Emotions in Social Computer Games: Relations with Bullying, Aggression, and School Belonging

Emotions in Social Computer Games: Relations with Bullying, Aggression, and School Belonging

Juan F. Mancilla-Caceres (Department of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA), Dorothy Espelage (Department of Educational Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA) and Eyal Amir (Department of Computer Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/ijgcms.2014070104
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This article explores the set of emotions expressed by middle school youth (n = 96) when participating in a social computer game. In this article, we present the design of the game, the instruments used to assess bullying in the physical world, and the analysis of the emotions expressed during gameplay and their association with aggressive behaviors. Participants completed surveys on bullying experiences prior to playing the game. The game required participants to form teams and answer two sets of trivia questions, in competitive and cooperative stages. Results show a relation between the roles that participants have in their physical social environment and how they play the virtual game, in terms of the type of emotions they display.
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Bullying And Peer Aggression

A rigorous debate has emerged about how best to define bullying and how to distinguish it from other forms of aggression and/or peer victimization (AERA, 2013; Rodkin, Espelage, & Hanish, in press). One of the first predominant definitions of bullying that continues to be used in the literature and in the legal arena is as follows: “A student is being bullied or victimized when he or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to negative actions on the part of one or more students” (Olweus, 2010, p. 11). More recent definitions of bullying emphasize observable or non-observable aggressive behaviors, the repetitive nature of these behaviors, and the imbalance of power between the individual/group perpetrator and victim (Gladden, Vivolo-Kantor, Hamburger, & Lumpkin, 2014; Ybarra, Espelage, & Mitchell, 2014). An imbalance of power exists when the perpetrator or group of perpetrators have more physical, social, or intellectual power than the victim. In a recent examination of a nationally representative study, early and late adolescents that perceived their perpetrator as having more power reported greater adverse outcomes (e.g., depression, suicidal ideation) than victims who did not perceive a power differential (Ybarra et al., 2014).

In 2010, the Department of Education and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention collaborated to develop a uniform research definition. This group defined bullying as follows: “Bullying is any unwanted aggressive behavior(s) by another youth or group of youths who are not siblings or current dating partners that involves an observed or perceived power imbalance and is repeated multiple times or is highly likely to be repeated. Bullying may inflict harm or distress on the targeted youth including physical, psychological, social, or educational harm.” (Gladden et al., 2014, p.7). These behaviors include verbal and physical aggression that ranges in severity from making threats, spreading rumors, and social exclusion, to physical attacks causing injury.

The literature about theories that address bullying and peer aggression is vast and therefore, we will focus only on those that served as inspiration for the design of SSGs, and that have been previously studied in the context of these games (Mancilla-Caceres, Espelage & Amir, in press).

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