This paper focuses on the article “Is Basic Personality Related to Violent and Non-Violent Video Game Play and Preferences?” by Rebecca Chory and Alan Goodboy (2011). The article was published in April 2011 in the Journal of CyberPsychology, Behavior, & Social Networking. The authors are interested in the connection between video game preference, particularly violent versus non-violent video games, and individuals’ basic personalities. The primary goals of the study are to identify the relationship between personality and frequency of video game play as well as personality and the level of violence in most-played video games. Chory and Goodboy identify these issues as important because they believe that understanding the processes which drive people to select particular video games will be useful in “controlling video games’ effects” (p. 191). The authors hypothesize that personality is a dominant factor in determining video game choice and are influenced by the media uses and gratifications framework, which suggests that individuals seek out certain kinds of media in order to gratify needs. In this paper, I will provide a detailed explanation of the variables, methods, and results. Next, I will put forth a critique of the research, discuss the value of the study, and explain why this article caught my attention.
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Methods and Variables
The authors’ study on personality and video game preference builds upon current research about the link between personality and media preferences. This research was prompted by recommendations from scholars in the field of personality and media preferences who asked that further research should be carried out, specifically studying video game preferences. The Five-Factor personality model provides the framework in this study for measuring and understanding personality. The Five-Factor personality model asserts that there are five fundamental and universal personality dispositions: extroversion, neuroticism, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness. It is necessary to summarize each of these personality traits, since they are important in understanding the study’s premise. Extroversion deals with how sociable an individual is and how likely he or she is to obtain stimulation from outside sources. Neuroticism refers to an individual’s degree of anxiety, tension, and other negative traits. Agreeableness and conscientiousness deal with altruism, nurturance, trust, and other positive traits. Openness is about how open an individual is to new ideas, fantasies, and values.
In terms of methods, the authors worked with a population of undergraduate students, which is common for studies conducted at universities. The authors assessed the personalities of their participants by using Goldberg’s Big Five measure. Participants then completed a survey about two types of video games they had played for the greatest amount of time over the past year. Participants who had played video games in the last year then indicated how frequently they played their top two video games on a 7 point scale. Ratings from the Entertainment Software Rating Board were used to evaluate the video games in terms of their level and type of violence, which led to categorization of the games in one of four categories: strong violence, mild/cartoon violence, sports, and puzzles/cards/traditional board games. Participants were also asked to reveal the frequency of their violent video game play by indicating how many times per week they played the games and for how long.
The authors emphasize that the independent variable is the level of violence in the video game, which they categorize as games with strong violence and all other types of games, and the dependent variables are the five personality dimensions. Play sex is the covariate, and is not discussed as a part of the study.
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Once the data was obtained, researchers conducted statistical analyses to determine the results. Sex was controlled in the analyses because, unlike race, ethnicity, age, and major, it was related to personality, play frequency, and game preferences. Researchers found results in two main areas: personality and frequency of violent video game play, and personality and preference for violent or non-violent video games.
Researchers conducted a multiple regression analysis and found that higher agreeableness predicted less frequent violent video game play. Higher openness predicted more frequent violent video game play. At the same time, extroversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness personality traits were not related to frequency of violent video game play.
As for the relationship between personality and the level of violence in video games, the authors found that in the most frequently played genres, less agreeable but more open, extroverted, and neurotic individuals tended to play games with strong violence instead of other games. This finding is supported by previous research on the topic of personality and media preference – past studies have found that openness, agreeableness, and extroversion positively correlated with liking violent TV and movies. The hypothesis from previous research that extroverted people prefer violent video games for the stimulation and social interaction factors is supported by the Chory and Goodboy’s findings in their research on individuals’ second most played game. Individuals who had a strongly violent second most played game tended to be more extroverted than those whose second most played game was not violent. Interestingly, Chory and Goodboy found that while extroverted people tend to prefer violent video games, less agreeable people also tend to play strongly violent video games. The authors found that there were no study differences between people who said that they had played a video game in the year before data collection and those who had not played a video game during this period. Similarly, there were no personality differences between people who regularly played video games and those who did not.
Critique of Methods
Chory and Goodboy’s research was thoughtfully planned and carefully executed. The methods were ethical, as they were entirely neutral and did not force participants into uncomfortable or painful situations. While the research that focuses on the university students does not reflect the preferences of the larger population, it is not a serious drawback of this study because university students are a cohort that tends to exhibit similar video-playing behaviors and personality traits as do individuals of slightly young and older generations.
The main limitation of this study was that the authors did not sufficiently structure their research around the fact that the relationship between personality and video games is more complex than simply a predictive one. In Chory and Goodboy’s discussions of the limitations of their research, they do acknowledge that “personality and violent video game play is most likely to be mutually reinforcing” and that they framed personality as predictive of video game preference because they chose to use the uses and gratifications approach (p. 197). While Chory and Goodboy acknowledge that the relationship between personality and video game preference is complex, their study would have been stronger had they accounted for the mutually reinforcing relationship between personality and video game preference by incorporating a longitudinal aspect. Though this may be difficult to implement practically, it would be interesting to see how an individual’s personality and video game preferences may reinforce themselves over the course of several years. Especially, if their research combines the study of how personality influences video game preferences with studies about how video game preferences may lead to changes in personality. A series of questionnaires measuring both factors over time, including research measuring changes in personality conducted on a group of individuals who are assigned to play certain types of video games, could be useful in disentangling the mutually reinforcing relationship between personality and video games.
I agree with Chory and Goodboy’s recommendation that further research be carried out on online video game play. Online video games such as World of Warcraft and Everquest have legions of devoted players, and the nature of these types of games may be quite different from traditional video games. It would be fascinating to see whether the relationship between personality type and frequency of video game playing as well as personality and the level of violence in preferred video games is comparable to the relationships found between these factors for traditional video games. An interesting development in future research would be one that addresses the relationship between the personality and frequency of video game playing and the level of violence preferred with interactive and physically active video games such as Nintendo Wii. From my personal, nonscientific observations, I have found that Nintendo Wii tends to attract individuals with very different personality types than those that prefer games such as World of Warcraft or Everquest.
This study is valuable because it contributes to existing research on personality and media preference by focusing specifically on video games and expanding our knowledge of how personality influences video game preferences. This article was especially interesting to me because, although I do not play video games frequently, I know a number of people who do. I have always wondered whether people of certain personality types are attracted to certain types of video games. Through observation, I have found Chory and Goodboy’s findings on personality and video game preference to be true, and it was exciting to see these observations validated by psychological research.
Research shows that video games do have an effect on aggressive behavior, a finding that is especially important in light of societal concern over violence and bullying perpetrated by young people. There has been a rash of media attention over the tragic outcomes of bullying in schools across the country, and I believe that it is time for a study that addresses the relationship between violent video games and bullying, in order to see if there are steps that should be taken to limit video game exposure and reduce physically and psychologically aggressive behavior in young people. Unfortunately, Chory and Goodboy’s study is not useful in identifying measures to stop violence or attack its root causes, but it does contribute knowledge to a field of study that has practical applications.
Chory and Goodboy’s research builds upon existing studies in the field of personality and media preferences. Their work is groundbreaking in that it is the first study, at the time of publication, to examine the relationship between personality, frequency of video game play, and the level of violence in preferred video games. The study was conducted evaluating a population of 346 undergraduate students and gathered data through surveys that determined personality, frequency of video game play, and the level of violence in respondents’ first most-played and second most-played video games. Researchers found that higher openness predicted more frequent violent video game play and that extroversion, neuroticism, and conscientiousness personality traits were not related to frequency of violent video game play. They also found that in the most frequently played genres, less agreeable but more open, extroverted, and neurotic individuals tended to play games with strong violence instead of other games. This finding is similar to findings from research on personality and media preferences. Chory and Goodboy’s research is a valuable contribution to the field of personality and media preference research; there is ample room for future research and exploration of this topic.
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