Recently I've been playing a lot of Kingdom Rush, and it plucks heavily at my stress/aggression mind strings. I generally don't play tower defense titles because they become exponentially difficult and the repeated attempts to win, causing repeated failures, makes me extremely flustered.
Whenever video games get me angry I can't help but think of the multitude of articles linking aggression to violent games. I get a little curious and confused though, because non-violent games can cause aggression, too.
It's the act of winning that humans crave, and video games involve winning. All games have goals to achieve, finishing lines to cross, and/or enemies to beat. People play games as a hobby, but also to win. We do most things to win; we're a goal oriented species.
So I believe it's the losing, or nearly losing, that causes the stress, anger, and aggression. Therefore, even the most innocuous of games can cause aggression. As an example, let's look at Animal Crossing!
Animal Crossing is an extremely low key game. There's not really a way to win in the traditional sense, but there are tons of goals. However, there are no time limits for these goals. The entire game goes at the player's chosen speed, and all is well and dandy and full of flowers.
There are tiny, potential wins embedded in the game: if one is trying to catch all of the fish or all of the bugs, and they repeatedly fail to catch a rare bug, then that can cause stress, frustration or even aggression. In trying to catch the rare bug, a goal has been set, and suddenly winning or losing becomes a reality in this otherwise goal-less game. (I love Animal Crossing, I'm not trying to bash it.)
Studies always focus on overtly aggressive games, such as first person shooters. I am positing that these games can cause aggression more often not because they're violent, but because they're heaped with goals and constant opportunities to win and lose.
The greater number of win/lose scenarios, the more opportunities for losing and subsequent stress, frustration or aggression. We are hard wired to set goals and to achieve them; we want to win!
I know the desire to win quite well because of the fact that I lose so often. And I've never been a good loser. This is the main reason that I avoid shooters, racing games and tower defenses. They are riddled with opportunities to lose, and I know that I become stressed, frustrated and want-to-throw-things aggressive when I lose, and lose repeatedly at that.
I prefer to be a happy gamer! I fill my gaming time with Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, Zelda, and Mario. While Zelda and Mario are goal oriented games, they present a gameplay that spaces out the win/lose goals, which makes them more palatable. Open-ended titles such as Skyrim and Fallout also provide enough options that the player can stray away from the goals and do something else in-game if they feel stress or aggression rising in them.
What do you all think? Do you feel that aggression in gaming only comes from violent titles, or do you believe that it is more involved with the frustration/disappointment associated with losing?
More importantly, how do you deal with losing repeatedly at a video game? I hope it's not throwing things! :D