If you’re a member of a gaming clan online, a new study suggests you’re more prone to socially harmful behaviour – especially if you play Call of Duty.
Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 US gamers on their beliefs and personality traits, as well as their level of ‘identity fusion’ with other gamers.
Identity fusion is a psychological phenomenon that causes a deep sense of alignment with a group or cause, and is particularly prevalent among gamers.
The researchers found links between identity fusion and multiple undesirable traits, including sexism, racism and recent aggressive behaviour.
The research also found that specific gaming communities – namely, Call of Duty players – can encourage ‘strongly fused’ gamers to embrace anti-social tendencies more than others.
Fusion with gaming culture is linked with of a host of socially harmful outcomes, including racism, sexism, and endorsement of extreme behaviour (file photo)
Researchers found that fusion with gamer culture was linked to several extremist traits, including the willingness to fight or die for gaming culture, Dark Triad personality traits, sexism, racism and recent aggressive behaviour (pictured)
WHAT IS IDENTITY FUSION?
Identity fusion is described as a deep sense of alignment with a group or cause, or other people.
Identity fusion is so powerful that it compels people to enact pro-group behaviors even when it is personally costly to do so (such as sacrificing one’s life for the group).
Gaming spaces, whether in-person or online, may be particularly conducive to identity fusion.
Source: Kowert et al (2022)
The new research was led by Dr Rachel Kowert, a psychologist and research director at Take This, a non-profit based in Seattle, Washington.
‘There are growing concerns that online platforms have become breeding grounds for extremist ideologies,’ Dr Kowert and colleagues say in their paper.
‘Here we focus on the potential role of identity fusion in the radicalisation of video gamers.
‘We suggest that examining the impact of games through the lens of identity fusion provides insight into the role of identity in the propagation of extremist ideologies, radicalization, recruitment, and mobilization.’
Previous research has already suggested that gamer cultures are a hotbed of hateful, harassing, and ‘toxic’ behaviour, such as chronic racism and misogyny.
Over the course of three experiments, the team examined the links between identity fusion and extremism among gamers.
For the first two, they surveyed 598 participants, all from the US aged between 19 and 77 and describing themselves as gamers.
To determine levels of identity fusion, they asked participants whether they agreed with statements such as ‘I make gaming culture strong’ and ‘I would fight someone insulting or making fun of gaming culture’.
The research also found that specific gaming communities (namely, players of shooter game Call of Duty, pictured) can encourage ‘strongly fused’ gamers to embrace antisocial tendencies
OVER HALF OF REGULAR GAMERS GET ‘GAMER RAGE’
Over half of regular gamers experience weekly bouts of rage, a recent study found.
56.3 per cent of regular gamers experience bouts of extreme, uncontrollable anger at least once a week, according to the research.
Data collected by online gambling site Time2Play indicates that the most angry are those who play on an Xbox.
They also measured levels of social dominance, right-wing identity, white nationalist identity, sexism, racism and recent aggressive behaviour, as well as levels of the so-called ‘dark triad’.
The dark triad, well-known in the field of psychology, consists of three dubious personality traits – narcissism, psychopathy and Machiavellianism.
Machiavellianism is characterised by manipulation and exploitation of others, a cynical disregard for morality and a focus on self-interest and deception.
Some of the participants were also surveyed on levels of loneliness, whether they had gaming companions, and levels of positive and negative emotions.
Researchers found that fusion with gamer culture was linked to several extremist traits, including the willingness to fight or die for gaming culture, dark triad personality traits, sexism, racism and recent aggressive behaviour.
Interestingly, loneliness was linked with a greater willingness to fight or die for one’s gaming culture.
For the third part of the study, the team investigated whether two popular games – Minecraft and Call of Duty – were ‘especially conducive’ to links between fusion and extreme behaviour.
They surveyed more than 600 gamers who played either Minecraft or Call of Duty for at least a few hours per week.
Minecraft (pictured) is an game where players are given blocks and tools to build towns and cities
Narcissism is one of the ‘Dark Triad’ of undesirable personality traits, along with Machiavellianism and psychopathy
They found that fusion with gaming culture was linked with more antisocial and extreme outcomes among Call of Duty than Minecraft players.
However, there were some positive social traits as well; for example, fusion among Minecraft players was linked with online bonding and ‘relatedness’.
Gamer communities represent a ‘double-edged sword’, the researchers say in their paper, which has been published in the journal Frontiers in Communication.
In one way, they may provide a sense of connection and purpose for individuals who suffer from loneliness and insecurity.
But they may also expose gamers to hateful speech and social toxicity that can increase their ‘susceptibility to extremist propaganda’, the team warn.
‘In the worst-case scenario, gamers may be lured into embracing extremist beliefs that lead them down the path to radicalization,’ they say.
The experts admit they only surveyed US gamers, so future research should look at differences between US players and the rest of the global gaming population.
Playing violent video games as a child does NOT lead to more aggressive behaviour in real-life
Playing violent video games such as Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty won’t make children more aggressive, a 2020 study found.
Researchers from Massey University, the University of Tasmania and Stetson University reviewed multiple long-term studies into video games and aggression.
They found no evidence of a substantial link between ‘aggressive game content’ and signs of anger or rage later on in childhood.
‘Poor quality studies’ in the past likely exaggerated the impact of games on aggression, while better quality studies show the effects of gaming are ‘negligible’.
Regulation of violent games also did not appear likely to reduce aggression in real life, suggesting parents shouldn’t worry about their kids shooting up virtual enemies.
Real-life displays of violence, such as mass shootings in the US, have famously been blamed on video games by some politicians, rather than lax gun regulation and easy access to firearms.
Following a shooting in the US in 2019, US President Donald Trump said America needs to ‘stop the glorification of violence’ by ‘gruesome and grisly video games’.