Research Paper On Effects Of Video Games

Love video games? Hate them? Either way, if you want to write an essay about the effects of video games on players and support your ideas with strong evidence, then let’s get started!

In this blog post, I’ll give you a head start on your research by providing links to and descriptions of useful articles on the effects of video games. But before we can dive into these sources, there are some essay-writing strategies we should consider first!

Purpose and Approach

Most essays about the effects of video games are argumentative, so it’s a good idea to brush up on this style  before you sit down to hammer out that first rough draft.

You need to think about your approach or stance on the issue. There are various ways to tackle this essay topic. You may want to discuss either the negative or positive effects of video games on players, for example. Or you may want to focus on the effects in a more specific and balanced context.

Below is a short list of possible topics to help you get started if you want to go beyond the more simplistic arguments that claim whether or not video games are either good or bad.

Effects of video games on:

  •         Child and adolescent cognitive development
  •         Physiological and psychological well being
  •         Behavior (aggression, confidence, emotional distress, self-esteem, etc.)
  •         Disabled individuals and the elderly (therapeutic application)
  •         Gender identity and attitudes (feminist arguments can especially apply here)

Once you’ve settled on your topic, you’ll want to form a strong thesis that makes a clear claim.

Example:

Now, I love video games, so I would probably write about the positive effects (though I’d also be sure to address my audience – those who may be concerned about the negative effects), and this would be my tentative thesis:

While many concerns exist about excessive video game playing’s effects on one’s physiological and psychological health, there is substantial evidence to support that moderate video game use can improve players’ sense of self-worth, social abilities, and can even provide health benefits for those suffering physical or psychological traumas.

Just remember, for whatever approach you take, it’s always best to be specific in your thesis statement!

Time for Research: Finding Your Articles

Whether each of your sources arepopular or scholarly, you’ll want to make sure that they are credible. (For more info on credibility, read How to Apply the CRAAP Test to Your Essay Sources.)

It’s also a good idea to find articles written within the last five years or so because this topic deals with technology, meaning that the scope of its subject matter changes by leaps and bounds every few years).To make sure your sources are relevant, especially because video games are so much more complex now than they were at the turn of the century, try to focus on the most recent sources to best support your argument.

If you have older sources that still apply to the current argument, then that’s fine, too, but it’s best to be 100% sure!

Your articles should effectively support your thesis, so you’ll also want to make sure that they provide strong ethos, logos, and pathos. Good news: I’ve made sure that the articles I found for you meet this requirement!

To make things easy for you, I’ve broken down the following list of articles into three categories: Positive, Neutral (Informative), and Negative.

Positive Effects of Video Games Articles

Positive Effects Article 1: “9 Ways Video Games Can Actually Be Good For You”

This article starts off with a bit of humor with the line, “Your mother was wrong. Video games aren’t bad for you. They’re actually making your life better.” But it still offers valid information as it comes from the Huffington Post, an established news source. There are also great sources in the article about the positive effects of video games that support the argument in the title above, including how they can make you smarter, slow the brain’s aging process, and even improve your vision.

MLA Citation

Guarini, Drew. “9 Ways Video Games Can Actually Be Good For You.” Huffingtonpost.com. TheHuffingtonPost.com, Inc. 7 Nov. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Positive Effects Article 2: “Game Reward Systems: Gaming Experiences and Social Meanings”

Researchers Hao Wang and Cheun-Tsai Sun use examples of rewards systems from many popular and iconic video games from various genres to support their argument that these systems have positive social effects on players. From more serious real-world applications, to the idea of people needing to “just have fun,” this scholarly conference proceeding covers a lot of ground on video games’ ability to improve people’s moods, self-worth, and social abilities through multiple play-mechanic approaches. The authors provide a solid list of references that reinforces their research, which you could also use.

MLA Citation

Wang, Hao, and Cheun-Tsai Sun. “Game Reward Systems: Gaming Experiences and Social Meanings.” Proceedings of 5th International DiGRA Conference: Think Design Play. Sept. 2011, Utrecht School of the Arts – Netherlands. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Positive Effects Article 3: “Are There Benefits in Playing Video Games?”

This article is written by Romeo Vitelli, who holds a PhD in psychology and currently practices in Toronto, Canada. Vitelli focuses on the positive effects of video games and helps to dispel the myths behind “gamer nerd” stereotypes while also criticizing the current research language for being overly-generalized, which could be useful for a pro-gaming approach to your essay. He also draws on examples from well-known video games and provides background information and links to various psychological terms and video game psychology-related studies.

MLA Citation

Vitelli, Romeo. “Are There Benefits in Playing Video Games?” PsychologyToday.com. Sussex Publishers, LLC. 10 Feb. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Positive Effects Article 4: “Exploring gaming technology. So amputees can learn to touch again.”

Research associate Ivan Phelan provides insight into a collaborative project between game designers, engineers, and healthcare specialists that helps amputee patients learn to use their prosthetic limbs in controlled virtual environments.

The article introduces the problems amputees experience, and then details the project results and how patients positively responded to the treatment, which uses video game technology. Interesting and helpful YouTube videos accompany the article to provide extra information on the project.

MLA Citation

“Exploring gaming technology. So amputees can learn to touch again.” Changing Lives. Sheffield Hallam U, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Positive Effects Article 5: “Game Play Has No Negative Impact on Kids, UK Study Finds”

This article comes from gamesandlearning.org, a website dedicated to video games’ educational use and marketability. This source focuses on the UK Millennium Cohort Study, which tracked over 11,000 children’s behavior in relation to media exposure between the years 2000 and 2002.

The study draws on a large and diverse subject pool, which is great for data/logos purposes. The article also links to scholarly work that provides in-depth information about the study, including the effects of both TV and video games on this population.

MLA Citation

“Game Play Has No Negative Impact on Kids, UK Study Finds.” gamesandlearning.org. Joan Ganz Cooney Center, 15 Nov. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Neutral (Informative) Effects of Video Games Articles

Neutral Effects Article 1: “Game Theory: How do video games affect the developing brains of children and teens?”

This useful article is written by Amy Paturel, M.S., M.P.H., who provides information on the positive and negative effects of video games on both the learning and vulnerable brain throughout childhood and adolescent development. You can also find useful anecdotal evidence and information about gaming addiction and parental strategies to combat childhood gaming overindulgence in this article.

MLA Citation

Paturel, Amy. “Game Theory: How do video games affect the developing brains of children and teens?” Neurology Now 10.3 (2014): 32-36. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Neutral Effects Article 2: “Effect of Video Games on Children’s Aggressive Behavior and Pro-social Behavior: A Panel Study with Elementary School Students.”

This source is great for logos as it mainly provides facts based on a study conducted among a targeted elementary school student group who played both violent and pro-social video games. Nobuko Ihori and three other authors take a more neutral approach in this scholarly conference proceeding in that they just show you the results of their research.

You could likely use this for either a positive or negative approach because while the study finds that violent video gameplay doesn’t affect aggression, pro-social behavior decreased among subjects who played violent video games.

MLA Citation

Ihori, Nobuko, et al. “Effect of Video Games on Children’s Aggressive Behavior and Pro-social Behavior: A Panel Study with Elementary School Students.” Proceedings of DiGRA Conference: Situated Play. Sept. 2007, U of Tokyo – Tokyo, Japan. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Neutral Effects Article 3: “Shooting in the Dark”

Benedict Carey, a New York Times science column writer, keeps his approach neutral by reporting on studies that consider effects of not only violent, but also non-violent video games on player behavior. Carey questions whether or not increased aggression will lead to violent real-life events and provides references to reports that both support and refute the link between violent media exposure and increased aggressive action.

MLA Citation

Carey, Benedict. Shooting in the Dark.” NYTimes.com. The New York Times Company. 11 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Neutral Effects Article 4: “Keeping a Balance With Real Life When Gaming Online”

This article is mainly informative as it comes from ikeepsafe.org, a nonprofit organization site that provides help to educational and government agencies. It covers important information about effects of video games without bias, such as gaming popularity, addiction identification, and social and cognitive skills, while providing links to outside sources on the topic.

MLA Citation

“Keeping a Balance With Real Life When Gaming Online.” ikeepsafe.org. iKeepSafe, n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Neutral Effects Article 5: “Electronic Gaming and Psychosocial Adjustment”

This is a great scholarly article if you’re looking to take the middle road on the effects of video games because it focuses on both the positive and negative effects, particularly in relation to average play time. Author Andrew K. Przybylski holds a PhD in psychology and uses sound data and strong logic to support his assertions throughout the article. This source will definitely come in handy if you’re studying psychosocial effects of video games, especially that of children and adolescents.

MLA Citation

Przybylksi, Andrew K. “Electronic Gaming and Psychosocial Adjustment.” Pediatrics 154.3 (2014): 1-7. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Negative Effects of Video Games Articles

Negative Effects Article 1: “Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries: A Meta-Analytic Review”

This is a scholarly article published by the American Psychological Association and written by Craig Anderson and seven other reputable researchers in the psychology field. It combines various meta-analytic studies into a robust 23-page research study article packed full of useful information that supports the argument that violent video games create risk factors for aggressive behavior and lack of empathy.

MLA Citation

Anderson, Craig, et al. “Violent Video Game Effects on Aggression, Empathy, and Prosocial Behavior in Eastern and Western Countries: A Meta-Analytic Review” Psychological Bulletin 136.2 (2010): 151-173. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Negative Effects Article 2: “Violent Video Games: More Playing Time Equals More Aggression”

Jeff Grabmeier of Ohio State University discusses and provides links to a study and other useful information in this article that shows new research linking increased play time of violent video games to increased aggressive behavior. This article is useful because it describes the study in detail and highlights the ethical considerations behind players of both violent and non-violent games and their behaviors and expectations.

MLA Citation

Grabmeier, Jeff. “Violent Video Games: More Playing Time Equals More Aggression.” ResearchNews.OSU.Edu. The Ohio State University. 10 Dec. 2012. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Negative Effects Article 3: “Feminist Critics of Video Games Facing Threats in ‘GamerGate’ Campaign”

This news article reports on the threatening male gamer behavior towards feminist video game critic, Anita Sarkeesian. The info here can help you argue about negative video game effects and how gender stereotyping in games has fostered a generation of players who exhibit misogynistic behavior and ideologies.

Because not all of your sources need to be based on statistics alone, this article will help you provide useful pathos by including a true story of a woman’s victimization within the gaming community.

MLA Citation

Wingfield, Nick. “Feminist Critics of Video Games Facing Threats in ‘GamerGate’ Campaign.” NYTimes.com. The New York Times Company, 15 Oct. 2014. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Negative Effects Article 4: “Negative Potential of Video Games”

Russell Subella, who holds a PhD in Counselor Education, mainly focuses on the negative psychological and physiological effects of video game overindulgence. He also cites his sources at the end of the article, which allows you to explore the topic further. This source is useful to you if you’re focusing on the negative effects of video games but want a source that is well supported by logic and approaches the topic fairly.

MLA Citation

Subella, Russell A. “Negative Potential of Video Games.” education.com. Education.com, Inc. 29 Apr. 2010. Web. 10 Apr. 2015.

Negative Effects Article 5: “The Effects of the Sexualization of Female VideoGame Characters on Gender Stereotyping and Female Self-Concept”

This scholarly article provides a unique insight into the effects of video games on players’ concepts of gender and race, highlighting that the gaming industry has a long way to go in order to make up for its inequities in both categories. The study remains unbiased and notes what problems exist within the research and where future studies may be able to provide valuable awareness of areas within this topic that are relatively unexplored.

The article and its references will definitely help you argue that video games have negative effects, particularly on race and gender issues.

MLA Citation

Behm-Morawitz, Elizabeth, and Dana Mastro. “The Effects of the Sexualization of Female VideoGame Characters on Gender Stereotyping and Female Self-Concept.” Sex Roles 61 (2009): 808-823. Web 10. Apr. 2015.

Venturing Out On Your Own:

Now, I’ve only given you a small amount of sources to help you start your research process. Whether you’re arguing that the effects of video games are positive or negative, or if you’re refining your argument to a more specific topic, you can find some awesome material out there to support your essay!

A simple Google search can help yield some great results, but if you’re a university student, then you also likely have access to major scholarly databases through your school’s library. Use well-known databases, such as JSTOR and ProjectMuse, or academic search engines such as ProQuest and EBSCOhost to find in-depth scholarly publications that will provide stellar support for your essay!

To make sure that both your sources and argument are effective from the start:

  • Create a strong thesis statement that clearly indicates your stance on the effects of video games – typically positive or negative.
  • Find popular or scholarly sources that are credible and provide solid ethos, logos, and pathos (note that some sources may lean more towards logos or pathos, and that’s fine, so long as you find a balance in your overall research).
  • Make sure your research is up-to-date. Try to mostly find articles written within the last five years, and even then, be sure that the information in these is current.

When you’ve finished writing your essay, be sure to proofread it, and think about having one of the pros at Kibin help edit your work to make sure it’s the best it can be!

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

Abstract

Background

In recent years the video game industry has surpassed both the music and video industries in sales. Currently violent video games are among the most popular video games played by consumers, most specifically First-Person Shooters (FPS). Technological advancements in game play experience including the ability to play online has accounted for this increase in popularity. Previous research, utilising the General Aggression Model (GAM), has identified that violent video games increase levels of aggression. Little is known, however, as to the effect of playing a violent video game online.

Methods/Principal Findings

Participants (N = 101) were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions; neutral video game—offline, neutral video game—online, violent video game—offline and violent video game—online. Following this they completed questionnaires to assess their attitudes towards the game and engaged in a chilli sauce paradigm to measure behavioural aggression. The results identified that participants who played a violent video game exhibited more aggression than those who played a neutral video game. Furthermore, this main effect was not particularly pronounced when the game was played online.

Conclusions/Significance

These findings suggest that both playing violent video games online and offline compared to playing neutral video games increases aggression.

Citation: Hollingdale J, Greitemeyer T (2014) The Effect of Online Violent Video Games on Levels of Aggression. PLoS ONE 9(11): e111790. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0111790

Editor: Cheryl McCormick, Brock University, Canada

Received: August 5, 2014; Accepted: September 21, 2014; Published: November 12, 2014

Copyright: © 2014 Hollingdale, Greitemeyer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

Data Availability: The authors confirm that all data underlying the findings are fully available without restriction. All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.

Funding: This research was supported by grant P23809 from the Austrian Science Fund. The funder had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Competing interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Introduction

The video game industry is now the largest entertainment industry in the UK. 2011 industry figures have identified that game sales, including platform and digital, have exceeded both music and video sales [1]. Violent video games have previously been identified to be the most popular video games played by consumers [2]. Research into the effect of violent video games on levels of aggression has led to concerns that they may pose a public health risk [3]. Indeed, cross-sectional studies have found positive correlations between violent video game play and real-life aggression [4]–[6]. Longitudinal studies showed that habitual violent video game play predicts later aggression even after controlling for initial levels of aggressiveness [7]–[9]. Finally, experimental studies have revealed that playing violent video games is a causal risk factor for increased aggression [10]–[12]. It should be noted, however, that there is other research showing no evidence that engagement with violent video games leads to increases in aggression or reductions in prosocial behaviour [13]–[16], warranting the need for further research in this area. On balance however, evidence from meta-analyses confirm that exposure to violent video games increases aggressive cognitions, aggressive affect and aggressive behaviour, and decreases empathy and prosocial behaviour [17], [18].

Much of the research that has provided evidence to indicate the negative effects of violent video games has utilised the General Aggression Model (GAM) [19]. A widely accepted model for understanding media effects, the GAM posits that cognition, affect and arousal mediate an individual's perception of a situation. Thus, in the short term a violent video game may temporarily increase aggression through the activation of one or more of these domains. In the long term aggressive scripts can develop and become more readily available [4]. Therefore the GAM can explain how properties of a video game can affect players' thoughts, feelings, physiological arousal and subsequent behaviour. Technological developments have afforded such games, and subsequent gaming experience, to expand beyond the realms of the console, and computer programmed opponents (offline gaming), and now allow players to engage in video game play with multiple players from all over the world via the internet (online gaming). Schubert, Regenbrecht and Friedmann [20] found that players who interact with other human players experience a heightened sense of being part of the action. Significant differences in physiological arousal and evaluations of game experience, including presence and likability, have also been found when video game opponents are controlled by other humans [21]. In regards to the negative effects, increases in aggressive thoughts and hostile expectations have been found when playing human opponents in a violent video game [22], [23]. Further to this, Wei [24] found, from a survey of 312 Chinese adolescents, that those who played violent video games online against human opponents expressed a greater tolerance of violence, a lower empathetic attitude and more aggressive behaviour than those who played against computer opponents. Based on previous studies, engagement with/against human opponents may strengthen gaming experiences and therefore, in accordance with the GAM, heighten their effects on players' thoughts, feelings and behaviour.

As noted above, violent content within violent video games has also been identified to increase levels of aggression. Within specific violent video games, progression through gaming levels achieved by engaging in violence poses an additional risk of increasing levels of aggression. Carnagey and Anderson [25] found that rewarding violence increased in-game violence and that rewards for killing other racing drivers and pedestrians, in the race-car video game Carmageddon 2, increased levels of hostile emotion, aggressive thinking and aggressive behaviour. Sherry [26] identified that video games that portray human violence were associated with increases in levels of aggression, potentially due to higher rates of action, and subsequent heightened nonspecific arousal. More specifically, increases in experience of perceived difficulty, enjoyment and action have yielded significant game effects on aggressive thoughts [27]. These findings lend support to the processes involved in the GAM.

One of the most popular violent gaming formats to date is the First Person Shooter (FPS), in which the gamer experiences the action through the eyes of the main protagonist, centred on a projectile weapon. Reports indicate that a specific franchise, utilising the FPS format, Call of Duty, a military war game, has broken all previous sales records. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, made $550 m (£350 m) in the first five days of sale. This was surpassed by Call of Duty: Black Ops and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which made $650 m (£412 m) and $775 m (£490 m) in sales respectively [28]. FPSs have been found to significantly increase hostility and aggression from base line levels [29]. Based on anecdotal evidence much of the success of this franchise has been attributed to features of online game play.

Despite the popularity of the genre, to date, there is a lack of research that has attempted to investigate the effect of playing violent video games, specifically FPSs, online on levels of aggression.

Overview of the present research

In the present research, we examined whether playing a FPS online would exacerbate the negative effects of violent video game play on aggression. Further to this we examined the effect of particular game experiences including perceived difficulty, enjoyment and action, previously identified to be associated with increases in aggressive thoughts [27], on levels of behavioural aggression. To this end, participants played either a violent video game online or offline, or a neutral video game online or offline. Afterwards, aggressive behaviour was assessed. It was expected that playing a violent video game would increase aggression. It was also expected that participants who had played the violent video game online would show the highest levels of aggression (relative to the remaining three experimental conditions) due to the previously identified experiences specific to online game play. Finally, we examined whether these proposed effects would hold when controlling for perceived difficulty, enjoyment and action.

Ethical approval was given by the University of Sussex's School of Life Sciences Research Governance Committee (Ethical Approval Reference: RBJH0510). All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.

Method

Within this paper the authors report how we determined our sample size, all data exclusions (if any), all manipulations, and all measures in the study. One hundred and one students (64 men and 37 women; ages range from 18 to 44: M = 21.38, SD = 4.00) from a UK University participated in the study in exchange for course credits or payment. After being welcomed by the examiner all participants were asked to complete a consent form. Participants were randomly assigned to one of four experimental conditions; 26 participants in a neutral video game offline, 26 participants in a neutral video game online, 23 participants in a violent video game offline and 26 participants in a violent video game online. Participants were advised that they would be undertaking two unrelated marketing surveys that had been combined for the economy of time. The first would ask for their views about a popular video game and the second would involve a marketing survey for a new recipe of hot chilli sauce.

The first task involved playing a video game for thirty minutes [29] either offline or online. In the offline condition participants were allowed to play against computer characters, subject to the video game's narrative. In the online condition participants played against human opponents via the internet, utilising randomly computer selected pre-existing levels, thus reducing the time spent navigating menus. In the online conditions, when appropriate, participants were requested to wait patiently whilst the server selected and loaded following levels. There was no opportunity for players to communicate with other human players via the internet in the online condition. The audio was turned off in all conditions to prevent participants being exposed to other players' attitudes or opinions in the online condition and to promote consistency. The gaming approach and engagement of online opponents was not recorded. All participants were initially introduced to a Playstation 3 computer console. The type of video game (violent and neutral) was identified using their Pan European Game Information (PEGI) ratings. Participants in the neutral video game condition were introduced to LittleBigPlanet 2, certificate 7, a game that would normally be rated suitable for all age groups but contains scenes that may be considered frightening for young children [30]. LittleBigPlanet 2 allows players to create, explore, solve puzzles, and interact with fantasy environments which they can enjoy or share online with other gamers. All participants in the neutral condition played the initial training level and were then allocated to either the offline condition, subject to the game's narrative, or online condition, able to engage freely with the game's online content, for the remainder of the experiment. Participants in the violent video game condition were introduced to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, certificate 18. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is a FPS that sets gamers as soldiers tasked to kill the enemy in various environments. Games with a certificate 18 depict extreme violence including multiple, motiveless killing and violence towards defenceless people that may make the viewer experience a sense of revulsion [30]. All participants were asked to play the initial level, that introduces players to the gaming controls, and then were set up to play offline levels, following the narrative of the game, or online levels, during which the player played against other human operated opponents in free-for-all mode (Deathmatch). Having played for the allotted time participants were then asked to complete a number of questions about the game they had just played. This survey investigated their attitudes towards the games, including how violent they perceived the content and the graphics to be. Among some filler items, participants indicated how difficult they perceived the game to be (using two items, α = .72), to what extent they enjoyed the game (using two items, α = .79), and how fast the action of the game was (using one item). All items were assessed on a Likert scale from 1 to 7.

Following this, some affective measures were employed. There were no significant effects on these measures so this is not considered further. Finally, participants completed a marketing survey investigating a new hot chilli sauce recipe. Participants were informed that they were not required to taste the hot chilli sauce but to prepare an amount of chilli sauce for a taste tester. During the instructions they were made aware that the taste tester ‘couldn't stand hot chilli sauce’ but was taking part due to good payment. They were presented with a hot chilli sauce, depicting three out of three chillies for hotness, a spoon and a plastic receptacle. The amount of chilli sauce was weighed in grams after the participant had left the experiment. The chilli sauce paradigm has been successfully used in previous studies to measure behavioural aggression in the laboratory environment [31]. All participants completed all parts of the experiment with none admitting to knowing the true purpose of the study, therefore all data was included within the study. At the conclusion of the experiment all participants were offered a comprehensive debrief form which included information as to the true purpose of the experiment.

Results

The manipulation check identified that participants in the violent video game condition reported that the violent video game Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (M = 4.08, SD = 1.29) depicted a more violent content and more violent graphics compared to the neutral video game LittleBigPlanet 2 (M = 1.41, SD = 0.89), F(1, 97) = 146.97, p<.001, ηp2 = .60.

A 2 (type of video game: violent vs. neutral) x 2 (setting: online vs. offline) analysis of variance (ANOVA) on the amount of chili sauce (aggression measure) revealed a significant main effect of type of video game, F(1, 97) = 8.63, p = .004, ηp2 = .08. Participants who had played the violent video game were more aggressive (M = 16.12, SD = 15.30) than participants who had played the neutral video game (M = 9.06, SD = 7.65). The main effect of setting, F(1, 97) = 0.35, p = .558, ηp2 = .00, and the interaction were not significant, F(1, 97) = 1.44, p = .234, ηp2 = .02.

To test our specific prediction that aggressive behaviour, grams of chilli sauce dispensed by participants, would be particularly pronounced after playing a violent video game online, planned contrasts were performed, which are particularly adequate to answer such specific research questions [32], [33]. In fact, participants who had played the violent video game online were more aggressive (M = 16.81, SD = 16.57; contrast weight: 3) compared to participants who had played the violent video game offline (M = 15.35, SD = 14.04; contrast weight: −1), participants who had played the neutral video game online (M = 6.92, SD = 7.62; contrast weight: −1), and participants who had played the neutral video game offline (M = 11.19, SD = 7.20; contrast weight: −1), t(97) = 2.07, p = .041 (Figure 1). Note, however, that the orthogonal contrast comparing the violent video game offline condition (contrast weight: 2) with the neutral video game online (contrast weight: −1) and the neutral video game offline (contrast weight: −1) condition was also significant, t(97) = 2.09, p = .039. Finally, the orthogonal contrast comparing the neutral video game online (contrast weight: 1) with the neutral video game offline (contrast weight: −1) condition was not significant, t(97) = 1.28, p = .202. This pattern of data suggests that both playing violent video games online and offline compared to playing neutral video games increases aggression.

The violent video game (M = 4.11, SD = 1.48) was perceived as being more difficult than the neutral game (M = 2.71, SD = 1.18), F(1, 97) = 27.11, p<.001, ηp2 = .22. Participants also enjoyed the violent video game more (M = 4.81, SD = 1.46) than the neutral game (M = 3.76, SD = 1.38), F(1, 97) = 13.34, p<.001, ηp2 = .12. The violent video game (M = 5.00, SD = 1.47) was also perceived as having faster action than the neutral video game (M = 2.94, SD = 1.56), F(1, 97) = 46.06, p<.001, ηp2 = .32. Note, however, that in a multiple regression the effect of type of video game (violent vs. neutral) was still significant when controlling for these video game ratings, β = .27, t(96) = 2.15, p = .034. Moreover, none of the video game ratings received a significant regression weight, all βs<.15, all ts<1.29, all ps>.202.

Discussion

The present study examined the effect of playing a violent video game online and the impact of game experience including perceptions of difficulty, enjoyment and action on levels of behavioural aggression. Supporting previous research, this study found that playing a violent video game in comparison to a neutral video game significantly increased levels of aggression [3]–[6]. However, this main effect was not particularly pronounced when the game was played online. That is, both playing the violent video game online and offline relative to playing a neutral video game increased levels of aggression.

It is important to note that the violent and the neutral video game differed in terms of perceived difficulty, enjoyment and action, with the violent game perceived as being more difficult, more enjoyable, and being faster. However, when controlling for these video game properties, there was still a significant influence of type of video game on aggression. To put it differently, the effect that playing the violent relative to the neutral video game increases aggression is not due to differences in perceived difficulty, enjoyment and action. It should be noted, however, that controlling for potential confounders within video game research should be viewed with caution [34].

It should be acknowledged that the violent and the neutral video game chosen for this study may differ in properties other than difficulty, pace of action, and enjoyment. For example, the first-person shooter game, even when played offline (alone), contains a great deal of competitive content (competing in shooting battles for survival against other computer-generated characters), whereas the neutral video game contains little to no competitive content. Importantly, previous research has demonstrated an effect of competitive video game content (i.e., competing against other computer-generated characters in a game) on aggressive behavior in the short-term [35] and long-term [36]. Unfortunately, we did not control for competitive content so it may well be that our finding that violent video games increase aggression can be (in part) accounted for by differences in how competitive the game is perceived to be. This is certainly an important endeavor for future investigations.

With the growing popularity and prevalence of online video gaming, more specifically the engagement with violent video games online, and evidence to suggest that playing against human opponents can heighten the gaming experience, we thought it an important endeavor to investigate whether violent video games played online would exacerbate any negative effects on aggression. As expected, online violent video game play relative to the three remaining experimental increased aggression. However, inasmuch as offline violent video game play relative to the neutral video game conditions also significantly increased aggression, we have to conclude that the violent video game affected aggression but that this effect was not further strengthened by playing the game online. Because this is the first study to have examined the effects of online violent video game play on aggression, we hasten to add that more research is needed before the conclusion is warranted that playing online vs. offline has no consequences on the player's social behavior. For instance, future research may address the effects of online violent video game play on behavioural aggression in the long term. Differences in perceived competition when playing video games online and offline should also be explored. Further to this, future research should investigate the properties of violent video games experienced online that impact on players' aggressive cognitions, affect, physiological arousal and behaviour.

Consideration could also be given to potential positive effects of playing prosocial video games online. Previous research has shown that playing a prosocial video game (where the main objective of the game is to benefit video game characters) increases prosocial behaviour [37]–[39] and empathy [40] and decreases the accessibility of aggressive thoughts [41] and reduces aggressive behaviour [42]. Likewise, playing cooperative team-player (relative to a single-player) video games increases cooperative behaviour and empathy and decreases aggressive cognitions and angry feelings [43]–[49]. It may well be that prosocial and antisocial outcomes are even more affected by prosocial and cooperative video games when played online.

It is important to acknowledge a limitation in regards to the video games selected in this study. The perspective of the FPS is specific, and the authors are unaware of a neutral video game that utilises the first person perspective. It may be possible, in the future, to identify a non-violent first person perspective video game and thus better match the characteristics of the violent and neutral video games. As a result, LittleBigPlanet 2 was selected for its low PEGI rating and ease of operating the controls (unrelated to game difficulty). It should also be conceded that the two online conditions differed in that participants competed against human opponents in the first-person shooter game, whereas the neutral video game allowed players to play competitively and cooperatively. This possible confound might have led to increased aggression in the online/violent (relative to the offline/violent) video game condition and decreased aggression in the online/neutral (relative to the offline/neutral) video game condition (that is, an interaction between type of video game and setting). However, we did not find this interaction, but simply a main effect of type of video game. In fact, it is compelling that despite these differences in online/offline shooter games that they did not differ in their effect on aggression.

Further to this some concerns have been raised as to the suitability of the chilli sauce paradigm as an accurate measurement of behavioural aggression within the laboratory environment [50]. In addition the current sample size was relatively small and therefore limits the generalisability of the results. Future research should increase the experimental population and may examine the effects of violent video games online on other measures of aggression.

In conclusion this study has identified that increases in aggression are not more pronounced when playing a violent video game online in comparison to playing a neutral video game online. This is an important finding in relation to the growing online community and popularity of violent video games, specifically FPSs, and the potential for subsequent increases in aggression. We think there should be concern about the harmful effects of playing violent video games but it appears that playing the game online does not further exacerbate these effects.

Author Contributions

Conceived and designed the experiments: JH TG. Performed the experiments: JH. Analyzed the data: TG. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: JH TG. Wrote the paper: JH TG.

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