Tuesday, April 15, 2008

WoW Makes You Sleepy?

Another day, another study - this one showing a link between playing so-called "violent" videogames and feeling relaxed or even sleepy! Via (once again) Gamasutra, this recent study out of the UK -- led by psychologist Jane Barnett of Middlesex University, and presented at the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference in Dublin -- had players (male and female) of various ages play popular MMOG World of Warcraft for two hours and then complete a questionnaire on anger/aggressive feelings. Sounds very familiar, albeit with different results/interpretations. As the Gamasutra article describes,
Although World Of WarCraft is most commonly noted for its addictive rather than violent nature the results of the test found that overall the test subjects were more likely to feel calm or tired after playing.

Barnett commented: “There were actually higher levels of relaxation before and after playing the game as opposed to experiencing anger but this did very much depend on personality type.”

“This will help us to develop am emotion and gaming questionnaire to help distinguish the type of gamer who is likely to transfer their online aggression into everyday life,” she added.

I've been playing WoW on and off for a couple of years now, and must say that it rates pretty low on the graphic violence meter - depending, of course, on how one defines "violent videogames" and what one decides to do as part of their gameplay. PvP (Player-vs-Player) servers, for example, can certainly be more frenetic and aggressive than gathering herbs for some NPC (non-playable character)-driven mission. Still, WoW is much more focused on exploration, character-building and camaraderie (not to mention accumulation of points and gold) than on the ultra-violence depicted in all those documentaries about violent videogames. I'm definitely not surprised that players felt relaxed or even sleepy after a couple of hours of gameplay - it's that kind of a game after all, especially in the beginning stages when you're just sorting it all out. I'd be interested to see at what point players get stressed out or frustrated by leveling plateaus and guild politics, but that's another matter altogether.

One thing that continues to frustrate me about these studies -- or perhaps rather it is how they are represented by industry/media/governments -- is how videogames are simply clumped together as one homogenous mass...a mass whose hyper-violent themes and imagery is often simply assumed (or, in the case of some of the industry coverage, ignored altogether). It certainly makes it easier to make sweeping claims such as "violent videogames make you sleepy," or angry, or desensitized...but the nuance, variety and diversity of the player experience is almost always lost in the mix. Anyway, I applaud Barnett for attempting to demonstrate that there is more to gaming than aggression, and I hope her ongoing work can produce a more nuanced discussion of gaming and (esp.) gamers.


Anonymous said...

WoW makes you feel tired because it's a boring game... It's not actually relaxing, just extremely boring/repetitive. Playing WoW is a good way to kill your brain and get unhealthy though.

Anonymous said...

WoW makes you tired because it's flat out BORING/repetitive. Game isn't even relaxing, just very boring.