Games, Cognition, and Emotion

University of Hamburg, 5-6 July 2013

Panel III.3: Games and Emotion II

Julia Kneer, Erasmus University Rotterdam

Being Killed by Rainbows: Displayed Violence, Difficulty,and Performance as Predictors for Postgame Emotions

Violent video games are still discussed to have an impact on human aggression including negative emotions after game-play. Especially first-person shooters are supposed to increase anger and frustration due to their violent content such as killing the avatars of other players. Recent research discusses further factors which might be related to emotional outcomes and cannot be ignored when deciding whether violent computer games do have negative effects or not. For instance, Adachi and Willoughby (2011) describe difficulty as one important variable which could influence the findings. Difficulty can be modified within the game but is still related to the expertise of the player resulting in a different game performance. The actual study aimed at investigating the impact of displayed violence, difficulty, and performance on post-game emotions. As video game stimulus, the first-person shooter Team Fortress 2 was modified to alter the difficulty and the displayed violence of the game. Participants (N = 90) played in one of four different conditions, with either high or low difficulty and high or low displayed violence. Performance in the game was assessed as predictor for post-game emotions. Emotions after playing the game were measured with the M-DAS questionnaire.

Results indicated that displayed violence did not have any influence on emotions. In contrast, difficulty was found to be a significant predictor for emotions. The high-difficulty version caused higher frustration while the low-difficulty version of the game caused higher enjoyment. In addition, the measurements for game performance were found to be significant predictors for emotional outcomes. While the number of enemies killed predicted mostly positive emotions (e.g., fun) but had no influence on negative emotions (e.g., shame), the opposite pattern for the number of own deaths was found. This indicates that active success in games is an important factor for positive emotional reactions and that passive failure leads to a negative emotional outcome. Results are discussed in terms of their implications for video games (still?) being accused to lead to mostly negative if not aggressive emotions.

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Julia Kneer has recently been appointed Assistant Professor in the Department of Media and Communication at Erasmus University Rotterdam. Before moving to Rotterdam, she worked as a postdoc researcher and lecturer at the University of Cologne, Department of Social and Media. She studied Psychology at Saarland University from 1996 to 2001 and received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology in May 2006. Her research focus lies on video games, especially how video games and players are perceived, as well as generation differences, and effects of video game. Further research interests include health communication, heavy metal music, music in movies, and social cognition.

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