Violent Virtual Reality Video Games Creating Guilty Feeling?
Rapidly changing technology has created incredibly real games. The design of the images is sharp and clear, settings have detail and the sounds are also amazing. At an initial glance, it appears very real. So very real, that research has consistently discovered that gamers feel bad when committing unjustified acts of violence within the game.
Now, a new University at Buffalo-led study has found that the moral response produced by the initial exposure to a video game decreases as experience with the game increases.
The studies provide the first experimental data that consistently playing the same violent game reduces emotional reactions — like guilt — to other violent video games, in addition to the original game, too.
Yet, why this is changing remains a mystery, according to Matthew Grizzard, assistant professor of communication and main researcher of the study published in current issue of the journal Media Psychology, with co-authors Ron Tamborini and John L. Sherry of Michigan State University and René Weber from the University of California Santa Barbara.
Grizzard asked, “What’s underlying this finding? Why do games lose their ability to elicit guilt, and why does this seemingly generalize to other, similar games?”
Grizzard, an expert in the psychological changes of media entertainment, has previously studied the ability of violent video games to elicit guilt. His current study builds upon that work.
Users often claim their actions in a video game are not as important to the real world as players stealing pawns on a chess board. Yet, previous work by Grizzard and others shows that immoral virtual actions can elicit augmented levels of guilt than moral virtual actions. This research would seem to contradict claims that virtual actions are separated from real life.
Grizzard’s team wanted to replicate their earlier findings and determine whether users’ claims that their virtual actions are meaningless actually reflects real processes.
Although the data of his study suggest that desensitization occurs, mechanisms underlying these research details are not entirely clear.
He says there are two views for this particular effect.
“One is that people are deadened because they’ve played these games over and over again. This makes the gamers less sensitive to all guilt-inducing stimuli.”
The second view is a matter of straightforward thoughts.
“This is the idea that gamers see video games differently than non-gamers, and this differential perception develops with repeated play.”
Non-gamers look at a selected game and thank about all that’s occuring. For the non-gamer, the level of the scene is more important than the strategies required to succeed. But gamers pay no attention to much of the visual information in a scene as this information can be meaningless to their success in a game, according to Grizzard.
“This second argument says the desensitization we’re observing is not due to being numb to violence because of repeated play, but rather because the gamers’ perception has adapted and started to see the game’s violence differently.”
“Through repeated play, gamers may come to understand the artificiality of the environment and disregard the apparent reality provided by the game’s graphics.”
Grizzard say his future research is searching towards answering these questions.
“This study is part of an overarching framework that I’ve been looking at in terms of the extent to which media can elicit moral emotions, like guilt, disgust and anger,” he says.