New research suggests that violent videogames make players more “morally sensitive” by causing them to regret their own behaviors:
“This may, as it does in real life, provoke players to engage in voluntary behavior that benefits others,” notes lead author Matthew Grizzard [of the University of Buffalo] in a summary of the study, which is published (behind a paywall) in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. So, the suggestion is that not only is amoral in-game activity harmless, it might also be beneficial to society.
This conclusion rests on previous findings within sociology/social psychology that when humans feel guilt about some real-world behavior (or lab-simulated real-world behavior, rather) they will convert that feeling into actual prosocial behavior. A quick survey reveals a 2003 New Mexico State University study finding that feelings of guilt could be used to push real-world cooperation, suggesting that guilt may be used as “‘information’ about the future costs of uncooperative strategy.”
Related Dish on torture in videogames here.