Video game study suggests people will remain calm as the world ends

"Our dataset represents about as close as we can get to an actual end-of-the-world scenario," said researcher Ahreum Kang.
By Brooks Hays  |  March 20, 2017 at 3:57 PM
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March 20 (UPI) -- Many assume the world will end in chaos, a complete breakdown of the social order. The results of a new video game study suggest otherwise.

Participants in a role-playing video game study engaged in acts of cooperation and assistance as their virtual world came to an end. Analysis of the virtual actions of 80,000 participants playing ArcheAge showed acts of violence were relatively rare.

"We realize that, because this is a video game, the true consequences of the world ending are purely virtual," Ahreum Kang, postdoctoral researcher at University of Buffalo, said in a news release. "That being said, our dataset represents about as close as we can get to an actual end-of-the-world scenario."

Computer scientists surveyed 275 million virtual actions executed by ArcheAge players. The researchers organized the actions into 11 categories. Each category was classified as either prosocial or antisocial.

All of the study participants knew their actions in the game were being monitored and the virtual world would come to an end after 11 weeks. In the world's waning days, scientists did measure an uptick in antisocial, violent behavior, but the actions were isolated to a small minority of participants. The majority of players executed prosocial actions, partying or building houses.

Researchers shared the results at this week's International World Wide Web Conference.

"It's kind of like sitting next to a stranger on the airplane," Kang said. "You may keep to yourself during the flight, but as the plane reaches the runway, you strike up a conversation knowing the end is in sight."

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