Research: Competitive Games Cause More Aggression Than Violent Games

August 29, 2011 -

Some early research from Brock University in Canada seems to indicate that playing highly competitive video games may lead to aggressive behavior faster than playing games with more violent content. Competitiveness, says a new study published by the American Psychological Association, may be "the main video game characteristic" that influences or causes aggression.

In a series of experiments lead by Paul J.C. Adachi, M.A., a PhD candidate at Brock University in Canada, video games were matched on "competitiveness, difficulty, and pace of action." Researchers found that video game violence did not elevate aggressive behavior on its own. The more competitive games produced "greater levels of aggressive behavior" than less competitive games, no matter how much violent content was found in the games.

In one of the experiments, Adachi selected 42 college students (25 men and 17 women) to play one of two video games, Conan or Fuel, for 12 minutes. Both games were even when it came to competitiveness, difficulty and pace of action, but differed in levels of violence. After participants finished playing the game, they were then told they were going to take part in a separate food tasting study. Participants had to make up a cup of hot sauce for a "taster" who they were told did not particularly like hot or spicy food. The participants could choose from one of four different hot sauces (from least hot to most hot) for the taster to drink. The authors found that there was no significant difference in the intensity and amount of the hot sauces prepared by the participants who played "Conan" and those who played "Fuel." The authors concluded that video game violence alone was not sufficient to elevate aggressive behavior.

In the second experiment, Adachi had 60 college students (32 men and 28 women) play one of four video games: Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe, Left 4 Dead 2, Marble Blast Ultra, and Fuel. Afterward, the students completed the same hot sauce test from the first study. Electrocardiograms measured the participants' heart rates before and during video game play. On average, students who played the "highly competitive games" - Fuel and Mortal Kombat versus DC Universe - concocted what researchers called "significantly more of a hotter sauce" than participants who played Marble Blast Ultra and Left 4 Dead 2. They also had significantly higher heart rates.

"These findings suggest that the level of competitiveness in video games is an important factor in the relation between video games and aggressive behavior, with highly competitive games leading to greater elevations in aggression than less competitive games," wrote Adachi.

The full text of the study, "The Effect of Video Game Competition and Violence on Aggressive Behavior: Which Characteristic Has the Greatest Influence?," can be found here here (PDF).


Comments

Re: Research: Competitive Games Cause More Aggression Than ...

Football is a real life competitive sport and I have yet to see any videogame perpetuate aggression as much as it does.  Whether it be aggression against others and/or aggression in retaliation.

------- Morality has always been in decline. As you get older, you notice it. When you were younger, you enjoyed it.

Re: Research: Competitive Games Cause More Aggression Than ...

Thats because you never actually paid attention to the players.They have a reputation for being bullies for a reason.

Re: Research: Competitive Games Cause More Aggression Than ...

See, THESE studies sound fascinating. The games/violence to aggression studies always seem a little biased in their approach, but this one seems to be trying to separate the myth and reality rather objectively. Time will tell, but these results make sense to me up front.

With that in mind, I'd LOVE to see this done more comprehensively. Larger sample of people from different backgrounds (economic backgrounds, ages, ethnicities, gamers and non gamers), across a wider selection of games in tightly controlled conditions.

For example; I'd like to see how something like, say, Minecraft measures when played on Peaceful, on Normal, and online in a moderated server and an unmoderated one. And I'd like them to measure more than just aggression, but try to see what other traits might be invoked by gaming and content under different circumstances.

Ultimately, if enough data could be collected, we might be able to use this to create a predictive model -- get a better sense of what kinds of play, mechanics and flavor produce which kinds of behavior and promote which kinds of growth and development. It might even have a drastic, OBJECTIVE impact on things like the ESRB -- ratings could be altered based on the known responses made by specific constructions of games.

Obviously, this sort of understanding is years away at best, and requires a few large, expensive studies to produce, but I think there's some fascinating information there that could be very useful in many applications.

Re: Research: Competitive Games Cause More Aggression Than ...

I agree. The study is well thought out with few assumptions not supported by the results. It still has a long way to go though, and I hope this student continues this line of research when they get their PHD.

 

I have a suggestion for the next one, comparing L4D ragers to the blue shell effect. I guarantee having your win taken away on the last lap will result in much more aggressive behavior than just having a team member run off the roof as the tank.

-Austin from Oregon

Feel free to check out my blog.

Re: Research: Competitive Games Cause More Aggression Than ...

If they were playing MKvDCU and going against Superman, then yeah- they're going to be super-pissed when he does his game-hacking breathing move. :P

 
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Andrew EisenI don't doubt that many are truly interested in journalistic integrity. The problem I'm often seeing is they seem to have no idea how or where to talk about it.09/18/2014 - 11:46pm
Andrew EisenDidn't word that well. Busy at work. I've seen people claim that GamerGate is solely about ethics and transparency in games journalism and then go on to show that what they're really after is silencing those who talk about gender issues in games.09/18/2014 - 11:45pm
Kronodebate. Becaus apparently people who only post on Reddit are supposed to police twitter before they're allowed to question anything about the people involved.09/18/2014 - 10:40pm
KronoI highly doubt many, if any are using journalistic integrity as a cover for harassment. The people harassing are essentially trolls. They aren't interested in subtle. More often it's othe other way around. People use "but X is being harassed" to shut down09/18/2014 - 10:38pm
Andrew EisenAnd exacerbating everything is the fact that all the cries of ethics violations have been obnoxious and easily proven false.09/18/2014 - 8:59pm
Andrew EisenProblem is, I would imagine, the sheer number of people who are using journalistic integrity as a cover for their harassing actions or only bringing it up on the false pretense of journalistic integrity.09/18/2014 - 8:47pm
Andrew EisenHaving said that, I can certainly see how one would be frustrated if they truly just wanted to talk about journalistic integrity and someone said they were one of the people harassing Sarkeesian, Quinn and others (though I've seen no examples of that).09/18/2014 - 8:44pm
KronoThat's been the common refrain, that talk of journalism ethics is just an excuse to harass people.09/18/2014 - 8:44pm
KronoLines like "like a partial compromise with the howling trolls who’ve latched onto ‘ethics’ as the latest flag in their onslaught against evolution and inclusion." are taring everyone questioning the ethics as a harasser.09/18/2014 - 8:43pm
Andrew EisenKrono - Except, none of the articles were talking about gamers complaining about journalist ethics, let alone called them white male misogynists. They were talking about the gamers who were harassing others.09/18/2014 - 8:36pm
Kronomakes plenty of sense. It's rather hard to dismiss someone as a white guy running a sock puppet when they've posted proof they're a woman, or black, or another minority.09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
Kronothat any critics of journalists were white guys that hated women, and could be dismissed as such. It seems to have helped some. It's kind of difficult to maintain the white guy narrative in the face of a bunch of women and non-white guys. So the tag09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
Kronothat, someone vented on a #gamergate 4chan thread about being dismissed like that. The suggestion they got in return was to organize their own hashtag in response, with #NotYourShield being suggested. Thus the tag came into use to combat the undercurrent09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
Kronomuch more general problem. And while several of the articles were fairly tame, they spured a bunch of people to dismiss any critics of the journalism involved as misogynistic men. Usually with insults aimed at the geek stereotype. After about a week of09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
Andrew EisenSleaker - Not sure what that has to do with anything but yeah, the gender percentages differ depending on how the study defines what a gamer is.09/18/2014 - 8:32pm
KronoThe rhetoric pushed by the spearheading articles that the "gamers" complaining about journalist ethics were just angry white male misogynists, insulted a lot of people that were previously fairly neutral. It made it go from a Kotaku problem, to a09/18/2014 - 8:31pm
Krono@Andrew I'm not surprised overlap exists. I expect much of it is a rush to jump on the bandwagon, either by reporting on the original articles, or rushing out their own. The point is that was a major flashpoint, much bigger than the reddit mass deletion.09/18/2014 - 8:31pm
Sleaker@AE - well the gamer trend was described with stats on Factual Femenist. Only 1 in 7 males plays games 20+ hrs going into college vs 1 in 40 females. So gaming is definitely still male dominated despite fake stats trying to say otherwise.09/18/2014 - 8:30pm
Craig R.Do conspiracies ever make sense? The fact that people are now having to defend themselves against nutjob websites like Breitbart.com shows how far down into the rabbit hole we've all been forcibly dragged.09/18/2014 - 7:05pm
Michael ChandraBut when the mountain obviously exists...09/18/2014 - 5:49pm
 

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