Video games have been in the market for the last 35 years. They are a unique form of leisure because they encourage players to be part of the game’s characters. This, however, has both positive and negative effects on the player. Several studies have been published that explore the effects of video games on heart rate.
In this article, I have tried to summarize the research conducted into the effects of video games on individual’s heart rate.
In a study conducted by the Stress Research Institute at Stockholm University, it has been found that playing violent video games affects heart rate variability not only during game play but also when you are sleeping at night. A group of boys, aged between 13 and 15, were told to play two different games in the evening, one focused on aggression while the other had no violent features.
Fifteen boys were exposed to violent video gaming, playing for no less than three hours a day. The remaining fifteen were asked to play nonviolent cartoon games – no more than one hour per day. The boys played the games at their homes, on two evenings.
Heart rates were observed during the game play and also while sleeping. The study seems to show that effects of gaming don’t just stop when you switch off your system, but they have a continuous psychological impact without the player even being aware of it.
While the boys were sleeping later that night, boys that were exposed to highly violent games had faster heart rates compared to the night after playing nonviolent games. Boys who were exposed to violent games also reported poor quality of sleep on the night after playing an aggressive game. They also reported increased feelings of sadness. The violent game seems to have elicited more nervousness and stress at bedtime.
This suggests that frequent exposure to violent computer games not only increases stress and aggressive behaviour, but also increases anti-social behaviours. Other studies have also indicated that violent video games can cause an adrenaline response. In other words, they can affect your blood pressure, breathing rate and pain tolerance.
Violent video games usually tend to be more thrilling and obsessing than their more peaceful counterparts. As a result, they are bound to see heart rates rise. It could also be the increased excitement level which is causing increased anxiety. However, not all individuals may be affected by exposure to violent computer games, but most individuals are affected.