Can violent games turn you violent in real life? Old wives' tales may claim as much, but now there is hard research to counter any such statement.
Researchers tried to find whether violent games affect the behaviour of players. After going through a series of experiments, they concluded that there's no evidence to claim video games make their players more violent.
Researchers at the University of York recruited more than 3,000 participants and showed that the realism of violent video games does not necessarily increase aggression in players.
The theory was built on the idea that exposing players to concepts like violence in a game can make them use those concepts in real life — in a phenomenon called "priming".
Previous experiments provided mixed conclusions. But, researchers at the University of York concluded that there is no evidence of it. They expanded the number of participants in experiments, compared previous studies, and compared different types of gaming realism to find strong evidence.
In one study, the participants were asked to play a game where the player is the driver of a car avoiding collisions with trucks or is a mouse avoiding being caught by a cat.
After the game, the players were shown various images of vehicles and animals and were asked to label them.
According to Dr David Zendle, from the University's Department of Computer Science: "If players are 'primed' through immersing themselves in the concepts of the game, they should be able to categorise the objects associated with this game more quickly in the real world once the game had concluded."
Zendle added: "Across the two games we didn't find this to be the case. Participants who played a car-themed game were no quicker at categorising vehicle images, and indeed in some cases, their reaction time was significantly slower."
They conducted another study to find out whether realism influenced the behaviour of the players.
Zendle said: "There are several experiments looking at graphic realism in video games, but they have returned mixed results. There are, however, other ways that violent games can be realistic, besides looking like the 'real world', such as the way characters behave for example."
The experiment they conducted compared player reactions to two combat games — one that used "ragdoll physics" to create realistic character behaviour and one that did not.
"Our experiment looked at the use of 'ragdoll physics' in game design, which creates characters that move and react in the same way that they would in real life. Human characters are modelled on the movement of the human skeleton and how that skeleton would fall if it was injured," Zendle explained.
The results of the study showed no link between realism in games and the kind of effects that video games are commonly thought to have on the players.
However, Zendle believes: "Further study is now needed into other aspects of realism to see if this has the same result. What happens when we consider the realism of by-standing characters in the game, for example, and the inclusion of extreme content, such as torture?"
Moreover, it has been tested on adults, so further research is needed to understand if the effects are different when the players are children.