Study Shows Video Game Players Maintain Strong Social Bonds
December 21, 2012

Study Shows Video Game Players Maintain Strong Social Bonds

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

There´s a common misconception about video gamers and loneliness. Many believe that if you´re glued to the TV screen pounding away on your controller, you are inadvertently distancing yourself from friends and loved ones around you.

However, according to researchers from Penn State University, not all gamers are destined to fall into this lifestyle. They said a lot depends on the role of the game-playing activity in the gamer´s life.

Benjamin Hickerson, an assistant professor of recreation, parks and tourism management at Penn State, said that loneliness in respect to gaming only depends on the level of commitment a person may have in it.

To see how gaming affects the social aspect of a person´s life, Hickerson conducted a study of people who played multi-player, first-person shooter games, such as Call of Duty and Halo. It is these types of games that gamers are most likely to organize their outside life around their gaming activities. And it´s also these types of games that tend to have the biggest effect on negative outcomes of friendships and relationships.

According to the researchers, however, gamers who primarily played these games as a way to reinforce social bonds said they experienced higher levels of social ties and support from their friends.

Hickerson noted that the study, published in the journal Society & Leisure, shows that “video gaming is not always negative.”

“Players may actually be doing something positive when gaming becomes a way for games to connect with friends who they otherwise may not be able to spend time with; especially friends who they are not near geographically,” Hickerson said in a statement.

Multi-player, first-person shooter games allow players to compete online by themselves against other players around the world or with a group of their friends; or they can team up with other players in co-op scenarios. Essentially, these types of games help establish and maintain friendships.

Hickerson and his colleague, Andrew Mowan, used a scale to assess a person´s involvement in leisure activities. Using the scale, they found that some factors, such as deriving pleasure and self-identity from video-gaming, did not significantly affect social ties.

To get data for their study, the researchers surveyed gamers as they waited in line for a late night release of Call of Duty: Black Ops II at two central Pennsylvania video game outlets. Hickerson noted that gamers who attend these late night release gatherings tend to be behaviorally and psychologically committed to the activity.

In all, the researchers handed questionnaires to 175 video game customers asking about their playing habits and attitudes, of which 166 completed and returned them.

The survey asked participants to assess the truth of several statements, such as “I find that a lot of my life is organized around video gaming” and “I invest most of my energy and resources in video gaming.” They were also asked how well they agreed with statements, including “Most of my friends are in some way associated with video gaming” and “I enjoy discussing video gaming with my friends.”

The questionnaire also asked participants to estimate how much time and money they spend on video gaming. On average, the respondents said they spent 20.5 hours per week playing video games and more than $200 per year on video games.

Hickerson noted that some gamers in the survey expressed that they were deeply invested in gaming, both financially and behaviorally. “Some participants indicated they spent more than 100 hours per week on playing games, which is well above the national average,” he added.

Hickerson said the information from the study could help video game designers create games that identify problematic behaviors, such as excessive centrality, and build games with features that help the gamers maintain friendships and relationships.