Demolishing the Competition: The Longitudinal Link Between Competitive Video Games, Competitive Gambling, and Aggression

Abstract

The majority of research on the link between video games and aggression has focused on the violent content in games. In contrast, recent experimental research suggests that it is video game competition, not violence, that has the greatest effect on aggression in the short-term. However, no researchers have examined the long-term relationship between video game competition and aggression. In addition, if competition in video games is a significant reason for the link between video game play and aggression, then other competitive activities, such as competitive gambling, also may predict aggression over time. In the current study, we directly assessed the socialization (competitive video game play and competitive gambling predicts aggression over time) versus selection hypotheses (aggression predicts competitive video game play and competitive gambling over time). Adolescents (N = 1,492, 50.8 % female) were surveyed annually from Grade 9 to Grade 12 about their video game play, gambling, and aggressive behaviors. Greater competitive video game play and competitive gambling predicted higher levels of aggression over time, after controlling for previous levels of aggression, supporting the socialization hypothesis. The selection hypothesis also was supported, as aggression predicted greater competitive video game play and competitive gambling over time, after controlling for previous competitive video game play and competitive gambling. Our findings, taken together with the fact that millions of adolescents play competitive video games every day and that competitive gambling may increase as adolescents transition into adulthood, highlight the need for a greater understanding of the relationship between competition and aggression.

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Acknowledgments

The second author acknowledges funding received from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Owl Children’s Trust.

Author Contributions

P.A. conceived the study, conducted most of the statistical analyses, and drafted the manuscript. T.W. collected the data and participated in the statistical analyses as well as the drafting of the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Paul J. C. Adachi.

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Adachi, P.J.C., Willoughby, T. Demolishing the Competition: The Longitudinal Link Between Competitive Video Games, Competitive Gambling, and Aggression. J Youth Adolescence 42, 1090–1104 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10964-013-9952-2

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Keywords

  • Competition
  • Aggression
  • Video games
  • Adolescent development
  • Longitudinal