Video Gamer's Aggression Related to Frustration, Not Violence: Study

First Posted: Apr 09, 2014 11:43 AM EDT

As previous studies have shown that playing violent video games can foster aggressive behaviors, a recent study suggests that it's simply the frustration responsible for experiencing failure during the game--not the game's violence.

According to researchers at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, any gamer may commonly have what's referred to as "rage-quitting."

"Any player who has thrown down a remote control after losing an electronic game can relate to the intense feelings or anger failure can cause," said lead study author Andrew Przbylski, a researcher from the university, via a press release

The study authors also note that this experience is not limited to gaming alone.

"When people feel they have no control over the outcome of a game, that leads to aggression," said Richard Ryan, a motivational psychologist at the University of Rochester, via the release. "We saw that in our experiments. If you press someone's competencies, they'll become more aggressive, and our effects held up whether the games were violent or not."

For the study, researchers examined 600 college-aged participants who were asked to play violent and nonviolent video games. Afterwards, they were tested for aggressive thoughts, feelings or behaviors in order to determine any aspects of gaming that may have increased aggressive and/or violent thought patterns.

In one experiment, undergraduates were asked to put their hand in a bowl of painfully cold water for 25 seconds and told that the length of time necessary to stay in the bowl was determined by the previous participant. Next, the participants were asked to randomly play either a simple or challenging version of Tetris. Then, the future participant would have to leave their hand in the chilled water. Those who participated in the difficult version of Tetris were assigned on average 10 seconds more of chilled water pain to subsequent players than those who played the easy version of the game.

Researchers discovered that it was not the narrative or imagery that lead to frustration in the game, but the mastery of competition, pointing out that aggression is often a negative side effect of frustration that's felt while playing a video game. "When the experience involves threats to our ego, it can cause us to be hostile and mean to others," Ryan added, via the release.

Three hundred avid gamers were also surveyed in order to better identify how real world gamers might experience the same phenomena. Findings showed that for many, their inability to master the game also affected their enjoyment of it.

However, researchers note that the findings are particularly important regarding violent video games and premature conclusions regarding violent behaviors.

"It's a complicated area, and people have simplistic views."

More information regarding the study can be found via the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology

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