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Study finds violent video games provide quick stress relief, but at a price


A study authored by two University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate students indicates that while playing video games can improve mood, violent games may increase aggressive outcomes. The researchers looked at how video games may be used to manage emotions — specifically, whether playing the games can improve mood.

The participants included 82 undergraduate communication students. Most had little experience with violent video games.

For the experiment, half of the subjects were asked to play a frustrating video game called, appropriately, “Maximum Frustration.” The game is designed to be nearly impossible to complete, although the subjects were led to believe they should be able to go through all the levels in 10 minutes. The other subjects skipped the frustrating game and went directly to the next phase of the study.

The frustrated and non-frustrated subjects were then given a PlayStation 3 game — either a nonviolent one titled “LittleBigPlanet 2” or a violent game called “Fist of the North Star: Ken’s Rage.” They played for 18 minutes and then filled out a questionnaire about their emotions and feelings about the game.

The researchers found that frustrated players were motivated to progress farther in the games, which decreased their frustration and boosted feelings of competency. This process of emotional restoration increased players’ enjoyment of both games. However, those players who highly enjoyed the violent game showed a tendency to perceive the world in a more hostile way than those who played the nonviolent game.

The findings suggest that video games can be used to manage negative emotions, but doing so with violent games might be problematic. If video games are going to be sought for emotional release, the authors recommend players seek out nonviolent games.

Bonus, J., Peebles, A., & Riddle, K. (2015). The influence of violent video game enjoyment on hostile attributions Computers in Human Behavior, 52, 472-483 DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2015.05.044

3 responses

  1. Jess Schwegler

    Playing video games as a stress reliever would be considered the coping method of distraction. I believe this can be successful in a short term situation but over a longer duration it may become an addiction or actually ‘add more fuel to the fire’. Coming home after a long day of work or school, most people have some form of relaxation they rely on. This can easily be a video game, something to take your mind off of everything that happened, may happen, or is currently going on. A few minutes to escape thought processes in which involve the everyday heaviness of life. This is good, time to unwind, clear your mind and then be able to get back at it. But this can also lead into further problems, definitely including more violent tendencies and hostile feelings when consistently playing video games with a violent nature. A video game isn’t considered real life, but in reality, you are releasing stress by engaging in violent activities, they just aren’t completely physical in a sense. Sitting behind a controller is not shooting people. In real life shooting people leads to things such as PTSD, which makes me believe violent video games can have influence on behavior. Studies like this should definitely be continued, and parents to children, friends to friends, or significant partners should highly consider how the activities being participated in can influence behavior and personality.


    July 12, 2015 at 5:51 pm

  2. Zackary

    This kind of study is a great one especially when thinking about influencing children. It is commonly said that kids should not play violent games because they do not yet know the difference between the game and how to act in reality. And this just proves that to be true. While the post was not specifically talking about children, it did mention how the games influenced the behavior of adults who already have life experience and a set way of life. Even though they might just use the games as a short term way of coping, it still has an effect on their normal emotional state in their every day life. So what happens when we take that and transfer it over to kids who are highly influenced by nearly everything they see, hear, and experience. Video games are a great tool and can be used as a great stress reliever, but we should be careful which games are played when and how often or they can be just as damaging as they are helpful, if not more.


    July 12, 2015 at 6:52 pm

  3. Playing video games is a fun past time to have and as this study prove too much or too less of anything can dramatically impact your lives. I believe that putting ratings on video games was one of the best things that could have happened for parents to prevent outcomes like those described in this study. Parents that aren’t lovers of video games often times purchase games based on what their child wants instead of what is age appropriate for the child. This study has proven that violent video games can cause violent behaviors and prospective towards the outside world. I also believe that sometimes violent video games can act as a stress reliever and can be harmless for adults with stable mental health if played occasionally. Times when you are stressed beyond belief or upset a video game can act as an distractor and decrease negative emotions toward the real problem. There should be studies that expands on this subject and shows how negative/violent video games contribute to behavior problems and/or mental disorders in children.


    July 12, 2015 at 7:27 pm

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