Study Playing RPG for 5 Minutes, "Alignment" Impact on Real-world Behaviors (Computer-based RPG)

by RPG Research Admin published 2020/10/25 10:14:14 GMT-7, last modified 2022-11-12T09:26:03-07:00
Though this is a computer-based RPG (Role-Playing Game) study, pending testing with tabletop, it seems possible that it could apply in tabletop RPG, LARP (Live-Action Role-Playing), and maybe even CYOA (Choose Your Own Adventure) forms of RPG as well? I would be interesting to perform the same style study with the other formats to see if the format changes the results (or not). Received 10/26/13; Revision accepted 12/11/13

Though this is a computer-based RPG study, pending testing with tabletop, it seems possible that it could apply in tabletop, LARP, and maybe even CYOA (Choose Your Own Adventure) forms of RPG as well? It would be interesting to perform the same style study with the other formats to see if the format changes the results (or not).

Received 10/26/13; Revision accepted 12/11/13
Full text: 

(The full text PDF of the original journal article if needed, below is just a web-based summary):

How you represent yourself in the virtual world of video games may affect how you behave toward others in the real world, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

“Our results indicate that just five minutes of role-play in virtual environments as either a hero or villain can easily cause people to reward or punish anonymous strangers,” says lead researcher Gunwoo Yoon of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

As Yoon and co-author Patrick Vargas note, virtual environments afford people 
the opportunity to take on identities and experience circumstances that they 
otherwise can’t in real life, providing “a vehicle for observation, imitation, 
and modeling.”

They wondered whether these virtual experiences — specifically, the experiences 
of taking on heroic or villainous avatars — might carry over into everyday 

The researchers recruited 194 undergraduates to participate in two supposedly 
unrelated studies. The participants were randomly assigned to play as Superman 
(a heroic avatar), Voldemort (a villainous avatar), or a circle (a neutral 
avatar). They played a game for 5 minutes in which they, as their avatars, 
were tasked with fighting enemies. Then, in a presumably unrelated study, they 
participated in a blind taste test. They were asked to taste and then give 
either chocolate or chili sauce to a future participant. They were told to 
pour the chosen food item into a plastic dish and that the future participant 
would consume all of the food provided.

The results were revealing: Participants who played as Superman poured, on 
average, nearly twice as much chocolate as chili sauce for the “future 
participant.” And they poured significantly more chocolate than those who 
played as either of the other avatars.

Participants who played as Voldemort, on the other hand, poured out nearly 
twice as much of the spicy chili sauce than they did chocolate, and they 
poured significantly more chili sauce compared to the other participants.

A second experiment with 125 undergraduates confirmed these findings and showed 
that actually playing as an avatar yielded stronger effects on subsequent 
behavior than just watching someone else play as the avatar.

Interestingly, the degree to which participants actually identified with their 
avatar didn’t seem to play a role:

“These behaviors occur despite modest, equivalent levels of self-reported 
identification with heroic and villainous avatars, alike,” Yoon and Vargas 
note. “People are prone to be unaware of the influence of their virtual 
representations on their behavioral responses.”

The researchers hypothesize that that arousal, the degree to which 
participants are ‘keyed into’ the game, might be an important factor driving 
the behavioral effects they observed.

The findings, though preliminary, may have implications for social behavior, 
the researchers argue:

“In virtual environments, people can freely choose avatars that allow them to 
opt into or opt out of a certain entity, group, or situation,” says Yoon. 
“Consumers and practitioners should remember that powerful imitative effects 
can occur when people put on virtual masks.”

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