Ordinarily, when videogames are accused of pushing players towards acts of real-world violence, it’s authentic military shooters or contentious open-world adventures that tend to find themselves falling into the crosshairs of activists.
However, a new study into the potentially negative effects of videogames has this week shifted focus away from the overtly violent Modern Warfares and Grand Theft Autos of the gaming world, instead preferring to warn against playing… sports games?
That’s according to Dr. Simon Goodson and Sarah Pearson of Huddersfield University in England, who believe conceding a goal during a game of videogame soccer causes a greater emotional surge in players because more gamers have a frame of reference with sporting activity as opposed to wielding a deadly projectile weapon.
The study was conducted by measuring the heart rates, respiration and brain activity of 40 randomly selected volunteers (both male and female), who were tasked with playing either a known violent videogame or a known soccer game on Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console.
After a bout of focused gameplay, the study team’s results revealed that those immersed in first-person shooter action remained unmoved by on-screen deaths, while emotions often flared in those playing soccer.
“As participants reacted with more agitation during the football game, it seems the effects of violent video games have been misrepresented in the past,” commented Dr. Goodson regarding the findings.
“The player can identify with a real-life experience and call up those emotions and aggression more easily than in a situation they would not have encountered, such as killing an individual,” he added.
The study also found that videogames involving driving vehicles tap into player experience where road rage scenarios are concerned, and are also more likely to prompt more aggressive responses than when playing shooters.
The study is especially pertinent considering that 24-year-old Dutchman Tristan van der Vlis last month shot and killed six mall shoppers and injured 27 others during a shooting spree. It was reported that the attacker was a keen player of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
The complete study will be presented before the close of the week during the British Psychological Society’s annual conference in Glasgow, Scotland.