Do violent video games cause aggressive behaviour? According to a recent report published in the journal Psychology of Violence, the competitive aspect of gaming is more likely to generate aggro than mere violence. All this from a bunch of university students, some video games, and some hot sauce. Science is an amazing thing.
In the report The Effect of Video Game Competition and Violence on Aggressive Behavior: Which Characteristic Has the Greatest Influence?, researchers at Brock University in Canada mix a proven method for determining aggression — Lieberman's Hot Sauce Paradigm — with a different way to characterise violent and non-violent games. Rather than simply measuring the amount of violence, Paul J. C. Adachi and Teena Willoughby further separated games by the level of competition.
Here's how it worked. A series of students were told they were participating in two different studies, one to study eye tracking while playing video games, the other a food study. In the first experiment the participants were asked to play two games: bloody hack and slasher Conan and Codemasters' open world racer Fuel, both for the Xbox 360. The games were chosen during a previous study, in which they were measured similar in terms of pacing, competitiveness, and difficulty. After a brief play session, participants were then asked to create a dish using hot sauce for an imaginary test subject that had indicated distaste for hot and spicy foods.
That's the Hot Sauce Paradigm. The hotter the sauce is made, the more aggression is displayed. It's also fun at parties.
The results of the first experiment showed no difference in the level of aggressiveness, despite one game being violent and the other not.
So a second experiment was conducted, this time adding Mortal Kombat Vs. DC and Marble Blast Ultra and replacing Conan with Valve's co-op shooter Left 4 Dead. This made for two violent and two non-violent games, one competitive and one not.
Using the same Hot Sauce Paradigm, the researches noticed a strong increase in aggression from those that played the competitive games, while those that played the non-competitive games went easier on the sauce.
The researchers' conclusion?
Some researchers believe that they have already shown that violent video games are a risk factor for aggressive behaviour and that this effect stems from the violent content in the games . On the contrary, results from the present study indicate that video game competitiveness, not violent content, is responsible for elevating aggressive behaviour in the short-term. The present findings lead to a new direction in video game and aggression research and should encourage researchers to continue to critically examine this issue.
Now that makes a whole lot more sense, doesn't it?
Now our course of action is clear. We have to make sure no one ever plays Mortal Kombat Vs. DC Universe or Fuel ever again. It's a long row to hoe, but we're just the Joes to hoe it.
Video game competitiveness, not violence, spurs aggression, study suggests [The Washington Post]