Gaming Aggression – Failure Versus Violence

Gaming / Science


We’ve all seen the headlines – Violent Video games Cause Aggression!  But what if they didn’t?  Video games and gaming in general have grown significantly in a relatively short amount of time.  It’s easy to see how games, and the people that play them can be misunderstood.  The University of Rochester has conducted a study and found that the cause of most aggression in gamers stems from their failure and frustration during gameplay, not the violent content of the games they play.

Some of the findings:

The study is the first to look at the player’s psychological experience with video games instead of focusing solely on its content. Researchers found that failure to master a game and its controls led to frustration and aggression, regardless of whether the game was violent or not. The findings of the study were published online in the March edition of the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Participants in the study were put through various tests to determine their levels of aggression.  Researchers adjusted several aspects of the games, such as difficulty, control, and interface.  Researchers included both violent and non-violent games in this experiment.  One of the test games?  Tetris.  I think we can all agree that Tetris is not a violent video game.

In one experiment, undergraduates held their hand in a bowl of painfully cold water for 25 seconds. They were led to believe that the length of time was determined by a prior participant, but in fact, all participants were assigned the same duration. Next, participants were randomly asked to play either a simple or challenging version of Tetris, after which they were asked to assign the amount of time a future participant would have to leave their hand in the chilled water. Players who experienced the difficult Tetris game assigned on average 10 seconds more of chilled water pain to subsequent players than those who played the easy version.

Tetris.  Corrupting our youth since 1984.  Who knew?  All joking aside, it’s fascinating to see the difference in behavior caused by simply failing at a puzzle game.  Just to further elaborate, these results were not limited to Tetris:

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.


Unfortunately, I doubt that one study will quiet the juggernaut of negative press that violent video games receive.  This study, however, is a step in the right direction – look for the underlying cause of aggression, don’t just assume where it comes from.  A popular internet meme states: Less QQ more pew pew – or, less crying, more shooting.  Would would have thought that most of the QQ would have come from a player’s inability to pew pew?


Source: Science Daily

Broken Controller Image Credit: IGN

To Top