Video games, hygiene and the ancient Greeks

Posted by Conor Murphy on September 4, 2012 in Gaming Lifestyle -- Share:

Ancient Greek StatueThere has been a large debate over the effect playing violent video games has on gamers. The jury is still out on whether video games have any effect at all on aggressive behavior, but we think people have been asking the wrong question.

The debate centers around the question, “Does playing violent video games translate to real-world violence?” But the right question is: “Does playing violent video games make you buy more soap?”

Let me guess, you’re thinking “WTF, Mate?” But it’s true! Researchers at the University of Luxembourg found a link between playing violent video games and buying more hygiene products, such as toothpaste and shower gel.

How could video games translate into more showers?

If you’re wondering what could possibly be the link, you may want to read up on your Shakespeare. University researchers theorized violent video games cause something known as the “Macbeth effect” in inexperienced gamers. It’s a psychological effect in which people try to cope with negative moral inklings by cleansing the body. It certainly doesn’t make up for real-world violence, but there’s nothing wrong with a little digital destruction-induced bathing, right?

As with most things, there’s a catch, so hang on a minute if you think buying the next Grand Theft Auto will get your significant other to bathe more often. The link between violent video games and hygiene was only identified in inexperienced gamers. But, hey, if you’re feeling a little guilty after completely crushing your opponent in a game of War Chess, don’t let anything stop you from getting a new bottle of shower gel.

And, for the veteran gamers out there, playing video games has plenty of other nice benefits.

Video game-induced catharsis?

Don’t worry, a catharsis isn’t some weird disease caused by playing too many video games. Besides being a fancy word, it’s used to describe a specific emotional effect. You’ve probably already gone through a catharsis if you tend to watch intense TV dramas or get attached to video game characters.

The definition of catharsis varies depending on who you ask, but the basic idea is a strong release of emotion after engaging with a form of art. In the psychological sense, catharsis can be the act of using violent media to vent real-world violent feelings. However, literature ties catharsis to a very specific release of complex emotion.

The ancient Greeks used the term to describe the complex feelings that arose from watching characters suffer in stage theater – a mixture of sadness that their beloved characters suffered and relief due to being able to release emotions. They didn’t have TV or video games back then, but it’s still a good term when talking about modern media. Have you ever broke down and cried after a beloved book, movie or video game character died? That’s a form of catharsis – and not a bad way of describing your reaction to friends later: “No, I didn’t ‘cry,’ I experienced catharsis.”

The jury might still be out on whether violent video games produce any profound effect on aggression, but we’re willing to bet more than a few of you have had catharsis-like experiences. Have you ever felt so happy after completing a game that your eyes teared up? Or maybe you were so happy to get past some really tough puzzle games that you had to post about it on Facebook, call all your friends and do a victory dance in your living room.

Regardless of the situation, it’s about getting to experience real, intense emotions without the risk of suffering real-world consequences, and a well-written video game can do just that!

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Conor is a Marketing Manager with Big Fish, working out of the Seattle office. In his spare time he enjoys watching science documentaries and playing old school adventure games. Get in touch with him on Twitter! or Google+