Atheists and Video Games

I’m a little unsure of what to make of a post by Connor Wood over at Science on Religion. Wood follows a study published in the International Journal for the Psychology of Religion titled, No Other Gods Before Mario?: Game Preferences Among Atheistic and Religious Individuals.

According to Wood, the authors surveyed 220 students at Ontario University and found that while most students preferred video games to table-top games, atheist students preferred them to a greater degree than religious students. The authors, and Wood, believe that this supports certain conclusions about atheist personality types:

This research, which has been covered elsewhere on this blog, demonstrated that atheists showed less intense emotional responses to stimuli than their religious peers, and were less capable of reconstructing the subjective details of memories. At the same time, atheists were more articulate about their emotions and experiences. Burris interpreted these findings to suggest that atheists may simply have less capacity than religious believers for internally simulating emotionally detailed environments. In other words, atheists may have imaginations that are good at relating facts and labeling things, but which aren’t as good at generating rich sensory or emotional detail.

Oddly, about the same time I became an atheist I also began to drift away from playing video games. I attributed it to growing older: loss of hand-eye coordination, less patience for repetitive tasks (grinding, platform jumping, etc.) and more interest in “warm” media (text, audio, etc.).

  • Michael

    That’s a hell of a lot of speculation coming out of one study about gaming habits. There are a million possible reasons atheists prefer video games, if that is even the case.

    (That’s not to say the conclusions are wrong either, though I suspect they are. There’s just no basis for reaching them.)

    • Revyloution

      I agree. It is an interesting result, but it should be followed up with larger studies, and studies in different cultures. I would like to see a comparative study between two really different cultures that have similar levels of video game play. Perhaps twin studies could be done in a US Bible belt college, and a university in Sweden. I’d bet the results would blow his current conclusions out of the water.

      • Yoav

        PZ had a post a few days ago discussing a study looking into the biases that can get introduced due to the fact that the subject used in psychological studies are almost exclusively American and western European psychology undergrads.

        • Jabster

          My understanding is there’s similar problems with some of the intial trials for medical drugs on humans. People who take part in this early trials are not a good represenation of the population as a whole let alone for the condition you’re trying to treat.

          As for the study … well it somewhat sounds like the ‘studies’ that show a link between peanut butter and the prison population.

  • http://thehappyscientist.com Robert Krampf

    220 students is a pretty small sample size. I am curious (but not enough to shell out the $$$ for the full journal article) how they controlled for other factors to focus on just atheist vs other groups. If you ran the same numbers though a different “filter”, would you find that males are more likely to prefer video games? Or Liberal Arts majors? Or students from upper income families? With a sample size this small, I suspect you could reach all sorts of conclusions.

    • kessy_athena

      It also occurs to me that a lot people’s religious views and identity are in a formative state in college.

  • Noelle

    Correlation, causation, yada, yada, yada.

    In my old college stats class we had to set up correlational studies to play with the math, and then try to guess the why. I preferred polling for nonsense measurements. GPA and number of teeth with fillings, you ask? Why, the higher performing folks had more filled teeth? Why? Too busy studying to brush their teeth? Or did they come from families with dental insurance and could get their teeth filled? The world will never know.

    • Yoav

      Everybody know that it’s because fillings are actually receivers that allow these student to access the orbiting supercomputer installed by the Illuminati, which gives them the answers to tests.

      • Noelle

        Well there ya go then. I should’ve polled people on their explanations for the findings and included them in my report. The professor had a good sense of humor.

        • Elemenope

          One semester I successfully worked ‘fnord’ into every paper and test. Only one professor noticed.

  • Renee

    I’m a huge video game/table top playing fan and I’m an atheist. I’ve been in my table top rpg campaign for about 8 years now. I think this study is a load of BS.

  • Keulan

    The only reason I like video games more than table-top games is because I’m more familiar with video games. I’ve played video games since I was a kid, and I only got into table-top rpgs a few years ago. I like them both, but my preference for video games over table-top games has nothing to do with my atheism.

    • Jabster

      @Keulan

      When I was younger I always preferred table top RPGS (AD&D, Warhammer, Paranoia etc.) over computer RPGs as they definitely gave you more freedom (computer RPGs are far to combat orientated for my liking) and sitting around a table with some mates is just far more sociable.

      The only reason that I now prefer computer RPGS is from a purely practically point of view – as you get older it becomes more and more difficult for every one to make the time commitment.

  • A Reader

    That’s such a broad conclusion from such a small study–220 students? Asked about their gaming preferences?
    One of the first things I thought about when reading this was that youth groups and church organizations play a lot of board games & card games. I’m not sure if Canadian church culture is the same as it is here, but I’d assume it’s similar enough. The youth group at my mom’s church plays board & card games at almost every (weekly) meeting.
    So here’s my opinion: the average person probably spends more time playing video games than board games. But church kids will have more exposure to board games than atheist kids, so maybe more time spent playing leads to more good memories & thus a slightly stronger preference for board games. And atheist kids who did grow up going to youth group meetings probably don’t have the best opinions/memories of them anyway, so the effect would be little to nothing for them.
    Or you know. Atheists just have no imagination and would rather interact with computers than real people lol. (I will say though, the last video game I played was Nintendogs in middle school.)


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