In the ongoing crusade to decode the mind of gamers, a study published by the American Psychology Association has proven the social benefits of playing prosocial games.
And since the study was handled primarily by German researchers, they’ve also proven that prosocial gaming decreases schadenfreude, the german word that roughly translates to taking pleasure in others’ misfortune.
The study involved monitoring players’ behavior after experiencing 10 minutes of play with three different games. The first was Tetris, used as the neutral example of a video game (nothing more neutral than colored shapes, right?).
The players then took on Lemmings, the prosocial game in which you guide a herd of witless lemmings around varying maps. Finally test subjects were sat in front of Lamers, Lemmings’ evil twin that tasks players with extinguishing as many little lemming lives as possible. Anti-social, indeed.
After gaming, the subjects were asked various questions testing their levels of empathy and schadenfreude over stories of public figures’ misfortune. The harrowing tale of Paris Hilton’s court hearing was used as one example. Another involved the German pop star Dieter Bohlen.
If this sounds a tad silly, you’re right. “Actual people as well as actual misfortunes were chosen because we assumed participants to be more emotionally involved,” the paper explains. “Future research that examines the effects of game exposure on schadenfreude toward ordinary people would help to draw more general conclusions.”
Research oddities aside, the researchers eventually concluded that “exposure to prosocial video games enhanced interpersonal empathy and diminished reported schadenfreude and can thus contribute to improved social interactions.”
So go ahead and play heaps of Lemmings (or World of Warcraft, for that matter). It might make you the most socially capable kid on the block.