The Effect of Empathy on Video Game Preferences among Teenagers

TheEffect of Empathy on Video Game Preferences among Teenagers

TheEffect of Empathy on Video Game Preferences among Teenagers

Themodern video game industry is a multi-billion dollar business. Asignificant proportion of children play video games. A representativestudy of teenagers in the United States found out that approximately99% of boys and 95% of girls play video games (Chory &amp Goodboy,2011). Experts project that the global video gaming market willcontinue to grow to almost 90 billion dollars by 2017 compared to 65billion dollars in 2012 (Chory &amp Goodboy, 2011). It is estimatedthat consumers spend significant proportions of their incomes onvideo games. For instance, in 2012, consumer expenditure on videogaming devices was estimated to be above a billion dollars.

Backgroundof the Study

Thenegative effect of video games ranks as a controversial topic amongpolicymakers. Research studies establish that virtually half of thetotal video game sales are for violent games. In the United States,more than 90 percent of children and teenagers play video games withan estimated 60% containing violent content (Collins &amp Freeman,2013). A large body of psychological studies has been conducted toassess the correlation between teenage aggression and violencepropagated through video games. There are numerous points of view inthe literature concerning influences that video games exert onteenagers. One point of view relates empathy and violent video gamepreferences among teenagers. The purpose of this research proposal isto assess if empathy exists as an influential factor in teenagers whoprefer violent games, rather than non-violent ones.


Thereare inconsistent views regarding the factors underlying teenagers’inclination towards violent video games. One view suggests that ateenager’s choice of video game depends on personality. Accordingto this view, factors such as pro-social behavior, aggression, andless compassion intensify the effects of video games on the players(Ewoldsen et al., 2012). Nonetheless, the data provided is highlydisputed because of methodological limitations.

Another set of researchers proposed that in assessing the factorsthat motivate teenagers to choose violent content as opposed tonon-violent content, there is the need to consider theirpsychological state, genetic characteristics, and family history(Ewoldsen et al., 2012). A similar study looks into the role thatviolence in the history of families plays in the modern generation ofteenagers. Various theories and other factors influence teenagechoice and attraction to violent video games. This explains thereasons why out of all violent video game players, only a smallproportion is affected in terms of behavior.

Numerous psychologists have attempted to establish the sophisticatedlink between the impact of violent media and aggressive behavioramong young adults. Some theories such as the gender socializationtheory and the excitation transfer model among others are definedwithin the context of the social-cognitive model. Research hasestablished that the behavior of individuals encompasses addictiveproperties that stimulate the desire to do something again. Softwareand game developers employ this theory in gamification because it isbelieved to make the fanatics want to play repeatedly. However, aconflicting perspective of evidence has established that personalitycharacteristics do not play any role in teenage choices for videogames.

Roleof Empathy

Empathyis the effort to perceive emotions and thoughts in others andresponding to them appropriately (Gerdes, Cynthia &amp Segal, 2011).This plays a significant role in social relationships of people.Based on the psychological theories used to study the impacts ofvideo games on the players, the aggressive behavior seems to causereduced empathy towards other people. Similarly, teenage boys withlittle or no empathy happened to play violent video games, whichcaused higher levels of aggression in their behavior. Teenage boysportraying violent social behavior seek violent games, which furtherraises their hostility (Gerdes, Cynthia &amp Segal, 2011). Thiscyclical effect is believed to be the underlying cause of theaddictive nature of these games.


Thisstudy aims at evaluating the factors influencing video gamepreferences among teenagers such as empathy, which could make themvulnerable to violent games. The study is set to inform on video gamepreferences among American teenagers displaying signs of low and highempathy. It will also explore the impact of high and low friendlinesson their preferences for games.


Thisstudy is set to test two hypothesis. These are:

  • Alternative hypothesis (HA) – Teenagers who are exposed to the violent video games have low levels of empathy.

  • Null hypothesis (HO) – Teenagers who are exposed to violent video games do not have low levels of empathy.

Theresults from the study will determine if any differences occur due tothe demographic composition of the population.


Thestudy intends to answer several research questions including:

  • What motivates teenagers to play violent video games, rather than nonviolent games?

  • Does empathy play any role in influences video game preferences for teenagers?

  • Are all aggressive teenagers characterized by low levels of empathy?

  • What can be done to reduce the adverse effects of violent video games on boys?

Byanswering the above questions, the study will contribute to theunderstanding of issues relating to teenage aggression and videogames today. This will help policymakers, parents and otherstakeholders to design measures that can help teens not to succumb tobehavioral traits induced by these games.


Themethodology that will be used in this project will primarily entailsurvey for school-going teenagers and observation. The participantswill be teenagers between the teenage bracket (13-19 years) in highschool or college in the United States. The participants need to havebeen exposed to violent media content for several times in a week forseveral months for eligibility. Participants would be selected fromboth genders, and the sourcing process will involve social media,survey websites, and contacting schools via request emails.

Thestudy will utilize materials designed to comprehend gamingpreferences of teenagers based on standard ratings. They will includequestionnaires where study participants will provide detailsconcerning themselves and their families. The questionnaire willinclude a section where the respondents will be required to fill indetails regarding their gaming preferences. These details willinclude their favorite games, their frequency of playing, and theaverage amount of time they spend playing video games.

Datacollection and Analysis

Theprimary method of data collection will be the questionnaires. Othermethods will include coding to assess the classification of videogames. Collected data will be cleaned and analyzed to determine therelationship between levels of empathy and video game preferences forteenagers. The statistical tool that will be employed in the study isthe two-sample t-test. This is because it will help in the comparisonof the two hypothetical statements based on the findings of thestudy. Using this test, the decision variable will be the t-test,which if it falls short of the chosen significant value, the nullhypothesis will be rejected.

Contributionto Psychology

Thefindings of this study will provide evidence that will give awarenessas to factors that make teenagers choose certain types of gamesinstead of others. Most of the previous studies on similar subjectsfocused largely on the effect of violent video games on children.However, this can be questioned based on the low levels of empathyexhibited by the players given that the cause-effect relationshipstudied does not appear clearly in these studies. Therefore, thisstudy intends to fill the gap by assessing the role of empathy as apersonality trait on teenagers’ preference for violent video games.


Chory,R.M. &amp Goodboy, A.K. (2011): Isthe Basic Personality Related to Violent and Non-violent Video GamePlay and Preferences?Cyber psychology, Behavior and Social Networking Journal, Vol 14,no.4

Collins,E &amp Freeman, J. (2013): DoProblematic and Non-problematic Video Game Players Differ inExtroversion, Empathy, Social Capital &amp Prosocial Tendencies., Computers in Human Behavior, Vol. 29, No. 5, pg. 1933-1940

Ewoldsen,D. R., Eno, C. A., Okdie, B. M., Velez, J. A., Guadagno, R. E., &ampDeCoster, J. (2012). Effect of playing violent video gamescooperatively or competitively on subsequent cooperative behavior.Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15, 277–280

Gerdes,K.E., Cynthia, A.L. &amp Segal, E.A. (2011): Measuring Empathy inthe 21stCentury, Social Work Research Journal, Vol 35, No. 2, Pg. 83-93.