First-person shooters do not stub

Computer games do not make people feel emotionless in the long run

Screenshot from the first-person shooter Nexuiz © Alientrap / GPL
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From dulled because: Brutal first-person shooters are in popular opinion to make violent and emotional cold. But a new study contradicts: In the long term, gamers will be as empathic as infrequent casual gamers. Researchers came to this conclusion thanks to psychological questionnaires and the direct observation of empathy reactions in the brain.

Computer games can shorten the reaction time and strengthen morale. Nonetheless, first-person shooters continue to be discredited as killer games. This picture is also reinforced by studies that found increased violence and aggressiveness through the use of such video games. However, much of these studies only relate to the short-term impact directly after or even while playing.

New findings on the long-term impact of first-person shooters now bring to light researchers around Gregor Szycik of the Hannover Medical School - and take the allegations of brutalization by "killer games" the ammunition.

And how do you feel about it?

For their study, the researchers invited many players to first ask a psychological questionnaire. The requirement to play the notorious ego-shooters like Call of Duty or Counterstrike for at least two hours every day over four years effortlessly fulfilled the exclusively male subjects. On average, they spent four hours a day on virtual combat.

The evaluation of the questionnaires was compared with the answers of a control group, which had no experience with the said video games and generally dived only irregularly into the virtual world. In addition, the researchers showed both groups a selection of images that should provoke emotional and compassionate responses. display

As they looked at the pictures, subjects were asked how they would feel in the situations depicted. At the same time, the researchers recorded the subjects' brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). Crucial in all investigations was that the subjects had not played at least three hours before. Thus, the researchers ensured that only longer-term effects of playing in the tests were revealed.

Durable gamers and "normalos" react the same

Even the study leaders were astounded by the results: The evaluation of the psychological questionnaires did not reveal any significant differences in aggression and empathy between many and few players.

This result is also supported by the analysis of the fMRI images, as Szycik reports: "While the activity patterns typical of empathy were evident, the two groups showed no differences in brain responses. "The emotional images triggered similar neuronal reaction patterns in the case of many-players and non-gamers.

No blunting effect

The researchers see in their results a strong indication that violent video games have at best short-term negative effects on the ability and aggression of players. In the long run, however, they do not seem to have a dulling effect.

However, the scientists conclude that there is still a need for further research, especially since the examined test group with 15 subjects was rather small. "We hope the study will motivate other research groups to focus their attention on possible long-term effects of video games on human behavior, " says Szycik.

He and his colleagues are already planning further experiments: "Our current study uses emotionally provocative images. The next step is to analyze data generated by more meaningful stimuli, such as showing videos to elicit emotional responses. "(Frontiers in Psychology, 2017; doi: 10.3389 / fpsyg.2017.00174)

(Frontiers in Psychology, 09.03.2017 - CLU)