Publication Date

Summer 2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Sean Laraway


catharsis, media effects, mood management, stress, user experience, video games

Subject Areas

Experimental psychology; Communication; Mass communication


The overall purpose of this thesis was to investigate the psychological effects of video-game play. The two central goals were to (a) compare and contrast three classic media theories (Mood Management Theory, The Catharsis Hypothesis, and Excitation-Transfer Theory) as they apply to the effects of video-game play, and (b) investigate the importance of user-experience variables and gender in predicting psychological outcomes of play. In a two-group mixed experimental design, all participants underwent a frustration/stress mood-induction procedure before playing a violent or nonviolent video-game. Questionnaires were administered both pre- and post-play to assess affect, arousal, and dominance as well as the subjective game play experience. After playing the video-game, participants in both the violent and nonviolent game conditions reported a reduction in hostility, an improvement in affect, and an increase in arousal and dominance. Further, the self-reported user-experience variables (e.g., flow variables, performance, and enjoyment) accounted for more of the variance in post-play affect than did game content (violent vs. nonviolent). These findings demonstrate that both violent and nonviolent video-game play can lead to short-term psychological benefits as long as the player feels focused, competent, and positive about the game play experience.