Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Desensitization, violent games, enjoyment, aggression, emotion dysregulation, moral emotions, immersion

Major Advisor

Kirstie M. Farrar

Associate Advisor

Ross Buck

Associate Advisor

Saraswathi Bellur

Field of Study

Communication Sciences


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


Previous video game research has not focused on personality variables that may result in variations within aggression after playing a violent game as much. This study is to investigate the role of emotion dysregulation, trait empathy, and previous exposure to violent media in explaining the effects of game play on emotional and behavioral responses, including immersion, guilt, enjoyment, and physically aggressive intentions. In addition, this study examines potential links among violent media use and psychological variables: previous violent TV viewing, previous violent game play, emotion dysregulation, and empathy. The theoretical explanation of the General Aggression Model—specifically, desensitization effects of media violence—is applied to the hypothesized relationships within the path model being tested. This study employs a post-test only between-group design where college students played either a violent or a nonviolent video game to test a proposed path model. A revised model improving the model fit indices and path coefficients of the proposed model supports the desensitization effects of violent game play. Results indicate that heavy violent game play negatively predicts emotion dysregulation, which is a positive predictor of immersion and guilt. Immersion, which is also positively linked to guilt, increases enjoyment; but guilt decreases it. Guilt positively predicts aggressive intentions whereas empathy that is negatively predicted by emotion dysregulation decreases aggressive intentions. Along with these findings, a violent game condition model focusing on the violent game play condition only stresses the desensitization effects of violent game play on guilt, enjoyment, and aggressive intentions.