Another Study 'Proves' Racing Games Cause Wrecks, Only Again, It Doesn't

from the got-your-proof-right-here dept

A few weeks ago, a British driving school released a study it claimed showed an “indisputable” link between driving video games and dangerous real-world driving. Of course, the link was anything but indisputable, since it was based on a survey of people saying they thought they were more or less likely to behave a particular way after playing a driving game — hardly a conclusive, objective form of evidence. Now, another study from some German psychologists says that gamers who play driving games are more likely to drive aggressively (via Wired) and have accidents than non-gamers. The link here is even more tenuous, mostly because it implies some causality that the games make people aggressive drivers, rather than considering if people who are aggressive drivers to begin with are more likely to play driving games often than cautious drivers. But it gets better: they say that men who played “even one” racing game were more likely to take risks in some sort of (presumably more “realistic”) driving simulator afterwards than men who played some other type of game. Just going out on a limb here, but they had people play a video game on a PS2 then essentially play a game on a different type of game machine, so it doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to think they might keep driving more aggressively than in real life. In any case, taking some risks on a simulator still doesn’t mean they’re going to go out in a real car and drive the same way. They know it’s a simulator, they know there’s no chance of hurting themselves or anybody else — the point being, it’s not a real environment, so it’s unreasonable to expect them to behave in exactly the same way. It gets better still: they also asked 83 more men to play either a racing game or a different type of game, and those who played the driving game “reported more thoughts and feelings associated with risk-taking than the others”. You think that maybe that’s because they were playing a game that requires that sort of in-game behavior to succeed? They also cite previous research “linking” first-person shooter games to aggressive behavior, but it too didn’t make the connection between aggressive in-game behavior and aggressive or violent behavior outside the game. The only thing all of these studies supposedly proving that video games cause undesirable behavior have in common is that they don’t hold up under even the lightest scrutiny. Furthermore, they also seem to ignore as these sorts of video games have become more popular, youth violence has actually decreased.

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Comments on “Another Study 'Proves' Racing Games Cause Wrecks, Only Again, It Doesn't”

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JungleJim0745 says:


One can find a survey, or study to prove about whatever they want proven in todays world. I don’t necessarily think aggressive games cause aggressive behaviour behind the wheel, but I do think the required Drivers Education in the American schools has been much of the cause of irrational and or aggressive behavior on our roads. All youth have to relate to is games they have played behind the wheel, (so to speak), and seeing that most if not all teenagers think they are invincable it is no surprise they get in a car at age 16 or so, look at the speedometer that registers 120mph or so and get the feel of power and the surge of adrenalin associated with it.

Most parents would rather their children play video games than to bother them with questions as they mature and go through puberty, so no surprise here as to what is causing bad behavior behind the wheel. Couple the video game and tv programs being the youth babysitter for many years, with parents going out as soon as their child gets a drivers license and it should be no surprise to anyone. The accident statistics show where the majority of accidents are from, but they have to learn somewhere, and with the lack of driver training they get the training after they get a drivers license and car.

Casper says:

People just like to complain...

I am an aggressive driver, but I’m also a better driver then 90% of the people I pass on the highway. What people don’t understand is there is no such thing as an accident. There are wrecks. You can have a wreck caused by negligence, intent, or beyond your control (although that would involve god hitting you with a lightning bolt). Most of all accidents are because of negligence, even though they “just looked down for a second” or “were dealing with their child”.

All of these fender benders I see on my way to work are because of stupid people zoning out while driving and having some kind of false sense of security because they are not being actively aggressive (which of course means they are safer).

If anything, if people were to be forced to take classes and play games, accidents would decrease through simply improving peoples awareness. You should be aware of whats happening in front, beside, and behind you while driving, not just focused on staying between the lines and reaching your destination. Just completing a drive without getting into a wreck is not being a good driver when the rest of the road were the ones dodging the mess you made.

PS: If one more person cuts from the fast lane, across 4 lanes of traffic, to get off at a rest stop in front of me one more time I’m going to make carmageddon a reality.

Derek Foley (user link) says:

Statistics and virtual realities

What utter statistical crap.

I love racing games but drive very sensibly on the road, I’ve been playing racing games since the 1980s – I think its the opposite, the more you exorcise natural aggression in a virtual world, the less you need to express it in real life – I for one drive more like someone in their 50s than in my late 30s – but again I guess I learnt my lesson in my late teens when I slid off the road after taking a country bend too fast and thankfully only damaged my car and pride.

Being a more mature driver now, I’m often amazed at how stupid some people can be on the road, changing lanes abruptly without indicating, tailgating, driving too fast in bad weather conditions etc – do they really think that they are that indestructible?

Supposedly my generation grew up with pole-position and then ridge-racer in the arcades – so for some it really might be the case of “game over” with no extra lives…

Personally I think its far worse having “Pumping techno” on your car stereo changing your mood while driving certainly can’t help either!

I’d advise anyone with such a thin grip on the difference between fantasy and reality to go and ask their parents why they weren’t told “its not real” when they were a kid after being scared by TV like I was years ago. Perhaps its all more evidence for the breakdown of the family unit and bad parenting again!

My solution would be to put all drivers into a real crash simulator so they can feel the physics and g-forces involved, during a crash simulation, which would make them think twice when they are facing reality on the road, without risking killing other people. As well as mandatory dual carriageway, motorway and skid hazard testing too.

This kind of stuff will become a lot more newsworthy soon, I saw footage of the new PS3 off road racing game that looked very realistic, so whilst this article’s statistical figures seem inaccurate, it does point to a wider issue that is more important – the blurring of reality is just the beginning of a very real psychological issue for the mass culture generally as technology improves.

Joel Coehoorn says:

“Statistical Relationship != Cause”

True. There could be a lot of reasons for the link, assuming it’s valid. However, the cause actually doesn’t matter that much. If they can prove (they haven’t yet) a strong correlation between driving video games and aggressive driving that will be enough for insurance companies to raise rates on gamers, because regardless of the cause if you do the one you will be statistically more likely from the insurance company’s point of view to do the other.

Constatin3 says:

Old people.

I would prefer to be surrounded by 16 year olds that race around becuase atleast then the traffic keeps moving, my BIGGEST pet peve is the old guy that drives down the road with his left hand turn signal on at about 10MPH under the damn speed limit while taking up BOTH lanes on the fuxing road. Ill admit it, im 19, and i do tend to speed (something im working on, the fines are getting expensive) but I do know the rules of the road. I only play racing games, i live, breathe and eat them, but at the same time i try my hardest not to speed, and I alwase follow the rules. The things that piss me off the most is someone 20 years my senior telling me that Im inexpeianced, and I’m more likely to get into an accident than them, but when i attempt to give them a basic rules of the road quiz they admit to me that they dont remember them, and then they go on and say that they know how to handle the car if someone spins out. I guess what im really trying to get at is, how the hell can they tell me that I’m a poor driver, when in the past two years EVERYONE( only exeption is my 13year old brother) has been in atleast 2 accidents ( my Dad got 4, and my aunt cant get insurance anymore) but im still a poor driver, i mean, shit, i drive 28,000 miles a year, but i have yet to hit ANYTHING, and iv almost been hit by drunk drivers and people just not paying attention, yet, im still the one paying 250 a month for insurance. It just blows my mind.

–I just relised that is post is full of spelling errors and its kinda off topic, so no need to flame.

Wreckless driver no more says:

I have been in car accidents before…let see…from the time I was 16 to the time I turned 20 I was involved in 4 or 5 accidents…mostly all my fault…I never played driving games before a couple years ago..maybe 24. I haven’t had a single accident or speeding ticket since I started playing driving games…By that logic I hypothesis that driving or racing video games make better drivers of people….ummmm…yah

You know….I think people of the teen age range are just more prone to wreckless driving in general. Studies have prooven that one. It has nothing to do with games…and no I don’t believe that those driving games make people better drivers either, but neither do they make us worse drivers. I think that Age and Maturity are the greatest gage of driving skills…new drives with thier brand new drivers licences who have been chomping at the bit to get on the road since youth are over eager and that is what casues reckless driving….people running these studies really need to work on making stronger cases.

TheDock22 says:


This is such a silly argument that I think will never be proven for sure until you install a “black box” into cars to see how fast a person drives in the real world after playing video games.

I for one play racing games constantly and love the adrenaline rush I get. I’m a good driver on the road and have never been in an accident. Oh and I’m within the 20-25 age range, which is prime for this study.

I’m not a guy though, so maybe the study is gender specific, which is still extremely silly.

Anonymous Coward says:

There is only one way accidents happen, as a before commentor has . . . well commented. The only way car ‘accidents’ happen is by people not paying attention. When I’m in my car, driving is my focus. I’ll trail off in conversation with passengers but thats because I’m trying to avoid the idiot not wanting to look before he changes lanes (literally happens 3 times a week in the morning commute).

Also I speed. I speed all the damn time. I speed because its relaxing to me. Kind of like venting. I don’t do it in residential or school zones cause I don’t want to hit some kid who is just running in the road. But on the highway or back country roads, you bet I’m going to be going 20-30 mph over the speed limit probably. Unless I’m tired any ways when I’m 10 under cause I’m not a total moron.

Now the sad thing is this. I get passed by people. I get passed by people every day. I’ll be litterally going around 100 miles per hour and get passed by some giant SUV. Or worse they will tailgate me instead of passing me.

I’ve even been going 15 miles over the speed limit, behind a cop, and have someone tailgate me and drift left, over the line, trying to get my attention so I can get out of the way. That happend today. Some idiot mom in a Kia Spectre with 3 toddlers in the back seat. She even tried to cut off a guy changing into a turn lane by going down the wrong side of a 55 mph state road.

In short, people are idiots. If we had a great mass transport system with decent security and low emmissions life would be perfect. We don’t though. In America we have idiots in SUVs because they aren’t man enough to drive a minivan and have to drive recklessley.

Anyone who’s been behind the wheel for just as little as a year can tell the difference between the way I drive, and the guy passing me. I’m going fast and readily slowing down as needed, they’re going all over the place and running people off the road (which I’ve also seen way too much, go WA).

C.J. says:

Haha, thanks for the stunning return to truth, Pete. I’ll go and buy my crash helmet right away.

I am unsure that I belive that kids believe that they are indestructable. What I do believe is that they lack the mental experience that allows them to cope with the seriousness of their actions. They are just kids – they dont care.

The entire correlation between video-games and real-life have been proven true and false so many times that it doesnt seem to matter any more. I play racing games — alot — and while im no pro, I’m under no delusion that it makes me a better driver. For the same reason, I dont believe that logging more hours into Gears of War will make me a better soldier, or ninja gaiden, a better ninja. Video Games are not real life. I’ll say it again, video games are not real life.

The most benefit you will see from video games that can transfer into real-life, is a better, more quick reaction. Endoscopic and laraproscopic surgeries have proven this fairly well. Get real, and leave video games to what they are — games. Like a good book, the story ends when you close the cover.

billy says:


Their report / study could be true!
I know after playing RPG’s at home like Final Fantasy or Fable or anything of that sort, I am far more likely to just rail the sword I keep at my desk at work through anyone who wants to argue with me. Because seriously, when I play these games, I see that it is my duty to vanquish and kill those who I see as evil. If it is possible in the game, then it MUST be the right thing to do in real life, right? I have only killed 4 co-workers, but have had to kill all 32 cops who came to stop me from doing it again.
All with my sword, that is 2 feet long, and made out of stainless steel, and called Sting.

/end joke
Also, here is another statistical correlation, so it MUST be true!!! =P
Just look at the first graph in the letter.
Or, the same picture, but larger:

The video driver says:

Playing a driving game for a long period of time CAN affect your driving…in the short-term. If I play Most Wanted for a few hours, and then go out and drive, I notice that I will start out a little more reckless until I remind myself that I’m on the road. Note that I’m not more aggressive – just a little more relaxed about where the car is in relation to the road and other cars. This usually only lasts a minute or two, and it’s not some evil caused by the video game – I just need to readjust my thinking a bit, because today’s driving games are getting close to reality.

MaxRay (profile) says:

Poor Drivers

As many have posted, most accidents are caused by poor drivers. Dave Despain on SpeedTV made a great comment a year or so ago (and I’m paraphrasing) … ‘people make up for their poor driving skills by driving large SUV’s because it makes them feel safer’. When in fact they become more of a danger because of the inherent instability SUV’s have when making drastic manuevers.

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