Violent video games: The effects of narrative context and reward structure on in-game and postgame aggression

James Sauer, Aaron Drummond, Natalie Nova

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)


    The potential influence of video game violence on real-world aggression has generated considerable public and scientific interest. Some previous research suggests that playing violent video games can increase postgame aggression. The generalized aggression model (GAM) attributes this to the generalized activation of aggressive schemata. However, it is unclear whether game mechanics that contextualize and encourage or inhibit in-game violence moderate this relationship. Thus, we examined the effects of reward structures and narrative context in a violent video game on in-game and postgame aggression. Contrary to GAM-based predictions, our manipulations differentially affected in-game and postgame aggression. Reward structures selectively affected in-game aggression, whereas narrative context selectively affected postgame aggression. Players who enacted in-game violence through a heroic character exhibited less postgame aggression than players who enacted comparable levels of in-game violence through an antiheroic character. Effects were not attributable to self-activation or character-identification mechanisms, but were consistent with social- cognitive context effects on the interpretation of behavior. These results contradict the GAM's assertion that violent video games affect aggression through a generalized activation mechanism. From an applied perspective, consumer choices may be aided by considering not just game content, but the context in which content is portrayed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)205-214
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Applied
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2015


    • Aggression
    • Media violence
    • Video games


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