THURSDAY, Jan. 10 (HealthDay News) -- A new survey challenges
the notion that avid video gamers are antisocial loners. On the
contrary, the findings suggest that gaming is actually a way to
stay connected with friends and strengthen, rather than weaken,
The Pennsylvania researchers set out to gauge the habits and
attitudes of regular gamers as well as the social interaction that
group play engenders.
"In general, we were interested in how engagement with video games is related with perceptions of social support, based on the common belief that playing video games is socially isolating," explained study lead author Benjamin Hickerson, an assistant professor in the department of recreation, parks and tourism management at Penn State in University Park, Pa.
Responses from 166 gamers revealed that "if a player organized
their life around video games they were more likely to report lower
perceptions of social support," noted Hickerson. But, "if they felt
they played games for mostly social reasons, they were more likely
to report increased perceptions of social support."
The effect of video games on behavior has triggered much
research, and mass shootings in the United States -- from Columbine
to the recent massacre of schoolchildren and teachers in Newtown,
Conn. -- continue to reignite that debate. So far, studies have
found an association between ultra-violent games and aggression,
but not a cause-and-effect relationship, according to background
information in the study.
For their study, published in the current issue of
Society and Leisure, Hickerson and colleague Andrew Mowen
questioned people waiting outside two Pennsylvania stores for a
nighttime release of a new version of "Call of Duty," a popular
shooter video game. As such, participants were deemed to be avid
gamers. The respondents were overwhelmingly male with an average
age of 21.
Among other things, all were asked to rank the degree to which
they felt that gaming was central to their lives; how much money
they spent on games a year; how much time they spent gaming a week;
how much pleasure they derived from playing; and how much of their
sense of identity was intertwined with gaming activities. Gaming's
social role was also examined, with players asked to discuss
gaming's place in their friends' lives, and whether gaming was a
key and enjoyable topic of conversation in their social circle.
The result: Although those polled played video games more than
20 hours per week on average and spent more than $200 on games per
year, Hickerson and Mowen found no apparent connection between
social "success" and the amount of time or money gamers spent on
gaming. In other words, those who played more and spent more did
not say that they felt more disconnected from their friends than
those who played/spent less.
whya gamer played did seem to affect friendship quality,
with socialization suffering among those who made gaming the
central feature of their lives.
By contrast, many of those surveyed viewed gaming, particularly
multi-player gaming, as a leisure-time activity spent with friends.
And such gamers were found to have "increased perceptions of social
support," said Hickerson.
"Emphasizing the social nature of games may increase the social outcomes associated with playing and decrease use in isolation," he suggested.
David Ewoldsen, a professor in the school of communications at
Ohio State University in Columbus, said the findings "don't
surprise me at all."
He said, "The stereotype of the lone gamer is something I've
been fighting for a long time. Because in our surveys we found that
the number one motivation for why people play games is social
interaction. It's the social component of games that is the big
The bottom line, Ewoldsen added, "is that it's not what you play
but how you play the game that's important."
For instance, a lot of research has linked violent video games
with aggression, he said. "But at the same time we have found that
when people play in teams, in teams in cooperation against a
computer, the cooperative behavior while gaming translates into
cooperative behavior in real life," Ewoldsen said.
It's a very complex issue, he added. "And hopefully this study
will help to broaden perspective on this activity."
OnGuard Online has advice for parents about
kids and video games.
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