Violent Games Don't Make Us Violent, Being Bad At Games Makes Us Violent

Finally scientific inquiry has helped prove something I've known for years. Violent video games don't necessarily make us violent, but being bad at a game? Like dying in the same section over and over again? Yep, that totally has the ability to elicit hostile behaviour.

The research was put together by Andrew Przybylski from Oxford University and Richard Ryan from the University of Rochester was published recently in the March edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

"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 Przybylski.

600 participants took part in the study. Researchers contrasted the aggression shown after playing violent games with aggression seen in players after playing a particularly difficult version of Tetris. The more difficult the game, researchers found, the more aggressive the participants were likely to become.

It's all about the loss of control over the outcome.

"When people feel they have no control over the outcome of a game, that leads to aggression," he explains. "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."

The solution? Play easier games or, perhaps more importantly, play games that are well designed and fair.

The researchers claimed that a game like Tetris or Candy Crush is just as likely to make you feel aggressive as Grand Theft Auto. "When the experience involves threats to our ego, it can cause us to be hostile and mean to others," explained Richard Ryan.

I really need to stop playing Dark Souls.

Video gamers’ aggression linked to frustration [University of Rochester]


    So would this not be applicable to sport as well? I understand what they're saying but look at say, Tennis with some of those mega-outbursts... surely that's more applicable to say, the individual than the hobby...

    Dark Souls is well designed and fair, so you're all clear. Unfortunately when I say fair I mean fair like real life is fair.

      For me personally I never got frustrated playing dark souls despite dying a fair amount because I felt like it was my fault when I died.

      BF4 fills me with rage, I can come first out of 64 players but still be enraged because I keep dying to stupid crap like getting stuck on a rock, hitting invisible walls or rubber banding.

    So this is why modern games don't let you look around for 5 seconds without pointing the camera at your goal and displaying a message telling you exactly what to do. It's for the greater good.

    I think any gamer could tell you this. I went through a period where I got really irrationally and unreasonably mad at games. I don't think I've gotten worse at games, I just have less time to play them so my figurative fuse has gotten shorter and I can't tolerate setbacks. My wife tries to treat setbacks as a learning experience because she has more time to play games than I do - I just get more and more pressed for time and try to hurry through and get my stupid ass killed again.

    Even fair/balanced games can produce frustration if you simply don't have time to develop the skills needed to conquer them, hence I've opted to stay away from Dark Souls, for instance.

    So 90% of the time these days I play something on normal or easy. If it's a game with real longevity (which in most cases for me is strategy games like CiV, GalCiv, FTL, XCom, etc.) I will gradually crank up the difficulty on subsequent playthroughs. For just about any other game type, anything other than a minor setback can result in me taking a break that might mean I never play the game again. I still haven't finished Assassin's Creed Revelations because about three hours in I had an issue where a mission I was trying to do glitched out on me twice and I failed despite doing nothing wrong. I simply couldn't be bothered trying a third time.

    This is also a bit part of why I dislike multiplayer shooters. No matter how good the game itself is, everyone playing is a self-serving jerk only interested in their own fun. I'm ok with losing, but not by being sniped from across the map by some guy hiding inside map geometry or camping in the corner with a shotgun. I'm sure there are jerk behaviours I have that cause people to ragequit even though I make a concious effort to play to the "spirit" of the game. At least in Titanfall I can just murder NPC grunts and feel like I'm contributing.

      I get this. I bought dark souls years ago and had only been playing for a couple of hours, but after a bit of geometry sent me flying off a bridge (when I was on my way back to my body to recover) without me changing direction/pressure/camera/just got launched off diagonally I just stopped playing. Super rage quit. Struggle-towning through it now because I want to hit up dsII but jeez I suck.

    This isn't the first study to explore frustration as a cause of aggression. I remember reading one which compared frustrating non-violent, violent and non-violent games. In that case, they exploited the fact that the AI is a cheating bastard instead of controls to deal with frustration levels.

    In a way, it makes a lot of sense. All games are a system of rules. Even something as simple as "press the A button to jump" is a rule. When rules get broken, you feel cheated.

    When the system is completely automated, there's very little recourse when the rules are broken. On the other hand, if you're playing a board game and someone is breaking the rules, you can just bop them in the nose. Frustration leads to aggression leads to eliminating the cause of frustration.

      So what you're saying is once we have a way to punch people through the internet online Halo will be fun again.

        It's the only logical reason why Microsoft insists that people have a Kinect. They're developing nose-bopping technology for it.

    Interestingly I would say I have the opposite reaction - if I perceive that something is out of my control, then there's no reason to get angry / emotional / invested.

    This is been my feeling for a while (I'm a psychologist incidentally). I think I actually had an article published on screen play in the SMH a few years ago, which pointed out that although children tend to copy violent acts, this doesn't apply to adults. Adults get violent for other reasons, and in my experience, competition is one of them. Always seemed odd to me that video gamers got so much flak, when it was footy teams at the pub that were assaulting people.

    I get angry reading about articles about people getting angry when they play games because games are angry and i'm angry, especially about anger. Angry.

    Approximately 90% of published Psychology articles include significant findings. 40-50% for published Physics papers.
    For any media that disseminates findings from published papers, I highly suggest someone learns statistics, reads the actual paper and decides for themselves whether the findings are valid. Regardless of any p-value.
    As a scientist in training, I can tell you that significant findings are easily manipulated (not talking about fraud) and the process of transferring findings from the 'lab' to media may horribly distort the findings.

    The actual paper requires a subscription to the journal to read, unfortunately, so we don't know how reliable the result is.

    Judging significance at the 90% level is almost useless due to publication bias. Deliberate manipulation is barely necessary.

    Game Rage has been around for a long time:

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