Oxford Study Says Game Mechanics Cause Gamer Aggression, Not Violent Content

Are difficult game mechanics the true source of gamer rage? A new study from the University of Oxford suggests they are.

If you’ve ever felt a bit tense or aggressive after a few hours of playing your favorite shooter, it may not be the guns and violence that got you all riled up.

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According to a new study from the University of Oxford, aggression felt after playing certain video games is more likely linked to the game’s mechanics than to its violence.

“The study is not saying that violent content doesn’t affect gamers,” Co-writer Prof Richard Ryan told BBC News.  “But the aggression stems from feeling not in control or incompetent while playing.” 

The study was made up of six different tests – one of which involved a modified, non-violent version of Half-Life 2. This version, in which the player tags enemies to make them disappear instead of killing them, was tested alongside the original game.  Certain gamers were also given a tutorial before hand so they could familiarize themselves with the controls and mechanics.

While researchers did not notice a difference between the non-violent and violent game players, they did notice that players who went through the tutorial were less likely to show aggression than those who went without it.

“If players feel thwarted by the controls or the design of the game, they can wind up feeling aggressive,” said Dr. Andrew Przybylski from the Oxford Internet Institute. “This need to master the game was far more significant than whether the game contained violent material.”

Dr. Przybylski notes that further research is needed, but his study’s initial findings certainly offer an interesting perspective on the violence and video games debate.   


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Lauren Puga
Designer, Dovahkiin, and aspiring Disney princess.