The Motivating Role of Violence in Video Games

Six studies, two survey based and four experimental, explored the relations between violent content and people’s motivation and enjoyment of video game play. Based on self-determination theory, the authors hypothesized that violence adds little to enjoyment or motivation for typical players once autonomy and competence need satisfactions are considered. As predicted, results from all studies showed that enjoyment, value, and desire for future play were robustly associated with the experience of autonomy and competence in gameplay. Violent content added little unique variance in accounting for these outcomes and was also largely unrelated to need satisfactions. The studies also showed that players high in trait aggression were more likely to prefer or value games with violent contents, even though violent contents did not reliably enhance their game enjoyment or immersion. Discussion focuses on the significance of the current findings for individuals and the understanding of motivation in virtual environments.

Read more: Przybylski, A.K., Ryan, R.M., and Rigby, C.S. (2009) The motivating role of violence in video games. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 35 (2) 243-259.

Competence-Impeding Electronic Games and Players’ Aggressive Feelings, Thoughts, and Behaviors

Recent studies have examined whether electronic games foster aggression. At present, the extent to which games contribute to aggression and the mechanisms through which such links may exist are hotly debated points. In current research we tested a motivational hypothesis derived from self-determination theory—that gaming would be associated with indicators of human aggression to the degree that the interactive elements of games serve to impede players’ fundamental psychological need for competence. Seven studies, using multiple methods to manipulate player competence and a range of approaches for evaluating aggression, indicated that competence-impeding play led to higher levels of aggressive feelings, easier access to aggressive thoughts, and a greater likelihood of enacting aggressive behavior. Results indicated that player perceived competence was positively related to gaming motivation, a factor that was, in turn, negatively associated with player aggression. Overall, this pattern of effects was found to be independent of the presence or absence of violent game contents. We discuss the results in respect to research focused on psychological need frustration and satisfaction and as they regard gaming-related aggression literature.

Read more: Przybylski, A.K., Deci, E.L., Rigby, C.S., and Ryan, R. M. (2014) Competence-impeding electronic games and players’ aggressive feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 106 (3) 441-457.

Leadership without Leaders? Starters and Followers in Online Collective Action

The internet has been ascribed a prominent role in collective action, particularly with widespread use of social media. But most mobilisations fail. We investigate the characteristics of those few mobilisations that succeed and hypothesise that the presence of ‘starters’ with low thresholds for joining will determine whether a mobilisation achieves success, as suggested by threshold models. We use experimental data from public good games to identify personality types associated with willingness to start in collective action. We find a significant association between both extraversion and internal locus of control, and willingness to start, while agreeableness is associated with a tendency to follow. Rounds without at least a minimum level of extraversion among the participants are unlikely to be funded, providing some support for the hypothesis.

Read more: Margetts, H.Z., John, P., Hale, S.A., and Reissfelder, S. (2013) Leadership without Leaders? Starters and Followers in Online Collective Action. Political Studies.

Social information and political participation on the internet

This paper tests whether the social information provided by the internet affects the decision to participate in politics. In a field experiment, subjects could choose to sign petitions and donate money to support causes. Participants were randomized into treatment groups that received varying information about how many other people had participated and a control group receiving no social information. Results show that social information has a varying effect according to the numbers provided, which is strongest when there are more than a million other participants, supporting claims about critical mass, and tipping points in political participation.

Read more: Margetts, H., John, P., Escher, T. and Reissfelder, S. (2011) Social Information and Political Participation on the Internet: an Experiment. European Political Science Review 3: 321-344.