If Violent Video Games Hurt Kids, Can "Pro-Social" Games Help Them?

Family Matters on 03.29.11
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Photo: Rad Jose via flickr Creative Commons CCxSA 2.0.

It doesn't take a psychologist to understand why violent video games make kids more aggressive -- the more they sit on the couch all cozy with a snack while watching blood and guts, the more they associate that with comfort and good times. (At least that's what some experts say). But can pro-social video games make kids more likely to get along? 

Researchers in Innsbruck, Austria wanted to find out. 

What I like most about their survey is that they didn't just study the way the kids' interacted after playing; they tested for schadenfreude (which is, coincidentally, my answer to the fifth question on the Proust Questionnaire). That is, the scientists wanted to see how much more or less the children took pleasure in other people's pain after playing a "neutral" video game (they used Tetris) as compared to playing "pro-social" and anti-social games, described, respectively, by Motherboard as "Lemmings, the prosocial game in which you guide a herd of witless lemmings around varying maps" and "Lamers, Lemmings’ evil twin that tasks players with extinguishing as many little lemming lives as possible." 

According to the abstract on PubMed.gov, an online publishing arm of the US National Library of Medicine and the ational Institutes of Health

...[S]tudies revealed that playing a prosocial (relative to a neutral) video game increased interpersonal empathy and decreased reported pleasure at another's misfortune (i.e., schadenfreude). 

Pretty interesting stuff, even when you consider that questioning determining said levels of empathy involved queries about Paris Hilton and German pop stars. 


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