Wednesday, 30 Sep, 2009 Science

Gamers Are More Hostile to Strangers


Scientists discovered that when male gamers manage to beat their friends in shoot-em-up video games, their level of testosterone registers a significant plunge, but if the rival is a stranger the result is opposite.

"In a serious out-group competition you can kill all your rivals and you're better for it," mentioned David Geary, the study's lead researcher and an evolutionary psychologist at the University of Missouri in Columbia. He also said that when a person competes against friends in order to establish social hierarchy, destruction simply doesn't make sense. Geary says that a person cannot just alienate his or her in-group partners due to the fact that that person needs them.

Having the goal of finding a less strenuous competition, in which researchers could test people playing against friends and unknown people, Geary together with his colleague Jonathan Oxford decided to apply the Unreal Tournament 2004 video game in which players use various weapons against each other in a "capture the flag"-type mission. During another game, called Death Match, players compete against each other to the death.

There's a network-based multiplayer version of the video game. In this version, dubbed Onslaught, two groups of three users compete with each other.

Scientists created 14 groups out of 42 male university students. None of the participants knew any other previously. Then all the team got involved in 30-minute Onslaught matches. They played in different rooms but were able to hear each other. After a week, teem members were asked to play another game. Researchers changed the order of these competitions for members of other teams. They decided to give $45 to the winning team and the one that lost received $15. In a similar way the members of the team received $5 for winning in the death match while those that lost received $15.

The scientists discovered that after participants played the Onslaught matches, the testosterone levels of those who won spiked, especially among players that had a the greatest contribution to the victory of their team. However, when players competed against each other, those that registered the best results were found to produce less testosterone compared to the defeated teammates.

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