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Nov 15 2012

Fury vs Stress Relief: How Video Games Rile Me Up But Keep Me Sane

What nightmares are made of.

“Violent video games cause children to be violent.” It’s a headline every gamer rolls their eyes at, and one we’re very sick of hearing. It seems every time a game with a mature rating comes out, there’s someone leading the charge against it because of it’s supposed to have an effect on developing minds. First and foremost, if a game has a mature rating, than anyone playing the game who is not 17 most likely got it through their parents. So blame them, not the game. Pictures from the recent Halo 4 release show a great deal of middle school students showing off their battle pose with an assault rifle. Take a guess who drove them there. But the point of this article isn’t to bash parents who buy games for their kids, nor is this about the rating system. It’s about an interesting anomaly regarding how people react to the games they play. I don’t know how many others see it this way, but games involving no violence end up being the most aggravating, while games that are all about mindless violence are an excellent medium for stress relief.

When it comes to games that can be so incredibly frustrating, there is no better example than sports games. Don’t get me wrong, I love sports games, but sometimes they can get under my skin. This effect is best demonstrated by my love/hate relationship with the NBA 2K series. When I get a groove going, and I’m rejecting shots, nailing three’s, and throwing the alley-oop on fast breaks, I can’t be torn away. But during other times, everything goes wrong. Opponents hit impossible shots and can steal the ball without looking at where it is. And in My Player mode, more often than not your teammates forget how to play basketball, and yet you’re still blamed for a loss. When all these problems add up, and the loss column adds up as well, I get irritated. Some times it’s bad, and I can’t even talk to anyone until I’ve calmed down. And while there are enough fun times to justify continuing to play that game, there is no such balance in NCAA Football. I can’t complete a game without boiling over and turning the game off. Maybe I just have some mode enabled in which my blockers are drunk and my wide receivers have Parkinson’s. All I know is that I’m not yet strong enough to put that disc back in the tray.

Controllers are about to get thrown.
And friendships are about to be ruined.

Another genre of games that has the potential to get on my nerves, and the nerves of other gamers I bet, is driving games. From realistic driving games to high-speed crashing simulators to classics such as Mario Kart, driving games are designed to drive you nuts (and bolts). Nothing fills me with rage more than crashing into a wall on the last turn, or by getting sideswiped by a competitor, or god damn blue shells.

So if non-violent video games can make gamers angry and aggressive, then violent ones must have an even worse effect, right? Um, no, not really. I don’t know about you, but nothing brings me out of a sour mood better than ending some fictional, virtual lives. Killing people in a video game doesn’t make we want to go out and kill real people, because any frustrations or stress that might cause me to (s)lash out were just wiped away by a healthy dose of murder in a controlled, fictional environment. And now that Assassin’s Creed III is here, and a simultaneous Borderlands replay has begun as well, I’ve got enough bandits and Redcoats to stab, shoot, and slaughter until all my worries wash away in a river of pixelated blood.

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