I just read an interesting post on GamePolitics that suggests that driving games lead to greater aggression than shooting games. I think that’s an interesting bit of data. I can offer several explanations why this might be true:
1) Driving games closely mirror real-life activities and thus one might expect more transference between game and reality. People would thus get tense if they fear crashing in a game, since in real life crashing can be deadly serious. Shooting games don’t mirror the life experiences of most players, veterans and SWAT members excluded; I imagine such games are more stressful to those players than to the general public.
2) “Losing” a shooter means reloading from the last save point; generally players proceed for moderate to long periods without having to reload. “Losing” in a race has a great association of failure, and often requires repeating the race. Obviously, when you do repeat a race, you repeat it from the start, not from a save point.
3) Violence is often the result of stress, while driving is a source of stress – plain and simple. Violent outbursts vent frustration… though it’s been argued fairly successfully that catharsis doesn’t work in this regard; in real life, violent outbursts don’t lead to calmer patients. Still, indulging in simulated violence can be relaxing as a virtual outlet for stress. Driving, especially competitively, is a fun but potentially very frustrating experience – whether real or simulated.
I like driving games, but they do make my pulse race more than blasting zombies. I think the above contribute to that experience.