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Studies point to beneficial effects of co-op gaming

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Army of Two: The Devil's Cartel (Credit: EA)

Not only can playing video games with a friend make the experience more fun, it could make you a more giving person.

A pair of studies from Ohio State University finds that playing games like Halo, Call of Duty and Unreal Tournament with a teammate can reduce the negative behavioral effects that are associated with those games.

"Most of the studies finding links between violent games and aggression were done with people playing alone. The social aspect of today's video games can change things quite a bit," says David Ewoldsen, who co-authored the studies.

The study itself isn't especially controversial, but it's likely to raise some gamer ire since it operates under the assumption that there are links between violent games and aggression to begin with, a conceit that not all scientists can agree upon.

But what Ewoldsen and his partner John Velez found was that the aggression is dampened when players team up, rather than play alone.

"You're still being very aggressive, you're still killing people in the game -- but when you cooperate, that overrides any of the negative effects of the extreme aggression," says Velez.

The first study separated 119 college students into four groups to play Halo II with a partner. Some groups competed, while others played co-op. Some competitors were told to kill their opponent more times than they were killed, while some were told to beat their opponent by getting further in the single-player version of the game.

Co-op players…well, played co-op.

After playing Halo, the participants played a real-life game where they had the opportunity to cooperate or compete with each other. Ewoldsen and Velez found that those who played the video game cooperatively were more likely to show cooperative tendencies in the real-life game than the competitive group.

The other study paired 80 people with someone they were told was another student participant, but was actually one of the researchers, wearing either an Ohio State t-shirt or one from the school's rival University of Michigan.

Later, they played that same real-life game. Players who had been in the co-op group once again showed higher cooperative tendencies, even when they were playing against a school rival.

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