Here's why you'll want your gamer friends nearby at the apocalypse

It may be surprising, considering social media and comments sections can make it seem like it doesn’t take much for humanity to collectively lose its mind, but according to a recent study when the world actually does come to an end, we’re all likely to remain fairly calm.

The study, conducted by a team of computer scientists from the State University of New York at Buffalo, followed the actions of more than 80,000 players of the role-playing video game ArcheAge in a virtual apocalypse scenario. 

What they found was that despite some instances of violent and antisocial behavior, the majority of players took actions that were largely helpful and good-willed towards others. 

The end is nigh

The researchers analyzed 275 million records of player behavior that were recorded during a trial of ArcheAge before its public release in 2013.

They then split 75 different in-game actions into 11 categories which included combat, partying and building houses. Players knew that their actions were being monitored and that the gameplay experience would only last for a period of 11 weeks.

As the 11 weeks came to an end, the researchers found that instances of anti-social behavior (including murder) did rise. However, this kind of behavior was only exhibited by a small percentage of the game’s population. Most players, they found, showed positive actions which included, interestingly, strengthening their existing relationships and even forming new ones.

“It's kind of like sitting next to a stranger on the airplane. You may keep to yourself during the flight, but as the plane reaches the runway, you strike up a conversation knowing the end is in sight,” says the study’s lead author, Ahreum Kang.

Researchers say the study shows that individual and system-wide analysis of games can not only help improve our understanding of human behavior, they can also give insights for game designers on how to hold player attention for longer. 

The researchers acknowledge that being based on a virtual scenario, their study does have limitations but say that it’s “about as close as we can get” and at the very least offers some form of realistic view into what human behavior is most likely going to be like at the end of days.

Emma Boyle

Emma Boyle is TechRadar’s ex-Gaming Editor, and is now a content developer and freelance journalist. She has written for magazines and websites including T3, Stuff and The Independent. Emma currently works as a Content Developer in Edinburgh.