Two-Player Game: Playing Casual Video Games with Outgroup Members Reduces Levels of Prejudice Toward That Outgroup

Publication Year


Journal Article

Video games have traditionally held a dubious reputation in the media and have been linked to many antisocial behaviors. A large amount of research has borne out some of these concerns, linking video games with addiction and particularly aggression. However, recent work in this area has begun to examine the positive aspects of video gaming. In this work, we examine how playing casual, low-involvement video games with an outgroup member may reduce prejudice. In Study 1, participants played cooperatively or competitively with a (trivial) outgroup member or alone. In Studies 2 and 3, a meaningful social identity was used: students' university affiliation. Participants played either cooperatively with a rival university student against the computer, or alone. Analyses of all three studies showed that attitudes toward the outgroup were more positive after playing with an outgroup member compared with control conditions. How these findings may be applied to real world groups and extensions for future research are then discussed.

International Journal of Human –Computer Interaction
Type of Article
Journal Article
Full text

The following is an excerpt of the intervention methodology. For more information, please see the full text of the article on the publisher's website or through your institution's library.

Study 1

Participants Eighty-seven individuals (54 male) attending a northwest UK university took part in the Study in return for course credit. Participants’ age ranged from 18 to 36 years (M = 22.34, SD = 1.96).

Design Participants were placed in one of three conditions, 29 in each. They either played cooperatively with a partner, competitively against a partner, or played alone. The main dependent variable was participants’ attitudes toward the outgroup after play.

Procedure [...] They were then shown a piece of paper with a large number of dots (approximately 100) and asked to estimate how many were there. Whatever answer participants gave, they were told they had overestimated the number, and thus were in the overestimator group. Other participants, they were told, had underestimated the number of dots, and would be in the underestimator group. The participants were then randomly assigned to a condition. In the cooperative condition, the participants were then told they would be playing with a partner in the next task. Both they and their partner would play the video game [...] In the competitive condition, the participants were informed they would be playing against a partner. Both players would play Zookeeper for 5 min, and then only the player who scored the highest would be placed on the leaderboard. [...] In the control condition, the participants were told no more data were needed from pairs, and so they would be playing alone. [...] At the end of this period, the participants were asked to complete a short survey about their experience. Amongst dummy items, the two attitude items were included. [...]

Study 2

Participants Forty participants (24 male) attending a northwest UK university took part in return for course credit or payment of £5. The age ranged from 18 to 29 (M = 23.45, SD = 1.02) years. No participants had taken part in Study 1.

Design Participants either played cooperatively with a member of the outgroup against a computer component, or played alone against a computer component. The participants were split equally between conditions. The main dependent variable again was participants’ attitudes toward the outgroup after play.

Materials The participants played the game Worms Armageddon purchased through Steam and installed on a standard Windows PC. In the game, players take control of a team of cartoon worms and aim to destroy the opposing team’s worms using a variety of comedic weapons. [...]

Procedure The participants were told that they would be taking part in a study measuring “working with a partner,” and it would involve playing a video game with another person against computer opponents. The participants were also told that some of them would play with members of their own university and some with a member of a “rival” university. [...] The participants were then presented with the social identity scale (labeled “university scale” on the paper) to complete. In the cooperative condition, participants were told they would be playing with a partner, and a pretence was made where an outgroup member was picked to be their partner, by drawing a piece of paper from a hat. In fact, all participants were designated outgroup partners, furthermore, no such partners existed and all actions for them in the game were controlled by the computer. [...] They were then put into the main game, partnered with the (fictional) outgroup member and told they would have 5 min to play against the computer. [...] In the alone condition, the participants were told that no more data were needed for the “playing with a partner” condition, and so they would play alone against the computer. [...] Assignment to either condition was random. [...] The participants then completed the prejudice measure. A section at the start explained to participants that the experimenters would like some insight into how they felt about the outgroup university. [...]

Study 3

Participants Forty-six participants (25 male) from a northwest UK university took part in return for course credit, or £5. The participants’ age ranged from 18 to 42 years (M = 21.04, SD = 2.41). The participants had not taken part in either of the first two studies.

Design The participants were placed in one of two conditions, 23 in each, in the same manner as the previous studies. The participants in the cooperative condition were told they were playing with a member of the outgroup university. In the alone condition, they played alone. The main dependent variable was participants’ attitude toward the outgroup after play.

Materials The same game and apparatus as Study 2 were used here. [...]  A new prejudice scale was created [...]The responses scale was expanded from the previous two studies to ensure the effects found were not related to the formatting of the survey. [...] The participants were also given a feedback questionnaire [...]

Procedure The same procedure as Study 2 was followed here. As with the other studies, labels were placed above in-game characters to emphasize their social identities, but in reality all other turns were taken by the computer. The participants completed an expanded survey after playing to measure their attitudes, social identity, and opinion of the game. [...]

Type of Prejudice/Bias