Playing Video Games When Your Are Upset Makes You a Worse Player - Study Reveals

Published January 10th, 2021 - 10:45 GMT
Men between the ages of 18 and 37 were asked to play five matches of FIFA 19

Playing video games can stir up a lot of emotions, but a new study indicates being upset or depressed when you log onto your favorite game can make you play worse.

Researchers from Stanford University showed participants video clips intended to make them feel amused, enthusiastic, angry or sad and then compared how they performed on the highly popular soccer game FIFA 19.

Gamers exposed to positive scenes — especially ones that encouraged enthusiasm — did far better against a computer opponent than ones who watch saddening or anger-inducing clips.

Not only did they score more goals, they showed an increase in 'approach tendency,' taking possession of the ball more often and having more shots hit the goal, which experts say stems from 'extra motivation that comes from positive emotion.'

'In addition, we observed that players who have greater confidence in their abilities and get more physiologically involved in the game achieve better results,' the researchers told IFLScience

In an experiment reported on in the journal Emotion, 241 men aged 18 to 37 were asked to play five matches of the highly popular sports simulation FIFA 19.

Before each match, participants were shown short video clips intended to elicit amusement, enthusiasm, sadness, anger or a neutral state.

They were also asked how they felt after watching each scene.

A clip from the movie American History X, in which a black man is killed in a bias attack by a neo-Nazi, was aimed at inspiring anger, IFL Science reports, while scenes from the Summer Olympic Games were shown to fuel enthusiasm.

Participants then played against the computer, with the game set on medium ('Professional') difficulty.

The results indicated inducing positive emotions before gaming — especially enthusiasm — makes eSports players perform significantly better than after a negative emotional experience. 

During the matches where the players felt amusement and enthusiasm, they demonstrated the most improvement over neutral states, as measured by number of goals, shots on target, ball possession and other criteria.

More than just 'good vibes' the researchers point to an increase in 'approach tendency,' or how often a subject tries to complete a goal.

The gamers that entered the game angry performed poorly compared to the happy crowd.  

The researchers admit that emotions are subjective, so a uniform response is not possible, and that the results may have been different with a different game.

It's worth noting, though, that FIFA 19 was the highest-grossing console game of 2019, earning Electronic Arts $786 million.

Its successor, FIFA 20 was the second-most popular console game of 2020 after Call of Duty Modern Warfare and raked in $1.08 billion in sales.

Unsurprisingly, video gaming only increased during the coronavirus pandemic: Total sales in games and interactive media topped $139 billion last year, with digital games alone accounting for $126 billion.

In all, 55 percent of Americans played console, PC and mobile games during lockdown, according to a report from SuperData.

Some looked to alleviate boredom or escape the real world, but one in four said they logged onto multiplayer games to stay in touch with other people while stuck at home.

There can be a downside, though: A study in Developmental Psychology found one in ten young players — a 'significant minority' — were 'pathologically' addicted to video games.

For this group, games are a 'disruption to healthy functioning,' characterized by excessive time spent playing and difficulty disengaging from games.

Adolescents who fit this profile displayed higher levels of depression, aggression, shyness, and anxiety as they entered their twenties, researchers found.

Sarah Coyne, a professor of family life at Brigham Young University, followed 385 adolescents over a six-year period, tracking their gaming habits and psychological profiles.

'I really do think that there are some wonderful things about video games [but] the important thing is to use them in healthy ways and to not get sucked into the pathological levels,' said Coyne.

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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