Violent video-games are relaxing

Here's a short item about a Middlesex University study that concluded that players of violent video-games experience relaxation after they finish playing:
The psychologists studied 292 male and female online gamers playing World of Warcraft. They found that overall the gamers, aged between 12 and 83, were more likely to feel calm or tired after playing, although there were differences depending on sex, age and personality.

“There were actually higher levels of relaxation before and after playing the game as opposed to experiencing anger but this did very much depend on personality type,” said Middlesex University’s Jane Barnett, who is also an International Game Developers Association committee member.

Link (via Wonderland)

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  1. “Violent videogames” is the wrong headline for a study of WoW, even if it does have killing in it. Playing WoW is probably more like shopping than being angry, something I gather the researchers didn’t control for.

  2. Um, yeah… WoW… It’s not a violent video game.

    I still feel that way after playing an actual violent video game. That’s why people do it.

    But this is a pretty dumb study.

  3. Agreed, this is a flawed study. WoW is violent in that you kill stuff but when the media says “violent” what they’re really referring to is what gamers call “twitch,” like FPSs. It’s easy to see how a twitch game could be more readily linked to violence as it tests the gamer’s reflexes, focus, and precision. In WoW, you click on something, and violence happens to it, but it’s not nearly the same.

    I’m sure that eventually some game critic will pick up on this, the study will be discredited, and somehow that’ll make it proof positive that games make people violent. So, thanks Middlesex University. :P

  4. A casual WoW player usually spends around 10 hours everyday online. I find it completely normal to feel tired or relaxed afterwards. It has nothing to do with violence.

  5. There were actually higher levels of relaxation before and after playing the game as opposed to experiencing anger

    True, unless you JUST GOT CHAIN FEARED AND DOTTED TO DEATH BY THAT STUPID WARLOCK!!! PvP is a whole different dynamic. There are many ways to “play WOW”.

  6. actually, Tetsuo, i don’t believe that’s a casual player for WoW. the average playtime per week is 25 hours, so i think casual play would fall below that. i play about 20-25 per week, and i don’t feel like i’m particularly casual, and i’m certainly not a hardcore player, either.

  7. Rather than ‘violence’ it’s a satisfaction from completing quests and gaining levels, and buying skills. actually, WoW isn’t violent at all, no blood and stuff..

    i love druids.

  8. Didn’t have the time to read the linked article yet, but I’d like to join the ranks of people confirming that WoW is not a violent game. You see, the visual representation on the screen is not a perfect indicator of what the actual gameplay feels like to players. For example, where the uninitiated onlooker sees a brutish Orc clobbering a helpless Dwarf to death with a giant battle-axe, what actually happens in the minds of the players is very similar to rolling some dice after betting on the outcome. Your character may go through a (bloodless, somewhat cutesy) death animation, but it doesn’t really die, it just gets teleported back to its hometown and loses some of its equipment.

    On the other hand, there are text-based MUDs where your character might fall unconscious for some reason or other, and you could end up helplessly watching as some asshole slits her neck open just to be able to steal the 500 credits in her pocket without the danger of her waking up. And while you are horrified as you realise that you forgot to pay the rent for your clone vat and the character you spent weeks and months building up will be lost forever, to the uninitiated onlooker your screen will look as if you’re administrating some web server.

    In both cases, you’re bound to tense up during the action. But whether you’ll relax afterwards or log out completely frustrated depends on factors that aren’t obvious to non-gamers at all.

  9. Of course people feel relaxed after playing. First off, if you enjoy playing games of this type, you’re going to relax because it’s something you enjoy. Secondly, it’s an outlet – you can channel all of your irritation and frustration of the day into your hunt for orcs or goblins or whatever.

    I play violent videogames ALL THE TIME, and not once have I ever walked out of my house and hacked someone up with a sword. I mean, playing Saints Row has not turned me into a gang member. Playing Gears of War has not caused me to walk out the door and shoot aliens. And, darnit, playing Fable has not made me into a magic-weilding hero. But playing any of them certainly makes me happy, helps me relax, and is enjoyable.

  10. The most interesting thing about this study to me, is that “higher levels of relaxation before and after playing the game” sounds to me like the game is actually a significant stressor (notice “before” as well as “after”). This does not necessarily contradict my (somewhat extensive) experience, but put in this perspective makes one wonder why it is such a popular passtime.

    But then again, maybe it isn’t that interesting — people get pretty worked up playing Monopoly as well. And there isn’t even epic loot at stake there…

  11. My day in World of Warcraft:

    I login and decide on my dastardly doings for the day. What depraved and ‘violent’ acts will I commit?

    Leaving town and civilised behaviour behind, I skip violently through fields of swaying flowers and grasses in search of my prey, only stopping once or twice to violently hug the pink Flamingo I recently acquired as a pet. (That is another story of violence to horrible to be spoken of here).

    Spotting my prey I skulk forward and violently uproot some defenceless flowers in a defoliating rage truly terrifying to behold. With near psychotic glee I violently ram my bag full of petals, leaves and twigs. This goes on for a undefined amount of time, my only recollection is a red mist which smells slightly of lavender and the odd giggle as gnomes pass me in the knee high grass. Finally my bag is full of crushed flowers, herbs and the odd butterfly. I furtively glance around, checking I’ve gotten away with the violent deed, then make a run for it. Ha Ha! The crime is done and my violent appetites are sated once again!

    I head to the nearest town and under cover of broad daylight sell my gory trophies to the highest bidder… “Flowers! Herbs! Freshly picked this morning!” I roar with a violence that makes people cross the street. The feeding frenzy begins as fellow violently inclined players vie for my ill gotten goods. It’s a very violent process with lots of clicking and waiting by the mailbox, violently tapping my foot with pent up mild impatience.

    Oh the horror! The depravity! Such is the life of a WoW gamer. However it does seem to calm me down a little…

  12. As a gamer I would like to ask everyone to please be quiet about how WoW is not a violent video game. Sure, we all know this to be true but given how games get slandered and scapegoated in the media let us not undermine a reporting screw up that actually works in our favor.

    And to borrow from a comedian whose name I cannot remember, the next time someone says that games cause violence ask them what game Hitler was playing…

  13. Haven’t played WoW, but have found videogames of ALL types to be relaxing, ever since Space Invaders. Hell, even blowing the heads off hordes of zombies with a shotgun in Resident Evil 4 was incredibly cathartic, and afterward I’d sleep like a li’l baby. Ahhhhh.

  14. The only real violence in WoW is what one is tempted to do to ones guildmates when they’re being uncharacteristically incompetent and wasting hours of your time.

    WoW can be a very intense experience, certainly, and one followed by satisfaction or frustration (which could lead to one feeling calm or just plain tired).

    As for Tetsuo’s “casual WoW player usually spends around 10 hours everyday online” comment — that’s absolutely ridiculous. A casual WoW player spends no more than 10-15 hours a *week* playing WoW.

    Before the last expansion, I personally ran an endgame raid guild, about as far from casual as you can get. It took a *lot* of time, and even then, I was only playing 6-7 hours a day during the week and maybe 10 hours a day on weekends. Now I’m taking it easy and letting it be a game, not a second job, and I probably average 20-30 hours a week, depending on what I’m doing outside the game and if I end up in extended conversations with people in-game. 10-15 raiding, 2-3 making money while chatting to buddies, and maybe the odd instance now and then.. mostly just chatting with buddies though, using WoW as the chat client. All in all, not too much different than when I used to spend comparable hours in chat rooms and IM conversations, except instead of surfing the web or writing web applications while chatting, I’m running around in circles in Ironforge, or doing daily quests or battlegrounds.

  15. This just in: people who stop hitting their thumbs with hammers notice a significant drop in pain levels.

  16. I think this rule might work in reverse. Many puzzle and adventure games make me want to kill someone.

  17. Hey folks, not a gamer here – and I’m willing to take the apparent consensus word for it that WoW is not particularly violent – but I would be reluctant to accept anything like a suggestion that some activity doesn’t make one violent just because an experimental subject is deemed relaxed immediately afterward. But then, I’m also doubtful that the way to handle anger or aggression is to get them out of your system. To me, it looks like catharsis doesn’t cleanse the psyche; instead it leads to the bad habit of acting out on angry impulses. (Angry guy says “No it doesn’t, you $^&%& !!!” – ahhh, that’s better.)

  18. @ 25: The only violence playing videogames inspires in well-adjusted people is cursing loudly and throwing the controller at the tv when the player gets frustrated. If you flip out and kill people, you are either a ninja or had problems to begin with. :P

  19. Talk about putting the cart before the horse. Who says ‘World of Warcraft’ is violent, and how has it been demonstrated to be violent?

    “Many people find playing World of Warcraft to be relaxing” is the only conclusion of note here.

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