Violent video games in which players slaughter virtual enemies can actually be good for you, according to a new study that reveals that the games serve as kind of a pain killer as they can boost a person's pain threshold by 65 percent.
In a study involving 40 participants, scientists found that people were able to endure pain for 65 percent longer after playing violent "first person shooter" video games than when they played a nonviolent golf game.
Researchers at Keele University asked participants to play both the violent and non-violent game on different occasions for 10 minutes. After each game, participants were asked to place one of their hands in ice-cold water to test their pain tolerance.
The findings, published in the journal Psychological Reports, showed that on average, participants kept their hands in the icy water for 65 percent longer after playing the violent game, suggesting that playing the game boosted the participants' pain tolerance. Researchers noted that after playing the violent video games, participants' heart rate also increased.
The team says that the latest findings suggest that the higher pain tolerance and increased heart rate could be attributed to the body's natural 'fight or flight' response to stress, which can activate descending pain inhibitory pathways in the brain and reduce sensitivity to pain.
The latest study follows a previous study, also done by the same researchers at Keele University, which revealed that swearing increases people's tolerance for pain.
"We assumed that swearing eases pain by sparking an emotional reaction in participants - most likely to be aggression - in turn setting off the body's fight or flight response," lead researcher Dr. Richard Stephens, a senior lecturer in psychology at Keele University, said in a statement.
"This latest study was a test of that assumption in which we set out to try and raise participants' aggression levels by having them play a violent video game. We then tested the effect on pain tolerance. The results confirm our predictions that playing the video game increased both feelings of aggression and pain tolerance," he added.
Researchers concluded that the new study suggests that playing violent video games may be a good way to combat pain, at least in the short term.
"Pain researchers have already been exploring the use of virtual reality as a way of helping people better deal with pain. A group in Seattle, USA encouraged children with severe burns to explore a snowy virtual landscape while their dressings were changed. This reduced the amount of pain and discomfort they felt during this procedure," Stephens concluded.