Since the release of video games numerous studies have assessed the impact of violence within video games on aggression, yet few have assessed the impact of competition. Initial studies that include competition indicate that competition within video games does impact aggression, and that it is the competitive nature of violent video games rather than the actual violence that has increased aggression. However, previous competitive video game studies have assumed levels of competition within video games or have used different games across conditions, both of which may have confounded results. As such, this study aimed to assess the impact of both competition and violence on aggression using a true experimental design and using the same game across conditions. Sixty-four participants played one of four versions of a video game (2 [Competitive] x 2 [Violent]) and it was found that competition, but not violence, impacted aggressive affect. In addition, participants who lost in the competitive version of the game had even higher levels of aggressive affect. Neither competition nor violence impacted aggressive behaviour. Possible limitations to this study included the poor validity of the Taylor Competitive Reaction Time Task (TCRTT) and the delay between participants finishing the game and then competing the TCRTT. Overall, these findings further support the notion that competition rather than violence within video games impacts aggression. Future research should assess ways to encourage fair play within video game communities to reduce the impact of competition on aggression.
The impact of entertainment media on aggression has been discussed for centuries. Even in the gladiatorial era of the Roman Empire, Tertullian (200) theorized that Christians might be seduced into sinful bloodlust if they watched the gladiator games. In the early 1900s violent entertainment media began on new platforms such as movies and subsequently television (Trend, 2007). The rise of modern social science also began at this time and for several decades the impact of violent screen media on aggression was assessed (e.g., Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1963). Then in the 1970s video games started to emerge (Ferguson, 2010) and gain popularity. Previous research on movies and television had concentrated on violence, thus research on video games followed suit. However, the focus on violence within video games led to other aspects of video games, which were not apparent in movies and television, being largely ignored in their relation to aggression, primarily competition. Despite an early study of video games finding that a competitive version of a video game increased aggressive acts within the game (Anderson & Morrow, 1995), the impact of competition within video games on aggression was not assessed again until Eastin in 2007. Even after 2007 the number of competitive video game studies has been very limited compared to the hundreds that have been conducted regarding violence within video games (Dowsett, 2017). When competition was mentioned, it appeared only as a secondary factor (as seen in the following studies). Some studies assessed a competitive version of a video game to a cooperative version (e.g., Anderson & Morrow, 1995; Eastin, 2007; Eastin & Griffiths, 2009; Eden & Eshet-Alkalai, 2014; Schmierbach, 2010), but differences observed may be due to cooperation reducing aggression rather than competition increasing aggression (see Greitemeyer & Mugge, 2014). Some studies have compared a competitive multiplayer version of a video games to a single player version (e.g., Hollingdale & Greitemeyer, 2014; Mihan, Anisimowicz, & Nicki, 2015; Shafer, 2012; Velez, Greitemeyer, Whitaker, Ewoldsen, & Bushman, 2016). However, participants in the single player conditions still compete against the Artificial Intelligence within the game and thus it is not a true measure of the impact of competition. Another area that has been assessed which is closely associated with competition is the impact of winning and losing video games.