A recent study from Ohio State showed that gamers who play cooperatively are better team players when game time is over. In fact, the effect is so powerful that it will get Ohio State students to work on a team with Michigan fans. I would be very interested to know if the effect is powerful enough to overcome the burning hatred of Kansas and Mizzou. I know games are awesome, but even cooperative Halo has its limits.
Ohio State University Professor of Communication David Ewoldsen and co-author of the research originally got the idea for the study from watching his sons play games.
“When I watched my sons playing together, afterward it would be a much more positive environment than if they were playing competitively, and then half the time they’d end up fighting,” he said. “And ultimately what the idea came down to was which had a bigger effect, cooperating with a real human or killing a virtual creature? And I always thought that cooperative behavior with a real human is going to override that killing of the digital creature.”
His experiment incorporated Halo 2 and Unreal Tournament 3. He had some students play Halo 2’s campaign by themselves, some play cooperatively with a partner and a third group played head-to-head Slayer matches against each other.
In the Unreal Tournament 3 experiment he only had two groups. One was head-to-head competition and the other was cooperatively. The cooperative group tried to play up the angle that maybe players would be less chummy if their teammate proudly wore a Michigan shirt for a study that used Ohio State students. He found that the addition of the rival had no effect of their cooperation. If I had been forced to play Unreal Tournament with a Mizzou student, I would have betrayed him and then laughed as the entire situation devolved into something unworthy of university backed funding.
After the gaming sessions ended, the players were given four dimes to start off with and were told that they could either keep all of the dimes or give them to another player. Each dime given to another doubled in value.
“The idea is that you can be selfish and keep your dimes or you can give them away,” he said “and if each person gives their dimes away they get more money, so that’s the measure of cooperation.”
Both studies showed that participants who had been playing cooperatively were more quick to hand their dimes out to the other player with the understanding that they would get more money.
“So if you’re nice, I’ll be nice. If you’re nasty, I’ll be nasty,” Ewoldsen said. “And that’s the strategy that leads to cooperation in the long term.”
Unfortunately, the flip side is that when players were more combative with each other, they continued their combative behavior after the game ended. While the article on the study doesn’t discuss it, I would be curious to know how long this effect continued and if it was more dramatic if they played the game for longer periods of time. For the purpose of the study there was only 20 minutes of gaming, but the effect could have been more dramatic if there had been even more.
This would help prove why we are such great friends at The Best Game Site Ever. We played hours upon hours of Halo on teams, so much that we are still feeling the effects of it today. Nothing brings you closer together than having one of your best friends yell down the hall at you, “That’s right, run away bitch!”
Dan Hoyt has been an avid gamer his entire life. When he’s not playing games, he’s working out by walking his dog, hiking and doing martial arts. He likes to try new kinds of alcohol and discuss politics. He’s a graduate of The University of Kansas and has spent years as a journalist.