A recent study has shown that gamers who wage battle against human-looking characters are more likely to experience aggressive thoughts and words than those facing monstrous nonhuman targets.
For the study, a University of Connecticut research team led by Rory McGloin had 148 participants play the first-person shooter, Quake 3 Revolution, before administering tests to measure their levels of verbal, cognitive, and physical aggression.
Quake was chosen because it features a number of human-like and monster-like characters — including a giant floating eyeball.
"The more human players perceived the aggressive targets to be, the more verbally aggressive they were and the more violent words they generated," the researchers noted in the study. "Although we predicted that less human targets would result in more aggression, players seemed to be more aggressive after perceiving more human targets."
But that said, there was no significant increase in levels of actual physical aggression after fighting human-like video game characters.
"There are obvious consequences for physical violence," McGloin stated through a release. "But we're much more tolerant as a society of aggressive thoughts, as long as they don't lead to aggressive behavior."
The researchers also noted that men appeared to be more physically aggressive than women, and that "the more experience someone had playing violent games, the less violent they perceived the stimulus game to be."
Looking ahead, the researchers plan on studying the effects of using realistic gun-like controllers.
They also caution about making broad generalizations about their findings.
“We can talk about violent video games and aggression all day, but we need to be careful,” McGloin says. “We’re not going to find one answer and be able to say, ‘This game’s good, this game’s bad.’ It’s never going to be that simple.”
Read the entire study at Mass Communication and Society: "The Perception of Human Appearance in Video Games: Toward an Understanding of the Effects of Player Perceptions of Game Features."
Top image: Bioshock Infinite; Quake image via University of Connecticut.