New research provides evidence that violent video games can influence a person’s self-perceived ability and readiness to engage in a physical fight. The study, published in Computers in Human Behavior, suggests that playing violent video games can impair anger detection while enhancing the feeling of fighting ability.
“There’s a huge literature on violent video games increasing aggression and altering social information processing. A separate body of research documents that playing a lot of violent video games can lead to pathological gaming, which is sometimes referred to as an addiction or Internet Gaming Disorder,” said study author Thomas F. Denson, a psychology professor at the University of New South Wales.
“Pathological gaming occurs when people prioritize playing violent games over other facets of life, even when doing so causes impairment in relationships, academic pursuits, work, or mental health.”
“With these two literatures in mind, our broad aim was to investigate why people find these games so captivating. We proposed that violent video games would make people feel tough. Although not perfectly replicated, the general pattern of findings suggested that violent video game play impaired anger recognition, increased players’ self-perceived fighting ability and reduced perceptions of the other men’s toughness,” Denson explained.
In three experiments, which included 868 participants in total, individuals were randomly assigned to either play a violent or non-violent video game before completing various assessments of social cognition and threat perception. In the first two experiments, the participants played the game for 15 minutes on an Xbox 360 Kinect console. In the third experiment, the participants played an internet browser-based game for 5 minutes.
Compared to those who played the non-violent games, participants who played the violent video games in the first two experiments tended to be worse at recognizing angry facial expressions and reported being less willing to back out of a hypothetical physical confrontation. Participants who played the violent game also thought they would fare better in a fight compared to participants who played the non-violent game.
The findings indicate that “enhanced subjective fighting ability seems to be a rewarding feature of violent video games that may make them highly attractive to players,” Denson told PsyPost.
But the study — like all research — includes some limitations.
“One unanswered question is whether the extent to which people feel tougher eventuates into pathological gaming. We think it may, but require more data to confirm that hypothesis. Another is that the data did not perfectly replicate across the three experiments,” Denson said.
In particular, in the third experiment, participants who played the violent game did not think they would fare better in a fight compared to participants who played the non-violent game. But this may be due to the fact that they only played for 5 minutes.
“This research extended some other work that we’ve done on why violent video games are so alluring. In that study, we found that people who played a lot of violent video games also rated themselves as more of a ‘good catch’ to members of the opposite sex. They also reported greater interest in sex,” Denson explained.
“Although those data were correlational, they are consistent with our new findings in that playing violent video games may give people a boost in confidence in both their mating and fighting abilities.”
The study, “Violent video game play, gender, and trait aggression influence subjective fighting ability, perceptions of men’s toughness, and anger facial recognition“, was authored by Thomas F. Denson, Barnaby J.W. Dixson, Ana N. Tibubos, Elaine Zhang, Eddie Harmon-Jones, and Michael M. Kasumovic.