How difficult should a video game be?

Positive and negative consequences of video games

If you play killer games, you hit your fist or even a weapon in real life? Of course, that cannot be said in general. But many scientists have already looked into the question of whether brutal video games encourage gamers to behave more brutally.

Research poses a problem as to whether video games lead to aggressive behavior. How do you measure aggressive behavior? The fact that the test subjects attack each other in the laboratory - would be - also from a legal and ethical point of view - suboptimal. Instead, one examines, for example, whether the test subjects steal pens and chocolate from the laboratory or are willing to fill out an optional questionnaire. Even if violent games that violate the law lead to less prosocial behavior in these scenarios, the question arises as to how transferrable the results are.

What is clear is that violent games can “dull” their players. Players of brutal games react to real images of violence with less physiological arousal than players who consume non-violent games.

Associations = aggression?

Word completion tasks are one way to test whether a player actually thinks “more aggressively” after a brutal game. Words such as “explo_e” are presented to the test subjects. Does the player insert an “r” for “explore” or a “d” for “explode”?

In fact, several researchers conclude that playing violent games makes "aggressive associations" more likely. But one cannot ignore the nature of the game. Cooperative play leads to less aggressive associations than competitive or solo play.

Confused feelings after playing

Regardless of this, “aggressive associations” are not to be equated with aggressive feelings. It is controversial whether players feel worse, more hostile or more aggressive after a killer game. Some studies come to this conclusion, while others do not. It is conceivable that only a very small proportion of the population is susceptible to violence in video games, while the majority do not develop hostile feelings from brutal games.

Either way, no aggressive associations, negative or hostile feelings mean that a gamer is actually acting violently because of a video game. People who are generally violent may show their aggression after or during a video game, but that does not mean that the video game is the cause of the underlying violence. Another stimulus could just as easily trigger an outbreak.

In general, research on video games is inconsistent and often fraught with serious methodological limitations. General statements are therefore difficult. But the motivation from which someone plays, the importance this game has for the players, as well as the content and duration of the game are decisive whether the positive or negative consequences outweigh the consequences.


Author: Verena Mengel