Tackling the Effects of Wargames on Users: A Review of Related Media-Psychological Approaches

Tilo Hartmann, VUA

Violence and warfare depicted in video games may be particularly designed to entertain users, but sometimes also seek to trigger critical reflection. With violent games being one of the most successful and widely played genre (or content area) of video games, the question arises how these depictions really affect users both in the short- and the long-term? In this presentation, I will review models and approaches from (media-)psychology that may be suited to answer this question.

The leading model in the field, the General Aggression Model (GAM), combines major approaches on aggression (e.g., observational learning, desensitization, frustration-aggression, implicit attitudes and values) and has been frequenty applied to study the effects of violent video games. However, other approaches - particularly those focusing more on learning, subjective interpretation, and cultivation - emphasize slightly other media effects than the GAM and have not been adapted to video game violence so frequently. They may add important extensions to the GAM and help providing a more comprehensive view on how violence and warfare displayed in video games affects users.

In the presentation I will discuss the GAM, followed by a discussion of these additional approaches (Cultivation Theory [Gerbner & Gross, 1976]; Vicarious Experience [Kaufman & Libby, 2012]; Normative beliefs [Huesmann, 1988]; Eudaimonic entertainment: Appreciation and reflection [Oliver, Bartsch, & Hartmann, 2014]), and conclude with highlighting their implications for potential effects of violent games/wargames on users, and remaining blindspots.

A recording of the presentation can be accessed here.

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