Playing Games Makes You A Better Person?

So often in society, obvious conclusions are drawn for complex interactions. A classic case of this is the supposed rise in violent crime and video games. Firstly the rise in crime is indeed far more a media phenomena than a reality. In many countries, crime is decreasing and certainly if looked at in a historical context is far less than was the case previously. The relationship with violent video games is clearly contentious.

The debate over the crime rates notwithstanding the counter logic of video games is something that until recently had not been tested, namely do pro-social video games result in pro-social behavior? A study which was reviewed in the Economist (2009) and published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology demonstrated that pro-social video games can indeed lead to pro-social behavior. This was further supported by correlative research outside the laboratory looking at behavior in gamers from Asia. Those involved in pro-social games were more likely to help, share and empathize than those involved in more violent and self-serving games. This finding is supported by work by Greitemeyer and Osswald which found that the positive impact of pro-social gaming is independent of whether someone is a ‘nice person’ (i.e. pro-social games produce positive behavior independent of the person’s inclination to being nice).

In reading this article my thoughts naturally drifted toward business applications. Given the rise in consciousness around psychotic managers and bullying behavior at work a suitable intervention may well be pro-social video games. Due to the subtle manner in which the games may affect cognition, the potential for video games to have a more positive impact on behavior at work than perhaps a classic training intervention may indeed be something to explore.