standard "you kill people in games? you will kill people on the streets" without any second opinion. That's the way it is, it was and probably will be. Ok that's all from me, back to Bioshock Infinite to train some more this massacre thing. Oh, I forgot, CoD is for that, Infinite is for moral choices, I love them

LOTRM789
LOTRM789

This is a great study; often people do not realize how much their environment or actions (whether virtual or not) are affecting them. I would wager most want to believe we are our own selves, completely above influence and manipulation when it is oftentimes the exact opposite. 

I have noticed, between myself, family and friends that our first playthroughs of games where we are given morality tests are often closest to our real selves.


I also wonder what studies can be done on gamers and the concept of empathy, even if it is towards virtual characters who do not actually exist. I've seen friends play games and then seriously wondered if they are latent sociopaths who only follow society's rules because they fear consequences in real life. 

My brother was notorious for this.


This is why I hope that in future RPG's and games with like elements, developers will encourage more intense moral ambiguity instead of clear black and white choices; maybe then people might get a sense of the real person they are, if only on a small scale. 

MotokoHutt
MotokoHutt

personally for me I don't like playing games with such a strict moral choice system, I rather like to play games where the lines between morally wrong & morally right can be more blurred as it is in real life, I find when I play games I tend to make my character based around my real life self, this means that ever action I rationalize & due to my own karmic balance chose what I want to do, this opinion can also be dependant on the environment of the story, so if I was playing a game like Skyrim I would kill people although be it I only kill my enemies when I need to preferring to instead stealthily infiltrate places, now despite the fact I wouldn't kill someone in are modern day I would not put it morally past myself to do such an act if the world was like Nirn in TES:V Skyrim.


for this same factor of playing the character as myself I also avoid playing games where I cant play as a female character, now this comes down to my own self immersion, I CAN NOT get immerser in a game where I am forced to play as a male character as I feel NO connection to the in game avatar, allot of people would call me stupid for this as it limit's the games I will & wont play BUT this is just how I feel comfortable playing games, despite what I said I can usually also play a game where the main character is a cute creature of some sort, I can get immersed in these based on the fact I find the creature cute & there for emotionally do not want it to fail.

PrpleTrtleBuBum
PrpleTrtleBuBum

5 minutes sounds extremely little, atleast for me it's impossible to get immersed in that short time. Especially when you add the testing environment. Even if the results were somewhat relevant, I don't think they tested what they probably wanted to test.


I volunteer to the "Stay in BB mansion for a week, retreat to a gaming chamber for a week to play as the good/bad guy, get back into the BB mansion for a week" test.

lilflipp
lilflipp

I think it's the opposite. I don't think games have a big enough impact to influence you, there is so many things out that have a much bigger importance. I think that your decision in a game reflect a bit the type of person you are. And even then not always like. Sometimes you just want to try and be the bad guy you know. And even then it depends on the actions itself, if it's a dumb empty "bad action", it doesn't really feel attractive, I think it comes down to what qualities those actions require.


Take per instance, Hannibal Lector, the guy is serial killer and a cannibal. It's not what he does, but how he does it. He does it with such "class", he's a mass murdering psycho but yet does it meticulously with intelligence and some sort of weird refinement.

I am a pretty decent human being, I'm actually a pretty good dude. I try to usually be as nice as I can. There's something really fulfilling about being able to put a smile on someone's face. Let be something as little as holding the door for someone. And when I play video games I have the hardest time doing wrong choices and sometimes it actually pisses me off because sometimes it griefs me, like in Rust, I feel like shit when I betray people or KOS, and often end up getting fucked. And I know it's silly because it's the point of the game, but still when I fuck someone over, even if it's in a game, I know that person dies a little bit inside lol. And weirdly enough, I don't get mad at all when it happens to me, I accept the fact that most are dicks.


I think in order for games to have an effect on you, you'd have to be secluded and really over exposed to it. Clockwork Orange type of shit, not necessarily forcefully like in the movie, but some kind of extreme exposure. Like only doing that, with very little social interaction over an extended period of time. The human brain is the most complex thing in the known universe. Think about it, the collection and arrangement of atoms in such a special and specific way, that it managed to achieve consciousness. It's fucking crazy!

Love this series btw.

Laki-Magi
Laki-Magi

Very interesting to see these results.  I had wondered about this for a while, ever since I started a second playthrough of the first Mass Effect arbitrarily choosing renegade options and noticed myself feeling a bit more aggravated than when I had simply chosen what I thought I would.

mech-eng-88
mech-eng-88

I actually agree here.

Yet still, not on the scale as presented here. Everyone has those bad days, when he/she wants to be unsocial around everyone. But after playing as the villain people usually calm down, thus reducing the possibility of the gamer being cranky and unsocial in real-life.

Dumping the feelings into a virtual world is harmless fun, as it was originally intended!

Honestly, the previous generation should stop accusing games for provoking violence and bad morales. The current generation doesn't kick (okay, not always) the machine after losing. But the previous generation did that in the arcades when they them selfs were young. They just conveniently forgot that fact. :) 

sblazed
sblazed

Any repeated thought/action and exposition will influence your thought patterns after awhile, moreso if done during an alterned state of mind like being high on weed for example from my experiences, this state increase immersion. introspection is necessary to discern it

bfmv2007
bfmv2007

One simple word
NO

NO

NO

NO

NO

100 TIMES NO!

Caging
Caging

@RuthlessRich  Fair points for sure. I think more research is actually worth investigating. Although, Human nature in essence boils down to the lowest common denominator. How we use the denominations do vary. 

lunaticrichard
lunaticrichard

@TooCoolForYou  

You're right . It always depends on the person . It's the same if you let a crazy person play football or games , he's crazy so his acts are going to be crazy .

Plain and simple .

That goes for everything in life .

But there is one strange factor going on and that is Amerika . 

Amerika is one ( or maybe even THE )  of the most violent society's in the western world ! So is it save to say that Americans are more violent then the rest of the west  ??? 

It is offcourse a cultural issue for the most part . Especially the eagerness to have guns / weapons drives people to use them more easily i think .

That would be a nice study to see emerge .....

dark_death78
dark_death78

@wretch1d +1 for recognising the difference between trait and state personality features! :)

runnermpls
runnermpls

@adam0598  I say it has more to do with the -first- playthrough.  What's interesting is when you look at trophy lists, you'll always see the "light side" trophies have a higher percentage completion - sometimes significantly higher.  Most people play as good -first- and then many don't play again, or never end up playing as evil despite repeated playthroughs.  I would bet that many who got the "evil" trophies also have the "good", and got those first.


Check out Fallout, Mass Effect, or Infamous for some examples.


For myself, I will say that (as an example) I played ME through twice mostly paragon before my first renegade, and I did enjoy several of the renegade interactions, but that doesn't offset that my initial inclination was paragon.

00J
00J

@Jimmy191280  who says they are bad or evil, they are a victim of circumstance...

ronan32
ronan32

@ronison123 nice guys are usually closet serial killers..oh he was such a nice guy.

Chupacabra3332
Chupacabra3332

@ronison123 I saw what you did on that last line. Pure Irony. Or maybe youre not as good as you think ;)

Uber-G
Uber-G

@ronison123  Because, you know, nice guys wish an eternity of suffering on people...