The persistence of attitudes following violent and non-violent video game play using conventional versus embodied controls

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

The effects of violent video game play on hostility and support for violence are unclear. Previous studies have shown increases, decreases or no effect at all. At the time of the first study (2007) it was unclear if attitudes and opinions within a game persisted after game play. Also unknown was how long any such effects would last, and if they would be affected by using embodied versus conventional controls in the game. 3 experiments were run on university students to investigate these points. It was hypothesised that violent play would increase hostility and support for violence, and that these effects would be short term and increased by the use of embodied controls. Study 1 investigated whether attitudes and opinions persisted immediately after game play by having participants play either a nonviolent or violent version of a computer game and then measuring their support for violence. The hypothesis was tentatively supported in males, who showed higher support for violence in the violent version group. Study 2 aimed to pilot a behavioural measure of hostility to be used in Study 3 by having participants watch either a non-violent (non-violent group) or violent clip (violent group) before completing the behavioural measure and the violence questionnaire used in Study 1. The hypothesis was not well supported in that the attitudinal scores were almost equal. However, the expected trend occurred in the behavioural measure. Study 3 investigated how long the effects on hostility and support for violence would last, and if they were affected by the use of embodied versus conventional controls. Participants played a non-violent and violent game on either the Playstation 2 or Nintendo Wii. Violent play did not increase support for violence and hostile decision making, it marginally decreased them. Also, the participants' responses did not completely return to baseline after 24 hours. Lastly, embodied controls were not found to have a greater effect on support for violence. Therefore, the 3 predictions of this study were not supported. Overall, the central tenet that video games can affect players' attitudes, opinions, cognition and behaviour post play and that this will be especially true in games wherein an in-game character mimics the physical actions of the player is not well supported.

Includes bibliographical references (leaves 72-79).