Street racing videogames and risk-taking driving: an internet survey of automobile enthusiasts (Vingilis et al., 2013)

Yukari Tanizaki (Azumanga Daioh!) at the driver's seat

Yukari Tanizaki (Azumanga Daioh!) at the driver’s seat

Research on racing videogames is relatively recent and received little attention, I hardly hear any press releases nor videogame news talking about it. The reason is that much of the research was conducted in continental Europe. Peter Fischer (University of Regensburg), Jan Van den Bulck (KU Leuven), and Kathleen Buellens (KU Leuven) published the majority of racing videogame-related articles and it is mostly about its effects on risky driving behaviours, attitudes and thoughts.

An article in Accident Analysis and Prevention was published by Evelyn Vingilis (University of Western Ontario), with Peter Fischer as fifth author, who examined the associations between playing racing games and risk taking driving behaviours among automobile enthusiasts in Ontario.



The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships among risky driving attitudes, self-perceptions as a risky driver, playing of “drive’em up” (which rewarded players for frequent traffic and other violations) and “circuit” racing video games as well as self-reported risky driving through a web-based survey of car and racing club members in relation to a socio-cognitive model of the effects of racing video game playing.


An Internet questionnaire was developed and included: (1) self-perceptions as a risky driver scales (Driver Thrill Seeking and Competitive Attitude Toward Driving); (2) attitudes regarding street racing; (3) street racing video game playing, and (4) self-reported risky driving (Risk-Taking Driving Scale). A sequential logistic regression was performed entering age and driving exposure as control variables in the first block, self-perceptions as a risky driver in the second block, attitudes in the third block and playing “drive’em up” and “circuit” racing games in the last block to examine their effects on self-reported risk-taking driving.


A total of 503 survey respondents were included in the analyses and only 20% reported any risk-taking driving. Higher score on the Competitive Attitude Toward Driving Scale, more positive attitudes toward street racing, and more frequent reported playing of “drive’em up” video games were associated with higher odds on the self-reported Risk-Taking Driving Scale. However, the Driver Thrill Seeking Scale and “circuit” video game playing failed to predict self-reported risk-taking driving.


Self-perceptions as a risky driver, positive attitudes toward risky driving and “drive’em up” street-racing games, but not “circuit” racing games, are associated with increased risk-taking driving. These findings are congruent with experimental studies in which games that reward driving violations increased risk taking, suggesting that risk taking may be a function of type of street racing game played by affecting self-perceptions as a risky driver.

Five days until the deadline for NCA…

Certain media content are risk-glorifiying which promote risky behaviours despite the potential for negative consequences. Television programs like Jackass and many action shows are clear examples of risk glorification. For videogames, racing games are risk-glorifiying as was found in prior research. Although, I am uncertain whether other genres were identified as risk-glorifiying. First-person shooters could be risk-glorifying, but today with multiplayer play some players enjoy the thrills whereas others do not want to risk damaging their kill-to-death ratio. Strategy games is about managing risks and gains, failures in MOBA-type games are not taken lightly by other players. Action adventures (e.g. Grand Theft Auto) might be closer to risk glorification, but also far off from reality when it comes to committing actions, such as doing car stunts on top of a suspension bridge or shooting while driving an ambulance. Nevertheless, studies by Fischer, Beullens and Van den Bulck found correlational and experimental evidence that driving games increase risk taking behaviours (see link).

The experiments found that playing racing games increases one’s attitudes, emotions and behaviours towards driving risk taking. What they subsequently found is that people’s self-perception of being either a careful versus reckless driver underlies their risky driving behaviours. Furthermore, this self-perception is affected by people’s active play in racing games. However, this perception is affected if they played “drive’em up” games, such as Need for Speed or Burnout, which are set in places with traffic rules (i.e., cities) and that they reward traffic violations whereas this is less so with “circuit” games, such as Gran Turismo or Forza Motorsport, which are set in closed places where accuracy is rewarded. I’d like to interject that punishment is different where road accidents in drive’em ups can be resolved in a single button press and still have a chance to win, in contrast to circuits where a similar road accident can cost the race.

The authors sought to examine how these experimental findings would show in community-based research, specifically if the relationship exist in an online of automobile enthusiasts. The authors cautioned that it is possible that risk drivers are attracted to racing games.


Participants: 503 Canadian respondents completed the online survey to various degrees. The median age is 35, 92.4% men, over half are employed. The respondents were emailed the survey through car club and race track websites (134 websites) located in Southern Ontario. The response rate is typically low at 26.1%.


Self-perception as a risky driver: Two scales were used to assess this self-perception. The Driver Thrill Seeking Scale: an 8-item 7-point agreement scale. Example: “I get a real thrill out of driving fast”. Competitive Attitude Toward Driving Scale: a 5-item 4-point agreement scale. Example: “It’s fun to beat other drivers when the light changes”.

Driving attitude: The Attitude Toward Street Racing is a 12-item 7-point agreement scale. Example: “I think it’s OK to race other cars as long as you don’t get caught”.

Racing videogames play: This is assess by asking how often they played the two subgenres (drive’em up and circuit) of racing games on a 6-point frequency scale, from never to almost every day.

Risky driving behaviours: The Risk-Taking Driving Scale is a 7-item 4-point frequency scale. Example: “While driving how often do you see how fast you can drive out of curiosity” or “…test your skills in ways others might find risky”.


The authors conducted a hierarchical logistic regression because responses to the Risk-Taking Driving Scale was heavily skewed in that 20.3% reported any risk taking driving behaviours. Therefore, they recoded the scale on a Yes versus No basis which explains why a logistic regression is used. In this hierarchical logistic regression, 389 respondents data were analyzed as they were the most complete.

In the hierarchical logistic regression, risk driving behaviours is the dependent variable. They added independent variables in various steps. Step 1: age and average hours per week of driving is added. Step 2: The self-perception as a risky driver is added, competitive attitude is significant. Step 3: Driving attitude is added which became significant. Step 4: The driving videogame variables are added, only drive’em up became significant.

The end result of the hierarchical logistic regression analysis is that individuals are more likely to engage in risky driving is their higher level of competitive attitudes in driving, positive attitude towards street racing and higher levels of drive’em up play.


The take home message from this online survey of Canadian automobile enthusiasts is that risky driving behaviours is associated to greater levels of driving competitiveness, positive attitudes to street racing and play drive’em up games. All of these variables are connected to risk glorification, but also (IMO) to glory and dominance.

IMO, the results is similar to Adachi & Willoughby’s (2011) arguments that competitiveness is what drives aggression rather than violent content itself. This study found competitive attitude towards driving as a significant predictor. With the experimental findings showing a causal relationship towards self-perception of being a risky driver, this makes me think if videogames affect players’ risk perceptions which in turn affect aggression.

The study is limited to a correlational relationship and to a population of automobile enthusiasts which were mostly men. Nevertheless, the authors can argue that drive’em up games is a causal factor with results from prior experiments. Another limitation is the use of self-report measures, it is possible that respondents may under-report their driving behaviours. For future studies, the authors suggested replications with different populations, more measures of risky driving and whether playing drive’em up games lead to an increase in risk-taking in road traffic. I heard from a faculty member here at OSU that they will be trying it out with a simulator. I am a bit unfamiliar with the road literature, but will it be interesting to see an association between attitudes towards alcohol consumption, especially if they think they can drive safely while under the influence, and drive’em up  game play along with other driving attitudes, such as competitiveness.


Vingilis, E., Seeley, J., Wiesenthal, D. L., Wickens, C. M., Fischer, P., & Mann, R. E. (2013). Street racing video games and risk-taking driving: An internet survey of automobile enthusiasts. Accident Analysis & Prevention, 50 , 1-7. DOI: /10.1016/j.aap.2012.09.022


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