A new study from the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology suggests that players reduce the humanity of their opponents in violent videogames.
The study, conducted by Dr Brock Bastian, observed player behaviour while they played Mortal Kombat, both against human opponents and alongside partners, for signs that the players had engaged in the ‘dehumanising’ of their opponents or partners in any way.
The study concluded that a reduction in humanity was only present when the other human player was an opponent and object of virtual violence, not when they were a co-operative partner.
Dr Bastian claimed that violence in videogames was more impactful than in other forms of media because the player felt reponsible for the violent acts.
Dr Bastian said: “In line with previous work on real-life violence, players would view their opponents as less human when they were the targets of violence compared to when they were opponents in a non-violent video game.”
If true then, the study confirms little other than that players will engage in the same behaviours which allow them to enjoy the bad guy being killed in a film or the villain getting his comeuppance in a novel.
The process of thinking about opponents in videogames, human or AI, neccessitates their being positioned as an enemy in a field of play for the sake of emerging victorious in fictitious and virtual battles, as obstacles to be overcome in simple narratives of good vs evil.
The study asserts that its findings demonstrate a chilling dehumanisation of a generation of gamers, but does not mention how its results are able to be extended to a wider and longer-lasting phenomenon beyond the limited scope of the testing area in which the study took place.
Mortal Kombat is currently refused classification in Australia.
To register for the MCV Pacific News Digest, head to the registration page: http://www.mcvpacific.com/user/index/register/journey/register