Study: Red Beats Blue More Often in PC Shooters

By Aaron Linde, Jun 12, 2008 2:29pm PDT A new study published in the journal Cyberpsychology and Behavior found that red teams triumph over blue teams more than half of the time in online multiplayer shooters, reports the Associated Press.

Researchers studied the outcomes of 1,347 matches in Epic Games' Unreal Tournament 2004 (PC), in which players were allowed to choose between joining the red or blue team. The study found that the red team won 55% of the time.

University of Copenhagen neuroscientist Mihai Moldovan suggested that one possible explanation for the skew in results could be the color red's role as a psychological distractor for men. Results were collected by Moldovan from public servers used by players from around the world.

"While this is really an interesting analysis, the notion of red team versus blue team has been ingrained in the Unreal Tournament series for years," said Epic Games president Mark Rein. "We don't anticipate any immediate changes to team colors."

The results are corroborated by recently collected data from Valve's online multiplayer shooter Team Fortress 2, which also pits players against one another in teams of red and blue. Interestingly, results gathered closer to the game's release showed a distinct slant in the blue team's favor.

The report notes that 2005 study by British researchers found that Olympic 2004 athletes wearing red in one-on-one sporting events, such as wrestling, were more likely to win.

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  • I read the actual journal article and something else interesting not reported on by the AP was this speculation:

    Since ruddiness of complexion evolved as a
    testosterone-dependent signal of male quality in a
    variety of animals, it was proposed that increased
    redness during aggressive interaction may act as a
    signal of relative dominance in humans. While we
    could not directly assess the gender of the gamers,
    in a recent survey it was reported that the majority
    of FPS game players are young men. Furthermore,
    FPS games are more appealing to men with ag-
    gressive personality traits and contribute to an in-
    crease in aggressiveness. It is therefore likely that
    “seeing red” may trigger a powerful psychological
    distractor signal in human aggressive competition
    that can affect the outcome of sports and virtual con-
    tests alike.

    It's also worth noting that they specifically selected for top players who were presumably actually trying to win so the results weren't confounded by noobs messing around.