Study Finds Prosocial Video Games Can Teach Helpful Behavior

Chess may have been used in the past to teach war strategy where the winning move would change history, but psychologists are ready to release a study later this month whose results claim that gaming with others may rub off into real-life outside of the screen.

Listening to the verbal cesspool that is Xbox Live! may say otherwise, but as gamers that live and thrive in multiplayer know, working together as a team to survive the next Locust wave on Gears of War 2 or patching up friendlies in Team Fortress 2 can make all of the difference in winning or losing. And now it looks like it may actually mean more than an in-game achievement.

The main article follows below.

Study Finds Prosocial Video Games Can Teach Helpful Behavior

Playing prosocial games encourages players to be more helpful and comforting towards others.

(MINNEAPOLIS) According to a new international study to be published later this month, psychologists have found that video games can produce greater cooperation and helping behaviors.

Children and young adults from three countries, the United States, Japan and Singapore, participated in studies involving prosocial video games, where characters help each other. Results from the studies showed that gamers who played prosocial games were more likely to
behave in a manner that benefits others, such as helping, sharing and comforting others.

Highlights from the study include:

An experimental study of 161 American college students found those who were randomly assigned to play prosocial games exhibited more helpful behavior toward another student in a subsequent task, than those who played neutral or violent games. Students who played violent games engaged in more harmful behaviors toward other students.

A survey of 727 middle-school students from Singapore found those who play prosocial games cooperate more and have greater empathy for others.

In a longitudinal study of 780 fifth-grade, and 1,050 eighth- and 11th-grade students from Japan, prosocial game play predicted later increases in prosocial behavior over a 3- to 4-month time span.

The study, titled “The Effects of Prosocial Video Games on Prosocial Behaviors: International Evidence From Correlational, Longitudinal, and Experimental Studies” was led by Douglas Gentile, an assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State and director of research for the
Minneapolis-based National Institute on Media and the Family. Previous research by the same researchers has found that violent video games can produce an increase in aggressive behavior.

“This research confirms video games can have both positive and negative effects,” Dr. David Walsh, president of the National Institute on Media and the Family said. “Positive prosocial games can help kids learn sharing and cooperation; violent games can bring out aggression.”

“This set of studies helps to complete the picture about video games. We knew from other studies that practicing aggression in games can increase aggressive thoughts and behaviors, but there hadn’t been studies showing how practicing helping behaviors in games can increase
cooperative and helping behaviors,” said Gentile. “This demonstrates why it is so important that parents monitor their children’s gameplay. Games can have many benefits, but parents need to help choose the games that are most likely to get the maximum benefits.”

Results from the study will be published in a future issue of the journal Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. The complete paper is available online through the journal at

About the National Institute on Media and the Family

The National Institute on Media and the Family is an independent non-partisan, non-sectarian, non-profit organization whose mission is to maximize the benefits and minimize the harm of media on the health and development of children and families. For more information, visit on the Web or call 1-888-672-5437.