September 24, 2013
Study Explains Risk Factors Associated With Video Game Addiction
[ Watch the Video: Can You Admit To Your Video Game Addiction? ]
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe OnlineEscapism, social interaction and virtual achievements are the primary risk-factors that contribute to potential video game addiction, researchers from the University of Missouri claim in a new study.
“The biggest risk factor for pathological video game use seems to be playing games to escape from daily life,” study author Joseph Hilgard, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science, explained Monday in a statement.
“Individuals who play games to get away from their lives or to pretend to be other people seem to be those most at-risk for becoming part of a vicious cycle,” he added. “These gamers avoid their problems by playing games, which in turn interferes with their lives because they’re so busy playing games.”
These factors spur on problematic habits among adults, no matter if they consider themselves casual gamers or hardcore devotees of the interactive entertainment products, the researchers wrote in a paper published earlier this month in the journal Frontiers In Psychology. They believe that understanding the motives that contribute to these behaviors could help counselors identify and treat video game addicts.
Becoming addicted to video games is more than just playing for inordinate amounts of time, Hilgard and his colleagues explained. True problematic gaming also includes other unhealthy behaviors, such as lying about the amount of time spent playing games and missing work or other obligations due to video gaming.
[ Watch the Video: Risk Factors For Addictive Video Game Use Among Adults ]
“People who play games to socialize with other players seem to have more problems as well,” Hilgard said. “It could be that games are imposing a sort of social obligation on these individuals so that they have to set aside time to play with other players.”
“For example, in games like World of Warcraft, most players join teams or guilds. If some teammates want to play for four hours on a Saturday night, the other players feel obligated to play or else they may be cut from the team. Those play obligations can mess with individuals’ real-life obligations,” he added.
The researchers noted that problematic video game use is not all that different from other addictive behaviors, including alcoholism and drug abuse. All of them can result from poor coping strategies, including gamers who are obsessed with reaching the next level or collecting a certain amount of in-game items.
“When people talk about games being ‘so addictive,’ usually they’re referring to games like Farmville or Diablo that give players rewards, such as better equipment or stronger characters, as they play,” Hilgard said. “People who are especially motivated by these rewards can find it hard to stop playing.”
He added that understanding the reasons why people play video games can help researchers, consumers and game developers better understand what makes certain types of software attractive to certain individuals. Furthemore, Hilgard said that his team found evidence supporting the notion that massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) like the aforementioned World of Warcraft are the most addictive video game genre.
“[MMORPGs] provide opportunities for players to advance levels, to join teams and to play with others,” he said. “In addition, the games provide enormous fantasy worlds that gamers can disappear into for hours at a time and forget about their problems. MMORPGs may be triple threats for encouraging pathological game use because they present all three risk factors to gamers.”
“Consistent with previous research, we did not find a perfect relationship between total time spent playing games and addictive video game behaviors,” added study co-author Christopher Engelhardt, a postdoctoral research fellow in the MU Department of Health Psychology. “Additionally, other variables, such as the proportion of free time spent playing video games, seem to better predict game addiction above and beyond the total amount of time spent playing video games.”