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Violent video games promote cooperation, not aggression

For decades, some have been spouting that violent video games create violent children, who turn into violent adults, regardless of dozens of studies that show there is no correlation between violent video games and real life violence. Now a new study seems to suggest that it’s the opposite— playing video games promotes cooperation, not aggression.

A group of researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, are now questioning the entire basis of the discussion. In a recently published article, they present a new study showing that, more than anything, a good ability to cooperate is a prerequisite for success in the violent gaming environment.

Researchers argue that gamers not only learn to cooperate but also to understand complex contexts, understand how skills can be improved, and think through cause and effect relationships.The opposing camp, on the other hand, is convinced that the games may foster violent and aggressive behaviour outside the gaming environment.

The study, authored by Ulrika Bennerstedt, Jonas Ivarsson and Jonas Linderoth and titled “How gamers manage aggression: Situating skills in collaborative computer games,” is presented in International Journal of Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning.

The Gothenburg-based research group spent hundreds of hours playing online games and observing other gamers, including on video recordings. They focused on complex games with portrayals of violence and aggressive action where the participants have to fight with and against each other. ‘The situations gamers encounter in these games call for sophisticated and well-coordinated collaboration. We analysed what characteristics and knowledge the gamers need to have in order to be successful,’ says Jonas Ivarsson, Docent (Reader) at the Department of Education, Communication and Learning.

It turns out that a successful gamer is strategic and technically knowledgeable, and has good timing. Inconsiderate gamers, as well as those who act aggressively or emotionally, generally do not do well. ‘The suggested link between games and aggression is based on the notion of transfer, which means that knowledge gained in a certain situation can be used in an entirely different context. The whole idea of transfer has been central in education research for a very long time. The question of how a learning situation should be designed in order for learners to be able to use the learned material in real life is very difficult, and has no clear answers,’ says Ivarsson. ‘In a nutshell, we’re questioning the whole gaming and violence debate, since it’s not based on a real problem but rather on some hypothetical reasoning,’ he says.


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