Aggression In Video Games Not Caused By Violent Content

Brianna Valleskey

Chances are that if you were born in the past 40 years, you've thrown a video game controller at some point in your life -- or at least wanted to.

Video games can cause aggression in players, but not for the reasons you think. A new study from professors at the University of Oxford and the University of Rochester says that aggression is linked to players' experiences in video games.

Published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, the research says that players were more likely to be aggressive after playing games that were too difficult or overly complicated, regardless if the games contained violence.

“This need to master the game was far more significant than whether the game contained violent material,” Co-author Dr. Andrew Przybylski said in a news release. “Players on games without any violent content were still feelings pretty aggressive if they hadn't been able to master the controls or progress through the levels at the end of the session.”

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The researchers manipulated electronic games to make the challenges or controls harder for the test subjects. They found that the significant factors in aggressive responses from players included extreme difficulty, counter-intuitive hand controls and a lack of practice. A survey of 300 gamers also showed that an inability to master a game or its controls created feelings of frustration.

Strong emotional connection

Meg Fryling, an assistant professor of computer science and information systems at Siena College, has done research with cyberbullying in video game environment. She says the findings in this study make sense and are in line with other research in this area.

“When people experience some sort of strain or frustration, they act out in a negative way,” she said.

Fryling said that the more absorbed or connected someone is with the game, the more any difficulty or loss will impact them.

“For some people, these games are a real part of their life,” she said.

People can have a deep, emotional connection to video games because they are fun and immersive, game developer Ralph Barbagallo told Benzinga.

“Each game is different, but when you play a game you like enough to master or figure out its underlying systems, you develop an emotional connection -- perhaps tied to your own ability to master the game,” he said.

Violence is not a factor

St. Peter's University associate communication and media professor Barna Donovan told Benzinga he doesn't believe there is any evidence that proves simply viewing violent images makes anyone more aggressive or promotes violent behavior. This study, he said, demonstrates that other variables create feelings of aggression from playing video games.

“Since this study uses a nonviolent game like Tetris to elicit aggression in its subjects, it perfectly demonstrates that gaming creates reactions and states of mind in people that are no different from any other types of stimuli they experience every day,” Donovan said.

Barbagallo said the link between video game violence and player behavior has been proven time and time again to be “junk science.”

“Give how high the sales are of a game such as Call of Duty, if there was a direct link, the streets would be running rivers of blood,” he said.

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