Video game playing can make you angry or aggressive. But it seems that the key factor may not be the violence. It’s the player’s incompetence at the game that’s behind the ramped-up emotions, whether they’re upping their kill count in Grand Theft Auto 3 or simply trying to solve a puzzle in Tetris.
That’s the take-away from a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. [Andrew K. Przybylski et al, Competence-Impeding Electronic Games and Players’ Aggressive Feelings, Thoughts, and Behaviors]
Researchers tested violent and nonviolent variations of a custom-designed game on 600 players. They found that poorly designed or overly difficult games left participants as enraged, if not more so, than violent games did.
Violent games have long been blamed for subsequent violent behavior in players. And some research finds that long-term play changes regions in the brain associated with cognitive function and emotional control. Additional studies say such games increase aggression in children. But other investigators say the games actually have a calming effect on players, especially those with a preexisting mental health condition.
All those research efforts may need to be re-examined in light of the new finding. In other words, don’t hate the game, hate the player. Or at least his lack of skills.
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]