Gamers Drawn to Challenge Not Violence, Says Research

Gamers Drawn to Challenge Not Violence, Says Research

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Research by the University of Rochester shows that gamers are more drawn to challenge and problem solving than violence in games.

The research, which was conducted through two online surveys and four experimental studies, showed that "people stayed glued to games mainly for the feelings of challenge and autonomy while playing. Both seasoned gamers and novices preferred games where they could conquer obstacles, feel effective, and have lots of choices about their strategies and actions."

The studies asked more than 300 undergraduates to play versions of Half-Life 2 and The House of the Dead III, which the researchers had modified into violent and non-violent variations. For Half-Life 2, players had the choice of a "a bloody battle against computer-controlled adversaries or a low violence alternative, in which the robots were tagged and teleported serenely back to base." Meanwhile, The House of the Dead III was available with varying levels of violence, from no blood to excessive gore.

The results were fairly straightforward. "For the vast majority of players, even those who regularly play and enjoy violent games, violence was not a plus," Andrew Przybylski, the lead author of the study, said. "Violent content was only preferred by a small subgroup of people that generally report being more aggressive."

The research reinforces the idea that the only reason violence is so prevalent in games is because violent situations and activities are an effective vehicle for the challenge and problem solving that make games compelling. "Conflict and war are a common and powerful context for providing the experiences, but it is the need for satisfaction in the gameplay that matters more than the violent content itself," Richard Ryan, co-author of the research, said.

Which leaves us with the dilemma of how developers can start creating more games that manage to be satisfying and compelling without making them violent. Killing and bloodshed has always been profitable, many have assumed, because that's what gamers want. That's apparently not true, but will publishers see it that way when they look at the top of the sales charts and see almost every non-Nintendo game involves shooting up either gangsters, Japanese soldiers or aliens? Scott Rigby, another co-author of the research, would hope so. "Much of the debate about game violence has pitted the assumed commercial value of violence against social concern about the harm it may cause," Rigby said. "Our study shows that violence may not be the real value component, freeing developers to design away from violence while at the same time broadening their market."

[Via GameCulture]

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Personally I would say I'm more into Fun Factor, Immersion and Story than I am into either Violence OR Challenge, hence why I really love the new Prince of Persia despite it's lack of "real" violence or challenge.

Violence alone never makes a game fun I'm afraid.

PedroSteckecilo:
Personally I would say I'm more into Fun Factor, Immersion and Story than I am into either Violence OR Challenge, hence why I really love the new Prince of Persia despite it's lack of "real" violence or challenge.

Yeah, I have to agree with you, although for me challenge does add to the fun factor.

mattttherman3:
Violence alone never makes a game fun I'm afraid.

Condemned and Manhunt beg to differ.

it depends on the gamer, i like a challenge but some of my friends like violence...

Fun, challenge, violence. different games offer different experiences, just like films. why has no 'study' said this before?

I'm always a bit sceptical of studies like this. Of course, I didn't read through the entire study itself, but the article makes some rather vapid statements about their conclusions of video gaming (people enjoy challenges and accomplishing things). Well, naturally - who doesn't want to get things done and feel important about his or her role?

They did make one good point in this study, though: the reason that we see so many games based around war is that it makes for a good story/experience, not because we enjoy seeing limbs blown off (although this may contribute to the good experience).

You know, Portal managed to drastically reduce the amount of violence in the game (there was a bit of blood), and it's praised by the majority of gamers.

I'm sorry, but a resounding DUH DUCK is called for.
Gamers are not a bunch of bellicose neanderthals, but it is nice to see this being recognised as a study.

This is an interesting little article.
I think it kind of explains why I don't like Left 4 Dead. I didn't feel like I was affecting the game world even thought it's pretty violent. But why I love Psychonauts even though it's fairly cartoony.

In a single player context I expect either a good story, a fair amount of challenge and options, or preferably both. In a multiplayer context I expect manifold options and challenges to provide the potential for intricate tactics and fierce competition.

Another deep article brought to you by the analytical think tank at No, Shit, and Sherlock!

I wholely disagree with this research data! I'm playing Fallout 3 right now and as soon as I got the bloody mess perk I started killing everyone! Who wouldn't like that kind of violence?

Who plays games just for the challenge? Seems like a waste of money.

I will admit to liking violence. That being said, I'm something of an advocate that gaming violence is a necessary thing in this world. I believe that it's not so much the cause, as the conclusion. People get riled up and have frustrations. They need an acceptable outlet. Firing into a horde of zombies and demons is far more acceptable than going postal, which is why I say that the effect is theraputic.

Now, there are plenty of arguments, studies, and outcries that violent video games cause violence. And frankly, it's gotten so out of hand that even Yahtzee's commented, though wryly. My thought on the matter is this: It's not because there's something wrong with the game. It's because there's something about the gamer himself that flails out of control. I like violence, to a high degree. I think the idea of Death Race as a Christmas-time movie-sell was funny as hell, and fully believe that it SHOULD have been called Twisted Metal: The Movie. But I am also a well-to-do college graduate who has never broken the law or even been accused of a crime, helpful of others, and a good sport even while PLAYING.

There was a report of a guy shooting his parents because they took away his Halo. That would be a severe charge to the gaming issue, especially since he confessed that he didn't realize the consequences of his actions (due to his obsession), but that actually strengthens the case that it's not the game that's at fault. It's his head going off the wall. I may not like Halo, but it was the OBSESSION that did it, not the game itself.

nathan-dts:

mattttherman3:
Violence alone never makes a game fun I'm afraid.

Condemned and Manhunt beg to differ.

Yes but I don't consider those games fun.

nathan-dts:

mattttherman3:
Violence alone never makes a game fun I'm afraid.

Condemned and Manhunt beg to differ.

Condemned was fun, because it managed to capture a horror vibe perfectly. That said my favourite level was in condemned two was the hunting lodge (after the bear), where there was no supernatural stuff or crazy homeless, just a spooky lodge filled with enemy soldiers and I became the monster in the shadows picking them off. The role reversal was great.

nathan-dts:

mattttherman3:
Violence alone never makes a game fun I'm afraid.

Condemned and Manhunt beg to differ.

Sorry mate, as a Condemned fan, I was more drawn to the horror that the game so perfectly embodied. I loved the feeling of isolation and the sense of feeling hunted, especially in Manhunt.

I just like semi realism, and violence is part of reality. I don't know why the powers that be want to censor reality so badly.

this article makes me feel the warm bubbly smugness of 1,000 zero punctuation episodes :]

i think the correct title is INTELLIGENT gamers drawn to challenge. notice that these were undergraduates at the university of rochester. i think the tests might have been a bit different if it took place at valencia community college.

nathan-dts:

mattttherman3:
Violence alone never makes a game fun I'm afraid.

Condemned and Manhunt beg to differ.

Well I have to counter-differ. I'll give you an example of what happened the other day. I'd bought Manhunt 2 for the Wii and had got a bit into the game. I had then realised that it was 10pm and I hadn't eaten dinner so I offered the controls to a housemate whilst I ate dinner.

This housemate, whilst playing violent games had never seen the point in the Manhunt series (I'd tried to show him the original but he wasn't interested) but this game kept him hooked for about an hour before he tried to go to bed. He hadn't progressed any distance through the game, he was still at the exact same checkpoint but despite him fighting (and evidently dying) for an hour he still felt that the *challenge* was *fun*.

I'm not sure whether the lovely folks here recognise myself by I tend to be quite outspoken to the stupidity of the censorship of violent videogames. I only pray that the BBFC/whatever listen to this piece of research and change their views accordingly.

For me it varies. I of course loved Portal in all its puzzle-solving goodness, and the ability to blow up those little turrets would have been absolutely out-of-place in the game (although I had no qualms about feeding the little boogers to the Aperture Science Material Emancipation Grid). On the other side of the coin, the House of the Dead series, which was pictured with this article, feels bizarrely artificial when my obviously-overpowered weaponry fails to blow apart frail-limbed zombies or genetic horrors. It's really all a matter of context.

Summary: Nonviolent challenge can be very entertaining (witness my Kirby's Avalanche addiction) but having me play in a scenario where violence is expected but does not occur may backfire.

TsunamiWombat:
Another deep article brought to you by the analytical think tank at No, Shit, and Sherlock!

Oh come on people, hindsight bias is notorious in this thread (the tendency to believe that results could've easy to predict when in fact they couldn't). -.- You couldn't say conclusively that those results would have been there unless you I dunno...did a study to prove it! Scientific method.

Padfoot13:
i think the correct title is INTELLIGENT gamers drawn to challenge. notice that these were undergraduates at the university of rochester. i think the tests might have been a bit different if it took place at valencia community college.

Hey I live in Rochester and know quite a few gamers from UofR. I met them when I was president of the gaming club at the local community college and we were a motley bunch of scum and villainy but we had damn good tastes in games.

Anyways F*** this sentiment young people have about the inferiority of junior colleges and the people in them. I'm at a highly respected four year institution now and the people here are equally as stupid as the people at community college, plus you meet a hell of lot more interesting and unique personalities at community college, and the education you get there is just as good as the 100 and 200 level classes you get at a four year institution.

Anyways this study is useless, because 90 percent of people, if asked why hey like something isn't going to say, "mostly because it's violent" It makes them sound brutish, so even if it were the truth it doesn't matter.

I think they might have to remove some other 'non-violent' big sellers...

The sims...
Kids movie games (yes sadly they sell, no matter how bad they are)
Mine sweeper.

I honestly think that publishes know that all they need is a good marketing campaign behind the game and it will sell. Its true for anything. This is why Apple and Nintendo are so successful. Although some of their products arguably are not as good as some of the opposition, they lead the market.

I also think games don't need to be more violent than what they are now, and whoever made solider of fortune 3 is either hoping to get at 'the small percentage' or thinks its over the top violence can cover for what is quite a terrible game. Graphical violence is not game play, it's just something to make the game look better. It's just like adding blood splatters to chess. It needs to be a good game to start with to be enjoyable.

Richard Ryan:
"Violent content was only preferred by a small subgroup of people that generally report being more aggressive."

*Checks Gears of War 2 Gore setting*

Uh-oh.

I've never found violence to be a selling point in games. Story, challenge, innovation, all are more important. For me, the most satisfying part of a game is the narrative - and my definition may need a little explanation. I am an avid reader, and while reading a good book you are exposed to and immersed in the world, the characters and the events. In a book, the characters and events are defined by the author, and the narrative, the flow of the story, is set exactly as they wish.

While this can be enjoyable, games bring this to the next level, by allowing you to participate in the narrative, to experience it for yourself, and even to affect the flow of events. Even in the most linear game, you decide when and how things happen, to the extent that you are allowed by the developers. By narrative, I don't mean the story, or at least, not only the story. I mean the way in which the story is advanced. It's whether you use a shotgun or a sniper rifle, if you fight your way through, or sneak around. The best games, such as (in my opinion) Fallout 3 and Mass Effect, allow you an incredible amount of freedom in shaping the flow of the story, allowing you to create your own narrative. Any violence in these games is presented as an obstacle, a challenge you must overcome in order to proceed to the next stage of the narrative.

I'm not shooting zombies because I like to watch the blood spurt out (although that can be cool). I'm shooting zombies because if I don't shoot them, I can't get to the end of the level. That's not to say that violence doesn't have a place in games, or even that it isn't enjoyable. Simply that it isn't the most important factor in making a good game. In fact, it isn't important at all.

Well, there's something cathartic about blowing the head off a zombie, but yeah, it's mostly about figuring stuff out. Hell, most RPGs have very little violence by today's standards. (Sure you hit stuff til it dies, but they generally just disappear rather than esplode in a shower of blood or whatever). Although nothing beats a game of house of the dead 2 with a friend. "My god! These are G's bloodstains! How could anyone do this?" :D

Keane Ng:
For Half-Life 2, players had the choice of a "a bloody battle against computer-controlled adversaries or a low violence alternative, in which the robots were tagged and teleported serenely back to base.

I'm interested on how both versions of that play. Having stuff teleport away would make zombie fights easier due to the lack of headcrabs but the final levels will be alot harder as you have to attack each soldier seperately instead of grabbing one and using him to mow down the rest of his squad. Also, the way they say "computer conrolled adversaries" makes me think that the "no violence" part of the second version involves completely passive enemies. And alot of weapons would make 0 sense in a non-violent setting.

Erana:
I'm sorry, but a resounding DUH DUCK is called for.
Gamers are not a bunch of bellicose neanderthals, but it is nice to see this being recognised as a study.

Yep, which is likely to change the nut-job gamer stereo type and making retarded parents stop blaming games for their children's actions! PSYCHE! You honestly think this will make making retarded parents stop blaming games for their children's actions? We need to make taking responsibility a godam-law.

dcheppy:

Padfoot13:
i think the correct title is INTELLIGENT gamers drawn to challenge. notice that these were undergraduates at the university of rochester. i think the tests might have been a bit different if it took place at valencia community college.

Hey I live in Rochester and know quite a few gamers from UofR. I met them when I was president of the gaming club at the local community college and we were a motley bunch of scum and villainy but we had damn good tastes in games.

Anyways F*** this sentiment young people have about the inferiority of junior colleges and the people in them. I'm at a highly respected four year institution now and the people here are equally as stupid as the people at community college, plus you meet a hell of lot more interesting and unique personalities at community college, and the education you get there is just as good as the 100 and 200 level classes you get at a four year institution.

Anyways this study is useless, because 90 percent of people, if asked why hey like something isn't going to say, "mostly because it's violent" It makes them sound brutish, so even if it were the truth it doesn't matter.

i wasn't saying that Rochester is unintelligent, Valencia is.

 

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