Becoming Your Avatar

As I have been looking around for information connecting real life with videogames, I found this interesting article online about how individuals are subconsciously influenced by the people they play in videogames.

In the study described in this article, a large group of college students were asked to play as a hero, a villain, or a neutral individual, and were later asked to take a blind taste test. The students were led to believe that these two assignments were completely independent of each other. In the taste test, students were given chocolate and chili sauce, and were then asked to set up the experiment for the next group of kids. They were told that they could lay out as much chocolate and chili sauce as they wanted for the next group, and that the students in the next group would have to eat all of what was laid out for them.

After comparing the two assignments, researchers found that college kids playing as villians poured about twice as much chili sauce as chocolate for the next group of students, while those playing as the hero supplied more chocolate than those playing as the neutral avatar or the villain. This shows that playing as an individual can affect real world thinking and influence how individuals treat complete strangers.

I think that this study is interesting to look at along with chapter two of Galloway’s piece. Does the desire to play as the first person, the predatory vision, make us feel more powerful in real life? Why do we need to feel this way, to have dominance over people we do not even know?

I also thought it was worth looking into because the group being tested was an assortment of college kids, who all showed real connections between the characters they played in videogames and their interactions with other people in real life. Because they were the same age many of us are right now, and because many of us do return from school to the comfort of our favorite videogames, I thought it was a study worth keeping in mind.


2 thoughts on “Becoming Your Avatar”

  1. I can completely believe that players are influenced by the characters they play as. As far as FPS games go, I don’t know if it’s so much the predatory vision coming into real life, though, especially in games that are usually heavily based on generic multiplayer characters who don’t do much other than run around and periodically shout “grenade!” or “reloading!”

    I do think there is a sort of empowerment in the FPS perspective, though. You can be a sniper, you can be a shotgunner, you can be somebody the other team considers “dangerous.” I want to say it may be the prestige of playing these games well, rather than the predatory vision, is what makes people feel more powerful in reality. But I’m not sure that’s it either.

    The study looked a little vague, though they did mention “role play.” I don’t know if the connection to the FPS environment translates to real life in quite the same way as this apparent “taste test” seems to have for RPG players. Might be worth looking into another study that examines FPS games specifically to see if the effects are at all connected in some way.

  2. I feel as if the study is a bit broken. I believe a study of morality can be made with videogames, but it can’t be determined by the amount of chili sauce that one pours out. Although the gaming study was stated to be independent from the taste test, one has to assume that there are those that are just inherently evil willed or having a bad day. It could also be possible that one person prefers the chili sauced chocolate more than the chocolate sauced chili. This study, would have the people believe that the chocolate/chili concoction is a matter of taste over their morality.

    I believe a much clearer study can be made from the Fable and Mass Effect series of games, where the gamers are told to make choices that effect the world around them as well as their “morality meter”. It could be possible have user given a series of sections from the game where difficult choices need to be made, and see the overall morality change.

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