It's Failure That Feeds Agression in Video Games

A startling new study has found that feelings of failure, not violence, fuel aggression in video games.

According to, research shows "hostile behavior is linked to gamers’ experiences of failure and frustration during play—not to a game’s violent content."

I've watched my son play Black Ops II and he throws the controller across the room only when he hasn't been able to "kill" enough other players, so it's true (and yes, I know I'm a bad mom that he even has this game), t his kid who's afraid of spiders.

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 Web site reports.

“Any player who has thrown down a remote control after losing an electronic game can relate to the intense feelings or anger failure can cause,” newswise quotes explains lead author Andrew Przybylski, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, who said such frustration is commonly known among gamers as “rage-quitting."

To tease out which aspects of the gaming experience lead to aggressive feelings, the researchers manipulated the interface, controls, and degree of difficulty in custom-designed video games across six lab experiments. Nearly 600 college-aged participants played the games—many of which included violent and nonviolent variations—and then were tested for aggressive thoughts, feelings, or behaviors, newswise notes.
"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."
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.
So does this mean video games aren't harmful?  I wouldn't draw that conclusion.  I let my son play video games because, yes, I'll admit it, I can do other things while he's occupied.  
Do we really want our kids to learn not to be able to deal with frustration?  After all, it's a big part of life.  Hell, no. But is it a part of life for tweens and teens today?  Yes.  Of course they're going to have to work around it as they grow up.  But it's good to know that the violent content of these games isn't what drives most kids to violence.  As long as he's not begging for an assault rifle (and he's not), I figure I'm safe.


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