New Australian Research Reveals Why People Addict to Violent Video Games

By Epoch Times Sydney Staff
Epoch Times Sydney Staff
Epoch Times Sydney Staff
August 3, 2022 Updated: August 3, 2022

Australian researchers have developed a new theory to explain people’s fascination with violent video games.

According to a recent paper published in Motivation Science by biology and psychology researchers from the University of New South Wales (UNSW), violent video games resonate with many people because they offer opportunities to fulfil their psychological needs.

“The motivations we have to play violent video games stem from our desire to become better as individuals,” said Associate Professor Michael Kasumovic, one of the co-authors of the study.

“They allow us to measure status, assess our abilities relative to others, and overcome our fears.”

Simulating Social Hierarchy and Regulating Emotions

Violent video games tap into human desires by meeting psychological needs.

“Autonomy (sense of control), social relatedness (feeling connected with others) and competency (capacity for success) are all motivators for behaviour,” reads a statement by UNSW.

“Violent video games usually provide all these – whether it’s choosing a weapon upgrade, working together with other characters, or accomplishing goals or missions.”

UNSW library lawn in the sun
UNSW Library Lawn and library building, with a clock in the foreground, circa 2009. ( CC BY 2.0

The co-author explained that violent video games allow people to address their psychological needs because they’re designed in a way that allows them to achieve a sense of control and accomplishment.

“They help us figure out where we sit in a social hierarchy [based on our performance in them],” he said.

The Effects of Violent Video Games

The research also suggests that those who perceive themselves as lower in social status or have unmet desires for dominance are more prone to violent video games.

“Video games may allow some people to get what they’re not getting in the real world—like enhanced feelings of self-esteem and social ranking,” Kasumovic said.

Violent video games, particularly online multiplayer ones, are designed to encourage improved performance through match-making tiers and levelling up. At the extremes, they can encourage pathological gaming or video game addiction where players continue despite adverse real-world consequences.

Epoch Times Photo
MRI scans comparing emotional processing between children that play a violent game just beforehand as compared to those playing a non-violent game (Radiological Society of North America)

“You get instant feedback on the outcome of your performance, and there’s a positive feedback loop that drives you to play more because you want to improve in the game and improve your standing against others,” Kasumovic said.

“That can be problematic if it overtakes your life and decreases your capacity to self-care, and we think some individuals may be more prone to that than others.”

Whether the psychological fulfilment in violent video games can linger into daily life is also another question that researchers are seeking to understand. Their future research will investigate the prosocial effects that violent video games may have on leadership and teamwork.

“We hope the research will help to broaden people’s minds, perspectives and understandings around video games because they’re complex. They’re not going away. If anything, [the landscape] is only going to become more intense,” Kasumovic said.