Paul discusses a new research study on where hostile behavior in gamers comes from.
I’m sure nearly everyone who plays games as one of their main hobbies has experienced at one time or another feelings of extreme of frustration at a game. Reactions ranging from shouting and cursing to rage quitting to even breaking things are all known ways gamers may react to a particularly vexing situation. And when asked why they are so upset gamers would probably give as many different responses as there are games to play but the root of the issue is applicable across the entire library of titles: something about the game restricted the gamers ability to successfully play.
This is not exactly news to the gaming community. Poor controls and camera angles, lag, awkward control schemes, bad net code and hit detection, lag and poor level design are all things that can make a game frustrating to play. And it really does not matter if I am playing Titanfall or Mario Kart, if the controls are not working how I want them too or if I am playing online and encounter that wonderful thing known as lag, I am going to get frustrated. Just ask FPS Doug.
While gamers are aware of this issue it is not that visible to the general public. It is often the content of a game that is cited as the cause for violent behavior. However, a new study conducted by academic researchers in both the U.K. and the U.S. has shown that the content of a game has little impact on how a gamer will react. The study goes in-depth to look at just why these frustrations occur and links it psychological reasons. The summary newsletter I previously linked explains that when a game challenges a player’s competency it acts as a challenge to one’s ego and this can cause feelings of hostility.
This is actually not that surprising. It is easy to find examples of this just about everywhere. Professional athletes are often seen being frustrated after missing a play or letting the opponent score. Nearly every day in an office you can hear someone muttering curses about the printer machine not working. It is really no surprise that gamers react in the same way to things that challenge them.
I personally found it rather pleasing to read in the piece that games like Candy Crush could draw a more violent response than something like Grand Theft Auto if the game was poorly designed. And after all that just makes sense. Games are meant to played and enjoyed. Even a game like Dark Souls where you are expected to fail many, many times before succeeding has a great control scheme and great encounter design. It certainly causes a lot of frustration because of its high challenge level, but the game is designed in such a great way that you know things can always be overcome. You might need a lot more practice but the ability to win is there.
It is important that studies like this get the appropriate attention to help the general public better understand games. A game can lead to frustration and hostile actions because of poor design choices but the same thing can happen with a poorly designed car or computer. Games certainly can have a lot of violence in them but I’m willing to bet paper jams in printers have caused far, far more rage than Dark Souls ever will.