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#1 Edited by Dixavd (2580 posts) -

Found this through a BBC article, though here's a link to the University of Rochester's write-up, about a study (from the UK's Oxford Internet Institute* in associate with the University of Rochester in the US) that looked into whether they could make players aggressive in a game that they've removed the violence from but instead varied whether mechanics were explained. Basically they showed that the frustration caused by badly explained mechanics or just a high difficulty could cause an increase in aggression irrespective as to whether the game had violent content or not.

It probably seems like an obvious thing to many of us, but it's good to finally see a study into it (and cool to think they modded a game to do it - though it's interesting to point out the difference in emphasis between the BBC and Rochester's account on this).

I don't have access to the full study (neither having clearance to just see it, nor the money to pay to see it) so if any of you do, feel free to talk more about it (I'd like to know a bit more on how it was carried out). If you do want to try looking yourself, it was published in "The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology".

It should be noted that like most studies, it was taken on college undergraduate students (so keep that in mind).

*Sadly I couldn't find a link on the OII website, but I did find this upcoming event for next monday on how difficult it is to test aggression - maybe they are related (the event seems to be focusing on a standard process in aggression research that is miss-used, saying that testing aggression is a lot more complex that it seems - makes you wonder if their own study fell foul of it).

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#2 Posted by Clonedzero (4206 posts) -

So purposely pissing people off makes them more aggressive? Well i dont need a study to tell you that. Just saying...

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#3 Posted by Sin4profit (3428 posts) -

It's always fascinating to see how they go about doing these studies. Too bad there isn't more detail but it's good to see them using custom games rather than, "we had group-A playing Mortal Kombat and group-B playing Flower".

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#4 Posted by Dixavd (2580 posts) -

So purposely pissing people off makes them more aggressive? Well i dont need a study to tell you that. Just saying...

Their aim didn't seem to be the thing itself, it seems to be a retort to a lot of other studies that boil down all the possible aggression to a single variable (violence) rather than the game part. Also, like that study that proved that alcohol makes people think they are better-looking, a lot of studies aren't about finding something new but proving whether a held idea is true (and those of you who've looked into a lot of social psychology papers will know that a lot of things we think are common sence and obvious are in fact totally inaccurate illusions).

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#5 Posted by joshwent (2897 posts) -

Clicked that link, excited to see the write-up. Then reading the first sentence...

The disturbing imagery or violent storylines of videos games like World of Warcraft...


Anyway, it is great to see a study focus on the behavioral reaction from certain gameplay separated from the content. It's painfully obvious to us that vidja games don't make people into violent maniacs, but the more legit scholarly work that gets done, the less people with political power will threaten the medium with censorship.

Although studies like this, showing how even Tetris can make people potentially "aggressive" could be easily misinterpreted as showing that all games make people violent, and make those nannies even more terrified and eager to save us all through their bullshit.

Hopefully... not?

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#6 Posted by Justin258 (14558 posts) -

So purposely pissing people off makes them more aggressive? Well i dont need a study to tell you that. Just saying...

Originally I dismissed this comment but... uh...

Researchers carried out a range of tests, including making a non-violent version of popular game Half-Life 2.

Games modified to have counter-intuitive, frustrating controls - leading to feelings of incompetence - produced more aggressive reactions.

...yep. Bad games make people aggressive. I didn't know that!

I am all for studies that try to look at aggression in a way that isn't always biased against video games, but this one seems just as problematic as the other ones. All of them just reek of design by people who don't actually know much about video games.

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#7 Edited by Gaff (2644 posts) -

I'm all for debunking studies that paint violent video games as the single cause for aggressive behaviour, but this is completely missing the mark, substituting one fallacious cause for another.

Come on, you can't say:

Across the experiments, researchers found it was not the narrative or imagery, but the lack of mastery of the game's controls and the degree of difficulty players had completing the game that led to frustration. The study demonstrated that aggression is a negative side effect of the frustration felt while playing the video game. "When the experience involves threats to our ego, it can cause us to be hostile and mean to others," Ryan explains.

And then close with the conclusion that...

"It's a complicated area, and people have simplistic views," he explains, noting that nonviolent games like Tetris or Candy Crush can leave players as, if not more, aggressive than games with violence, if they're poorly designed or too difficult.


I wish someone would do a longitudinal, clinical study: separate twins at birth, don't allow violent media in the control group, saturate the other with violent media. Oh, but hey, ethics! (And I'm sure politicians and educators would love waiting 15 years for these results. Oh, the existential need of Man to control his or her environments...)

Or maybe, just maybe we should stop trying to scapegoat things (heavy metal, hip hop and sex have been around for years and I don't see the youths going off the rails), raise our children with love and hope, just hope that they don't turn into psychopaths.

Sorry for the long tangent. Something about gross simplification and the misuse of science just makes me very aggressive.