Study: Driving Games Make Players More Aggressive Than Shooting Games

A new study maintains that video games which simulate driving provoke a higher aggressive response than do violent games.

Drs. Simon Goodson and Sarah Pearson of the U.K.’s Huddersfield University will present their findings this week at the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference in Brighton.

Using an Xbox 360, the researchers studied players of Project Gotham Racing, a "3D table tennis game" and an unspecified first-person shooter. They found that the racing game caused the greatest changes in heart rate and brain activity. The shooter caused the least.

The conference program synopsizes their presentation:

Research has suggested a link between videogame violence and aggression using cognitive and physiological evidence. However, previous researchers have made sweeping generalisations about the nature of videogames. Using the latest hi-definition console both cognitive (BSPAQ) and physiological (ECG EEG & Respiration) measures were taken of participants playing a violent shooting game a driving game or a 3D table tennis game.


Results suggest that rather than a game containing graphic violence a driving game had the
greatest impact on the participants. Given the high levels of realism in modern games a re-evaluation of the relations between videogames and violence is needed.

Via: Eurogamer

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  1. luisantillon1414 says:

     This is so true. Nothing pisses me off more than when I’m playing Grand Turismo and i lose the race that took ten minutes to get to first place. And when I get killed playing COD 5 its just like ok who cares you know.

  2. Immutable says:

    I believe it. Violence is more fun when it’s NOT the object of the game. Look at the Halo Warthog videos, people love them because it’s totally unrelated to actually playing the game. Likewise with racing games and causing mayhem and destruction.

  3. Cerabret100 says:

    whether it really does make us more "aggressive" it’s a good thing driving skills in games don’t really translate to real life.

    Otherwise my GTA record would discourage ANYONE from getting in my vehicle (in san andreas if i kept a single car for more than 10 minutes it was a miracle).

    And apparently i’m aggressive torwards Jeeps since they’re the only cars i drive off bridges in Far Cry 2.

  4. Grifter_tm says:

    I could attest somewhat into this. I’ve been playing the NSFU series for quite some time before I got my driver’s license. Once I got it though, I was a pretty aggressive driver on the road. It took an accident that cost me a couple of thousand bucks to get me driving defensively. Now though, being a bit older and a hell of a lot wiser, me driving aggressively is never an option.

    Now I’m not saying that I support the conclusion that video games causes school shootings, gang violence and all the other nonsense JT is spouting over the years. I don’t even think that I’d be more drive more aggressively if I played PGR before I drive around for groceries. I only think that if a kid’s only lessons prior to actual driving lessons are racing games, then he might turn out to be a bit more aggressive starting out, and he will mellow out once he sees that a lot of the things (like risk hittng a "wall" or another car to make a turn) he does in video games don’t work out in the real world.

  5. TBoneTony says:

    I agree on you on that.

    I am a gamer but I am also a Football fan.

    The Football I like in Australia is different than the Football in the UK and Europe and also different from the Football in Australia.

    But no matter what game you play, Football, Baseball, Cricket. There is always a mob of fans going for one team or another team.

    That is like the social aspect of the game.


    But when a team losers and fans start blaming the umpire/referee for their loss, that is when fustrations can boil into an all out violence even in a low scoring type of game like the World Football where if you get a goal, it is the biggest thing in your life. But if you are so close but fouled by an offside then you can become more fustrated that it can drvie you mad.


    I would like to say that we need a Parachute effect to happen in these siturations.


    When we are all hyped up and excited in a Football match or playing Videogames, when we are winning or a close contest then we are like a sky diver flying down in the sky.

    But if we have lost the match or something goes wrong for us, then we need to pull on that chord to unleash our safety parachute to gently glide us back to earth and we can just say that it is only just a game (either Videogame or Football match)



  6. TBoneTony says:

    I would take it as my own conclusion that many people who do these Videogame Studies have been reading too far down that more common fear about something, therefore any conclusions made from that study might rub off on these people.

    In REAL Psychology, you are NOT allowed to draw such conclusions too easily, and maybe this is perhaps really important to have a general understanding of what is real agression and what is enjoyment or fustration that even though while a spontanious reaction to a game may not be real agression at all.


    But there is always some bias in any sort of Psychology Study, maybe because many people who do write these studies have never had much experience of playing Videogames in the first place, so therefore that would explain why some of the conclusions sometimes are a bit off and unprofeshional.



  7. TBoneTony says:

    Good one there.


    Rockstar needs someone to critizise their Table Tennis game so people can go out and buy it even though the game would already be in Game Traders shops.


  8. GoodRobotUs says:

    Not entirely, there’s a slight difference in the results. Pretty much any high adrenaline activity, from watching a football match to playing a driving game will make you a little bit more reckless, that’s a moderately well established phsychological norm. The mistake a lot of people make when looking at those facts, however, is to co-incide things like a tendency to drive that bit faster, or tackle that bit harder, or even shout that bit louder as synonymous with violent crime.

    Police have to patrol outside some football matches in Europe, because the hyper-excited crowd can be moved to violence, that does not mean that football creates violence, people who watch racing will also tend to drive slightly faster and more aggressively, indeed, one could argue that if they were not the sort of people who like that style of driving in the first place, they wouldn’t be interested enough to go watch it.

    That’s not down to something being programmed into the person, it’s due to the fact that it is human nature to love a challenge, and when we see a team win a game, or a car win a race, and it’s exciting, we want to emulate that feeling for ourselves, people don’t climb into their cars thinking ‘Great, now I’ve played a video game, I’m going to kill someone with my car!’, but they might think to themselves (at some level), ‘I’d love to be able to drive like that in real life!’, they don’t chooseto drive like that, it’s subconscious.

    Even football violence is caused purely by mob-thinking, you never see a riot of one person, which totally goes against the whole ‘loner’ aspect of most ‘rampage’ cases. That’s why the odds of violent games alone, or any kind of media, being the cause of these acts is slim, but I think just about anyone would accept the idea that your adrenaline levels are raised by playing them, and doing things like driving is no more a good idea straight after a driving game than it is after a driving movie.

  9. Kuros says:

    If they really wanted to skew their findings, they could have had people play RC Pro-Am.


    ****ing yellow car!

  10. Sai says:

     Oh its so true. If I’ve played a game with alot of driving not long before going out, I find myself driving faster. 

  11. ConstantNeophyte says:

    I’m glad I’m not the only one stupid enough to buy that abortion of a game. Man I miss NFS Underground 2, it is still the best NFS game I have played.

    -ConstantNeophyte: always the newb, ALWAYS.

  12. Lazier Than Thou says:

    And we finally have conclusive evidence here.  Killing people in video games doesn’t kill people, driving around in a video game kills people.  I’m glad the science is settled.

    I suppose that JT was onto something about the murder simulator Grand Theft Auto, as that has both killing people AND driving cars.  He was only wrong in that he thought that killing people made people want to kill people.  No, clearly it’s the driving around.

  13. ConstantNeophyte says:

    Anyone disagreeing with this study has never played NFS Undercover.

    About a half an hour with this game would be enough to make anyone homicidal.

    Just a few of the more annoying things in the game:

    Police SUV’s that are faster than a done up Bugatti FUCKING Veyron!

    Police that appear out of nowhere just in front of you after you finally lost the last bunch of cops.

    The fact that traffic and opponents vehicles seem to mass at the least twice what your car does, meaning they push you around like a toddler in a wheel chair!

    And, finally; AI opponents so stupid they would willingly ram your car into a wall (see above) and crash and go from 2nd to 7th as long as they take you out as well.

    All of the above combine to make game that makes me want to murder everything.

    -ConstantNeophyte: always the newb, ALWAYS.

  14. GRIZZAM PRIME says:

    I wanna know if they lost. That’s something these studies never seem to touch on. If I lose after busting my ass trying to win, sometimes I get kinda pissed…

  15. code1390 says:

    I agree!  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been leading the entire race than crash on the final lap and end up losing!  IT MAKES ME SO MAD I WANT TO GO RUN OVER PEOPLE AT MY LOCAL CAR DEALERSHIP!


  16. RoadToTuin says:

    Having only studied psychology for two years even I can see the experimental issues with this study, there simply is not enough evidence gathered to warrant a conclusion of any sorts. A study with a more thought out design would have used multiple games from each and every genre. Studying only one driving game isn’t enough to warrant the conclusion that driving games increase aggression.
    Additionally how the researchers measured aggression could be grounds for further experimental bias, an increase in adrenaline release, respirtory rate, heart rate and cognitive activity are standard parts of the natural stress response, which the body will engage when the person in question needs to move or think fast. It is perfectly natural for a person’s stress response to kick in when they are controlling a virtual car at a simulated 150kmph around tight corners, or when targetting and running for cover in a first or third person shooter or when your paper work falls on floor at work.

  17. GoodRobotUs says:

    I wouldn’t be surprised, a driving game really is some kind of simulator in my opinion, I’d say a lot of people, if they played a racing game for an hour or two and then got into a real car, would find themselves driving faster than they would normally do.

    The thing about most sandbox shooters is the fact that they patently don’t represent anything other than complete fictional situations, be it zombies, cadres of tropical Rebels/Terrorists etc,  or aliens with tentacles for heads, they are not, for 99% of the population, an everyday experience, whereas driving is.

  18. Icehawk says:

    I have to least partically agree on this.  For example the chase down scenes in GTA4 honestly do get me frusated to the point of agression as I just dont drive that well and miss corners or slides and have failed missions, and the point A-B timed delivery missions.. dont get me started on those. 

    Road rage is real.  The things that trigger road rage can happen in virtual driving.  Difference being that you CAN run plow in the arse that cut you off or swipe the idiot that is trying to edge you out at the light.  Acting on those impulses would defiantly be considered agressive behavior even if no one real is being hurt. 

  19. Kojiro says:

    I would agree since many driving games can be enormously aggrevating.  But I doubt they take game design into consideration.  Being forced to play a poorly design FPS would make me want to kill someone, too!

  20. 1AgainstTheWorld says:

    That is exactly what the researchers and politicians consistently fail to GET.  That acting out in the game is a substitute for acting out in real life.  Last night for instance, I was pissed off at a company, but I couldn’t contact them to yell at them, because it was outside their hours.  Instead I sat in front of Oblivion for awhile, killed a bunch of imaginary things, and felt a lot better.  This morning I was able to maintain a civil tone when I called them up.

  21. axiomatic says:

    Of all things that make me agressive, my cable company (Comcast) by far makes me want to beat the living hell out of something. Playing video games is actually the RELEASE I need so I don’t go smash up my local Comcast office with a hammer. (Like Comcast granny.)

  22. shaoron says:

    wait… "great changes in heart rate and brain activity" = Aggresion!?

    so getting excited = aggresion? what would make a 5 year old kid when he’s jumping like crazy for getting that present he wanted for christmas? a mass murderer!?

    But seriously… dirving games… heck isn’t any race (includes any vehilcles or even running) does that to you!? That’s a very vague definition of agression.


    If i do something like that to my Thesis panelist i’d get a slap in the face with a big fat REJECT!

  23. ZippyDSMlee says:

    I say that about most games now 0_o


    Gore,Violence,Sexauilty,Fear,Emotion these are but modes of transportation of story and thought, to take them from society you create a society of children and nannys, since adults are not required.

  24. Trevor McGee says:

    Project Gotham Racing, there’s the problem. I would be getting aggressive too if I was being forced to play that, the PGR games are so fucking difficult to play. The cars handle like shit, all of them. I got PGR4 for free with the XBox Live Messenger bundle and couldn’t stand to play it more than once. I too wanted to kill someone after dealing with that crap.

  25. NovaBlack says:

    So overall…the shooter caused the LEAST..

    so the ping pong game caused more agression?


    HAHAHAH. I wonder if JT will call for a ban on ping-pong games then?

  26. ZippyDSMlee says:

    Hell I just thought plug in sport car racers while driveing or test normal people in fancy cars and see if they are "agitated"…. vage trems are fun to play with…


    Gore,Violence,Sexauilty,Fear,Emotion these are but modes of transportation of story and thought, to take them from society you create a society of children and nannys, since adults are not required.

  27. djnforce9 says:

    I doubt more light hearted racers like Mario Kart can make you more agressive (although multiplayer sessions that I have experienced would prove otherwise). Maybe more hardcore games like Flatout Ultimate Carnage or the car chases in GTA IV could lead to road rage tendancies when other vehicles and people get in your way. I find it usually wears off though immediately after I have stopped playing so at least it doesn’t carry into real life.

  28. Kajex says:

    Were they playing Mario Kart for the Wii? Because that would drive ANYBODY to want to kill people. That game is fixed- it’s been proven.

  29. Yasdnil says:

    In response to foolkiller79’s comment "I am not sure that you can measure heart rate and brain activity solely as indicators of aggression"

    This was not the sole measure of aggression used in this study. The researches report that they measure self-report aggression too.


    It is reassurring to know that some decent, well conducted research in this particular area is finally being undertaken.

  30. SimonBob says:

    You’re one of the rare ones, then — some players feel that the only reason for games to exist is so they can win all the time, which is a fun mentality to watch in any sort of actual competition.

    The Mammon Philosophy

  31. foolkiller79 says:

    Personally, no.  But I can recognize that not everyone plays games like Gran Turismo like I do, purely for the drive.  If I race and lose due to talent I still feel very satisfied.  I only become angry when my loss is due to bad AI, cheating humans, or some odd glitch.  But then I would likely get angry over something like that in in Petz game too.

  32. cpt crunchie says:

    it could just be excitement. i mean, i just finished up burnout paradise, and i know all those races had my heart really pounding, but when i pop in halo 3 for some multiplayer, i am relaxed.

    if it is aggression, that kind of makes sense. i mean, which do you think your brain is more likely to recognize due to experience; shooting aliens, or driving a car? most people have driven before, and they’ve all experienced that jerkwad cutting them off at a dangerous speed, but how many of them have shoot guns at people? the brain might recognize the situation, and recall how the person reacted in that similar situation.


    It is not murder; I am merely advancing the hands of the clock, just a bit.

  33. Saxy says:

    I agree totally. Mario Kart’s blue shells make me so mad… It makes me feel like going on a homicidal rampage.


    (And for the record, Jack, that was a joke. Get it?)

  34. Zero Beat says:

    Aside from fighting Silver the first time, that was a pretty easy to finish, but the deep frustration that sets in when you’re trying to get S ranks is pretty aggravating.

    Worst part?  Shadow’s "Chaos Mode" is supposed to render him invincible.  Manual says it does.  Tutorial says it does.  It doesn’t.  It doesn’t even make him less vulnerable.  Yeah, it enables his chaos powers, but the game lied to us.  I don’t like being lied to.


    "That’s not ironic. That’s justice."

  35. ShadowDragon28 says:

    Tha’s true towards any game. If you take your game playing seriously, you play to win everytime. And when you don’t, you get mad. I can attest to that.

    I can’t begin to tell you how much rage I had against Sonic the Hedgehog for 360……

  36. Shadow D. Darkman says:

    I’m still waiting for someone to say the Fianna were influenced by GTA. Maybe not Jack, but someone.


  37. Vake Xeacons says:

    Like road rage. I think researchers have overlooked frustration and irritation of doing bad at a game. We all get mad sometimes, because we lose the race WHEN WE HAD IT! And we get a desire to bust the controller. There’s a short term anger directly at the game, rather than a deep psycological shift toward violence due to playing the game.

  38. ZippyDSMlee says:

    No no Driving makes you more aggressive… I drive to slow and to nervously…so I don’t drive anymore >>


    Gore,Violence,Sexauilty,Fear,Emotion these are but modes of transportation of story and thought, to take them from society you create a society of children and nannys, since adults are not required.

  39. olstar18 says:

    No I think its aggression. Do you have any idea how aggrevating it is to be in the lead the entire race and wreck just before the finish line.

  40. Shoehorn Oplenty says:

    I think the critical flaw in all previous studies regarding violent games has been that the researchers are confusing aggression with excitement.

  41. SimonBob says:

    But that’s because you won, right?  If you’d placed a very close second despite feeling that you’d driven to the utmost of your ability, you’d probably be pissed.

    The Mammon Philosophy

  42. foolkiller79 says:

    I am not sure that you can measure heart rate and brain activity solely as indicators of aggression.  I am guessing people have the same responses when racing a real car. 

    That said, if that were all that was necessary to measure violence then there is one flaw in this study regarding the racing game.  It is an arcade racer.  PGR is far from being remotely realistic in comparison to games like Forza or Gran Turismo.  If they want to attack the high levels of realism as a contributing factor then they selected the wrong game.  The only way they could have tried to skew the results more would be to have selected a Burnout or Twisted Metal game, but that would have been obvious. 

    But, had they gone with a Simulation game I am guessing the results would be similar.  I know that while using a force feedback steering wheel in a tight race on Gran Turismo has often found me finishing with an increased heart rate and sometimes even breaking a sweat.  Oddly enough I felt satisfied, not aggressive. 

    Why do researchers fail at research so often?

  43. Conster says:

    I think this is absolutely correct. Nothing has ever pissed me off more than having a random car getting in my way and costing me first place in NFS:MW. Except for Mario Slam Basketball. GOD I HATE THAT GAME.

  44. TBoneTony says:

    Perhaps this study might have a good conclusion that many Psychologists have been drawing to the wrong conclusions and getting Aggression mixed up with what should really be exchitement.


    But sad to be the one to tell this to these guys who have been spending years of research on absolutely nothing, is that they have been getting agression mixed up with the way how someone enjoys a videogame.


    Perhaps next time they do a test with Videogames, maybe some people should be driving REAL cars both in the busy streets and in the relaxing country side to see if there are any normalities with the heart rate and breathing with relation to Videogame players who play Driving games.


    Now THAT would start to link Videogames in with normal everyday activities too.


  45. DeeJay says:

    Apparently, a change in heart rate and brain activity means you are more agressive. I guess this means activites such as watching a scary film, going for a jog, or riding a roller coaster also make you an agressive and violent person.

    These scientists don’t seem to realise that releasing aggression through activities such as playing video games is actually a good thing. If you don’t have a way of relieving stress and aggression in a safe, controlled environment, you’re going to burn out or take out your aggression in the ‘real world’ and potentially cause damage to yourself and/or others.

  46. Shoehorn Oplenty says:

    Exactly. If you heart rate and brain activity increasing meant that you were getting more aggressive, then most of the population of Ireland would have been turned into blood crazed monsters during the last 10 minutes of the grandslam winning rugby match against Wales 😛


  47. Soldat_Louis says:

    Aaaaahh AT LAST ! Some researchers start studying the effect of video games by genre, instead of always making the fallacious distinction between "violent" vs. "non-violent" video games.

    This being said, I don’t think "changes in heart rate and brain activity" should be automatically considered as "making more aggressive". This racing game was just more challenging than the shooting one.

  48. Nullanon says:

    Clearly it’s just that the shooter player had already been transformed into a cold blooded murderer, and therefore couldn’t be affected any further.

  49. Pominator says:

    Im just glad they didnt test with UNO!

    Your soul is a tasty refreshing treat to ones such as I

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