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Video Game Aggression

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As technology continues to forge ahead concerns about its effects on the populace are raised. Whether it be microwave ovens causing cancer or cell phones causing accidents, people are always interested in researching, and often condemning, these new products. Such is this case with videogames. Ever since PongТ swept the nation, scholars have been researching videogames' effects on children. The most popular aspect of videogame research is whether or not games increase aggression. A video game is any console or PC based interactive game, aggression is any thoughts or behaviors related with the intention to cause harm. Contrary to popular belief, there is no reliable correlation between videogames and aggression.

Claims are the backbone to a study; they are both the starting point and the goal. Cooper and Mackie (1986) sought to discover if a highly violent game would affect 4th and 5th grade kids differently than a nonviolent game or a paper-and-pencil game. Tamborini et all (2000) predicted that aggressive thoughts and behaviors would be highest amongst those playing a violent virtual reality game followed by those playing a violent standard game, followed by those playing a nonviolent standard game. Derek (1995) was interested in what effect, if any, playing violent games would have on aggressiveness in different personality types. Ballard and Weist (1996) researched whether the level of violence in a game would affect peoples' responses on a hostility questionnaire. Sherry (2000) performed a meta-analysis on 25 video game/aggression studies; he wanted to see if there was any credence to the claims. All five studies are very similar in their intent. They mostly focus on whether the level of immersion (via different hardware, violent content, and/or graphics) affects the level of aggression.

To understand a study one must understand the definitions used within that study. All five studies use the same general definition of a videogame that the general public uses; an interactive game played on a television or monitor whereby onscreen objects can be manipulated through the use of a controller. Violent video games are those that involve death and destruction to things resembling reality and/or fantasy. Definitions of "aggression," however, differ. Cooper and Mackie (1986) used a child's toy selection and distribution of reward/punishment as an indicator of aggression. Tamborini et all (2000) consider aggression to be hostile thoughts. Derek (1995) defines aggression as a mindset that includes seven subcategories (the Buss-Durkee Inventory): assault, irritability, indirect hostility, negativism, resentment, suspicion, and verbal hostility. Ballard and Weist (1996) use the word "hostility" instead of aggression. In this case it refers to thoughts of defensiveness, dominance, aggression, self-confidence, nurturance, and autonomy. Sherry (2000) just says, "...and some form of aggressiveness as the dependent

variable." The Cooper and Mackie study and the Sherry study are the only two that incorporate behavior in their definition of aggressiveness. All of the others deal only with thoughts, but are quite similar in their intent.

The real make-or-break portion of research is the method in which you seek and categorize the data. Cooper and Mackie (1986) took 84 4th and 5th graders from New Jersey. They had equal numbers of boys and girls separated into three groups. One group played the "violent" game Missile Commander (a cheesy game where you shoot lasers at little dots representing bombs falling on a city), another played Pac Man (which we all know and love), and the control group solved mazes with pencil and paper. After 8 minutes of game play the kids were told to select a toy to play with while the researcher did some work (the researcher was actually observing how long the child play with each toy. They could select a Shogun warrior (a violent toy), Nerf basketball (an active toy), Lincoln Logs (a quiet game), or pop-up pinball (a skill game). Which toy the child selected acted as an indicator of mindset. After the play session the children were told to hold down a button to indicate the length of a time a child should be punished for various acts of insubordination. They were then told to hold down a button for the length of time a child should be rewarded for various good deeds. Tamborini et all (2000) enlisted 92 MSU undergrads in the Communications department. The predominantly female assemblage was split into three groups. Before playing any games they filled out a self-report questionnaire concerning aggressive tendencies. The first group got to play Duke Nukem 3D on a virtual reality system (Duke Nukem is a modern first-person shooter where you run around blasting aliens; virtual reality systems incorporate a headset and gloves to more fully immerse the player), the second group played Duke Nukem 3D on a regular computer, and the third group played Cool Boarder (a realistic snowboarding game) on a regular PC. Participants got to play for ten minutes then filled out a thought list coded for types and frequency of hostile thoughts. They also filled out an evaluation of the research assistant they dealt with, this was meant to be another measure of aggressiveness. Derek (1995) enlisted 117 students from Strathclyde University (60% women). Participants were split into three groups. The non-aggressive game group played Tetris (a real-time strategy game), the moderately aggressive game group played Overkill (a typical space-blasters game which no one has heard of), the aggressive game group played Fatal Fury (a martial arts fighting game with high levels of trauma and gore). Players were given a personality test before and after game play under the guise that the study was concerned with hand-eye coordination as it relates to personality. Ballard and Weist (1996) took 30 male undergraduates from Appalachian State University. The guys were split into two groups. Group one played Corner Pocket (a billiards game with virtually no action) while group two played Mortal Kombat (an extremely popular fighting game), which was set at either high violence mode or low violence mode. The subjects played for 10 minutes before filling out a hostility questionnaire. Sherry (2000) drank hundreds of cups of coffee and alienated his wife and kids while pouring over insane amounts of research. There were 32 studies available to him, 7 of which he had to throw out for various reasons. Of the remaining 25 he carefully looked for validity problems while synthesizing them into the definitive meta-analysis on this topic.

As with all things capitalist and otherwise, it's all about the bottom line, let's see what they found. Cooper and Mackie (1986) found that, overall, the kids



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