Scientists have concluded in a study that there is no evidence that video games "prime" adult players into violent behaviour.
Previous experiments reached mixed conclusions about the idea that video games can "prime" players to behave more aggressively - and that the more realistic a game appears, the more likely it is to make the player behave aggressively.
Researchers at the University of York tested over 3,000 participants in two experiments comparing different types of gaming realism.
The first compared reaction time in relation to "priming" by putting gamers in a game where they had to be either a car avoiding collisions or a mouse avoiding capture from a cat.
Afterwards they were shown images and asked to label them as a vehicle or animal, assuming that if a player was "primed" they'd categorise objects associated with the game more quickly.
Participants who played car-themed games were no quicker at categorizing vehicle images, and indeed in some cases, their reaction time was significantly slower.
In separate studies, researchers also assessed realism aspects, such as ragdoll physics - think realistic, slumping bodies - and combat games to see if either affected behaviour following.
Dr David Zendle from the University's department of computer science 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.
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.
After playing combat games, researchers asked players to complete word puzzles called "word fragment completion tasks" and measured whether they chose more violent word associations more frequently.
Dr Zendle said:
We found that the priming of violent concepts, as measured by how many violent concepts appeared in the word fragment completion task, was not detectable. There was no difference in priming between the game that employed ‘ragdoll physics’ and the game that didn’t, as well as no significant difference between the games that used ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ solider tactics.
The findings suggest that there is no link between these kinds of realism in games and the kind of effects that video games are commonly thought to have on their players.
Researchers have also recently supported the idea that video game breaks would be worthwhile for employees to help stress levels and overall mood, deterring cognitive fatigue.