Rage Quitting: Caused By Games’ Violent Content Or Experiences Of Failure And Frustration?

This article is the first part of Square Portal’s new series called “Square Portal Science” – Read more about it from here!

For us gamers the experiences of failure and frustration are part of our everyday life. Have you ever felt angry and annoyed when having problems at defeating a challenging boss fight or losing to another team during an online multiplayer match? It’s quite a common thing to see big medias accusing video games’ disturbing and violent content for causing aggression to gamers, but is the content really the reason what causes the aggression? Are games doing something to people that other things in this world don’t?

A new study shows hostile behavior isn’t actually linked to game’s violent content but to gamers’ experience of failure and feeling of frustration during the gameplay. This may be something what has been clear for us gamers for a long time, but now there’s actually a study to support our thoughts. As crazy as it may sound many studies have only focused on games’ content not on players’ psychological experiences, according to ScienceDaily. University of Rochester was one of the very first to actually take a closer look at the players’ psychological experiences with games.

"Any player who has thrown down a remote control after losing an electronic game can relate to the intense feelings or anger failure can cause," explains lead author Andrew Przybylski, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, who said such frustration is commonly known among gamers as "rage-quitting."

“Any player who has thrown down a remote control after losing an electronic game can relate to the intense feelings or anger failure can cause,” explains lead author Andrew Przybylski, a researcher at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University, who said such frustration is commonly known among gamers as “rage-quitting.”

According to co-author Richard Ryan, aggressive behavior isn’t unique to gaming, and the same phenomena appears in sports as well when players lose a game as a result of a bad call.

“When people feel they have no control over the outcome of a game, that leads to aggression,” he explains. “We saw that in our experiments. If you press someone’s competencies, they’ll become more aggressive, and our effects held up whether the games were violent or not.”

How the study was executed?

Almost 600 college-aged participants were asked to play custom-designed video games across six lab experiments. To find out which aspects cause the aggressive feelings, the researches manipulated the interface, controls and degree of difficulty. They also used different kinds of violent and non-violent games during the research.

In one experiment, players were randomly asked to play easier or more challenging version of Tetris after they had held their hand in the painfully cold water for 25 seconds. The researchers led them to believe that the length of time was determined by previous participant, but in reality, all participants were assigned the same duration. After participants have played the game for a while they were asked to assign the amount of time a future participant would have to leave their hand in the water. Players who played the more difficult version of Tetris assigned on average 10 seconds more of cold water pain for the next player than the people who get to play the easier version of the game.

Do violent content cause aggression for players?

Does violent content cause aggression for players?

Across the experiments, researchers found the lack of mastery of the game’s controls and the high difficulty players had completing the game led to frustration – not the imaginary or visuals. It seems that aggression is a negative side effect of the frustration felt while playing the video game. One of the researches explained that non-violent games like Candy Crush and Tetris can actually cause more aggressive behavior than shooters, if their controls are poorly designed or games are just too difficult.

“When the experience involves threats to our ego, it can cause us to be hostile and mean to others,” Ryan explains.

The researchers also surveyed 300 gamers to identify how real world gamers might experience the same phenomena. When asked about pre- and post-game feelings, gamers reported the same things that the research proved before – inability to master a game or its controls causes feelings of frustration and affects to the enjoyment in the experience.

The researchers say that the findings offer an important contribution to the debate about the effects of violent video games. Ryan says that many critics of video games have been premature in their conclusions that violent video games cause aggression. “It’s a complicated area, and people have simplistic views,” he explains, noting that nonviolent games like Tetris or Candy Crush can leave players as, if not more, aggressive than games with violence, if they’re poorly designed or too difficult.

Original Report & Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Rochester. Original report was written by ScienceDaily who may have edited the materials for content and length. Square Portal wrote a summary of their earlier report.

Journal Reference:

  1. Andrew K. Przybylski, Edward L. Deci, C. Scott Rigby, Richard M. Ryan. Competence-impeding electronic games and players’ aggressive feelings, thoughts, and behaviors. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2014; 106 (3): 441 DOI: 10.1037/a0034820

14 replies »


    I always get angry with Flappy Birds… and other mobile games if I don’t get a perfect score from the puzzle or mission. I’ve decided to not continue any mobile game stage until I score perfect and my fingers always end up hurting for tapping retry button too much. x’D

  2. I was afraid I’d have to come into an article blatantly saying that violent video games are the cause. I am glad to see their results said otherwise. I was about to come in here and mention my experience with Mario Kart. I rarely rage quit shooters because I am damn good at them. I played them competitively for two years and commentated them for a YouTube gaming network for another year. However, games like Mario Kart…ugh, nothing is worse than being in first all game then getting item raped by 4 consecutive items on the last turn of the race leaving you in 7th place.

    • Haha! I have been there! One second you are on the top spot then suddenly you are the last player after one failure or a hit by an enemy. That’s why I rarely play Mario Kart with bots – it’s too frustrating. It’s always golden with friends though. :)

  3. I’ve always hated playing competitive modes, especially against people I know, because I’m so bad at games I’ll be on the edge of rage-quitting all the time :D
    I tend to prefer games that don’t challenge my skills too much. It’s good to have some challenge but if it’s just crazy die-and-retry, I’ll just pass.

  4. A nice article indeed! It was quite a fun read.

    I think it’s quite spot on it’s points. In my opinion, the game won’t get you frustrated by visuals or a bad or unfair script but it’s the way the game is designed that will bring on the aggression of a gamer.

    There are games like LoL where the community is quite toxic (I really can’t empathyze this enough) and I’ve hated that game due to this problem. I’ve completed 20 matches or so in 3 years and in every match there was swearing, insulting, abusing and generally bad behavior, poor team skills and a lot of raging.
    Which leads to me thinking that the game may be quite a good game in terms of gameplay, design and etc, but at the same time it’s so competitive that it leads to frustration if the team loses and no one wants to take but put the blame on others.

    On the other hand, there are other games like Ninja Gaiden which isn’t hard, it’s just cheap! It’s a ridiculously hard game which you need to glitch your way through it to beat it on it’s final difficulty – Master Ninja. I’ve had a lot of frustration trying to beat that game. I also remeber a similar experience on Need for speed most wanted, I had to collect 30 million points of bounty while being chased by cops on the absurd level 6 of Heat difficulty (5 is the max on all other modes just to imagine how hard that was!)
    and you don’t know how it feels to collect 28 million bounty while being chased by cops for 2 hours and then getting busted and having to start all over…. So we can see that there are games with impossible barriers that make you go nuts.

    Now there is one more game I would like to mention. Dark souls series, (along with Demon souls), a really hard game that just throws you into the world with a sword and a shield and tells you “Kill or be killed”, you will possibly die more than 200 times on your first ever playthrough but guess what! It won’t frustrate you! The reason is because it’s design is to kill you from the beginning but in a way that you can progress through it slowly, beat the enemy and feel rewarded… not by some sort of cheap mechanic that’s nearly impossible to beat.

    So what’s the conclusion in all this? Multiplayer competitive games or Single player badly tuned ones can really bring out the frustration of a gamer, but if it’s created with the gamer’s care in mind and mental stability, it can be both hard and enjoyable without frustrating you. I’ve died over 1000 times total in my playthrough in pvp or pve while playing Dark souls and let me tell, each death has been a blast! When I heard about their new project I was like “I can’t wait to die again to new things!”

    These were my thoughts on the article! Sorry for the long wall of text but I think it was necessary to be constructive and tell my personal experiences since I have only me to judge.

    • Great comment Zindril! I really enjoyed reading it! And welcome to Square Portal’s comment sections! We sometimes have parties here but most of us are quite shy, so we need a bit encouragement to open our mouths and tell our thoughts. Hah guess frustration is always about how fair your death/lose is in the game and how well you can play :)

      • Thank you very much for your kind words Johnny!
        I check this site every day since it was first created and had only FF XIII-2 news you know! I really loved FF XIII and when XIII-2 was announced I had tears of joy in my eyes! It was such a relief to find a site like this which had constant updates about FF XIII-2 (Which I really loved) and now it’s even more fun with the news from all Square Enix games, I don’t know if there are better sites than this but I don’t feel the need to search for any because I’m pleased through all these years of constant updates! And the best thing is that I’ve learned about beautiful games like Drakengard and Bravery Default that I would never hear about otherwise as I don’t follow E3 that much (or any other event for that matter).
        But as you’ve said, it’s quite a shy community we have, albeit a wonderful one, lately more people have started voicing their opinions and thoughts and it’s great to discuss about games with fellow Square Enix fans (Or about final fantasy character haircuts for that matter haha!).
        Again, I’m glad you liked my comment, I’ve put a lot of thought into this as I haven’t played a million games but I’ve had my share of all kinds of difficult to not difficult games so I thought it would be nice to tell my opinion! I really hope there are more articles like that in the future. It’s good food for thought!

        • Wow, that’s amazing to hear! I’m really happy to see that you and many other people have been around here since the beginning and continued following the site! It’s truly heartwarming and very motivating to hear! Thank you for the strong support!

  5. My first rage quit. I’m not using those words casually as some people do.
    I was very angry! The game I was playing was Mortal Kombat 9.
    I was playing arcade mode on VERY HARD difficulty.

    I battled my way to the top of the pillar to face the mighty Shao Kahn only to get pulverized by him countless times. I hopped around using different characters in hopes I can find an easy move to use against him over and over. That didn’t go so well.

    I switched back to my main fighter, and I failed horribly.
    I then became hysterical at the fact I couldn’t beat him. It was like I was in a trance like state of denial.
    Without realizing, I got his HP down roughly about 5%.
    Shao Khan did enabled hacking and granted himself super armor and then he dashed at me and I died.

    At that very moment, I snapped! I yelled, “F*CK THIS GAME!!!”
    I got up from my seat; ran up to the console; turned it off; and I threw myself away from the living room area.

    Moments later, I opened my eyes and found myself on the bed in my room.
    I fought my way to the top only to be denied glory. All those fights.
    I never played the game since then.

  6. Raging quitting is not something I do, but I have thrown my controller trying to get a trophy. It was the veggie mini-game in KH 1.5, there was lots of ragging. My worst rage was on my vita trying to get Apollo Wins trophy in Thieves in Time, I got so anger that I actually bite it and dented the screen. So I have definitely had some big rage moments.

  7. I usually rage quit when people think its ok to talk down to others and be complete assholes who think they can treat others pooly. Fuck that.

  8. The only game ive ever raged quit was ‘Spyro Eternal Nights’ – for the Wii
    I grew up loving the series (the first 3 are by far the best) – so i kept buying/following the games because i was interested in knowing what happens next – of course i did notice a big change and how more terrible it got as the games went on – but i persevered – until i came to ‘Nights’ – it was so bad that i quit within the first 30 mins (including cutscenes) – couldnt even bear it – and will never go anywhere near it again – just gonna stick to the first trilogy lol
    Im a pretty patient person and whenever i come across any problems – i like to/will always find a way around them or to make it better – so for someone like me to rage quit a game is incredibly rare – i guess that shows how bad ‘Eternal Nights’ is xD

  9. I have rage quit after so many failed attempts.. One I remember was Candy Crush saga, I have fully deleted the game from my phone! Another time I have rage quitter has been in Final Fantasy games when I hit a certain stage the boss fight was very intense I tried many times then quit because I was getting frustrated. At a later date though after looking at the Strategy guides online I went back to it to have one final go and I did it, rage quitting for me is not always final.

    • I remember raging like a crazy cat lady during one boss in Thief – He was just impossible to beat! I tried and tried until I gave up and went to buy more powerful weapons… then it only took a few minutes… Quite awkward.

      Another experiences of rage quitting I have had with The Last of Us… Really who has all that patience and time to sneak around these scary sounding monsters and keep her mind calm – I didn’t :( Which is why I often went on full rampage after collecting enough supplies to make bombs and fire bottles! XD

      I’m quite happy that the study proves that rage quitting is really about the failure which is the same as in sports, for example. I mean, it has been clear to me since very beginning and this comes from a footballer girl who has experienced failures in many areas… Really surprised and a bit worried to see that this research was one of the very first ones to actually take look in humans head… Why have others ignored the mental side even though it’s the basics of the psychological research!? I don’t understand. Perhaps ScienceDaily’s reference is only to American researches.

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