Study: Playing Violent Games Helps with Stress and Depression

July 12, 2010 -

When not deflating the findings of game-hating researchers, Texas A&M International University Associate Professor Christopher Ferguson often conducts his own studies, including a recent example which indicates that violent videogame players handle stress better than non-players and can actually feel less depressed and stressful following a session with aggressive games.

The Hitman Study: Violent Video Game Exposure Effects on Aggressive Behavior, Hostile Feeling and Depression (press release) was authored by Ferguson and his fellow TAMIU colleague Stephanie Rueda. The study included 103 students from a “Hispanic-serving public university” in the Southern U.S. 62 were male and 41 were female, with 98 Hispanics, three Caucasian and two who declined to answer.

The authors utilized a Paced Auditory Serial Addition Task (PASAT), which involves an accelerating sequence of simple numbers, in order to cause frustration in the participants. Those being studied played one of three games (Hitman: Blood Money, Call of Duty 2 or Madden 2007) post-PASAT. Madden was used in order to allow the researchers to “include a game with action, yet which was non-violent.”

Additionally, a fourth “no-game” control group was also used, in which participants were told that a technical malfunction would not allow them to play a game. This condition allowed “for the three video game conditions to be compared to time-related “cool down “from the initial frustration of the PASAT task.”

Ferguson and Rueda also utilized a version of the Taylor Competitive Reaction Time Test (TCRTT), in which participants are pitted against fictional opponents (which those being studied think are real) in a reaction time game. Participants, if they win, can choose both the “intensity and duration” of the blast” aimed at their “opponent.” The researchers also used various methods to measure videogame playing habits, aggressiveness, hostile feelings and depression severity. A follow-up survey was also conducted.

The researchers concluded:

No evidence was provided that short-term exposure to violent video games either increased or decreased aggressive behavior in the laboratory. Similarly violent game exposure in real life was not related to laboratory aggression. Given the use of effect size confidence intervals we can conclude that our evidence contradicts both the social learning and catharsis hypotheses regarding violent video game effects on aggressive behavior.
 

As with aggressive behavior, the evidence did not support that short-term randomized exposure to violent video games either increased or decreased hostile feelings or depression. By contrast long-term exposure to violent video games was associated with reduced hostile feelings and depression following a stressful task. Subjects who were exposed to violent video games were not less aggressive, but they were less hostile and depressed.

It was also noted that violent videogames could possibly considered as “mood management tools,” which could help treat mood disorders and other health-related issues.

Taking a little jab at other researchers, the pair added:

The fervor over violent video games which has become intensely politicized (we would argue this unfortunately extends to the scientific community) may be ‘much ado about nothing.’ In the end, a game may simply be a game.

Two caveats were posed about the study however: the sample of predominantly college Hispanic students should not be applied to “non-college populations” or to “other ethnic groups,” while “generalizing results using laboratory aggression measures… to serious acts of physical aggression or violence must be undertaken with the greatest caution, given the external validity limitations of such measures.”

Comments

Re: Study: Playing Violent Games Helps with Stress and ...

There was an article on here about a buddhist monk saying he plays violent video games to aid in conquering his desires as well.

"

Doom was my therapist...

Re: Study: Playing Violent Games Helps with Stress and ...

Maybe the non-game playing group was more stressed because they expected to play a game and then couldn't due to a "technical malfunction" ^^

Re: Study: Playing Violent Games Helps with Stress and ...

Maybe, but that wouldn't be the case with the non-violent game (Madden) players, and it still counters the idea that violent gamePLAY increases aggression..

Re: Study: Playing Violent Games Helps with Stress and ...

I play violent games after a hard/stressful day and I do feel better aferwords. :D

 
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Mattsworknameof players, over and over for the last seveal years. Among non RPG games, which make up the vast majority of current games, I think that you still see a large scale disparity between male and female in the AAA industry.07/01/2015 - 1:36am
Mattsworknamewilson. Out of RPG players yes, thats true, and in pc ciricles im not suprised, but RPGS make a small fraction of Console games these days and while pc gaming is seeing a resurgance, MMOs are actually retracting in size , as shown by WOW losing millions07/01/2015 - 1:33am
Matthew Wilsonhere is the study to prove it. http://www.pcgamer.com/researchers-find-that-female-pc-gamers-outnumber-males/07/01/2015 - 1:17am
Matthew Wilson@matt wrong over half of rpg players, both singleplayer and mmos, are female.07/01/2015 - 1:15am
MechaCrashRight, women don't usually play AAA games because none are aimed at them because they don't play them because none are aimed at them because okay you see where I'm going with this.07/01/2015 - 1:11am
MattsworknameI think the better path is this, more games built to give you the Choice of playing as male or female, and give the females good voice actors07/01/2015 - 1:08am
Mattsworknameup more then a fraction of the AAA games industry, but they make up a much larger part of the moble market.07/01/2015 - 1:04am
Mattsworknameandrew is right, to a point, as you are seeing a slow increase of women in games, but the sales shows that the lions share of gaming money comes from a male demo, and while andrew is right that it is changing, it's gonna be a LONG time before women make07/01/2015 - 1:04am
Andrew EisenI think more professional gamblers should get into games publishing. They'll play the odds but they'll also take risks to maximize profits.06/30/2015 - 11:57pm
Andrew EisenAt the end of the day, the ball is rolling and it's rolling in the right direction. Maybe not as fast as we'd like, but it is moving. All we can do is play the games that interest us and make our thoughts known.06/30/2015 - 11:55pm
Matthew Wilsonits unfortunate that the dataset is so tiny for female leads, and is a mixed bag, so money people get the wrong idea.06/30/2015 - 11:54pm
Andrew Eisen"Duke Nukem Forever sold poorly. See? Games staring white guys don't sell!" Pretty silly thing to say.06/30/2015 - 11:50pm
Andrew EisenOr, at the very least, that gamers aren't turned off by female leads.06/30/2015 - 11:49pm
Matthew Wilsonyou would think games like metriod, portal and tomb raider would show that it work, but hopefuly those knew ones will.06/30/2015 - 11:47pm
Andrew EisenBut, luckily strides are being made and the money peoples are slowly learning that diversity -> larger targeted audience -> more potential dollars.06/30/2015 - 11:43pm
Andrew EisenSure does. That's why there should be more than just one or two attempts. (7 games at E3 with female leads and 35 with a gender option. I think it's safe to say that not all of these will fail!)06/30/2015 - 11:42pm
Matthew Wilsonthat puts alot of presure on the early stuff to do well. lets hope games like recode and harizon are good, and sell well.06/30/2015 - 11:38pm
Andrew EisenLuckily, money people also like to follow trends. So, it's a "simple" matter of making proper representation a trend. And wouldn't you know it, we're seeing the beginnings of exactly that!06/30/2015 - 11:34pm
Andrew EisenBut yeah, money people are risk averse. That's why we see so many sequels, reboots, and adaptations. To a lot of money people, "there's no evidence this works because it's rarely ever been tried" is the same as "this doesn't work."06/30/2015 - 11:33pm
Andrew EisenThat's why I think it's worth convincing the money peoples that proper representation (in any of its forms) isn't a financial risk, it's the path to expanding your audience and making even MORE money!06/30/2015 - 11:32pm
 

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