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Playing co-op could make you a better person

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Cooperative gaming is rad. Though it’s been a staple in videogames ever since Arcade gaming manufacturers realised they can get people to put two coins in to the machine instead of one, bringing us games like Double Dragon and Final Fight. For a while, competitive online was the only sort of multiplayer, but co-operative online gaming came back in a big way in the last generation. That’s good – and it might be making us better people.

According to not-so-new study by Texas Tech University, Playing co-operative games may actually illicit “pro social behaviour” in people, making them nice to other people. The study was first published last year, but has now found its way out of Academia, and it suggests that those who play in co-operative or team-based modes engage in post-game, pro-social behaviour.

“What we found was cooperative play seems to have the biggest effect in terms of decreasing aggression toward other people,” says John Velez, an assistant professor of journalism and electronic media; a field, I might add, that has nothing to do with psychology or behaviour whatsoever.

“We found that playing with a helpful partner increases the expectation of others to reciprocate that pro-social behavior and generally be helpful. That applies to not only the teammate, but to others as well. The other interesting thing we found was when playing with a helpful teammate, you’re nicer to the other team you just competed against that tried to beat you, even though you don’t expect them to give it back to you.”

Using Halo Reach and Timesplitters as their benchmarks, researchers found that those who played co-operatively were less likely to be aggressive jerkwads.

“Generally, people playing cooperatively seemed to really focus on and value those relationships that are going on when they are playing,” Velez said. “They focus more on the social aspects and focus less on the violence and aggression. It’s more important to them to think about how they’re interacting with other people. Since most video games are played this way nowadays, it’s an important factor to think about when talking about violent video games and their negative effects.”

In a third study that focused on non-violent co-operative games, similar results were presented. Helpful teammates were more likely to help each other in social situations afterwards – without worrying about reciprocation.

“I did this study to figure out in general why cooperative play was so powerful in creating that positive effect,” Velez said. “That expectation (of reciprocation) is very powerful in determining pro-social behavior but it also seems that playing with a helpful teammate can inspire players to behave pro-socially without the expectation of receiving anything in return.”

There’s nothing I can find to say what methodology was used, or how large the sample was, and I find the whole thing a wee bit dubious. Still, I think my regular multiplayer mantra applies: Don’t be a dick. Don’t be a dick, and you may end up making somebody else be less of a dick to other people. If we all do this, there is only one end goal: World peace.

Last Updated: May 12, 2015

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