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Mindfulness and Video Game Play: A Preliminary Inquiry

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IntroductionMindfulness is a property of consciousness which isbeginning to receive considerable attention from psychol-ogists. It has been described as a non-elaborative, non-judgmental, present-centered awareness where all thoughtsand feeling are acknowledged and accepted (Bishop et al.2004). In a state of mindfulness, attention is regulated suchthat increased awareness is brought to the current field ofthoughts, feelings, and sensations, in addition to beimmersed non-judgmentally in the present moment. Thisstate of mind promotes a state of increased psychologicalacceptance which is the key therapeutic benefit of mind-fulness when used to treat problems of anger, stress, or evenpain (Tusaie & Edds 2009; Wright, Day & Howells 2009).Eastern meditative traditions suggest that being presentto the moment is the foundational idea in the developmentof consciousness (Holzel & Ott 2006). This function ofconscious attention has recently been focused upon byWestern psychologists who view it as a cognitive style(Sternberg 2000). Some of this interest may be due topresent-centered awareness being the hallmark of mindful-ness and various associations between mindfulness andwell-being have been identified. For instance, increasingmindfulness has been the cornerstone of several therapiesaimed at preventing substance-abuse relapse, reducingstress and anxiety, and even aiding in dialectical behaviortherapy (Brown & Ryan 2003). More directly, mindfulnessis useful in disengaging individuals from automaticthoughts, habits, and unhealthy behavior patterns therebyfostering a more self-endorsed and informed behavioralregulation (Baer, Smith, & Allen 2004). Along the samelines, mindfulness meditation has been linked to many ofthe basic elements of positive psychology through theenhancement of metacognitive skills and positively chang-ing mental schemas related to emotion, health, and illness(Hamilton, Kitzman, & Guyotte 2006). Finally, emergingresearch hints that mindfulness may have a significantpositive effect on combating mental illness (Orzech 2009).Several researchers have also noted an associationbetween scores on mindfulness scales and psychologicalabsorption (Baer et al. 2004; Brown & Ryan 2003; Holzel& Ott 2006). The findings are mixed such that with a shortmindfulness scale, Brown and Ryan found an inverserelationship to absorption. The other two research groupsfound a positive relationship between the two constructs,when using longer scales designed to examine facets ofmindfulness. Perhaps, a key difference between themeasures used by these groups is that the scale used byBrown and Ryan (the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale(MAAS)) assesses individual differences in the frequencyof mindful states over time. Whereas the modifiedKentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS) usedby Baer et al. and the custom scales used by Holzel andOtt, are multifaceted measures which asses overallmindfulness. While the frequency of mindful episodesdiffers among individuals, so does the intensity—and thisis an important metric.Episodes of heightened mindfulness are the primary goalof traditional eastern yoga (Salmon, Lush, Jablonski, andSephton 2009). However, the same characteristics of amindful experience can be elicited from a variety of highlycognitively engaging tasks. For instance, "flow" is a termused to describe the subjective mental state of elite athletes
Content may be subject to copyright.
Mindfulness and Video Game Play: A Preliminary Inquiry
Jayne Gackenbach & Johnathan Bown
Published online: 15 February 2011
#
Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011
Introduction
Mindfulness is a property of consciousness which is
beginning to receive considerable attention from psychol-
ogists. It has been described as a non-elaborative, non-
judgmental, present-centered awareness where all thoughts
and feeling are acknowledged and accepted (Bishop et al.
2004). In a state of mindfulness, attention is regulated such
that increased awareness is brought to the current field of
thoughts, feelings, and sensations, i n addition to be
immersed non-judgmentally in the present moment. This
state of mind promotes a state of increased psychological
acceptance which is the key therapeuti c benefit of mind-
fulness when used to treat problems of anger, stress, or even
pain (Tusaie & Edds 2009 ; Wright, Day & Howells 2009).
Eastern meditative traditions suggest that being present
to the moment is the foundational idea in the development
of consciousness (Holzel & Ott 2006). This function of
conscious attention has recently been focused upon by
Western psychologists who view it as a cognitive style
(Sternberg 2000). Some of this interest may be due to
present-centered awareness being the hallmark of mindful-
ness and various associations between mindfulness and
well-being have been identified. For instance, increasing
mindfulness has been the cornerstone of several therapies
aimed at preven ting substance-abuse relap se, reducing
stress and anxiety, and even aiding in dialectical behavior
therapy (Brown & Ryan 2003). More directly, min dfulness
is useful in disengaging individuals from automatic
thoughts, habits, and unhealthy behavior patterns thereby
fostering a more self-endorsed and informed behavioral
regulation (Baer, Smith, & Allen 2004). Along the same
lines, mindfulness meditation has been linked to many of
the basic elements of positive psychology through the
enhancement of metacognitive skills and positively chang-
ing mental schemas related to emotion, health, and illness
(Hamilton, Kitzman, & Guyotte 2006). Finally, emerging
research hints that mindfulness may have a significant
positive effect on combating mental illness (Orzech 2009).
Several researchers have also noted an association
between scores on mindfulness scales and psychological
absorption (Baer et al. 2004; Brown & Ryan 2003; Holzel
& Ott 2006). The findings are mixed such that with a short
mindfulness scale, Brown and Ryan found an inverse
relationship to absorption. The other two research groups
found a positive relationship between the two constructs,
when using longer scales designed to examine facets of
mindfulness. Perhaps, a key difference between the
measures used by these groups is that the scale used by
Brown and Ryan (the Mindful Attention Awareness Scale
(MAAS)) assesses individual differences in the frequency
of mindful states over time. Whereas the m odified
Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS) used
by Baer et al. and the custom scales used by Holzel and
Ott, are multifaceted measures which a sses overall
mindfulness. While the frequency of m indful episodes
differs among individuals, so does the intensityand this
is an important metric.
Episodes of heightened mindfulness are the primary goal
of traditional eastern yoga (Salmon, Lush, Jablonski, and
Sephton 2009). However, the same charact eristics of a
mindful experience can be elicited from a variety of highly
cognitively engaging tasks. For instance, "flow" is a term
used to describe the subjective mental state of elite athletes
J. Gackenbach (*)
:
J. Bown
Department of Psychology, Grant MacEwan University,
10700-104 Ave,
Edmonton, AB T5J 4S2, Canada
e-mail: gackenbachj@macewan.ca
Mindfulness (2011) 2:114122
DOI 10.1007/s12671-011-0049-2
during peak performance. It can be elicited when there is a
balance between challenge and skill, and it includes increased
awareness, a sense of calm control, and absorption in the
present activityall of which are linked to mindfulness
(Marks 2008). Mental states of flow, being related to
mindfulness, can likely be found in numerous activities
requiring focus, commitment, and skill (Csikszentmihalyi &
LeFevre 1989).Onesuchactivityofparticularrelevanceto
this study is video game playing, which has been reported to
induce flow-like states of mind (Brockmyer et al. 2009;
Dickey 2005). Several researchers, including Sherry 2004,
have offered theoretical models of computer use and video
game play embracing flow (Finneran & Zhang 2003;
Sharafi, Hedman, & Montgomery 2006). Interestingly,
Sherry (2004) pointed out in his discussion that, some
might comment that Csikszentmihalyi seemed to have
video games in mind when he developed the concept of
flow (p. 339).
Several video gam e researchers have fou nd such a
relationship. Voiskounsky, Mitina, and Avetisova (2004),
Choi and Kim (2004), and Chou and Ting (2003) noted a
positive relationship between video game play and the
experience of flow. Chou and Ting examined self-reports of
flow on a scale they developed among the membership of
virtual communities devoted to Internet games (p. 666).
Using the same scale developed by Chou and Ting,
Gackenbach 2008a found that f requent game players
reported more flow experiences while playing video games
along several dimensions than did infrequent players.
Sherry (2004) noted that video games possess ideal
characteristics to create and maintain flow experiences ...
Games that facilitate flow are likely to be adopted whereas
games that dont create flow are likely to be discarded
(p. 340). This quote echoes Csikszentmihalyi, Abuhamdeh,
and Nakamuras(2005) point regarding how flow mediates
the selection of cultural artifacts. It is not surprising then that
game developers strive to design games that will produce
flow. This quote from a gamer illustrates their potential to
elicit flow: "You almost zone out, Your mind just goes on
autopilot and you just become one with the system ...
Sometimes, you can't believe the moves you're making"
(McLean 2005, para. 19).
A central aspect of flow is absorption, which was
defined by Tellegen and Atkinson (1974)asa disposition
for having episodes of total attention that fully engage
ones representational (i.e., perceptual, enactive, imagina-
tive, and ideational) resources (p. 268). The virtual reality
(VR) literature uses the term immersion rather than
absorption. But, in order to define immersion, we must
first define presence. Presence is simply a dimension which
measures conscious experience, and awareness, of the
present moment. However, it also indicates the subjective
experience of being in a specific place even if one is not
physically situated there (Lombard & Ditton, 1997). In this
sense, presence is a measure which is well suited for
discussing virtual environments. Immersive tendency is the
likelihood for an individual to experience presence (Witmer
& Singer 1998 ), and this term is typically used in the
context of VR. Not surprisingly, high-end video game
players have been found to report more presence and
immersion (Nowak, Krinar & Farrar 2008;Persky&
Blacovich 2008).
While a conceptual line can be drawn from the attention/
absorption aspect of mindfulness to gaming, the question
remains, what about the men tal health associations to
mindfulness? The stereotype of gamers is that they are
aggressive and addicted. While there is literature saying
that gaming can lead to aggression (Anderson & Dill 2000)
and addiction (Griffiths & Meredith 2009), it is simplistic to
claim all who game become aggressive and addicted. In
fact, there is an emerging body of work showing that
gaming has positive mental health consequences. The most
often cited work is the enhanced cognitive functions (Boot,
Kramer, Simons, Fabiani, & Gratton 2008). There are
psychosocial benefits as well. For instance, Dur kin and
Barber 2002 noted that, On several measures-including
family closeness, activity involvement, positive school
engagement, positive mental health, substance use, self-
concept, friendship network, and disobedience to parents-
game players scored more favorably than did peers who
never played computer games (p. 373).
On a physiological level, and more directly related to the
hypothesized mindfulnessgaming connection, Russoniello,
OBrien and Parks (2009) found, Electroencephalography
(EEG) changes during game play were consistent with
increased mood and corroborated findings on psychological
reports. Moreover, heart rate variability (HRV) changes
were consistent with autonomic nervous system relaxation
or decreased physical stress. In some cases CVGs [casual
video games] produced different brain wave, heart rate
variability and psychological effects. These finding have
broad implications which include the potential development
of prescriptive interventions using casual video games to
prevent and treat stress related medical disorders (p. 53).
In this research program, we have been investigating
whether video game play may be affecting the conscious-
ness of players. Towards this end, we have found higher lucid
dreaming among gamers (Gackenbach 2006; 2009), more
flow (Gackenbach 2008a), more absorption (Gackenbach
2007), and a single-minded focus on gaming (Gackenbach et
al. 2009). Furthermore, absorption in various forms seems to
be a hallmark of gaming. For instance, high-end gamers
reported a higher degree of presence (i.e., s ense of being
there) in virtual environment s (Wilfred et al. 2004).
Therefore, in an effort to establish that video game play is
potentially associated with mindful states, we have
Mindfulness (2011) 2:114122 115
examined th e relation ship betwe en mindfulne ss and
gaming along with the related variables of immersion
and presence.
In the present inquiry, a total of five questionnaires were
used to assess participantstwo of which attempt to
measure mindfulness directly. These questionnaires were
administered in a variety of settings to individuals varying
in their commitment to gaming. Due to the role of focused
attention in both gaming and mindfulness, it was expected
that hardcore gamers would be more mindful, in general,
than low-end gamers.
Method
Participants
Initially, 384 subjects information was collected. Subjects
who did not provide sufficient video game history information
were deleted from subsequent analysis (n=10). Data was
collected on these inventories from both face-to-face
(F2F; N=250) and online (N=124) sources. The face-to-face
group filled out a packet of questionnaires on paper in a
group setting. The online respondents were drawn in part
from Fragapalooza, which is an annual video game festival
held in Edmonton, Alberta. Gamers affiliated with online
video game communities were also included, as well as those
from local gaming centers. Mass face-to-face testing held at a
western Canadian university for course credit comprised the
majority of the subject pool. Subjects who participated for
course credit could have received the same credit by writing
up a summary of any research from a journal. Thus, there
were options available for receiving credit that did not
involve research participation.
Of these 374 research participants, 173 (46%) were male
and 53% were fema le. A chi-square analysis of sex×sample
(online vs F2F) was significant (χ
2
(1)=100.51, p<0.0001;
male F2F=70, female F2F=179, male online=103, female
online=21). Most were young adults between the ages of 18
and 25 years (85%). Another 29 were 26 to 30 years of age
with the remaining 27 reporting their ages as greater than
30 years. Interestingly, four of these said they were between
46 and 50 years of age. A t test for sample source on age
was not significant (t(372)=0.621).
In terms of education, 242 had some college, with 17
having post-graduate work or degree, and another 75 with
high school or less as their highest amount of education.
A t test for sample on highest education attained was not
significant (t(372)=0.965). All but six listed some occupa-
tion, with 77% (N=287) being students. The nonstudents
were broken down as follows: 53 from various food service,
trade, or labor positions, seven from healthcare positions, six
from law enforcement, security, or military, five unemployed,
four from education positions, two self-identified home-
makers, and two from the video game industry. A chi-square
on sample by occupational category (student versus
nonstudent) was significant (χ
2
(1)=30.38, p<0.0001).
The majority of the students ( N=211) came from the F2F
data collection with 76 students providing information
online. Nonstudent data came roughly equally from F2F
(N=33) and online (N=48). Since the F2F data collection
was all part of mass testing for course credit, the self-
identification of subjects as nonstudents could be due to
their being part-time students. The identificat ion of onl ine
participants as students could be because they we re
graduate students or students involved in gaming activities
but not participating for course credit.
Instruments
Five questionnaires were administered: Video Game History,
Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills, Mindful Attention
Awar enes s during Video Game Play Scale, Immer sive
Tendency Questionnaire, and Presence Questionnaire.
The Video Game History Questionnaire (Gackenbach
2006) is a 32 - it e m sur vey wh ic h gat he rs bac kg r ou nd
information about the participants' lifelong involvement
with video games. Sex, age, education, and occupation
were recorded, as well as gaming session frequencies,
durations, number of games played, and age begun
gaming. Questions about their current favorite and most
frequently played genre of game were included, as well as
which gaming system(s) they own. Also collected was
information regarding whether they socialize during game
play.
The four game group defining variables were frequency
of play, duration of typical play, number of games played in
a lifetime, and age began playing with younger as higher
number. Validity for this general history of game play
questions was determined in terms of their relationship to
questions about their game play immediately prior to the
research participation. The number of games they reported
playing prior to participating in the study was associated
with typical gaming session duration r=0.247, p<0.009
and number of different games played in lifetime r=0.204,
p<0.032. In terms of these four game group defining
variables, length of the prior to r esearch participation
gaming sessions correlated with game frequency r=0.294,
p<0.0001; gaming session durat ion r=0.496, p<0.0001;
and number of different games played in lifetime r=0.325,
p<0.0001). Thus, history of gaming was related in various
ways to actual play behavior in the 24 h prior to filling out the
research inventories.
The Presence Questionnaire (PQ) is a 49-item survey
designed to gauge how much in the game players felt
while playing a recent video game (Witmer & Singer 1998).
116 Mindfulness (2011) 2:114122
This questionnaire required that participants had played any
video game within 24 h prior to filling out the PQ. It
gathered information about which game they played, how
long they played, how often they play it, and their own
explanation of what the objectives were. The remainder of
the questionnaire assessed presence with seven-point Likert
scales. The questions measure presence from several
directions. Some questions address the sense of being
there physically (i.e., How much did it seems as if you
could reach out and touch the objects or people you saw/
heard?), how realistic the game seemed, elicited attempts
to socialize (i.e., How often did you want to or did you
speak to a person you saw/heard in the video game
environment?), and finally, three questions investigating
the audio/video equipment and setting during video game
play. Witmer and Singer (1998) report that the PQ has an
internal reliability of α =0.88. The researchers also con-
clude that the PQ is a valid construct based on the high
correlation between ratings of presence and task perfor-
mance, as well as the high congruity with other question-
naires on variables thought to be associated with presen ce.
The Immersive Tendency Questionnaire (ITQ) is a 29-item
survey which measured the participants' general tendency to
become immersed in activities (Witmer & Singer 1998). The
questionnaire uses a seven-point Likert scale for all questions
except two concerning how many books the participants read
per month and what book genre they prefer. Examples of the
other items are, Are you easily disturbed when working on
atask?, Have you ever remained apprehensive or fearful
long after watching a scary movie? and, How frequently
do you find yourself closely identifying yourself with the
characters in a story line? Other questions ask about the
participant's present mood and health. This scale has a
reported internal consistency of α =0.81 and correlates with
scores on the PQ highly enough for the researchers to deem
it valid.
The Kentucky Inventory of Mindfulness Skills (KIMS)
is a 39-item measurement which is designed to take a
measurement of the participant's general mindfulness
throughout the day (Baer, Smith, & Allen 2004). Each
question is rated on a five-point Likert scale of how much
the participant agrees with a statement. Examples are, I
notice changes in my body such as whether my breathing
slows or speeds up., I tend to evaluate whether my
perceptions are right or wrong. and, When I'm doing
chores, such as cleaning or laundry, I tend to daydream or
think of other things. A number of these items, like the last
example, are worde d such t hat disagreement indicates
mindfulness. The internal consistency, depending on dif-
ferent factor loadings, is between α =0.83 and α=0.91. A
panel of experts (n=11) including practicing psychologists
were presented with a 77-item version of the KIMS and
asked to classify each item into one of four categories of
mindfulness (Observe, Describe, Act with awareness, or
Accept without judgment) as well as rate the fit and quality
of each. On average, 86% of the raters assigned items to the
skills they were written for. The average score for the
quality and fit of these items was 3.65 and 3.61 out of 4.0,
respectively (Baer, Smith, & Allen 2004 ).
Finally, the Mindful Attention Awareness during Video
Game Play Sc ale is a 15-item questionnaire adapted for
video games. This scale was adjusted from the MAAS
developed by Brown and Ryan ( 2003). The original MAAS
was found to have an internal consistency of α =0.89, and a
confirmatory factor analysis found that the single factor
structure provided a good fit to the data; further validity
was comes from the lack of any significant gender differ-
ences (MacKillop & Anderson 2007). The modifications
made to the MAAS were the addition of conditions (i.e.,
while playing a video game) to the statements. Each
question has six responses ranging from "almost always" to
"almost never". Examples of questions are, While playing
a video game I could be experiencing some emotion and
not be conscious of it until sometime later., I tend not to
notice feelings of physical tension or discomfort until they
really grab my attention when playing a video game. and,
Inside the game I do jobs or tasks automatically, without
being aware of what I'm doing. Generally, these questions
measure levels of automatic processing inside and outside
of the game, as wel l as levels of subjective awareness. Each
item response was reversed so that high scores would
indicate mindfulness. The split half reli ability coefficient
for the items converted to mindfulness while playing a
video game was r=0.84, p<0.0001 and Chronbachs alpha
was 0.91 for these 15 items. However, a varimax rotated-
factor analysis on the modified MAAS resulted in three
factors, rather than one as in the original MAAS. For items,
loading above 0.5 these factors were: factor 1 could be
labeled General Mindfulness and included items dealing
with emotions, present time, move quickly, running on
automatic, rush through activity, focus on goal, doing job
automatically; factor 2 could be labeled Real World
Effects and included items dealing with breaking things,
snacking, forgetting names, driving, and past/future focus;
and factor 3 could be labeled Running on Automatic and
included items dealing with listening with one ear, doing a
job automatically, acting automatically, and running on
automatic.
Procedure
Surveys were administered both online and in face-
to-face settings. When mounted online, it was through
surveymethods.com. Online, these surveys were separately
available to research participants. Alias names were asked to
be provided so that data could be matched across surveys.
Mindfulness (2011) 2:114122 117
These were brought to the attention of hard core gamers
in several ways. The link was made available to the
approximately 800 potential participants at a 3-day local
areanetworkcalledFragapaloozainawesternCanadian
city. Posters with the research Web address were placed
in ten local gaming centers (i.e., New Wave Gaming, EB
Games), and research notices were posted online a t
gaming websites (i.e., xbox.com, Sony's PS3 page, World
of Warcraft forums) and on an online listing of psychology
experiments (http://psych.hanover.edu/research).
Surveys were also administered in face-to-face group testing
sessions at a western Canadian university. All potential
participants were informed upon signing up for a testing
session that they were expected to play a video game in the 24 h
prior to reporting for testing. They were asked at the beginning
of one of the paper and pencil measures (i.e., Presence) if they
had played a video game in the 24 h prior to coming to the
testing session and only 112 of the total reported having played
a game. This was differentially distributed across samples
(χ
2
(1)=12.71, p <0.0001; online played=52; online did
not play=72; F2F played =60; F2F did not play=190 ).
Participants were asked if they had any further comments
and their r esponses (total, n =91) we re analyzed to find
additional support for having played a game recently.
Forty comments contained direct reference to the games
or distinct game features; 20 comments indirectly
referenced video ga me fea tures, and the 31 comments
were not related to any specific game (i.e., It was a great
waytorelax.). The five scales along with an informed
consent sheet were packaged insid e an env elope which
the administrator distributed to each participant. Participants
were instructed that they must complete the surveys in 1 h, as
the total package takes only 20 min on average. Aliases were
used in lieu of names on the surveys, and consent sheets were
separated from the completed packages in order to maintain
anonymity.
In all data collection settings, an informed consent was
signed or electronically agreed to prior to the presentation
of the surveys. Following participation, subjects were given
a debriefing statement which included contact information
for the investigators.
Results
The four video game history question responses (frequency
of play, length of play session, number games played, and
age begun gaming, wher e young is a high score) were
converted to Z scores using SPSSs descriptive function.
These scores were given equal weights and then added and
split into thir ds to create upper and lower groups with the
middle third discarded. That left high- (n=124) and low-end
(n=122) gaming groups. They are uneven in order not to
split subject groups for individuals with the same Z score. It
can be seen in Table 1 that high-end gamers scored higher on
each of the defining variables than low-end gamers. In all
cases, high-end gamers reported significantly higher amounts
of each variable. High-end gamers reported on average
playing several times a week while lows rarely played.
Typical playing sessions were 2 to 4 h for high-ends and less
than an hour for lows. Highs said they had played from 50 to
over 100 games and that they began playing between
kindergarten and grade three whereas lows played one to
five different games and began in grades 7 to 9.
Gamer groups were unevenly distributed across samples
(χ
2
(1)=35.629, p<.0001) such that the majority of low-end
gamers were from the F2F sample (N=109; online=15)
while the high-end gamers were fairly evenly distributed
across samples (F2F=68; online=59).
Once the gamer groups were identified, a chi-square
analysis was computed on gamer group by sex, and, as has
most often been the situation when doing research on gamers,
it was significant (χ
2
(10=89.497, p<0.0001). Low-end
gamers were made up of 17 males and 106 females while the
high-end gamer group had 93 males and 34 females. Thus,
sex was used as a second independent variable.
ANOVAs were computed on gamer groups×sex of
subject for each of the scale s of interest. In some cases,
subscale scores were also used. It should be noted that not
all subjects filled out all scales either online or face-to-face.
Thus, cell sizes vary. These tests are summarized in Table 2.
Presence, Immersi on, and some mindfulness showed high
gamer group scores.
The other three subscales and sum score of the Kentucky
Mindfulness Inventory resulted in no gamer group or sex
differences.
The interrelationship between all dependent variables
which evidenced gamer group differences was ascertained
using a Pearson Correlation. This correlation matrix is
portrayed in Table 3. Each correlation between scales uses
data from only high- and low-end gamer groups. These
Table 1 Descriptive statistics on four group defining gaming
variables
Game
Group
Number Mean Standard
deviation
Gaming frequency Low 124 1.61 0.881
High 122 3.00 1.543
Gaming session duration Low 124 1.50 0.644
High 122 3.01 0.966
Different games played Low 124 2.44 0.876
High 122 5.30 1.010
Age of first gaming
experience (high score
means younger)
Low 124 3.46 1.212
High 122 5.00 0.843
118 Mindfulness (2011) 2:114122
correlations validate the inclusion of attention type dependent
variables in this inquiry into mindfulness and gaming.
However, the two mindfulness measures which evidenced
gamer group differences were not significantly related. Both
showed a significant correlation with immersive tendency
scales if stronger for the adapted MAAS scale.
In order to look closer at the gamer group differences,
favorite game genre was considered. While the high/low
gamer groups were defined by four game use variables, all
game genre preferences were collapsed. In point of fact,
there are big differences between game genres. Favorite
game genre was inquired about, and one of these responses
could be chosen: first-person shooter; role playing/strategy;
driving/sports; puzzle/card/board, and none of the above.
While not comprehensive, it did allow an examination of
major genre differences. Barab (2007) provides a compiled
Table 2 ANOVAs (gamer group×sex of subject) and Descriptive Statistics for Significant Scales/Subscales
Scale (subscales) F values Game
group
Number Mean SE
Presence Video game group main effect: F(1, 90)=6.296,
p<0.014, part eta
2
=0.065
Low 46 108.066 12.62
High 48 144.333 7.045
Immersion sum score
a
Video game group main effect: F(1, 184)=9.066,
p<0.003, part eta
2
=0.047
Low 110 110.93 2.433
High 78 120.005 1.78
Immersion
(focus subscale)
Video game group main effect: F(1, 184)=3.175,
p<0.076, part eta
2
=0.017
Low 110 4.570 0.125
High 78 4.846 0.091
Immersion
b
(involvement subscale)
Video game group main effect: F(1, 186)=4.851,
p<0.029, part eta
2
=0.025
Low 111 4.076 0.163
High 79 4.521 0.119
Mindfulness (in-game) F(1, 182)=8.246, p<0.005, part eta
2
=0.043 Low 106 39.884 2.577
High 80 48.765 1.710
Kentucky Mindfulness
c
(acting without judgment subscale)
F(1, 175)=4.661, p<0.032, part eta
2
=0.026 Low 106 2.756 0.148
High 73 3.128 0.097
a
There are items in the Immersion sum score that are not included in either of the subscale scores
b
There was also a main effect for sex of subject (F1, 186)=13.216, p<0.0001, partial eta
2
=0.026; males: N=64, mean=3.931, standard error=0.170;
females: N=126, mean=4.666, standard error=0.110)
c
There was also a main effect for sex of subject (F1, 175)=7.137, p<0.008, partial eta
2
=0.039; males: N=57, mean=2.712, standard error=0.148;
females: N=122, mean=3.172, standard error=0.088)
Coeficient, P value, N 123456
Act without judgment
mindfulness
1 0.176* 0.015 0.194** 0.072 0.112
0.020 0.839 0.009 0.492 0.132
186 176 176 178 94 182
Sum all immersion items but
reading ones
0.176* 1 0.772** 0.807** 0.453** 0.376**
0.020 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
176 189 189 189 92 178
Focus subscale mean
immersion
0.015 0.772** 1 0.472** 0.277** 0.253**
0.839 0.000 0.000 0.007 0.001
176 189 189 189 92 178
Involve subscale mean
immersion
0.194** 0.807** 0.472** 1 0.242* 0.352**
0.009 0.000 0.000 0.019 0.000
178 189 189 191 94 180
Sum of all presence items 0.072 0.453** 0.277** 0.242* 1 0.458**
0.492 0.000 0.007 0.019 0.000
94 92 92 94 95 93
Sum of mindfulness in game
items, all were reversed
0.112 0.376** 0.253** 0.352** 0.458** 1
0.132 0.000 0.001 0.000 0.000
182 178 178 180 93 187
Table 3 Pearson correlation of
all dependent variables which
evidenced gamer group differ-
ences for upper and lower third
gamer group individuals only
*Correlation is significant at the
0.05 level (two-tailed)
**Correlation is significant at
the 0.01 level (two-tailed)
Mindfulness (2011) 2:114122 119
list of definitions of the major game genres. While not
provided to the research participants as they are widely
understood a mong gamers and students, it is provided
herein. They are:
MMORPG Massively multiplayer online role playing
game. EverQuest, AKA EverCrack due to its
supposedly addictive quality, was the first
commercially successful graphics-based
game in this genre. Earlier incarnations were
called MUDs (multi-user dungeons) and
were text-based.
RPG Role playing game. Think Dungeons and
Dragons.
Simulation Permits simulated action in a safe, modeled
user-environment. These often involve
strategy elements as part of the win
condition.
Shooter First-person perspective game that allows
interaction with the environmen t. Most
involve shooting aliens, enemy soldiers, or
the undead. Some now involve other
weapons that cannot be shot such as knives
and hand grenades. These have spawned
motion sickness in millions of players, so
avoid them if you are prone to nausea.
Action/
adventure
Games are portrayed in either 2-D or 3-D
and involve a lot of handeye coordination.
Some people call them button-mashers.
However, they also include games like Myst
and 7th Guest which involve puzzles, video
clues, and no game pad, so this genre is
pretty confusing to define.
Strategy Often turn-based games akin to chess or
checkers with the goal of world domination
through conquest using military or cultural
assimilation tactics or diplomacy.
Puzzle Exactly what it sounds like. These usually
involve solving a puzzle in order to advance.
The puzzles include ciphers, visual spatial
clues, and word or symbol patterns (p. 2).
Specifically, the first and second options, first-person
shooter and role playing/strategy, constitute the typical hard
core gamer preferences, while the third grouping is the
sporting gamer genre. Finally, the last category, puzzle/
card/board, constitutes the classic casual gamer genre.
Individuals who listed none of the above were excluded
from these analyses as were individuals who fell into the
middle third of the game group distribution. It can be seen
in Table 4 that 231research participants were classified
along both variables: gamer group and genre respon se. The
gamer group by game genre chi-square was significant
(χ
2
(2)=45.240, p<0.0001) and is portrayed in Table 4.
It can be seen that, for all genres, there were both high-
and low-end gamer groups represented, if considerably less
often for casual games. Low-end gamers tended to prefer
sport and casual games while high-end gamers preferred the
classic hard core games. Its important to keep in mind that,
while the hard core gamer group had twice as many high-
end gamers, there were still quite a few of the low-end
gamers. This could be because these samples were largely
in college and may not be able to devote the time to gaming
that they did at one point in their lives.
There were not enough subjects per cell to examine
video game group by game genre preference on each
dependent variable. But, correlations between genre prefer-
ences, with hard core genres coded highest, and the
variables which showed gamer group differences were
computed. All but Acting without Judgment from the
Kentucky Mindfulness Inventory and involvement im-
mersion subscales were significantly correlated to genre
preference (immersion sum, r(176)=0.148, p<0.049; immer-
sion focus subscale, r(176)=0.183, p<0.015; presence sum,
r(92)=0.328, p<0.001; mindfulness in game, r(173)=0.211,
p<0.005).
Discussion
While presence and immersion have long been discussed as
relevant to virtual reality experiences and by extension to
video game play (Wilfred et al. 2004), a potentially related
concept of mindfulness has not be investigated. Mind-
fulness conceptualizations originally came from the
meditation literature (Bishop et al. 2004). More recently,
mindfulness has been often associated with well-being
(Brown & Ryan 2003; Hamilton, Kitzman, & Guyotte
2006) as is meditation practice (Alexander et al. 1990)and
gaming (Russoniello, OBrien, & Parks 20 0 9 ). D espit e the
central role of attention and absorption in meditation
(Holzel & Ott 2006), there has been mixed evidence of the
relationship between mindfulness measures and psycho-
logical absorption (Bear et al. 2004;Brown&Ryan2003;
Holzel & Ott 2006). It is that key feature of mindfulness
which drives the focus of this inquiry. That is, we
hypothesized based, in part, on the notion that gaming can
be a type of meditative practice (Gackenbach 2008b), that
due to the absorption needed in meditation, and thus present
in some formulations of mindfulness, we expect video game
Table 4 Game play group by favorite game genre frequencies
Gamer group Hard core games Sport games Casual games
Lows 47 42 25
Highs 98 14 5
120 Mindfulness (2011) 2:114122
play to also be associated with mindfulness through the
mediating variables of immersion/absorption and presence.
Toward this end, we administered two mindfulness scales,
as well as a measure of presence and a measure of immersion,
to individuals who differed in their video game play history.
As expected and previously found by others (Nowak et al.
2008; Persky & Blascovich 2008), those who were high-end
gamers scored significantly higher on immersion and
presence than those who were considered low-end gamers.
There was a split with regard to the two mindfulness scales.
One scale was modified from the MAAS (Brown & Ryan
2003) to address mindfulness during game play, while the
second scale was a broader inquiry (Baer, Smith, & Allen
2004). The same gamer group difference emerged for
responses to the mindfulness during gaming scale, favoring
high-end gamers. However, only one subscale from the
general mindfulness scale (Brown & Ryan 2003), Acting
Without Judgment, was differentially reported as a function
of gaming group favoring high-end gamers.
Because of these different results with the mindfulness
variables, one situation specific and the other more generic,
we refined our analysis by examining game genre preferences.
Genre is a term used to categorize things by a loose set of
criteria. It is widely used in the literary world and media
studies but tends to have no fixed boundaries. Genre applied
to video games has a fundamental difference from other media
applications. Specifically, video game genres have developed
along the lines of the nature of the interactions rather than
visual or auditory differences (Apperle y 2006). Unlike
literary genres, a video game genre is independent of its
game play content (Adams & Rollings 2006). Thus, a first-
person shooter set in the Wild West is comparable to one set
in the far future. Therefore, game genre has been used to
look at game motivation (Tanis & Jansz 2008), addiction
(Huh 2008), and cognitive load (Gackenbach & Rosie 2009).
Two questions in the video game history questionnaire
addressed genre: favorite game and most frequently played
game. Not surprisingly, these are generally related with people
playing what is their most favorite. Herein, we used favorite
genre to further identify gamers. Three broad categories of
genre were identified from these responses: Hard Core Games,
Sport Games, and Casual Games. While low- and high-end
gamer groups fell into each type of genre preference, the
largest group was for the Hard Core Game genre, i.e., first-
person shooter, role playing, or strategy. Hard core video game
genre preference was associated with immersion, presence,
and situationally specific mindfulness. The one general
mindfulness subscale finding as a function of gamer group
differences was not associated with game genre preferences.
This relationship is only preliminary and needs further
inquiry. This study had several limitations. First, all data was
self-report and retrospective. There were two data sources,
online and face-to-face. Although they were given the same
inventories, the reasons for participating may have differed
with the subjects in the face-to-face data collection all getting
course credit, while for only some of the online subjects was
course credit awarded. The situationally specific mindfulness
inventory was adjusted for administration in this study and did
not necessarily reflect the intent of the authors, although the
nature of the items allowed an easy translation to gaming.
Non-response bias was also a problem as the potential number
of participants in online inquiries is very difficult to estimate.
Also, the uneven numbers of responses per questionnaire may
have introduced problems in generalizability.
A final consideration needs to be addressed, and that is the
role of aggression and presence in gaming. Both Persky &
Blascovich (2008) and Nowak et al. 2008 found that their
gamers reported more presence when playing aggressive
games. Likewise, the hard core games selected herein are
those that are typically aggressive. Thus, the associations
found in the correlational analysis may be specific to
aggressive genre preferences, although sport type genres
can be quite aggressive. However, within the model
proposed by Gackenbach 2008b of gaming as a type of
meditative practice, it should be noted that there are a variety
of practices which are physical and defensive in nature (i.e.,
karate) and thus plausibly used in aggressive settings.
In conclusion, we found tentative support for our major
hypothesis that some types of mindfulness are associated
with gaming. Immersion (or absorption) is an individual
difference variable while presence and game genre (i.e.,
aggressive types) are a situational variables which may
mediate the mindfulnessgamer association.
Acknowledg ments We would like to thank Grant MacEwan
University Research Council and The Alberta Association of Colleges
and Technical Institutes for a grant to support this research.
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... Some of these studies approach the topic from a theoretical perspective, and mainly examine the relation between mindfulness and other user experience constructs. For instance, one study showed that mindfulness was positively associated with frequency of game play, length of game play sessions, total number of games played, and the age begun gaming (younger meaning higher scores) (Gackenbach and Bown 2011). Another study investigated the relationship between social anxiety and state mindfulness in online first person shooter (FPS) games (Gavriloff and Lusher 2015). ...
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