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2 July 2020

Does playing team-based video games make people more prosocial?

Gamers are often stereotyped as antisocial nerds, playing videogames in isolation for hours, and neglecting their social relationships. However, gaming is often a social activity. A study in Press Start explores if playing videogames together in teams more often may stimulate in-game prosocial behavior. The results hint that the antisocial stereotype of gamers is incorrect, at least when it comes to players of team-based videogames.

Take aways

  • People don't become more prosocial when they play team-based video games more often, but they don't become less prosocial when they play more either.
  • Players who act more prosocial in team-based videogames (helping and comforting teammates in the game) also behave in a more prosocial manner in real life (helping and comforting others, for example parents and friends).
  • This shows that prosocial behaviors do occur in team-based games, but that these behaviors are not encouraged or hampered by the frequent playing of this type of games.

Study information

  • Who?

    727 participants (mean age: 24; age range: 18-61 years, 91% male)

  • Where?

    International (76 nationalities, the 3 most common: American [31%], Dutch [11%], British [7%])

  • How?

    Participants completed a questionnaire about their gaming habits, in-game prosocial behavior (such as helping teammates in need) and offline prosocial behavior (such as comforting someone who is upset).

Facts and findings

  • The amount of time that participants spent playing team-based videogames was unrelated to the amount of in-game prosocial behavior they exhibited.
  • Participants’ who showed more in-game prosocial behavior, also showed more offline prosocial behavior.
  • Critical note: This study does not allow for any conclusions about cause (i.e., in-game prosocial behavior) and effect (i.e., offline prosocial behavior). The results only show that in-game prosocial behavior is associated with offline prosocial behavior and cannot say anything about what causes what.