Study: The fear you experience playing video games is real - and you enjoy it

Posted on July 1, 2015

Working with Assistant Professor Nicole Martins, Ph.D. student Teresa Lynch surveyed online 269 college students in 2013 about their experiences with popular video games such as “Resident Evil,” “Call of Duty” and “Amnesia: The Dark Descent.”

Lynch and Martins followed a method that has been used in studying fear reactions to non-interactive media, such as movies and television programs. They wanted to assess whether the fear felt while playing video games was the same as with movies and shows. They wanted to know if we get as involved in the content in a way that heightens the fear experience.

Compared to the attention given to violence in similar research studies, game-inducing fear in video games has hardly received consideration. This study provides the first identification of features specific to video games that affect fright experiences and insight into what fear reactions people experience with games.

Close to half of those surveyed – 44.1 percent – said they enjoyed feeling scared.

“That answers one part of the question of why do people continue to expose themselves to these aversive stimuli, why do they continue to expose themselves to these things that they know are going to cause an unpleasant emotional experience. It’s because to some degree, in some way, they’re getting pleasure out of it,” she said. “A few people did share in open-ended reports they enjoyed the feeling of surviving the experience.” These findings provide a better understanding as to why people play the games.

The researchers feel that part of the enjoyment comes from talking about these experiences. While surveyed, respondents had the opportunity to forgo a question about whether they had experienced fear while playing video games. Most were willing to share an example and many provided more than one experience.

“I think we share fear experiences because it is something that connects us on a very primal level,” said Lynch, who noted that she is a “gamer.” Also, while men reported enjoying and playing more frightening games than women, no differences emerged in how frequently the sexes experienced fear. They had the same kind of fear.


Source material from PsyPost