Playing Action Video Games May Increase Lethal Self-Harm Likelihood

College students who play action video games may be more capable of self-harm if they experience suicide ideation.

College students who play action video games may be more capable of self-harm if they experience suicide ideation.

While many researchers debate the link between gameplay and aggression, the goal of a new study was to examine a potential association between gameplay and a “real world outcome” tied to aggression (eg, “acquired capability of suicide”).

The study examined 228 college students who played video games on a weekly basis. The students filled out surveys related to their video game playing, painful events, and their acquired capability of suicide.

The acquired capability for suicide scale tested for increased pain tolerance and reduced fear of death.

Action video games were defined as games that contained violent and aggressive content. This included first-person shooter, horror, fighting, sports, and crime/war-themed games. Some examples were Call of Duty, Halo, Left 4 Dead, Resident Evil, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, and Grand Theft Auto.

The researchers made note that in some video games such as Grand Theft Auto, the player can attempt or commit suicide within the game.

Other video game categories were simulation, educational, and adventure.

The researchers’ findings suggested that students who spent long time periods playing action video games were more likely to act on suicide ideation, but this association was not found with other genres of video games.

“Clinically, the findings of the current study indicate that college students who frequently play action category video games may have an elevated ability to engage in lethal self-injury,” the researchers stated. “Although these results are cross-sectional, we recommend that clinicians ask clients who play video games if they play action category video games when conducting suicide risk assessments.”

Around 70% of college students are “avid video game players,” the researchers noted.

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among college students. In 2013, there were 4878 suicides among college students in the United States.