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People remain calm as the world ends, video game study suggests

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In the Media
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As the world ends, will you lock arms and sing “Kumbayah” or embark on a path of law-breaking, anti-social behavior?

A new study, based upon the virtual actions of more than 80,000 players of the role-playing video game ArcheAge, suggests you’ll be singing.

The study, conducted by a University at Buffalo-led team of computer scientists, will be presented next month at the International World Wide Web Conference in Australia. It found that despite some violent acts, most players tended toward behavior that was helpful to others as their virtual world came to an end.

Researchers acknowledge that the results have limitations — namely that they are based upon a video game, not real life. Nevertheless, researchers argue that the study offers a realistic view into the behavior of people in an end-times scenario that is useful to both the game industry and other research communities.

“We realize that, because this is a video game, the true consequences of the world ending are purely virtual. That being said, our dataset represents about as close as we can get to an actual end-of-the-world scenario,” says Ahreum Kang, postdoctoral researcher at UB’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and the study’s lead author.

Additional authors include Jeremy Blackburn of Telefonica Research, Haewoon Kwak of the Qatar Computing Research Institute at Hamad bin Khalifa University and Huy Kang Kim of Korea University.

For the study, the researchers analyzed 275 million records of player behavior that were recorded during a trial of ArcheAge before the medieval fantasy game was released to the public in January 2013.

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