Ever since I played my first video game, the thought of losing or dying was awful. After all, who really wants to spend a half-hour making their way through a dangerous dungeon only to die at the end and be forced to retrace their steps to get to the boss battle?
In fact, I disliked dying in games so much, I would often find it easier to walk away and do something else rather than risk the health of my controller after losing such an important battle. And while I would venture to say many would agree with my assertion, one study claims it's actually quite the opposite.
According to a study performed by a number of researchers in Helsinki, Finland, gamers actually like to die in games and actually prefer that over killing other enemies.
Dubbed "The Psychophysiology of James Bond: Phasic Emotional Responses to Violent Video Game Events," the study examined the psychological responses of 36 young adults while they played James Bond 007: NightFire. In order to compare the results, the researchers also used Super Monkey Ball 2 as the control game to decipher the psychological differences between those who preferred dying over killing.
According to the researchers, they were surprised to find that their subjects displayed a negative response to the death of an enemy. They noted that "the fact that wounding or killing the opponent elicited negative, not positive, emotional responses might be reassuring".
"Given that the player knows that it is only a game, events that, in the real world, are perceived as threatening may be perceived as positively challenging," they continued.
Finally, the researchers reported that "there was no evidence for desensitization of emotional responses as a function of repeated exposures to violent game events."
So what does this all really mean to gamers and those that view gaming as means to violence and uncontrollable violence? Maybe there's hope after all.
That said, the researchers didn't quite do a convincing enough job of ensuring that their results could be projected to the entire population of video game players. Let's face it--if researchers surveyed only 36 people, how can we be sure that the sample was in fact representative of all gamers?
Regardless, the study shows something that no one expected and might lend some credence to the idea that gaming has nothing to do with violence and everything to do with the enjoyment of achieving a stated goal. In fact, this study does a fine job of displaying one simple truth: most people don't really think of killing as the main point of a game, but do believe that it's a means to an end that isn't necessarily required.
In the end, I can't say that I truly believe people want to die in video games rather than kill virtual characters. After all, wouldn't it take more than 36 people and a variety of games to truly prove the point?
Nonetheless, the study should act as the backbone to a variety of new studies that examine this phenomenon in the hope that eventually we will find out if people really want to kill or be killed in virtual environments.
I think I'll choose the former if that means I'll win.