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Study Says Feelings Of Failure, Not Violent Content, Can Foster Aggression In Video Gamers

The violent storylines in some video games are often linked to violent behavior by the people playing them. But a new study which involved researchers at the University of Rochester shows that there may be another reason that some gamers get angry.

Common wisdom is that when gamers play games like Grand Theft Auto, it gets them all riled up, maybe even to the point of becoming violent.  But a study co-authored by  U of R motivational psychologist Richard Ryan shows that even a benign looking game like Tetris.

Ryan says their study shows that hostile behavior is linked to the gamers’ experience of failure and frustration while playing the game, not necessarily due to the game’s violent content.

“You could take any game from Tetris all the way up to World of Warcraft and you could be playing it if you’re frustrated around competence, post-play , you might be more aggressive around other people. “

Ryan does feel that long term exposure to violent content of any sort might have an influence on aggression. But he says this recent study shows that the immediate hostile behavior may be more a function of the competitive nature of the game and not the violence within it.

Ryan compares the situation to sports, where a player may lose a game because of a bad call by the referee. He says when people feel they have no control over the outcome of a game, that can lead to aggression.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.