W. Robinson, R. Wilson

Montana State University, Bozeman, MT

It is estimated that the average young person spends approximately 10,000 hours playing video games by the time they turn 21 years old. Previous research has shown that playing a video game for less than an hour each day over a two month period can cause structural changes in the brain. Other studies have shown that people that are frequently exposed to violent video games, compared to people that are not, display less physiological and emotional response when exposed to violence. Heart rate is one physiological response that can vary depending on exposure to violent video games. PURPOSE: This research project was designed to examine how the heart rate (HR) of frequent video game players (CORE), infrequent video game players (INF), and non-gamers (NON) differ while playing a nonviolent video game. It was hypothesized that the average HR responses during game play would differ between the groups. METHODS: After an orientation and administrative session, all participants (n=31, male=19) attended two sessions, each of which consisted of two rounds of video game play. Participants wore HR monitors while playing. The participants were grouped (NON, INF, CORE) by the number of hours they self-reported playing console games during an average week. The video game that was used had an option that allowed for the speed of the game to be adjusted to a very slow speed (easy) and also a very fast speed (hard). A cross over random design was used to determine the sequence of play; participants either played rounds in an easy-rest-hard sequence (E-H) or hard-rest-easy sequence (H-E) during session one. During session two, they would then play the rounds in reverse order. Each round and rest period was five minutes for each session. For each session, the difference in mean HR values while playing between the two rounds was calculated. Two one-way ANOVA tests were conducted to compare the mean HR differences between NON, INF, and CORE for each of the sequences, E-H and H-E (α = 0.05). RESULTS: During E-H, the mean differences in HR for NON, INF, CORE were respectively 0.76 ± 2.18, -0.27 ± 1.37, and 1.70 ± 4.80 (p = 0.415). During H-E, the mean differences in HR for NON, INF, CORE were respectively -1.64 ± 2.03, 0.01 ± 2.48, and -0.07 ± 1.92 (p=0.175). DISCUSSION: No statistical evidence was found that supported the hypothesis that there was a significant difference in HR between players with different while the playing the game on different difficulties. These results are possibly due to familiarity with the gaming console, grouping method, or small sample size.

Funded US Dept. of Education grant #P217A130148.

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