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10 Insights Into Empathy Video Games

  1. The opposite of empathy is schadenfreude - the gleeful response to someone else's pain. Empathy games have been proven to lower the level of schadenfreude in video game players.
  2. All types of media content can affect us pro- or anti-socially. Aggressively violent video games/songs/films can affect our thoughts and emotions negatively, while peaceful and empathetic material can foster empathy.
  3. Papa & Yo, an empathy fantasy adventure game based on the gamemnaker's experience of childhood abuse by his father, was the first empathy video game to achieve global attention.
  4. There is an ongoing debate about whether players are actually invested in the storyline of empathy games, or if they are more concerned with beating the game. Clinical psychologist Margaret Morris suggests that the games motivate action rather than just empathy.
  5. Video games have become a popular medium to induce empathy because they place the user in the scene. According to Ryan Green, "When someone talks about a video game, they use the pronoun 'I'. It gives you a platform to create immersion and engagement - a new level of empathy."
  6. There are two types of empathy: cognitive - understanding another's perspective and identifying with that person - and emotional - being affected by another person's emotional state. People can play video games differently depending on which empathetic method they use: cognitive (playing the game as the main character) or emotional (playing the game as a separate person who is helping the main character). The player's experience differs depending on which method is chosen.
  7. While playing a fifteen-minute empathy video game, does induce a short-term burst of empathy, is not enough to truly understand another person's situation. However, it can help change the player's perspective of the situation.
  8. Empathy is a skill - the skill to imagine yourself in a situation - and empathy games train that skill by encouraging players to create new contexts depending on the storyline in the video game.
  9. Situated knowledge is the idea that knowledge can only be objective when it is paired with a particular perspective that makes it true. Empathy games help with gaining situated knowledge because they expose users to situations that the users would not normally experience. With the right perspective, the user can now understand the validity of statements they would otherwise doubt because they had not been exposed to that perspective.
  10. People experience high levels of stress when around strangers. However, research has found that after playing the video game Rock Band with a stranger for 15 minutes, the stress level between the two strangers diminishes to that of the stress level between two friends. The game blocks the stress of being with a stranger, which then allows for empathy to develop.

» Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D., Susan. "How Videogames Can Promote Empathy." Psychology Today. September 27, 2011.
» Wells, Jonathan. "From Project Syria to That Dragon, Cancer: the rise of empathy video games." The Telegraph. January 20, 2016.
» Solberg, Dan. "The Problem With Empathy Games." Killscreen. January 19, 2016.
» Chmielarz, Adrian. "Emapthy in Game Design, or Why Some People Like Beyond: Two Souls." The Astronauts. November 12, 2013.
» D'Anastasio, Cecilia. "Why Video Games Can't Teach You Empathy." Motherboard. May 15, 2015.
» Wilcox, Steve. "Videogames and Empathy." First Person Scholar. July 30, 2014.
» "How Can Playing A Game Make You More Empathetic?" NPR - TED Radio Hour. March 27, 2015.