Frustration, Not Violent Content, May Cause Aggression In Gamers

Frustration, Not Violent Content, May Cause Aggression In Gamers

Video games sometimes get a bad rap for causing aggressive behaviour (though this correlation is in dispute to say the least). New research suggests that it may not be violent games that encourage this aggression, but rather the frustration and challenges to the ego that come from repeatedly losing.

Picture: JD Hancock

Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gamers grow more aggressive the more they failed or were frustrated by the challenges presented, regardless of the type or genre of the game played. More importantly, this reaction is not unique to gaming; it can frequently be observed in sports or any competitive task that challenges a person’s skill:

For example, in sports, players may lose a game as a result of a bad call. “When people feel they have no control over the outcome of a game that leads to aggression” he said.

“We saw that in our experiments. If you press someone’s competencies, they will become more aggressive, and our effects held up whether the games were violent or not.”

Diagnosing a problem may not solve it, but it certainly makes finding a solution easier. While we’re not exactly inclined to believe that shooting a gun in a video game will make a person violent, turning off the game when it gets too frustrating may be a helpful way to manage your seething rage. Confidence is a key element in our emotional well being. Rather than eroding yours by banging your head against a game you’re having difficulty beating, try stepping away to gather yourself, do something to boost your own confidence, and come back better equipped to defeat that challenge.

Video Game Frustration, Not Content, Fosters Aggression [Psych Central]


  • Hmm….. if this is the case, I think that people with more patience are of course… less prone to violent behaviors (obviously), so of course people who like games that make you die hundreds of times (Dark Souls? Demon Souls, anybody?), I think would be lesslikely to “rage” (provided they enjoy the feelings of playing the game)…. I think we need more people like that…. maybe?

  • I’d never thought that killing pixels made people violent, I’ve always think it’s more a case of frustrated and spoilt brats unable to impose self control.

    Yes, they are frustrated because of their lack of skill at the game and controls during a stressful time, but they should be able to control and direct their anger productively and not abuse others.

    • “it’s more a case of frustrated and spoilt brats unable to impose self control.”

      You could be onto something there – if there’s a correlation between violent video games and violent kids, it might be that the spoilt brats that lack self control are also the ones whose parents aren’t setting boundaries, so they are the ones who’ve been playing GTA and COD since they were seven years old.

  • Definitely frustration has something to do with it. Would be interesting to compare a frustrating (Hard) very non violent game to a non frustrating (easy) but very violent game (as well as a non frustrating (easy) very non violent game and a frustrating (hard) very violent game. That would be a good experiment with potentially very interesting results. Don’t steal my ideas internet!. I’ll stab you in the face with a pencil. Sorry Flappy Bird is just pissing me off. But seriously. Don’t.

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