Study finds violent video games don't make players aggressive, non-mastery of the games do

By Shawn Knight
Apr 8, 2014
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  1. Violent video games have been a heavily debated topic among psychologists and those in the media for years but according to a new study, it's not the content of games that is causing issues but rather the gameplay mechanics.

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  2. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,385   +2,171

    ". . .incompetence was a major cause of aggressive behavior after playing a game"

    So, basically, it's the same thing that pisses people off IRL. Being fully cognizant of this cause/effect relationship, I'm particularly unmoved by the study. However, for those who would be caught off guard by the findings... Don't let this data undermine your psychology too much. We can't all connect the obvious dots; life has a high difficulty setting.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2014
    wastedkill likes this.
  3. It's very similar, but the self-awareness of an individual failing multiple times is mentally equivalent to someone losing in a gym-class game over and over again.

    Even those who have "Mastered" the game will make mistakes, and mistakes lead to the higher chances of a loss.

    The major unseen player that factors into this scenario is that children are being overly rewarded for any activity they encounter. Lose at the local baseball tournament? Still get a trophy! - This leads to immediate negative reaction to the simple loss of a non-real life game. If you were brought up to "get over it" then losing in a video game doesn't carry all that much mental weight to it, if you were brought up to "win or get a prize for trying" you'll probably smash your video game controller for not getting that prize after losing.
    St1ckM4n, wastedkill and davislane1 like this.
  4. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,385   +2,171

    This is an excellent observation and highlights the main problem I see with the modern approach to raising children. In the "everybody wins" culture, participation is rewarded rather than performance. Consequently, kids grow up thinking, (either consciously or subconsciously), that they should be rewarded on the basis of effort alone, leading to (1) trivialities like video games having significant emotional impact and (2) an inability to cope with the natural order of things (failure and inequality) in early adulthood.
    Raoul Duke likes this.
  5. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,159   +67

    So what you're saying is that if kids were raised such that winning was the most important thing, then failing at a game would have had them a lot more relaxed than if they were taught that they can just enjoy the experience of the game. Sounds rather counter-intuitive. Do you have an research to back that up?
  6. I do not believe that "...winning being the most important thing..." is the only other option to rewards based on participation. Nor do I believe that davislane1 implied such.

    A culture based on winning above all would probably have more issues than one that is based on awarding participation.
    It seems that society has focused so much on trying get rid of losing that they are getting rid of winning as well. If no one can win, then no one can lose. If no one can win or lose, then we get people to play by providing an award for participating.
    What does this teach the rising generation about life? If school is meant to prepare them for real life, how does this help?
    They get a job, go to work and participate. Then someone else "wins" by getting promoted and higher pay, and they get stuck with the same spot they were at before. Suddenly there is a perceived loss, and no emotional foundation to understand it. They were there, they participated, so why didn't they get a raise?

    I think the problem is that winning should mean something - but losing should not be a disaster. It should be "ok" to lose, and something to be learned from. Not something to be swept under the rug. As long as winning means something, there is a reason to try and win. But winning can't be the all encompassing driving force, otherwise we have similar problems. (I have no idea how to fix the situation, but it seems like we've gone from 1 side of the spectrum to the other, and found a new set of problems).
    davislane1 likes this.
  7. Just ask the Angry Nintendo Nerd. :mad:
  8. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,385   +2,171

    No. What I'm saying is that teaching kids that participation alone is worthy of reward (I.e. getting a trophy even if you lose) is detrimental to their development because it does not teach them how to properly deal with failure and inequality. There is nothing counterintuitive about it, as I will explain.

    The activities that children participate in as they develop, as well as how they learn to interpret their participation in those activities, establish cognitive traits that become hard-wired over time. Excluding genetic factors, this conditioning eventually leads to how the adult brain interprets the world. Thus, how children experience their world has long-term implications. (I'm not going to cite any studies on this because it's all psych 101.)

    By rewarding kids for participation rather than their degree of success in a competitive activity, they are necessarily deprived of the full experience of failure. While they may technically lose a game, they are still rewarded for their performance – fostering the idea that you are still a "winner" even if you lose, because you "gave it your best" or "had fun." Although these two points are important values to instill in children, elevating them to the same status as winning by giving them rewards prevents them from having to perform the level of self-analysis necessary to effectively respond to failure. They aren't forced to analyze their mistakes, they aren't forced to take responsibility for those mistakes, and they are enabled to ignore real inequalities. In essence, they do not have to overcome internal or external obstacles to achieve their goals. They are "winners", regardless.

    Nature – and therefore everything in civilization – only rewards results. Simply showing up and "giving your best" will not cut it in most situations. Consequently, people fail at their endeavors. They may participate in the larger ecosystem, but that participation is never rewarded for itself; it's rewarded for its results.

    The "everybody wins" value system sets kids up poorly for this environment. Instead of responding to failure with self-analysis, they look to the external worlds as the primary reason for the absence of personal achievement. Thus, young adults are conditioned to conclude the following:

    Ex.1: I have a degree, so I should be given a well-paying job.
    Ex.2: My job was outsourced because workers in [country] will work for slave wages.
    Ex.3: If two people work for 8 hours, they should receive the same compensation.
    Ex.4: I haven't had a successful relationship because I haven't found the "right" person.

    Each of these arguments, which are synonymous with my generation, all place the blame for failure and loss on everyone but the individual in question, because participation, or effort, (rather than the quality thereof), is believed to be the determinant of their merit: (1) I went to school, so I deserve a well-paying job; (2) my labor is worth more than my employer is willing to pay; (3) all workers are of equal value; (4) the failure of my relationships is not my fault.

    This reasoning, nurtured by the "everybody wins" culture, leads them to ultimately conclude that their efforts aren't paying dividends because the system is faulty. Consequently, they do not investigate and change their own behavior. Because they don't change, their situation doesn't change and they get angry. Ergo, we get protests over fast-food wages, student loans and outsourcing, 20-somethings who can't figure out why they can't land a decent-paying job merely by flashing a Masters in Gender Studies, and so on. Failure is not a consequence of one's own decisions but the product of injustice.

    So... "Winning is everything" is not what I am suggesting as the proper approach. What I'm suggesting is that failure should not be rewarded with a prize. Losing should hurt. That hurt should not be dampened with a trophy, but harnessed as an opportunity to teach kids to find the personal shortcomings and environmental variables (such as superior competitors) that caused the failure, so they don't experience that hurt in the future. Giving Jonny a trophy after losing a game – thus ensuring he walks away with something tangible – diminishes the need for this process. He's conditioned to play, not to do what is necessary to win (learn from failure and analyze the competitive environment). This puts him at a severe disadvantage as an adult.
  9. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,385   +2,171

    O.O That's a lot bigger than I thought it was...
  10. *I wrote the reply*

    To simplify this observation one step further (Instead of your other lengthy reply :) Psych 101 breaks down this issue to actions & reactions.

    For instance, negative actions SHOULD NOT receive positive reinforcement. It all starts when little John Doe cries, and is immediately given the PS3 he wants, but doesn't deserve.

    Competition drives the mental urge to "Do your best". Without the "Do your best" mentality, some assume they did their best, and then expect to be rewarded in the best way possible.

    The sad but true dark side to this is when you combine a child (Or even an adult) who has been accustomed to the positive reaction to their negative action... with a mental illness (Even "Anger issues"). The response to their negative action (Losing a game) could be extreme (Punting their Playstation through the window) simply because they were not properly mentally prepared with the negative reaction (Shrugging their shoulders, restarting the level). Which typically isn't their fault in the first place.
    davislane1 likes this.
  11. CryVer

    CryVer TS Rookie Posts: 37

    "So the next time you’re playing Battlefield 4 or Call of Duty and someone in the chat is livid, it likely has more to do with the fact that they suck at the game than the violence involved."
    I can tell from personal experience (in Battlefield 4) that the aggression comes from scoring low in a round, and not the violence (in-game). However, it is when I can get killed due to a bug or a bad design in the gameplay mechanics that I really get mad. Which is directly related to mastering the game (or the feeling thereof):
    "He noted that the need to master the game was far more significant than whether the title contained violent material."
  12. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,385   +2,171

    I honestly don't know what came over me (though I suspect it may be due to a repressed sexual attraction to long-winded responses). In any event, well stated.
  13. Jad Chaar

    Jad Chaar TS Evangelist Posts: 6,477   +965

    Wow the part about the tutorial is interesting... going through the tutorial tells something about the person it seems :p.
  14. St1ckM4n

    St1ckM4n TS Evangelist Posts: 2,920   +627

    We pay good money for a video game experience we will enjoy. When it it littered with bugs and poor game mechanics, it doesn't mean we are incompetent - you cannot be competent in something which is random. We're just angry because we're being cheated.
  15. davislane1

    davislane1 TS Evangelist Posts: 3,385   +2,171

    The study wasn't about customers getting faulty products. It specifically investigated player incompetence.
  16. They didn't need to do a study for that, I am 45 been gaming since Atari Adventure...

    The people complaining in Battlefield4, are doing so because of the people described in this article. It is these nerd-raging adolescents who are not good at the game, so they alter their own reality and just cheat.

    We already know why children/kids cheat, it is because they are afraid, of themselves. Unable to take responsibility for their actions, thus frustrated. They won't play BF4 if they know they going to lose and be screaming at the monitor..

    Poor kidz..
  17. B_randon

    B_randon TS Rookie

    bF4 doesn't make me mad because I get killed by people who are actually better than me on computer. call of duty makes me mad because I mastered all the older titles but each newer one progressively allows for the NEO perk which involves host being able to dodge all my bullets. there is no possible way to master that skill and that frustrates the bejesus out of me
  18. RenGood08

    RenGood08 TS Booster Posts: 185   +13

    I certainly find this interesting. I never felt playing violent games made people violent. There is always the difference between the people who know it's just a game, and the people where the boundaries of the game and reality are blurred. I can't even say that I get aggressive when I don't master a game. Frustrated then walk away then come back and realize my mistake because I was frustrated. I believe you can't fully master something, but you can control on whether you walk away pissed because you can't figure it out or you can walk away to refresh your mind so you can develop some other kind of solution. Its all in player's mindset. I don't even think its about having to win. Some games you can win, others is just about survival. ;)
  19. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Maniac Posts: 939   +244

    This has been around in other ways through the years. My wife's father was brought up when the first IQ tests were given to children. His IQ was measured at 146, and because he scored at this level, somehow he got the impression that he should not have to do anything in his life, and others should do everything for him - at least as my wife describes it to me.

    As I see it, the old adage "it is not whether you win or lose, it is how you play the game that counts," ironically applies in this case. If children were taught to look at their failures as opportunities to learn rather than rewarded for the failure, I think things would be very different. In my opinion, it is how people look at success and failure.

    In this case, though, people did not take the time to learn the controls of the game and still expected to do well. IMHO, this is another case of a study done in the year 2000 time frame that basically said that people who are incompetent do not know that they were incompetent. Expecting to win at a game that you do not know how to use the controls to play is way overestimating one's own abilities to the point where they simply do not know they are incompetent.
  20. Burty117

    Burty117 TechSpot Chancellor Posts: 2,892   +645

    I can relate to this, Battlefield 3 I can play for hours at a time and come out quite satisfied, Even if I lost all the games I'm quite happy, with Battlefield 4 though I can only play the game for 2 hours max, It just makes me angry.

    It's not that I'm bad, I have a positive kill to death ratio, it's not that I haven't played much of it, I have over 200 hours on it already.
    It is because when you die the game makes very little effort to actually give any indication of who killed you or by what, in BF3 when I'm shot down by a shotgun or what not it seems fair, he's burst into the room gun blazing and aiming at me.
    In BF4 he bursts into the room, seems to shoot one shot in the wrong direction which apparently, according to the death screen in BF4, was a headshot into all 4 of us in the room?
    That's what makes me angry, when stuff like this happens 6-12 times every game, you feel cheated out of your in-game life, when I know for a fact had we not all died from one shot, one of the four of us could have taken him down.

    That is what makes me angry in a multiplayer game, in a single player game it's glitches like doors not opening or getting stuck on a ledge or incredibly rubbish AI.
  21. lipe123

    lipe123 TS Evangelist Posts: 633   +163

    Oh comon, jealousy begets anger.

    If other players are way better and wiping the floor with you, of course in todays instant satisfaction society that makes them jealous.
    It's not rocket science.
  22. distantreality

    distantreality TS Enthusiast Posts: 58   +7

    Well that explains all the griefing in games they just spend all their time whining in chat than playing lol Never understood why people made such a fuss but after reading this I suppose I see why...Sad but Funny at same time!
  23. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,159   +67

    Just came back, and I'm not going to respond to the education issue at this moment (due to lack of time).

    I just wanted to say from personal experience that playing an action game and a casual game affect me in different ways. When I was playing UT2003 (the only multiplayer FPS I played in a regular fashion), playing it put me in a paranoid mood, because that's what you feel in the game, a kind of intense concentration in which you need to detect enemies quickly and dispatch them (while trying to avoid their fire). That carried into my dreams (I often played before going to sleep), which is why I stopped playing it. The mindset when playing it is much different than when I play an adventure game, RTS, a casual game, or even a shmup (which has a more diffuse concentration).

    I feel that playing such a game does does cause a different mental state, and can therefore affect a person when done regularly.

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