Gaming and Rage: Insights from an Insider
I spoke to Andy Rogers, an IT professional and avid gamer, on the subject of gaming and rage. I’ve been wondering about play that enrages people—young people in particular. Is it healthy to mix play with frustration and rage? Shouldn’t play be fun, relaxing, and edifying? For context to this conversation, please see earlier posts on the Internet and rage.
Andy’s insights gaming and emotional arousal are particularly helpful for non-gaming parents.
Interview with Andy
It seems like kids who play computer games can get awfully worked up. Is it normal? And more specifically, is it something to worry about?
It’s an activity that aims to provoke an emotional and cognitive response, and that may sometimes be a negative one, whether by design or not. Frustration in games, and lots of other activities, is actually a good thing. It can provide the stimulation needed to solve problems and react to situations in a meaningful and positive way. However, when escalated to the point of rage, issues are sure to arise.
Good point: Challenges can lead to growth. What should parents do to help their gaming kids manage their emotions and regulate their responses?
As mentioned in e-Quipped previously, monitoring play is key. Simply putting a computer in a child’s room and allowing them to lock the door and play what they want for hours on end is eventually going to result in a negative experience for a number of reasons.
From the parent’s perspective, they will have no idea about what the child is doing, who they are playing with, or how they are communicating to other players. From the child’s perspective, they have free reign to do whatever they want, lacking the behaviour frameworks that are so often encouraged during childhood and the teenage years.
On Ratings and Categories of Games
That sounds like a recipe for trouble. Are all games “rage-inducing” or are there some that might help players learn to self-regulate or problem-solve?
Child-friendly games are easy to assess. Games aimed at this audience will use language like “encourages learning” and “kid safe”. The difficulty comes when the children want to start playing more adult-targeted games. This is where parents must check ratings. Research is paramount.
So, who does the rating? Is it something that parents can trust?
The government regulates games just as it does books, movies and TV shows. Every game purchased in store or through online retailers has a classification, and that should be the first clue that a game will or will not be appropriate for your child.
Will all MA15+ rated games create frustration or rage in a gamer? No. Will all PG rated games be a positive experience for your child? Unfortunately not. The rating should provide parents with an idea of the level of impact of a game’s content.
So ratings are one source of information for parents. What else can you recommend? Is there something that parents and kids can look at together?
Every developer these days releases trailers online to promote their games. This is a great place to quickly find out what the game is like to play and gauge what kind of play is encouraged.
So all games are not created equally.
Right. There are two broad categories amongst game titles: competitive and co-operative. In Co-op games, players work together to achieve something. Successful players channel effort into solving problems in the game world even when they are getting frustrated, rather than escalating to a rage state.
On the other hand, competitive play does not generally focus on teamwork. It comes down to each player, or the player’s parent, to monitor their own mental state to determine if frustration is becoming too much.
Can you recommend some examples for e-Quipped readers to look at?
Sure. Here are two examples of critically acclaimed games in the same classification bracket and their extremely different content.
The first is Trine 2, which encourages playing alone or with friends to complete a fantasy-based story by playing as one of three characters with unique abilities. (Click the link above to watch a video of the trailer)
This is a difficult game, but co-operative play is the focus. It encourages positive communication and fast, joint-effort problem solving.
The second is Trials: Evolution, one of the most rage-inspiring games ever. You play as a motorbike rider trying to complete ever more difficult tracks as fast as you possibly can. Along the way, you will fail. A lot.
Ergh. That second one is fun, I guess…
So, you’re saying parents should use what they know about their kids to match appropriate games. A child who’s reactive or frustrated with things in real life might want to limit the competitive style of games. And it sounds like parents really need to monitor game play so they can help their kids learn to recognise cues about getting too emotionally aroused and train them to log off.
Each family will be different, but having an idea about how your child reacts to situations more generally, knowing classifications and ratings, and monitoring play will be key steps in helping your child have positive experiences playing games.
One last thing. As I researched this series on Internet rage, I came across a term I didn’t know. Rage-Quit. Can you explain this so non-gaming parents can understand? To me, it sounds like a player is having a “tanty” and quitting to ruin everyone else’s fun. Kind of like tipping over the Monopoly board in the middle of the game.
Although it could be seen that a user is getting annoyed in a game and chooses to remove himself from it, very often it’s action forced through malicious play. For example, a group of gamers playing along will essentially target one or a few other players and attempt to force them to quit the game through unfair or unbalanced play.
In shooting games, as an example, it’s fairly easy to accomplish. Simply ignore the rest of other team, except for the person you’re targeting. Keep hassling them and they’ll eventually get so annoyed that they leave. It’s extremely common.
Sounds like something parents want to keep an eye on, particularly if the same child is being targeted repeatedly. Parents will need an extra dose of patience as they try to work out what’s happening and who’s perpetrating the malicious play.
Thanks Andy for sharing your insights! I’m off to check out Trine 2.
Yotsuba & Online Gaming by Liam Liberty
All Yotsuba images used with the artist’s permission.