​Immersed in Violence: How 3-D Gaming Affects Video Game Players

Playing violent video games in 3-D makes everything seem more real – and that may have troubling consequences for players, a new study reveals.

Researchers found that people who played violent video games in 3-D showed more evidence of anger afterward than did people who played using traditional 2-D systems — even those with large screens.

The higher anger in 3-D players was connected to the fact that, compared to 2-D players, they were more likely to feel they were “immersed in the game,” said Brad Bushman, co-author of the study and professor of communication and psychology at The Ohio State University.

“3-D gaming increases anger because the players felt more immersed in the violence when they played violent games,” said Bushman. “As the technology in video games improves, it has the ability to have stronger effects on players.”

Bushman conducted the study with lead author Robert Lull, a graduate student in communication at Ohio State. They announced their findings on Sunday (10/19) during the New Horizons in Science briefings at ScienceWriters2014, an annual conference hosted this year by Ohio State.

Bushman discussed these new results as part of his presentation “Guns, gender, race and violent video games: Searching for the roots of modern aggression.”

The study has been accepted for publication in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

Participants were 194 college students, about two-thirds of whom were women. All of the students played the video game Grand Theft Auto IV for 15 minutes. Half were instructed to play violently (kill as many people as possible in the game) and half played nonviolently (they went bowling).

They played on a 17-inch 2-D screen, a 96-inch 2-D screen or on a 96-inch 3-D screen while wearing appropriate 3-D glasses.

Later, all participants reported their mood on a variety of dimensions, including anger. For example, they were asked to rate how angry, annoyed and furious (among other adjectives) they felt on a scale of 1 to 5.

Results showed that for those who played nonviolently, it didn’t matter if they played in 2-D or 3-D – their levels of anger were relatively low and unchanged.

Those who played violently showed higher levels of anger than nonviolent players no matter how they played, 2-D or 3-D. But those who played violently on 3-D were significantly angrier than those who played violently on the 2-D systems.

Why did those who play violently in 3-D show more anger? Another result from the study gives the answer.

After playing the games, participants were asked several questions measuring how immersed they were in the game. For example, they were asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 how much they felt they “were really ‘there’ in the game environment” and how much they felt like other characters in the game were real.

Results showed that people who played in 3-D felt more immersed in the game than did those who played in 2-D, and that immersion was related to the increased anger felt by those who played violently.

“The combination of violent content and immersive technology like 3-D can be troublesome,” Bushman said.

“This is something that needs to be considered by everyone involved – electronics manufacturers, video game developers, consumers, parents and content ratings agencies.”

1 COMMENT

  1. After reading about this study here, I found myself in doubt of the findings as the methodology seems to be very flawed. So I did some cursory research on Bushman’s other work. Lo and behold I found one flawed study after another. This isn’t merely an opinion, I’ll explain:

    In one study, he tested 70 French students, giving them three once-daily 20 minute gaming sessions and then tested their aggressiveness on each day. The study found that the students who played the ‘violent’ games had a marked increase in aggressive attitudes which rose over the three day period.

    While I do not have access to all the details of the actual study, there are some gaping holes in the methodology from reading his own article on the experiment.

    The least relevant flaw, if they actually made this mistake, is, ‘Were the students allowed to choose whether they played a violent or non-violent game?’.
    Naturally this would be problematic as a person with a more aggressive nature might pick the violent games, and thereby nullify the results. Again, if they randomized the games the subject played, that might be better science, but it would mean they created a different problem:
    “Did the subjects KNOW how to play the games they were assigned?”
    If they went into a strange game whose controls and movements were unfamiliar and then were given 20 minutes to simply be mowed down by enemies, that would be highly frustrating. Given that the FPS (first-person-shooter) environment personalizes the experience more than the driving games, it is reasonable to expect a higher level of frustration from losing. Give the subjects that frustration for 3 days in a row and you can expect them to take out their frustration during the tasks they were given to measure aggression.
    Third, and probably most important; “Was a baseline survey done on the subjects?”. Did they include people in the experiment who had relationship issues? Death or strife in their families? Too high of a course load? Financial hardships? Did they screen for people that would be prone to frustration?
    With only 70 subjects, it would only take a handful of those with outside issues to skew the results.

    And those are only off the top of my head. I’d have to read the whole study, but I have little doubt there are real flaws in it.

    As I read the results in this article, the glaring flaw, unlike the study in France, is that the subjects were not given blind tasks to measure aggression. That creates a serious problem in interpreting the responses.

    The subjects were asked straight out how the games made them feel. They were apparently responding based on their in-game experience, not about whether they were angry later on. But once again we are missing vital information on how experienced the subjects were with their games. Naturally the more immersed one is in a violent and stressful game where they are getting killed or failing to achieve tasks, the more frustrated and ‘angry’ they would become.

    Neither of these studies shows any lasting effects on attitude or personality and seem bottled for the specific purpose of vilifying violent games.

    Until I see that the full methodology addresses each of the points I’ve brought up (at least), I will not have confidence in Bushman’s results.

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