Even by that standard, though, this methodology is ridiculous. Researchers at the University of Luxembourg had both experienced and inexperienced gamers play a violent video game for fifteen minutes and then choose a “gift”.
Inexperienced players tended to choose “hygienic” gifts: soap, deodorant, toothbrushes, etc., while experienced gamers didn’t have this tendency. Thus, the researchers argue, the players are experiencing the Lady MacBeth Effect: because they feel morally dirty, they also feel physically dirty. Of course, they could have just gone to Gamescom and realized that way too many gamers believe they’re allergic to soap, especially on day three of a Halo marathon. Inexperienced players, more relevantly, showed more “moral distress”, although the study doesn’t make it clear what that, you know, actually means.
Here’s the thing: we don’t disagree that somebody sitting down and playing, say, Manhunt isn’t going to rattle people’s cages. But mostly what this study seems to demonstrate is that players get used to violence in video games. There’s no evidence that people tend to get used to violence in real life from playing video games.
That’s the fundamental problem here. The gap between video game violence and actual, honest-to-God violence is enormous. You don’t need to be a soldier or a police officer or something to know this. All you really need to do is get into an actual fight with some other dude to learn the difference.
That said, the “moral distress” is understandable. Even if they’re not perfect facsimiles of reality, not even most gamers have a taste for blood and guts. Still, it seems to be a bit of a jump to assume that a preference for shower products after fifteen minutes of video game violence says anything about video games. Or, for that matter, people.
image courtesy Paramount