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Study suggests that relaxing video games make players happier


June 8, 2011

A recent study suggests that playing relaxing video games, such as Endless Ocean, leaves people feeling happier and more sociable than if they had played violent video games (Image: Nintendo)

A recent study suggests that playing relaxing video games, such as Endless Ocean, leaves people feeling happier and more sociable than if they had played violent video games (Image: Nintendo)

Although you might have a big grin on your face as you're blowing away your opponents when playing Halo, you would actually be happier if you were playing a game like Endless Ocean, in which you interact with marine life - at least, that's what Ohio State University's Brad Bushman will tell you. The professor of communication and psychology conducted two studies, each with over 100 subjects, and has concluded that playing relaxing, nonviolent video games leaves people in a happier, more sociable mood than if they had played fast, violent games.

Bushman has looked into the effects of violent video games in the past, and believes that they cause aggressive, antisocial behavior in their players. Until now, however, he didn't know if the opposite was true of relaxing games - mainly, he says, because there have been so few of them to test.

In his first study, a group of 150 Ohio State students were each randomly assigned to play one of three types of Wii games for 20 minutes - a relaxing one, like Endless Ocean; a neutral one, such as Super Mario Galaxy; and a violent game, such as Resident Evil 4. Afterwards, they were told that they were going to compete against another, unseen competitor in a reaction time game.

The players had to push a button when prompted, and whoever pushed theirs first won some money, whereas the loser received a blast of noise through a set of headphones. The test subjects were then asked how much money their opponent should get if they won, and how long and loud their noise blast should be if they lost. Players of the violent game chose to award the least money and deliver the loudest, longest noise, while players of the relaxing game chose to give the most money and the least noise. Subjects who played the neutral game came out somewhere between the two extremes.

And no, there wasn't actually another player getting deafened somewhere.

In the second study, a group of 116 students were once again asked to play one of the three types of games for 20 minutes, and then complete a questionnaire that rated their mood. Those who had played the relaxing game rated themselves as feeling more happiness, love, joy and related positive emotions than the ones who played the violent game.

Once the students had finished filling out the questionnaire, the person administering the test asked if they could help sharpen some pencils for the next batch of test subjects. Students who had played the relaxing game tended to sharpen the most pencils, while those who had played the violent game sharpened the least.

"Relaxing video games put people in a good mood," said Bushman. "And when people are in a good mood, they are more inclined to help others, and that's better for everyone."

Needless to say, the psychological effects of violent video games remains to be a highly-debated issue. We look forward to hearing your comments.

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

I propose a study that combines several of Gizmag\'s batch of stories for today: what about a study that explores the psychological effects of playing a video game in which you ride a track-equipped board to battle genetically engineered Chinese cows that produce human breast milk?


Interesting. Endless Ocean stressed me out - it was alway telling me to do stuff, and frankly the graphics are sort of sub-par for what a game like that could offer (really, it should have been on PS3). I would much rather play a free form platformer, like Prince of Persia, where there are hard tasks to accomplish, but long stretches without violence.

With more and more capability to create expansive video game worlds, it is a shame that this year\'s E3 line up is dominated by sequels to essentially linear shooters and hack and slash. Even the stand-outs, like Elder Scrolls V and the new Assassin\'s Creed (funny how this is one of the LESS violent games currently available, right?) are moving steadily towards more violence with each new version.

Charles Bosse

the question of how the test subjects were recruited, and selected, makes for questioning the validity of the results of the study. The majority of people who prefer, and are relaxed by the more violent games may have simply avoided the test.

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