There is a large amount of variables that need to be taken into account when studying the effects of violent content in digital games; one of those being difficulty. In the current study participants played a modified first-person shooter in one of four different conditions, with either high or low difficulty and high or low violent game content. We assessed number of kills and number of deaths as game performance. Neither the difficulty nor the displayed violence had an effect on psychophysiological arousal during play, post-game aggressive cognitions, nor aggressive behavior. Thus, this study corroborates previous research indicating that violence in games does not substantially influence human behavior or experience, and other game characteristics deserve more attention in game effects studies. In addition, findings showed that challenge manipulated by game difficulty is of main importance for post-game emotions: Number of deaths predicted positive affect, but only in the low difficulty condition while number of kills was a positive predictor for positive affect and a negative predictor for negative affect.

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Computers in Human Behavior
Department of History

Kneer, J., Elson, M., & Knapp, F. (2015). Fight fire with rainbows: The effects of displayed violence, difficulty, and performance in digital games on affect, aggression, and physiological arousal. Computers in Human Behavior, 54, 142–148. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2015.07.034