According to a scientific study (these scientists love performing studies), spending time as a virtual character in a role-playing game can “numb you to realizing important body signals in real life.” This supposedly includes a change in a person’s response to physical pain as video games somehow manage to desensitize a person’s perception of pain not only in themselves, but in others as well.
“Participants were asked how much time they spend each week playing video games. Their responses were then correlated with a measure of pain tolerance by counting the number of paperclips that they could retrieve from ice-cold water. In a second experiment, participants played either an immersive or a nonimmersive computer game before taking part in the same pain-resistance task.
“The immersive video-game players exhibited a reduced sensitivity to pain and removed significantly more paperclips from ice-cold water. They were also more indifferent to people depicted as experiencing displeasure than were the nonimmersive players.”
This reaction is apparently caused because the “human-machine boundary is increasingly being blurred, either by humans entering virtual machines/robots, or by anthropomorphizing, in other words adding human qualities to animated figures and toys. Machines are being programmed to attract human inclinations, while virtual characters and robots have started to perform tasks or roles that were traditionally held by humans, such as that of robot counselling therapists. In such an environment it becomes increasingly easy and normal to regard artificial beings as akin to human beings.”
I can’t be the only one that believes the absolute opposite. RPGs — my favorite games like Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Final Fantasy– all of them have only introduced more emotion to my life. If anything, compelling stories, consequences, and immersive characters have only made me more sensitive to the beauty and tragedy of life. These games have tested my morals and patience, my ability to choose between ruthlessness or mercy. If anything, these games have only introduced an intense depth of emotional understanding.
Ulrich Weger of the University of Witten/Herdeck in Germany stated, “We see this blurring as a reality of our time but also as a confused and misleading development that has begun to shape society. We believe this should be balanced by other developments, for example, by working on our awareness of what it really means to be human. We should also look into how we can best make use of the beneficial applications of robotic or artificial intelligence advances, so as to be able to use our freed up resources and individual potentials wisely rather than becoming enslaved by those advances.”
Perhaps it’s because I’m extremely passionate about the emotional capabilities of gaming, but I only see ignorance inside studies such as this. Besides… I’ve put in countless of hours into RPGs. Physical pain still hurts like a bitch!