Violent Video Games Involving Human Characters Linked to Aggression

New study finds less aggression when characters are less like humans.

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Researchers used the game "Quake," which allowed them to change the appearance of characters.
Photo:Marco Arment (Flickr Creative Commons)
Interview with Kirstie Farrar
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Interview with Kirstie Farrar

The University of Connecticut has come out with a new study on violent video games. It looked specifically at whether video games that pit players against human looking characters provokes more violent thoughts in the player than fighting non-human creatures.

When players fight human looking characters, "they're later more verbally aggressive and they have more aggressive thoughts," said Kirstie Farrar, who is an associate professor of communication and lead researcher of the study.

The study was conducted using the video game Quake, which allowed researchers to manipulate the characters in the game.

The aggression level of players was calculated by "paper and pencil measures." One of these exercises included words that were missing letters, like K-I-__-__. That could be filled in as "KILL" or "KICK" or "KISS." This measured cognitive aggression and researchers added up the number of violent words produced.

While talking about the application of this study, Farrar said that although media violence is a risk factor in aggression, she doesn't think her research can be used to ban any type of game.

"I do think it's really, really important for parents, educators, doctors, the public to be aware that this is a risk factor and that this is a risk factor that they can exert some control over," she said.

The study was published in the latest issue of Mass Communication and Society.