Violent Video Games Help Relieve Stress, But at an Added Price

The benefits of playing games reach beyond just entertainment — they're a great outlet. However, at the end of a stressful day, sitting down with a violent video game may not be the best idea.

Violent Video Games Help Relieve Stress, But at an Added Price

There's nothing better than kicking back at the end of the day with a video game — it's a nice way to blow off some steam. But researchers out of the University of Wisconsin–Madison question in their recent study if all games provide the right remedy for relieving end-of-the-day stress. They write that their “study tests how video games are used to manage feelings of frustration and boost one’s sense of competency.”

The study comprised 82 undergraduate students at the school. Most had no experience playing violent video games. For their experiment, the researchers split the students into two groups: one that would be conditioned and the other acting as a control. The researchers prompted the conditioned set of participants to become frustrated by having them play a game appropriately named, Maximum Frustration. The researchers lied to the participants, telling them they should be able to complete a level in 10 minutes when in reality it was near-impossible to beat.

Participants were then selected from the two groups, at random, to play one of two games: the fun, whimsical LittleBigPlanet 2 or the more violent beat-em up game Fist of the North Star: Ken's Rage. The researchers write in their paper that the latter “was chosen because players’ responses to the game during pretesting indicated that it fit with our definition of a game with extremely graphic violence.”

The participants were asked to play their respective game for 18 minutes and then fill out a questionnaire to take the temperature of their moods. The results showed that frustrated players were motivated to progress further. Perhaps, trying to get a win to compensate for their earlier failure. However, they write that “frustrated participants showed a boost in aggressive cognition compared to non-frustrated participants prior to engaging with a video game.”

This led the researchers to suggest, “It is possible that the use of violent games to manage emotions is one type of risk factor for boosting aggressive outcomes, particularly for people who derive intense enjoyment from that use. Further study of the interaction between violence and enjoyment is required.”

So, when you want to relieve the stress of the day, perhaps kick back with a relaxing, more meditative game, like Flower or Flow, before you pop online for some Call of Duty deathmatch.

Jane McGonigal has been one of the major champions for video games, arguing that its merits reach beyond mere entertainment value. In fact, she calls for more research looking into “what games are doing for gamers, the skills that we’re developing, the relationships that we’re forming, the heroic qualities that we get to practice every time we play, like resilience, like perseverance, and grit, and determination, like having epic ambitions and the ability to work with other players, sometimes thousands of other players at the same time."

Read more about the study at EurekAlert! or read the full report on Computers in Human Behavior.

Photo Credit: David McNew / Getty

3,000-pound Triceratops skull unearthed in South Dakota

"You dream about these kinds of moments when you're a kid," said lead paleontologist David Schmidt.

Excavation of a triceratops skull in South Dakota.

Credit: David Schmidt / Westminster College
Surprising Science
  • The triceratops skull was first discovered in 2019, but was excavated over the summer of 2020.
  • It was discovered in the South Dakota Badlands, an area where the Triceratops roamed some 66 million years ago.
  • Studying dinosaurs helps scientists better understand the evolution of all life on Earth.
Keep reading Show less

To the very beginning: going back in time with Steven Weinberg (Part 2)

What was the universe like one-trillionth of a second after the Big Bang? Science has an answer.

Credit: gonin via Adobe Stock
  • Following Steven Weinberg's lead, we plunge further back into cosmic history, beyond the formation of atomic nuclei.
  • Today, we discuss the origin of the quark-gluon plasma and the properties of the famous Higgs boson, the "God Particle."
  • Is there a limit? How far can we go back in time?
Keep reading Show less

Surprisingly modern lessons from classic Russian literature

Though gloomy and dense, Russian literature is hauntingly beautiful, offering a relentlessly persistent inquiry into the human experience.

Credit: George Cerny via Unsplash
Personal Growth
  • Russian literature has a knack for precisely capturing and describing the human condition.
  • Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn are among the greatest writers who ever lived.
  • If you want to be a wiser person, spend time with the great Russian novelists.
Keep reading Show less
Technology & Innovation

Do we still need math?

We spend much of our early years learning arithmetic and algebra. What's the use?