If you feel slightly less stressed after sawing Locust scum in half with a Mark 2 Lancer then you’re not alone. A new study says that playing violent video games actually reduces stress levels instead of heightening them. Up to now, many (mostly non-gamers) believe that violent games have negative effects on the mind.
A recent study claims that violent games reduce the levels of stress in players. The study was conducted in the latest Physiology and Behaviour journal by researcher and gamer Gary L Wagener (PhD). Wagener found that there was no link between stress, aggression and violent video games.
The study took 54 male gamers and made them play certain sections of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Each was given a violent or non-violent path in the game. The gameplay sections were broken up into 25 minutes. During each section, researchers monitored their levels of cortisol and testosterone. A test was done before the session, during the gameplay and afterwards.
Each participant also completed a questionnaire evaluating the “Dark Tetrad” traits. These traits include Machiavellianism, psychopathy, narcissism, and everyday sadism. Lastly, the participants underwent an Implicit Association Test which measure aggression levels.
The result showed no elevated cortisol levels in any of the players. Both the violent and non-violent participants also had no effect on their testosterone levels. In fact, the violent group had a decrease in cortisol compared to the non-violent ones. Wagener says this suggests that violent games could actually have relaxing effects on players.
“The average person should take away from this study that there is no clear picture that violent video games are harmful for players. They do not necessarily increase aggression in any way but can even have positive relaxing effects for players,”
Of course, while this is still valuable information, it isn’t a guarantee that violent games reduce stress. This is all on a case-by-case basis. The game in question, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End isn’t the most violent game in the industry either. The gore factor is quite low and you just shoot a gun. It would be interesting to see how this study weighs up when playing games like DOOM, Mortal Kombat, Dead Space and Resident Evil.
However, other violent games which feature intense action and horror scenes might have a negative effect on the results. Mainly because of how these games are intended to heighten your senses resulting in cortisol increases.