Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2021

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts In Communication Theory And Methodology



First Advisor

Kumar, Anup

Second Advisor

Kimberly Neuendorf

Third Advisor

Eryn Bostwick


Media effects research has shown that video games can have both antisocial and prosocial effects, depending on the content of the game. Individuals who play violent video games tend to display more aggressive attitudes and behaviors, while those who play games with prosocial content tend to display more prosocial, or helping, attitudes and behavior. The context in which a video game is played has also been shown to influence media effects, with competitive play leading to increased aggression while cooperative play leads to increased prosociality. However, the existing literature has not examined how these effects might influence the interpersonal relationships between those playing the video game. To test the effects of gaming context on interpersonal relationships, an experiment was conducted that compared two groups of participants exposed to two levels (competitive or cooperative) of a single factor (gaming context). In the competitive condition, participants watched gameplay footage of two individuals playing a video game competitively, while those in the cooperative condition watched gameplay footage of two individuals playing the same game cooperatively. After exposure, five dependent variables were examined to see how they differed between the two groups: state hostility, prosocial score, positive affect change, negative affect change, and change in perceived relationship quality. iii Upon initial analysis, only negative affect change was shown to significantly differ between the two conditions. However, this effect was actually due to an interaction between condition and sex. This study also identified that sex, personality, and media usage habits significantly covaried to some degree with all five dependent variables. These covariates provide evidence for how individual differences might influence the effects that result from watching a video game being played in different multiplayer contexts and, as an extension, how individual differences might influence the effects of gaming context in general.