Do violent games make people violent? For this study, no

Violent games make people violent. You may have already read, heard, watched this. But a study carried out by three researchers from the University of Luxembourg calls this thesis into question. This is because it states: playing a violent game can have an effect on reducing stress. In other words, it relaxes the player.

For those in a hurry:

  • A study from the University of Luxembourg suggests that playing violent video games can actually reduce stress, which goes against the popular belief that such games induce violence in players;
  • Research shows a complex relationship between game content, personality traits and hormone levels. In this relationship, the violent content of the game Uncharted 4 reduced cortisol (stress hormone) in players with high levels of Machiavellianism, without significantly affecting aggressiveness;
  • The study authors acknowledge the limitation of their results to male behavior and the game Uncharted 4, pointing to the need for future studies that include women and different games to better understand the effects of violent games on human behavior.

Also according to the study, the effect can occur mainly when the player has “personality traits such as Machiavellianism. In an interview with Psypost, Gary Wagener, one of the study's authors, said that he decided to investigate the effects of violent games because his experience contrasted with what was reported in the media. The peer-reviewed research was published in the journal Physiology & Behavior.

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Effects of violent games

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(Image: Frame Stock Footage/Shutterstock)

Research from the Oxford Internet Institute has challenged the popular belief that violent games promote aggressive behavior, suggesting that previous studies may have been influenced by researcher bias. Although it did not demonstrate that violent games reduce aggression, the subsequent study from the University of Luxembourg offered new perspectives on the topic.

In this study, researchers examined how different segments of the game Uncharted 4 affected the hormone levels and personality traits of 54 men. A physiological test measured cortisol, a stress-related hormone, at three different times, while a psychological test assessed the participants' personality and propensity for aggression.

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(Image: Public domain)

The results indicated a complex interaction between personality, hormones and game content, showing a reduction in cortisol levels during violent parts of the game, especially among players with high levels of “Machiavellianism” (the term adopted by the study) in the game. psychological test.

On the other hand, the non-violent parts of the game resulted in an increase in hormone levels, but without a significant impact on the players' implicit aggression. Researcher Gary Wagener highlighted the value of games as a form of fun, competition, engagement in stories, and stress relief.

Caveats and next research steps

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(Image: Disclosure/Gamescom)

However, the results of this study are specific to Uncharted 4 gameplay and male behaviors. Thus, there is a need for more comprehensive research that includes women, who make up half of the gaming population globally.

The researchers at the University of Luxembourg plan to continue their investigation with different materials. The idea is to validate its findings in a broader context in the medium term to expand understanding of the effects of violent games on human behavior.

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