Role-playing games (RPGs) may happen in an entirely virtual world, but the way many gamers act while playing the game is far from make-believe. With decision-making being the key aspect in many games currently out in the market, researchers from the Indiana University Bloomington decided to observe how players made moral choices and how these affected them emotionally.

In their study entitled Mirrored Morality: An Exploration of Moral Choice in Video Games, researchers Andrew Weaver and Nicky Lewis asked participants to answer a survey about their moral foundations before having them play the first act of Fallout 3, which the team recorded. The participants were then asked how their decisions within the game affected the experience.

According to MedicalNewsDaily.com, the results showed that players in general tend to treat in-game characters as actual individuals, propelling them to make decisions based on what they deem as “moral” in real life. Guilt is also common in players who make anti-social decisions, but this doesn’t seem to keep them from enjoying the game.

Although these are just preliminary findings, they point out to the possibility of using RPGs to teach young adults how to weigh choices in order to be able to make proper decisions. Immersing them in virtual worlds may help teens see the results of their actions without experiencing real repercussions, ingraining in them the concept of cause and effect and a sense of responsibility. So the next time you see your teenager playing Mass Effect 2, leave her be; she may just pick up a thing or two that she can use in real life.

(Photo by kim smith via Flickr Creative Commons)

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