For years many people have argued against the playing of video games, especially violent video games, by children, claiming that the games will make children violent. While some researchers tackle that theory directly, others take one of the key assumptions of that theory and see what they can do with it. A Stanford University study has recently been published in the PLOS ONE open access journal that shows a specific kind of mechanic in a video game can actually make children more helpful in real life.
The researchers created a virtual reality video game with two separate mechanics that could be combined to give the players four distinct play experiences. Within the virtual world, players could move around a city either within a helicopter or via super-flight, and this movement could either be to find a missing diabetic child in need of insulin or to simply tour the city. After playing the game, one of the experimenters would spill a cup of pens, giving the players an opportunity to help them by picking up the pens. Those players with super-flight, whether they helped the child or toured the city, were faster to help pick up the pens and picked up more pens than those who travelled in the virtual helicopter.
The researchers suggest that the reason the players with super-flight were more helpful after playing the game was because the game play triggered stereotypes of superhero behavior. Basically, because they had a power typically associated with a helpful person, they themselves became helpful.
Source: Public Library of Science