IT’S official: driving makes you more aggressive than war.
That’s the startling finding of a study by a Huddersfield academic into the effect of playing computer games.
As copies of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 fly off the shelves this week, Dr Simon Goodson has found that shooting games like it cause less aggression than games that involve driving.
“You get a more aggressive response from playing a racing game than from a violent game – even one that involves cutting people in half with a chainsaw,” he said.
Dr Goodson studied 70 people as they played driving game Project Gotham Racing and compared their reactions to playing the violent Gears of War 2.
The University of Huddersfield lecturer measured the players’ brainwaves, finding more activity in the regions associated with aggression as they played the driving game compared to the shooting game.
After playing the games, Dr Goodson asked the players a serious of questions designed to measure their aggression. He said: “There are statements like ‘if someone hits me I would hit them back’, and they were asked to say if they agreed.”
Dr Goodson and research assistant Sarah Pearson made sure they had a diverse group for the experiment which took place earlier this year.
He said: “We had a mixture of young and old, male and female. There were people who don’t play games at all and people who are experienced gamers.”
The pair presented their findings to a meeting of the British Psychological Society in Brighton.
Dr Goodson believes his research casts doubt on the idea that violent computer games lead to real-life aggression.
He said: “I think there are a lot of myths about video games and a lot of research hasn’t been done properly. The argument that violent games make people more aggressive is fundamentally flawed.”
Dr Goodson is not sure why driving games make people more aggressive than violent ones.
He said: “The evidence is that driving games evoke more aggression because they are based on reality which people can relate to.
“Shooting people is a fantasy, but driving isn’t. Everyone’s been in the situation where they get cut up on the roads.”
And Dr Goodson added that violent games may actually reduce aggression.
He said: “Some people find playing a violent game actually reduces stress – like beating a blow-up doll. That’s an argument, but we need to do research.”
Dr Goodson doesn’t believe the runaway success of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 will lead to real-life violence.
He said: “I don’t think players will start dressing up as soldiers and shooting people.”
However, the lecturer warned that his research did not cover young people. He said: “We can’t do research on people aged under 18. Parents have to act responsibly.”
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 was expected to notch up global first-day sales of £300m yesterday – easily eclipsing the record held by Grand Theft Auto 4 which sold £120m worth of copies on its release day last year.
However, some have criticised the violence in the game. Labour MP Keith Vaz said he was “absolutely shocked” by a part of the game leaked on the Internet, which showed civilians being murdered in an airport.