Can video games help prevent violence? An evaluation of games promoting bystander intervention to combat sexual violence on college campuses.

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Potter, Sharyn J.
Demers, Jennifer M.
Flanagan, Mary
Seidman, Max
Moschella, Elizabeth A.

Potter, S. J., Demers, J. M., Flanagan, M., Seidman, M., & Moschella, E. A. (2020). Can video games help prevent violence? an evaluation of games promoting bystander intervention to combat sexual violence on college campuses. Psychology of Violence, doi:10.1037/vio0000365


Objective: Several studies have documented sustained changes in knowledge, attitudes, and bystander behaviors following participation in bystander intervention programs to prevent sexual violence on college campuses. However, many of these programs may not be ideal for reaching an entire campus community. Video games may be a cost-effective method of extending programming to a wider community. In the current study, we replicated an assessment of two original video games designed to train students on bystander-intervention skills to prevent sexual violence. Method: A sample of 227 undergraduate students at a public and private institution participated in this study. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: trivia game, adventure game, and control group. We analyzed differences in participants’ confidence in knowledge about intervening (i.e., bystander efficacy) and perceived intent to intervene (i.e., bystander attitude) to prevent sexual violence before and after playing the games. Results: Immediate increases were found in bystander efficacy and bystander attitude scores following both game play conditions, but only women in the adventure game condition sustained changes in bystander efficacy scores at follow-up. Increases in scores were also observed for the control group. Conclusion: This study contradicted previous findings on whether improvements in outcome measures following game play are sustained 4 weeks later, suggesting a need for continued research examining the games’ efficacy. Until further evaluations can be conducted, college administrators may be wise to consider using video games only as a means to supplement more traditional programming, rather than as a replacement.

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