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Games and Recovery: The Use of Video and Computer Games to Recuperate from Stress and Strain

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The use of video and computer games for recovery purposes was investigated in an online survey of 1614 participants. The data indicate that games are systematically used after exposure to stressful situations and strain, and that recovery experience is a significant facet of the gaming experience. Using structural equation modeling, the relationships among work-related fatigue, daily hassles, social support, coping style, recovery experience, and the use of video and computer games for recovery purposes were tested. Persons who associated stronger recovery experiences with game play used video and computer games more often after stressful and exhausting situations. In addition, participants’ level of work-related fatigue and exposure to daily hassles were both positively associated with the use of games for recovery. Participants with emotion-focused coping style showed a higher tendency to use games for recovery than participants with problem-focused coping style. The relationship between work-related fatigue and game use for recovery purposes was moderated by social support. The stress buffering function of video and computer games was more important for participants receiving less social support. These participants showed a stronger relationship between work-related fatigue and the use of games for recovery than participants receiving more social support. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
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Running head: GAMES AND RECOVERY
Games and Recovery: The Use of Video and Computer Games to Recuperate from Stress and
Strain
Leonard Reinecke
Published in:
Reinecke, L. (2009). Games and recovery: The use of video and computer games to
recuperate from stress and strain. Journal of Media Psychology, 21, 126-142. doi:
10.1027/1864-1105.21.3.126
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Abstract
In an online survey of 1614 participants, the use of video and computer games for
recovery purposes was investigated. The data indicate that games are systematically used after
exposure to stressful situations and strain and that recovery experience is a significant facet of
the gaming experience. Using structural equation modelling, the relations among work-related
fatigue, daily hassles, social support, coping style, recovery experience, and the use of video
and computer games for recovery purposes were tested. Persons who associated stronger
recovery experiences with game play used video and computer games more often after
stressful and exhausting situations. Additionally, participants’ level of work-related fatigue
and exposure to daily hassles were both positively associated with the use of games for
recovery. Participants with emotion focussed coping style showed a higher tendency to use
games for recovery, than participants with problem focussed coping style. The relationship
between work-related fatigue and game use for recovery purposes was moderated by social
support. The stress buffering function of video and computer games was more important for
participants receiving less social support. These participants showed a stronger relation
between work-related fatigue and the use of games for recovery than participants receiving
more social support.
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Games and Recovery: The Use of Video and Computer Games to Recuperate from
Stress and Strain
A growing body of research is concerned with the use of entertaining media as a
means of self-regulation. Media users adapt their usage patterns to their current personal
situation. Individuals who are less satisfied with their lifes and report lower well-being tend to
watch more television than people who report less frustration or stress (Anderson, Collins,
Schmitt, & Smith Jacobvitz, 1996; Espe & Seiwert, 1987; Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 1990;
Morgan, 1984). Evenings of particularly heavy exposure to television are preceded by
significantly lower moods than evenings with only light television viewing (Kubey &
Csikszentmihalyi, 1990). Stressful life events, such as financial problems or interpersonal
conflicts, are associated with increased consumption of comedy and decreased viewing of
news (Anderson, Collins, Schmitt, & Smith Jacobvitz, 1996). Research based on mood
management theory (Zillmann, 1988a; Zillmann, 1988b) consistently demonstrated that media
exposure alters users’ mood and arousal (Bryant & Zillmann, 1984; Zillmann, 1991).
According to mood management theory, media users are hedonistic agents that strive for
pleasurable experiential states by arranging their stimulus environment in terms of
maintaining positive and terminating negative states (Oliver, 2003; Zillmann, 1988a;
Zillmann, 1988b). Psychological escapism, the wish to escape negative moods or to stop
rumination on negative events or unsolved problems, is another important motivation for
television use (Henning & Vorderer, 2001). The results of experimental research suggest that
media exposure can indeed help users to escape negative thoughts about themselves. In an
experimental study, Moskalenko and Heine (2003) revealed that exposure to television led to
significant decreases in self-discrepancies.
In addition to the mass media discussed above, interactive media, especially video and
computer games, are growing in relevance for entertainment research (Vorderer, Bryant,
Pieper, & Weber, 2006). Since the late 1980s the market for video and computer games has
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seen a constant growth in the United States (Williams, 2006a). Compared to the previous
year, computer and video game software sales in the U.S. grew six percent in 2007 to $9.5
billion, and game software sales more than tripled since 1996 (Entertainment Software
Association, 2008). Although research on self-regulation with video and computer games is
limited, some recent studies demonstrated beneficial effects of games on self-regulatory
processes. In a quasi-experiment by Reinecke and Trepte (2008), participants had the chance
to play a computer game after a lengthy text correction task. Participants who played the
computer game subsequently reported significantly higher levels of arousal and performed
significantly better in a concentration test, than participants who did not play the game.
Furthermore, data provided by Ryan, Rigby, and Pryzbylski (2006) suggest that video and
computer games contribute to well-being by satisfying users’ need for autonomy and
competence.
Taken together, the above cited research indicates that exposure to entertaining media
has a high potential to alter individuals’ affective and cognitive states. Entertaining media
seem to play a crucial role in many people’s everyday lifes and are actively used to recuperate
from emotional and cognitive exhaustion. Although all of the studies reported above touch
upon certain aspects of what is termed recovery in working psychology (Sonnentag & Fritz,
2007), a systematic approach to investigate the recovery potential of entertaining media has
not been undertaken yet (Klimmt, 2008).
The aim of the present study is to explore the recovery potential of video and
computer games and to test the usefulness of the theoretical concept of recovery for media
research. The subsequent section gives an introduction to the psychological concept of
recovery and a review of research on the recovery process. Afterwards, potential contributions
of video and computer games to recovery are discussed, and intervening variables are
introduced.
The Recovery Process and Recovery Experience
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In everyday life, especially in the context of work, people are confronted with
numerous demands that make it necessary to allocate mental and physical resources to a task
at hand. This exertion of resources and energy leads to strain reactions, which are associated
with psychological and physiological fatigue and low positive affect (Fuller et al., 2003, p.
331; Rook & Zijlstra, 2006; Sluiter, van der Beek, & Frings-Dresen, 1999). Recovery refers to
the processes opposite to stress and strain and can be understood as “the process of
replenishing depleted resources or rebalancing suboptimal systems” (Sonnentag & Zijlstra,
2006, p. 331). To recover from job stress or other forms of strain, we need phases of rest that
allow us to renew the physical and psychological resources that were utilized in the preceding
situation. Consumed resources can return to a normal baseline level once the individual is no
longer confronted with the demands of a task (Craig & Cooper, 1992; Meijman & Mulder,
1998). Additionally, gaining new internal resources such as energy, self-efficacy, the feeling
of control, or a positive mood supports the recovery process (Hobfoll, 1989; Hobfoll, 1998;
Hobfoll & Shirom, 1993). Consequently, our lifes are organized in cycles of work and rest
(Zijlstra & Sonnentag, 2006). Leisure time and recreational activities are crucial for a
successful recovery process (Fritz & Sonnentag, 2006; Rook & Zijlstra, 2006; Sonnentag,
2001; Sonnentag & Zijlstra, 2006; Westman & Eden, 1997). Unsuccessful or insufficient
recovery and accumulated work strain are associated with a heightened risk of health
problems (Sluiter, de Croon, Meijman, & Frings-Dresen, 2003; van Amelsvoort, Kant, &
Swaen, 2003).
Summarizing the existing research on the recovery process, Sonnentag and Fritz
(2007) identified four distinct aspects of the recovery experience:
a) Psychological detachment from work. Negative reflections and rumination about
work related issues during leisure time have detrimental effects on well-being, sleep quality,
and recovery (Fritz & Sonnentag, 2006; Rook & Zijlstra, 2006; Sonnentag & Bayer, 2005).
Psychological detachment from work refers to “the individuals sense of being away from the
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work situation” (Etzion, Eden, & Lapidot, 1998, p. 579) and to “disengage oneself mentally
from work” (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007, p. 205). Successful psychological detachment from
work is related to positive affect, lower fatigue, and lower physiological activation
(Brosschot, Gerin, & Thayer, 2006; Sonnentag & Bayer, 2005; Sonnentag, Binnewies, &
Mojza, 2008; Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007).
b) Relaxation. Work stress and time pressure can lead to heightened physiological and
psychological activation that does not stop immediately after the work demands are absent
(Meijman & Mulder, 1998). Such “spillover” or after effects can last for several hours after
returning home from work (Frankenhäuser, 1980; Meijman, Mulder, van Dormolen, &
Cremer, 1992). Since positive mood states are associated with reduced tension and high
energy (Thayer, Newman, & McClain, 1994), “slow unwinding” (Frankenhäuser, 1980, p.
213) negatively affects mood and well being. Relaxation is negatively related to work-induced
fatigue and positively related to life satisfaction and serenity (Sonnentag, Binnewies, &
Mojza, 2008; Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007).
c) Mastery experiences. Activities that provide challenge and learning opportunities in
other, not work-related domains help to build up important internal resources, e.g.,
competencies and self-efficacy (Hobfoll, 1998) which support the recovery process. The
beneficial influence of mastery experiences is confirmed by a study of Fritz and Sonnentag
(2006) that demonstrated that mastery experiences during vacation were positively linked to
recovery at the end of the holidays. Furthermore, Sonnentag, Binnewies and Mojza (2008)
found a positive correlation between mastery experience during the afternoon and high levels
of energy the next morning.
d) Control. Control is another valuable resource in the process of recovery (Hobfoll &
Shirom, 1993). The feeling of control itself adds to the experiences of mastery and to self-
efficacy (Bandura, 1997; Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007). Additionally, control during leisure time
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is an important precondition that enables individuals to choose the specific off-job activities
they prefer, and thus to engage in successful recovery (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007).
As mentioned before, the concept of recovery experience shows a number of parallels
to media effects theories that are directed at the self-regulatory use of entertaining media.
Research on media use as a form of psychological escapism which tries to explain exposure to
entertaining media as an attempt to escape from negative feelings and problems of everyday
life (Henning & Vorderer, 2001; Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) well connects to the
recovery experience of psychological detachment. Additionally, data gathered in studies
based on mood management theory demonstrate that media exposure alters mood and arousal
(Bryant & Zillmann, 1984; Zillmann, 1991) and thus shows a strong connection to the
recovery facet of relaxation. The concept of recover, however, goes beyond the
aforementioned theories in two important ways: 1) While existing media effects theories tend
to focus on isolated aspects of self-regulation (e.g. psychological detachment in research on
escapism or relaxation in research on mood management) the recovery concept allows
considering multiple forms of self-regulation at the same time. 2) In contrast to escapism and
mood management theory which primarily conceptualize media use as the attempt to end
aversive emotional or cognitive states, the recovery concept additionally addresses the
restoration of resources, such as energy, self-efficacy, or the feeling of control (Sonnentag &
Fritz, 2007). Therefore, the recovery concept goes beyond the short term cognitive and
emotional effects addressed by escapism and mood management theory and can serve as a
theoretical basis to approach long-term effects of media exposure on fatigue, well-being, and
psychological as well as physical health status.
In the following section, the potential of video and computer games to contribute to
the recovery process and to evoke the four facets of recovery experience outline above will be
discussed.
The Recovery Potential of Video and Computer Games
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Games and psychological detachment. Mental disengagement is a key component of
recovery. Their high degree of interactivity makes games a promising activity for
psychological detachment. In contrast to other entertainment media (e.g. television) video and
computer games demand active participation of their users (Grodal, 2000). The gaming
experience is characterized by a “continuous exchange between players and the game
software” (Klimmt & Hartmann, 2006, p. 137), and each player input is followed by an
immediate reaction, generated by the gaming software. Video and computer games typically
consist of a high number of such “input-output-loops” (Klimmt & Hartmann, 2006, p. 137).
Accordingly, the task structure of video and computer games forces the users to focus their
full attention on the game. This makes video and computer games a highly immersive media
environment (Tamborini & Skalski, 2006; Vorderer, Hartmann, & Klimmt, 2006) with a high
“intervention potential” (Bryant & Davies, 2006, p. 185). Accordingly, video and computer
games demand the full cognitive capacity of an individual and do not leave much room for
thoughts that are not directed to the gaming environment. Furthermore, the use of games is
often associated with a strong experience of spatial presence (Ravaja et al., 2004; Ravaja &
Saari, 2004; Tamborini & Skalski, 2006), i.e., “the sensation of being physically situated
within the spatial environment portrayed by the medium” (Wirth et al., 2007, p. 497).
Accordingly, video and computer games can be considered an active form of media
entertainment that demands the user’s full concentration and at the same time transports the
user’s thoughts and feelings into the game world. This intense interaction with the gaming
environment leaves very little room for other cognitive processes, and games should therefore
provide an effective way of escaping negative cognitions or ruminations on stress-inducing
events. This potential to foster psychological detachment is further strengthened by game
content. Games are often played to take over new roles (Bessière, Seay, & Kiesler, 2007) and
to explore fictional worlds (Sherry, Lucas, Greenberg, & Lachlan, 2006; Yee, 2006). Hence,
the content and narratives of games provide the opportunity to take a break from everyday life
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and to escape stress, problems, and negative affect. In sum, the aforementioned characteristics
of games strongly support the assumption that video and computer games can significantly
contribute to the recovery process by eliciting psychological detachment.
Games and relaxation. Although playing video and computer games is frequently
associated with a rise in psychophysiological arousal (Ballard & Wiest, 1996; Grodal, 2000;
Ravaja, Saari, Salminen, Laarni, & Kallinen, 2006; Reinecke & Trepte, 2008), users ascribe a
relaxing effect to games (Sherry, Lucas, Greenberg, & Lachlan, 2006; Yee, 2006). Increases
in arousal on the one hand, and feelings of relaxation on the other hand, may seem
contradictory, but are a common phenomenon that has also been described for other arousing
or activating activities, such as sports and physical activities. Relaxing effects of physical
activities have been studied extensively during the last decades. Research consistently reveals
decreases in state anxiety and tension subsequent to physical activities (Russle et al., 2003;
Taylor, Sallis, & Needle, 1985; Thayer, Newman, & McClain, 1994). This relaxing effect of
physical activities has been attributed to distraction from stress or anxiety-inducing stimuli
(Russle et al., 2003; Taylor, Sallis, & Needle, 1985). Following this rationale, the relaxing
effect of video and computer games can be considered a consequence or by-product of their
potential to foster psychological detachment. As discussed above, games have a high potential
to focus the player’s attention on the game and to create a high degree of immersion. Research
on non-interactive entertaining media has demonstrated that media message with a high
ability to absorb respondents effectively reduce heightened levels of arousal and facilitate
unwinding by stopping negative cognitions and ruminations (Zillmann, 1991). Accordingly,
as video and computer games are a very absorbing media environment, they are likely to
foster feelings of relaxation and to support recovery from stress and strain.
Games and control. In contrast to non-interactive media, users of video and computer
games have the ability to control the progress of events in the game (Grodal, 2000; Klimmt &
Hartmann, 2006). Unlike other entertaining media, such as movies, which have a
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predetermined plot and ending, in video and computer games the protagonists fate lies solely
in the hands of the player (Klimmt, Rizzo, Vorderer, Koch, & Fischer, 2009). The progress of
the game largely depends on the players decisions. The player manipulates the game
environment, and all user actions result in immediate feedback from the gaming software.
Consequently, the experience of effectance, the feeling to have an effect on the game
environment, is an integral part of the gaming experience (Klimmt & Hartmann, 2006;
Klimmt, Hartmann, & Frey, 2007). Players can experience the consequence of their decisions
and actions without delay and take over the role of causal agents within the game environment
(Klimmt & Hartmann, 2006). Furthermore, apart from user actions during gameplay, many
games provide additional opportunities to exert control, e.g. by choosing or creating an avatar
or choosing among different mission or quests. In sum, video and computer games assign an
active role to the player and offer extensive opportunities to exert control over the gaming
environment. They provide a feeling of autonomy (Ryan, Rigby, & Przybylski, 2006) and can
therefore be expected to contribute to the recovery process by fostering feelings of control
during leisure time.
Games and mastery. Video and computer games provide a context for personal
accomplishments. Challenge and competition are key aspects of the gaming experience
(Hartmann & Klimmt, 2006; Klimmt, Hartmann, & Frey, 2007; Sherry, Lucas, Greenberg, &
Lachlan, 2006; Vorderer, Hartmann, & Klimmt, 2006). In most games, players are either
confronted with opponents they have to compete with or with problems and riddles they have
to solve. As the progress of the game depends on the players actions, all successes are
directly attributable to the players’ skills. Furthermore, most games provide precise feedback
on the players’ performance in form of high-scores or status reports on the players’ avatar
(e.g. energy level). While successfully proceeding through the game, players are confronted
with a series of local achievements (Grodal, 2000) which leads to a feeling of mastery of the
game (Klimmt & Hartmann, 2006). To foster feelings of mastery, the level of difficulty is
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usually raised gradually over the course of the game (Sherry, 2004). This way, players are
confronted with optimal levels of challenge throughout the game. Increasing performance and
the rewarding experience of coping with the growing demands of the game contribute to a
feeling of mastery and competence (Grodal, 2000; Klimmt, Hartmann, & Frey, 2007; Ryan,
Rigby, & Przybylski, 2006). Consequently, video and computer games provide ample
opportunities for mastery experiences and thus are likely to facilitate recover.
As illustrated above, playing video and computer games could to contribute to all four
facets of recovery experience identified by Sonnentag and Fritz (2007) and might therefore
facilitate the recovery process. Players are likely to use games with the intention of recovering
from exhausting situations, stress, and strain. Moreover, the motivation to use games for
recovery should depend on the strength of the recovery experience associated with game play.
Players who have a strong recover experience when playing games will show a higher
disposition to use games for recovery than players who experience less recovery when playing
games. This expectation is expressed in the first hypothesis:
H1: The subjective recovery experience associated with gameplay is positively related
to the use of video and computer games for recovery from stress and strain.
Individuals differ substantially in their level of chronic work-related fatigue (van
Veldhoven & Broersen, 2003). A high degree of workload and unfavorable job characteristics
are predictors of work-related fatigue (Sluiter, van der Beek, & Frings-Dresen, 1999;
Sonnentag & Zijlstra, 2006; van Veldhoven & Broersen, 2003). Work-related fatigue is
negatively related to well-being (Sonnentag & Zijlstra, 2006) and is a significant predictor of
health complaints (Sluiter, de Croon, Meijman, & Frings-Dresen, 2003). As high job strain
leads to stronger strain reactions such as rumination about work-related issues and reduced
feelings of control during leisure time (Cropley & Millward Purvis, 2003), individuals who
suffer from high levels of work-related fatigue can be expected to have a stronger motivation
to engage in recovery-related activities during leisure time. Hence, hypothesis two predicts
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that the recovery function of games will be more relevant to people with a higher level of
work-related fatigue:
H2: Work-related fatigue is positively related to the use of games for recovery from
stress and strain.
Job related strain and fatigue are not the only sources of stress. Daily hassles, i.e., “the
irritating, frustrating, distressing demands that to some degree characterize everyday
transactions with the environment” (Kanner, Coyne, Schaefer, & Lazarus, 1981, p. 3), are
another significant contributor to an individual’s stress level. Daily hassles can take many
different forms, including interpersonal events such as arguments with friends or family, as
well as annoying practical problems such as losing things or financial concerns. Daily hassles
are related to negative affect, health impairments, and psychological distress (Chamberlain &
Zika, 1990; DeLongis, Folkman, & Lazarus, 1988; Lu, 1991; Serido, Almeida, & Wethington,
2004). While the early stress research was primarily focused on major life events such as
divorces, accidents or serious illness as sources of stress (Kanner, Coyne, Schaefer, &
Lazarus, 1981), daily hassles are considered an independent and significant source of
individual stress in contemporary stress research (Chamberlain & Zika, 1990; Serido,
Almeida, & Wethington, 2004). Similar to work-related fatigue, daily hassles may also
enhance the relevance of recovery for the individual. Consequently, the recovery function of
video and computer games can be assumed to be more attractive to persons with high
exposure to daily hassles:
H3: Exposure to daily hassles is positively related to the use of games for recovery
from stress and strain.
Apart from the differences in individual stress levels, research on stress and recovery
has revealed individual differences in how people approach problems and stressors: People
apply different strategies and have access to different resources to react to problems and
stress-evoking situations, which in turn affects the course and outcome of the recovery
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processes. In the next sections, the consequences of individual differences in coping style and
coping resources for the use of games for recovery purposes will be discussed.
Coping Style and the Use of Computer Games for Recovery
Coping can be defined as “constantly changing cognitive and behavioral efforts to
manage specific external and/or internal demands that are appraised as taxing or exceeding
the resources of the person” (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, p. 141). Accordingly, coping refers
to actions and strategies applied by an individual to react to stress and problem situations.
Although the coping and recovery concepts certainly show some interrelations, both concepts
are not identical. While coping refers to the dealing with a specific stressor, recovery goes
beyond this and addresses the way individuals restore their internal resources (Sonnentag &
Fritz, 2007). Accordingly, recovery refers to activities that allow individuals to regain
consumed energy after work, stress, and strain, while coping primarily describes the
individual’s direct reaction to a given stressor. For the present study, however, a specific
aspect of coping theory appears to be promising to foster our understanding of the use of
video and computer games as a recovery resource: Coping styles. Coping theories differ in
their assumptions about the stability and generality of coping behavior. While some empirical
studies asses coping under specific situational conditions, most refer to coping in terms of
trait-like, individual coping styles, i.e., an individual’s stable preference for certain coping
strategies across different situations (Schwarzer & Schwarzer, 1996). Recovery activities can
be seen as the manifestation of a person’s efforts to cope with stress (Sonnentag & Fritz,
2007). Therefore, a person’s coping style might influence the preference for specific recovery
activities. Accordingly, the relevance of video and computer games as a recovery resource
might depend on a person’s coping style. During the last decades, several different theoretical
approaches to coping behavior and coping styles have been developed in the field of
psychology (Schwarzer & Schwarzer, 1996). Lazarus and Folkman (1984) introduced two
different types of coping styles, emotion-focused and problem-focused coping style. These
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two factors are still part of most contemporary theories of coping styles (Folkman &
Moskowitz, 2004). Emotion-focused coping refers to coping strategies that aim at “regulating
emotional responses to the problem” (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, p. 150), and is primarily
directed at reducing emotional distress caused by a problem or stressful situation. Emotion-
focused coping encompasses strategies such as avoidance, distancing, or reappraisal of a
stressor. In contrast, problem-focused coping refers to strategies oriented towards “managing
or altering the problem causing the distress” (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984, p. 150). This cluster
of coping strategies includes efforts directed at defining the problem, generating alternative
solutions, and choosing among different ways of problem solving.
The individual predisposition for emotion-focused or problem-focused coping style is
likely to influence the frequency of the use of video and computer games for recovery. In
most instances, playing games does not offer a direct solution to a given problem. Instead,
playing video and computer games supports recovery by granting relieve from the negative
affect and the psychological distress caused by a problem or stressor, and by building up
psychological resources through the experience of mastery and control. Hence, playing games
for recovery resembles an emotion-focused, rather than a problem-focused coping strategy.
Consequently, individuals with a personal predisposition for emotion-focused coping are
more likely to use games for recovery than persons who tend to rely on problem-focused
coping. This assumption is expressed in hypothesis four:
H4: Individuals with emotion-focused coping style show a higher tendency to use
games for recovery from stress and strain than individuals with problem-focused coping style.
The Moderating Effect of Social Support
Individual reactions to stress are not solely guided by a person’s coping style.
Recuperation from stress and strain is also influenced by coping resources (Lazarus &
Folkman, 1984). The coping process is facilitated by tangible resources as well as skills and
competencies. In addition to these individual characteristics, social support has been identified
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as one of the most influential coping resources (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984; Schwarzer &
Knoll, 2007). Social support refers to “the function and quality of social relationships, such as
perceived availability of help, or support actually received” (Schwarzer & Knoll, 2007, p
.244). Different types of social support can be identified, e.g., informational (advice),
emotional (empathy, reassurance), and instrumental or tangible social support (assistance or
money). Social support can facilitate recuperation from stress in several ways. Social support
can have a direct beneficial effect on coping (Lazarus & Folkman, 1984). Additionally, it can
also function as a buffer that moderates the impact of stress and strain (Schwarzer & Knoll,
2007). Etzion (1984) found a negative correlation between burnout and levels of social
support in a study with Israeli managers and human service professionals. In a study on
household crowding, Lepore, Evans and Schneider (1991) found higher levels of stress for
individuals with low perceived social support. Finally, in a comprehensive literature review of
empirical studies dedicated to the relation between social support and well-being, Cohen and
Wills (1985) concluded, that evidence exists for both direct and buffering effects of social
support. Individuals with deficits in social support are forced to rely on other coping resource
when facing work-related fatigue or daily hassles. In this case, video and computer games
might serve as an alternative resource that facilitates recovery. This rationale is further
supported by research demonstrating the positive social effects of video and computer games.
Social interaction is a crucial motivation especially for the use of online games, such as online
first person shooter games (Jansz & Tanis, 2007) or massively multiplayer online games
(Williams, Yee, & Caplan, 2008). Although negative effects of online games on social
interaction, such as decreases in offline face-to-face interaction, are possible (Williams,
2006b), several studies have revealed positive effects of online games on social support.
Players of online games use them to maintain existing relationships, meet new people and
even to form strong and emotional relationships (Cole & Griffiths, 2007; Williams et al.,
2006). Therefore, video and computer games might be considered a source of social support.
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This should make games an especially attractive recovery resource for individuals who lack
social support from friends and family. Hence, it can be assumed that social support
moderates the relation between work-related fatigue and daily hassles and the use of games
for recovery purposes. This assumption is expressed in hypotheses five and six:
H5: The correlation between work-related fatigue and playing for recovery from stress
and strain will be higher for individuals with low social support.
H6: The correlation between exposure to daily hassles and playing for recovery from
stress and strain will be higher for individuals with low social support.
The complete hypothesized model including all of the six above formulated
hypotheses is depicted in Figure 1.
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pls. insert Figure 1 about here
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Method
Participants
A total of 1614 persons participated in an online survey. The online questionnaire was
accessible to participants from November 28, 2007, to December 31, 2007. Participants were
recruited on the websites of popular German gaming magazines (www.pcgames.de,
www.pcaction.de, www.4players.de, www.gamona.de, and www.gamigo.de). Completing the
questionnaire took about 20 minutes. The sample comprised 1554 men (96.3 percent) and 60
women (3.7 percent). Their ages ranged from 12 - 56 years (M = 22.8 yrs.; SD = 6.82 yrs).
Measures1
General use of video and computer games. Participants were asked to indicate how
often they play video or computer games on a five point scale (1 = daily, 2 = several times a
week, 3 = once a week, 4 = once per month, and 5 = less than once per month). This item was
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later recoded so that higher values indicate higher gaming frequency. Additionally,
participants were asked how many minutes their average gaming session lasted. The use of a
single-item indicator for the general use of video and computer games raises questions about
the reliability of this measure. However, this method seems justified because the measure was
not used to test the hypotheses outlined above, but was primarily included to assess the
participants’ general affinity for video and computer games.
Playing computer games for recovery purposes. Six items were used to measure the
frequency of game use after stressful and exhausting situations. Participants were instructed to
report the frequency of game use (scale ranging from 1 “never” to 5 “very frequently”) in the
following situations: “After an exhausting task”, “After annoying situations (e.g. after an
argument or bad news)”, “When you are under stress”, “After school/university/work”,
“When you feel tired”, “When you want to recover”. The internal consistency of the scale was
acceptable (Cronbach’s
= .72).
Recovery experience associated with game play. The Recovery Experience
Questionnaire (Sonnentag & Fritz, 2007) was adopted to measure recovery experience related
to game play. The scale contains four sub-scales measuring the different facets of recovery
experience: Psychological detachment, relaxation, mastery, and control. Each sub-scale
comprises 4 items. Participants were instructed to rate these with regard to their recovery
experience when playing games, e.g., “When I play video or computer games I forget about
work” (psychological detachment), “When I play video or computer games I use the time to
relax” (relaxation), “When I play video or computer games I do things that challenge me
(mastery), or “When I play video or computer games I feel like I can decide for myself what
to do” (control), on a five-point scale, ranging from 1 “does not apply at all” to 5 “does fully
apply”. The four-sub scales showed acceptable internal consistency (Cronbach’s alphas:
Psychological detachment:
= .78, relaxation:
= .70, mastery:
= .76, control:
= .77).
Games and Recovery
18
Work-related fatigue. The Need for Recovery Scale (de Croon, Sluiter, & Frings-
Dresen, 2006; van Veldhoven & Broersen, 2003) was used to measure participants chronic
level of work-related fatigue. The scale comprised 11 items (e.g., “I find it difficult to relax at
the end of a working day and “By the end of the working day, I feel really worn out”) and
participants were instructed to rate each item on a 4-point scale from 1 “never” to 4 “always”.
For school and university students, the items were automatically rephrased to fit their
occupational status (e.g. “I find it difficult to relax at the end of a day at school/university.”).
The scale showed high internal consistency (Cronbach’s
= .83).
Daily hassles during the last four weeks. The Daily Stress Inventory (DSI, Brantley,
Waggoner, Jones, & Rappaport, 1987) was used to measure participants’ exposure to
unfavorable and stress-related events. The DSI lists 58 daily hassles (e.g., “Hurried to meet
deadline”, “Had minor accident (broke something, tore clothing)”, and “Heard some bad
news”). Participants indicated which of these events they had experienced during the last four
weeks and rated the stressfulness of the events on a scale from 1 “occurred but was not
stressful” to 7 “caused me to panic”. The internal consistency of the scale was high
(Cronbach’s
= .96). In the present study, the average stressfulness rating (sum of the
stressfulness ratings divided by the number of experienced events) was used as an indicator of
exposure to daily hassles during the last four weeks.
Coping Style. Four sub-scales (active coping, planning, self-distraction, and denial) of
the brief COPE inventory (Carver, 1997) were included in the survey to asses coping style.
The brief COPE is a short form of the original COPE inventory (Carver, Scheier, &
Weintraub, 1989) and assesses different coping styles with two items per sub-scale. These
coping styles connect to the coping model by Lazarus and Folkman (1984; see above). The
items describe potential reactions to problems or problematic situations, e.g., I concentrate
my efforts on doing something about the situation I’m in” (active coping), or “I turn to work
or other activities to turn my mind off things” (self distraction). Participants were instructed to
Games and Recovery
19
indicate how often they tend to react in the respective way when facing a problem on a scale
from 1 “never” to 4 “frequently”. Not all sub-scales showed high internal consistencies
(Cronbach’s alphas: Active coping:
= .72, planning:
= .67, self-distraction:
= .57,
denial:
= .71), but all were still within range of the reliability indices found in the original
study by Carver (1997). Lazarus and Folkmann (1984) differentiate between two general
coping styles, problem-focused and emotion-focused coping. Accordingly, the four subscales
of the brief COPE were combined to form indicators for both general coping styles. As
active coping and planning are both coping strategies that aim at problem-solving, they
represent forms of problem-focused coping (Carver, Scheier, & Weintraub, 1989), whereas
self-distraction and denial are directed at the regulation of cognitions or emotions caused by a
stressor and therefore resemble forms of emotion-focused coping. Accordingly, the scores of
the active coping and planning subscales were totaled and averaged to form a single index for
problem-focused coping (sensu Lazarus & Folkman, 1984), whereas the scores of the self-
distraction and the denial subscales were totaled and averaged to form an index of emotion-
focused coping (Cronbach’s alphas: Problem-focused coping:
= .79, emotion-focused
coping:
= .53). Taking into account the low internal consistencies of the subscales of the
brief COPE, the small number of items, and the conceptual broadness of the two coping
styles, the low internal consistency of the emotion-focused coping scale is not surprising.
However, the low reliability of this measure is a limitation of present study.
Social support. A short-form (Schwarzer, Dunkel-Schetter, & Kemeny, 1994) of the
UCLA Social Support Inventory (UCLA-SSI, Dunkel-Schetter, Feinstein, & Call, 1986) was
used to assess received social support. The UCLA-SSI asks for three types of social support
received: a) Informational support in form of advices, b) tangible support in form of
assistance, and c) emotional support in form of reassurance and listening. Participants were
instructed to indicate how often they had received these forms of support during the preceding
four weeks by a) friends, b) relatives, c) partners, and d) groups or organizations on a scale
Games and Recovery
20
from 1 = “never” to 5 “ very frequently”. The scale showed high internal consistencies among
all four sources of social support (Cronbach’s alphas: Friends:
= .77, relatives:
= .80,
partner:
= .96, groups and organizations:
= .88). For this study, the scores of all four
sources of social support were totaled and averaged to form a single indicator for received
social support.
Results
Descriptive Statistics
The great majority of participants play video or computer games daily (46.6 percent)
or several times a week (48.4 percent) with an average playing time of 117.28 minutes (SD =
68.81 min.) per gaming session.
Participants reported to use video and computer games for the purpose of recovery on
a regular basis (M = 3.32, SD = 0.72, scale ranging from 1 = “never” to 5 = “very
frequently”), indicating that gaming after exhausting situations and for recovery purposes is a
rather common practice for the participants. Furthermore, recovery experience is a significant
facet of the participant’s gaming experience. The mean scores of the four sub scales of the
(games-related) Recovery Experience Questionnaire were all well above scale midpoint.
Hence, the data suggest that all four recovery experiences can be elicited by the use of video
and computer games. This supports the above formulated basic theoretical assumptions on the
recovery potential of video and computer games. Means and standard deviations of all
variables are presented in Table 1.
Due to the small number of women in the sample, it was difficult to draw conclusions
on possible gender effects on the statistical relations among the variables considered in this
study. However, to test for significant differences in the mean levels of the studied variables,
a MANOVA with participants sex as fixed factor and all other variables listed in Table 1 as
independent variables was computed. To compensate for the inequality of the size of the male
and female sub samples, 60 male participants were randomly selected from the main sample
Games and Recovery
21
and included in the MANOVA together with the 60 female participants. The MANOVA
revealed no significant main effect of sex on any of the tested variables.
Zero-Order Correlations
Before testing the hypothesized model, zero-order correlations among the studied
variables were analyzed. As can be seen in Table 1, the four facets of recovery experience
(psychological detachment, relaxation, mastery, and control) correlated significantly with the
general use of video and computer games as well as the use of games for recovery. The only
exception was psychological detachment which did not correlate with general game play. All
four recovery facets showed a stronger correlation with the use of games for recovery than for
the general use of games. Accordingly, recovery experience associated with game play has a
stronger predictive power for the recovery related use of games than for general game
playing.
-----
pls. insert Table 1 about here
-----
Work-related fatigue and daily hassles in the previous four weeks correlated
significantly positive with use of video and computer games for recovery. In contrast, work-
related fatigue was negatively related to general game use, and daily hassles did not show a
significant correlation to general game play at all. According to these data, work-related
fatigue as well as stress caused by daily hassles was associated with heightened use of games
for recovery purposes while general game playing was constricted by work strain.
Participants’ coping style was also related to the use of games. Problem-focused
coping style showed a small but significant negative correlation to general game play but no
significant relation with gaming for recovery purposes. Emotion-focused coping style was
Games and Recovery
22
negatively related to general gaming and positively related to gaming for recovery purposes.
Finally, social support was not related to the frequency of general game use but correlated
positively with playing games for recovery.
Testing the Hypothesized Model
Hypotheses one to four were tested with a structural equation model computed with
AMOS 7.0 (Arbuckle, 2006). All variables, except daily hassles, were modeled as latent
variables. The four latent dimensions of recovery experience were each estimated based on
the four items of the respective sub-scales of the Recovery Experience Questionnaire. These
four latent constructs were then used to estimate the second-order factor recovery
experience. The 11 items of the Need for Recovery Scale were used to estimate the latent
construct of work-related fatigue. The mean scores of the active coping and planning sub-
scales of the brief COPE inventory were used to estimate problem-focused coping style while
emotion-focused coping style was estimated from the mean scores of the self-distraction and
denial sub-scales. The latent construct of playing games for recovery was estimated from the
six items listed in the measures section. Daily hassles were measured with a single indicator
(sum of stressfulness ratings divided by number of experienced events, cf. measures section)
and thus were entered into the model as an observed variable.
For reasons of parsimony, the measurement models are not presented in the graphical
representation of the model (Figure 2). Instead, only the factor loadings of the four facets of
recovery experience on the second-order recovery experience construct are visualized. The
measurement models led to a satisfactory description of the latent constructs.
The relationships between the studied variables outlined in hypotheses one to four
were all tested in the model. Two indicators were used to assess the fit of the predicted model,
the
² test and the root mean square error of approximation (RMSEA). The model fit the data
well,
²(656) = 2903.55, p < .001, RMSEA = .046. Although the significant
² value indicates
suboptimal model fit, this is most likely an effect of the large sample size of the present study.
Games and Recovery
23
As Byrne (2001) notes, the
² test tends to underestimate model fit for larger samples
significantly. In contrast to the
² statistic, the RMSEA value of the tested model indicated
good fit. According to MacCallum, Brown, and Sugawara (1996), RMSEA values below .05
indicate close model fit. Thus, with an RMSEA value of .046, the presented model can be
considered fitting the data well.
-----
pls. insert Figure 2 about here
-----
Figure 2 presents the standardized beta coefficients representing all statistical
relationships outlined in hypotheses one to four. As predicted in hypothesis one, recovery
experience associated with game play showed a strong positive relation to the use of games
for recovery (
= .60, p < .001). The stronger the recovery experience that an individual gains
through the use of games, the more often games are played after exhausting situations and
strain. Hypotheses two and three predicted that work-related fatigue and exposure to daily
hassles during the previous four weeks are both positively related to playing games for
recovery. Both assumptions were supported by the data. Work-related fatigue (
= .18, p <
.001) as well as daily hassles (
= .09, p < .001) were both significantly and positively related
to the use of games for recovery purposes. Accordingly, the recovery function of video and
computer games is more attractive for individuals who are confronted with more work-related
strain and daily hassles. Hypothesis four predicted that individuals with emotion-focused
coping style have a higher tendency to use games for recovery purposes than individuals with
problem-focused coping style. Hypothesis four was supported by the model, emotion-focused
coping style was stronger related to playing for recovery (
= .51, p < .001) than problem-
Games and Recovery
24
focused coping style (
= .22, p < .001). Furthermore, emotion-focused and problem-focused
coping style were significantly negatively correlated (r = -.63, p < .001). To further
investigate hypothesis four, participants were categorized into four coping style groups (high
vs. low emotion focused coping x high vs. low problem-focused coping style) via median
splits. An ANOVA with coping style group as fixed factor and the use of games for recovery
as independent variable revealed a significant main effect of coping style on playing for
recovery (F(3, 1610) = 24.19, p < .001, partial η² = .043). According to Scheffé post hoc tests,
participants scoring high on emotion-focused and low on problem-focused coping style (M =
3.50) as well as participants scoring high on emotion-focused and high on problem-focused
coping style (M = 3.49) played video and computer games for recovery significantly more
frequently than participants scoring low on emotion-focused and low on problem-focused
coping style (M = 3.18) and participants scoring low on emotion-focused and high on problem
focused coping style (M = 3.21), p < .05. Taken together, these results support hypothesis four
and demonstrate that individuals with emotion-focused coping style show a higher tendency
to use games for recovery than individuals with problem-focused coping style.
In sum, the predictors formulated in hypotheses one to four explained more than 50
percent of the variance of the use of games for recovery purposes in the structural equation
model (squared multiple correlations = .564).
The Moderating Effect of Social Support
Hypotheses five and six predicted that the relation between the use of games for
recovery, work-related fatigue and daily hassles respectively, would be stronger for
individuals with low social support. The AMOS 7.0 multigroup analysis was used to test
whether the model depicted in Figure 2 differs for participants with high vs. low social
support. Here, the main sample was separated into two sub-samples with high (n = 839) vs.
low (n = 775) social support via a median split. The unconstrained two-group model fit the
data well,
²(1312) = 3597.37, p < .001, RMSEA = .033. As predicted in hypothesis five, the
Games and Recovery
25
path between work-related fatigue and playing for recovery was stronger for participants with
low social support (
= .25, p < .001) than for participants with high social support (
= .11, p
< .01). In case of daily hassles, the path to playing for recovery was significant and positive
for participants with low social support (
= .13, p < .001) but fell below significance for
participants with high social support (
= .05, n.s.). The differences in path strength found for
participants with high vs. low social support followed the predictions of hypotheses five and
six. The recovery function of video and computer games when facing work-related or private
challenges is more important for individuals with low social support than for individuals with
high social support. However, the dichotomization of a continuous moderator variable results
in a loss of information and lowers the statistical power for the detection of moderation (J.
Cohen, Cohen, West, & Aiken, 2003, p. 256). Multiple regression analysis is therefore
preferable for the investigation of moderator effects (J. Cohen, Cohen, West, & Aiken, 2003;
Frazier, Barron, & Tix, 2004). To reduce problems with multicollinearity, the independent
variables work-related fatigue and exposure to daily hassles, as well as the moderator variable
social support were standardized using a z-transformation as suggested by Frazier, Baron, and
Tix (2004). Afterwards, two product terms of the independent variables and the moderator
were derived by multiplying the standardized scores of work-related fatigue and of daily
hassles with the standardized score of social support. To test for the moderation effect of
social support on the relation between work-related fatigue and the use of games for recovery,
a hierarchical multiple regression was computed with the standardized scores of work-related
fatigue and social support entered in the first step and the product term of the two variables
entered in the second step. Results are presented in Table 2. The product-term of work-related
fatigue and social support was a significant predictor of playing for recovery (
= -.054, p <
.05) and led to a small but significant increase in explained variance (
= .003, p < .05)
which indicates a significant moderation effect of social support. Hence, hypothesis five was
supported. A second hierarchical multiple regression was computed with daily hassles, social
Games and Recovery
26
support and the product term of the two variables to test hypothesis six. Results are also
shown in Table 2. The product term of daily hassles and social support was not a significant
predictor of playing for recovery (
= -.024, n.s.), and did not lead to a significant increase in
explained variance (
= .001, n.s.). Although the path coefficients found in the two-group
SEM presented above suggest a moderation effect of social support on the relation between
daily hassles and playing for recovery, this was not confirmed by the multiple regression
analysis.
-----
pls. insert Table 2 about here
-----
Discussion
The results of the present study demonstrate that video and computer games have a
significant recovery potential and are frequently used after stress and strain and for recovery
reasons. Therefore, this study reveals an important effect of video and computer games that
has not been addressed systematically in previous research.
As predicted, recovery experience turned out to be a significant facet of the gaming
experience. The data revealed that the four recovery facets, psychological detachment,
relaxation, mastery, and control, are all elicited by video and computer games. The results
also suggest that games are frequently used for recovery purposes. Participants reportedly use
video and computer games after exhausting or frustrating situations and for recovery reasons
on a regular basis.
Additionally, as predicted in hypothesis one, the recovery experience attained by the
use of video and computer games was a significant predictor of the use of games for recovery.
Participants who generally associate strong recovery experiences with game play reported to
Games and Recovery
27
used games more often after stress and strain than participants who reported lower recovery
experiences when playing games.
Furthermore, as predicted in hypotheses two and three, work-related fatigue, as well as
exposure to daily hassles during the last four weeks both were significant predictors of the use
of games for recovery. Individuals who suffered from more work-related strain and leisure
time stress showed a higher tendency to use games for recovery than participants with lower
stress levels. In contrast to the use of games for recovery, the general use of video and
computer games was negatively correlated to work-related fatigue. Hence, the general
frequency of game play is impaired by stress and strain whereas the specific use of games for
recovery purposes increases with heightened stress-levels. This illustrates that individuals
adapt their personal use of video and computer games to their individual circumstances. The
self-reports of the participants suggest that games are used as a means of self-regulation, and
that their recovery potential is used to react to work stress and daily hassles.
It is important to note, that the participants in this study showed only moderate levels
of work-related fatigue (M = 1.96, scale ranging from 1 “never” to 4 “always”) and reported
only moderate exposure to daily hassles (M = 2.60, scale ranging from 1 “occurred but was
not stressful” to 7 “caused me to panic”). Samples of participants with higher levels of stress
might make even more use of the recovery potential of video and computer games, and might
therefore show an even stronger relationship between work-related fatigue, daily hassles, and
the use of games for recovery. However, in case of individuals with extremely high stress
levels, the opposite may be true. It is well possible that individuals who are confronted with
many sources of stress might not have the necessary capacities to engage in recreational
activities, such as playing video and computer games. In this case, video and computer games
might not be an available option for recovery. Future studies should therefore investigate the
role of games as sources of recovery in population with different stress levels.
Games and Recovery
28
In addition to the overall amount of stress, the participants’ coping style was also
identified as a significant predictor of the use of games for recovery. As predicted in
hypothesis four, participants with emotion-focused coping style showed a higher tendency to
play games for recovery than individuals who tend to react with problem-focused coping
efforts when facing a stressor. Accordingly, the results demonstrated that the recovery
function of video and computer games seems to be more appealing for individuals who have a
general tendency for emotion-focused coping. Research on the risks and benefits of emotion-
focused vs. problem-focused coping has shown mixed results. Many researchers come to the
conclusion that emotion-focused coping is associated with higher levels of distress, because it
does not provide a way to address the source of stress (Folkman & Moskowitz, 2004).
However, emotion-focused coping is not necessarily inferior to problem-focused coping.
Rather, both forms of coping can facilitate and impede each other (Lazarus & Folkman,
1984). While emotion-focused coping may not offer a direct solution to a stress-evoking
problem, it may still facilitate problem-focused coping by reducing the emotional tension
caused by a stressor and thus increasing an individual’s capacity to engage in problem-
solving. Playing games for recovery might also have negative long-term effects, if frequent
players would show a general preference for emotion-focused coping and would chronically
abstain from problem-focused coping behavior. In this case, playing games for recovery
might eventually lead to increased levels of stress if no attempts to solve the stress-evoking
problems are made.
Hypotheses five and six addressed the role of social support as a potential moderator
between stress and the use of games for recovery. In the present study, social support
correlated positively with playing games for recovery. This might suggest that video and
computer games are indeed used as a source of social support in stressful and demanding
situations. However, as the direct contribution of games to social support was not measured in
this study, this interpretation is preliminary and has to be validated in future studies. As
Games and Recovery
29
predicted in hypothesis five, the data revealed a moderating effect of social support on the
relationship between work-related fatigue and playing games for recovery purposes.
Individuals with lower levels of social support showed a higher tendency to use video and
computer games for recovery when facing work-related stress. Although significant, this
moderator effect explained only 0.3 % percent of the variance of playing games for recovery.
However, as mentioned by Chaplin (1991), moderator effects in psychological research are
often small but nevertheless have theoretical implications. Although the increase in explained
variance associated with the moderating role of social support was very low in this study,
future studies should further investigate the potential role of social support as a moderator
between stress and strain and the use of entertaining media. Taking into account the low mean
level of work-related fatigue (M = 1.96) and the substantial level of social support (M = 2.78)
in this sample, other samples facing more work strain and less social support might show
stronger moderator effects. As discussed above, social support is an important coping
resource. The data gathered in the present study might hint at the possibility that individuals
with lower levels of social support may use video and computer games for recovery to
compensate for this deficit. However, taking into account the small amount of explained
variance found in the present study, this effect has to be further investigated in future studies.
A moderating effect of social support on the relation between daily hassles and the use
of games for recovery was not found in the present study. This is in line with data gathered in
a study by Etzion (1984) who found a moderating effect of social support for the relations
between work-related stress and burnout but not for life stress and burnout. According to
Etzion, this differential effect of social support may be explained by communication patterns.
While job-stress is widely accepted as a common experience that can legitimately be shared
with others, stress induced by daily hassles occurring in an individuals private life is less
likely to be discussed. Because communication with the social environment is an important
Games and Recovery
30
precondition for positive effects of social support (Etzion, 1984), life stress and daily hassles
are less likely to be buffered by social support than work related stress.
Some limitations of the present study have to be considered in the interpretation of the
results. All measures used in this study are based on cross-sectional self-report data. This
brings about several methodological disadvantages. Recovery is a dynamic process.
Successful recovery through the use of video and computer games may have caused lower
chronic levels of stress and strain within the sample. With cross-sectional data, however, the
dynamic interplay of the use of games and the day-level of stress and strain cannot be
assessed. Therefore, it is possible that the recovery potential of games has been systematically
underestimated in this study. It is also possible, however, that the use of self-report measures
for both recovery experience associated with gameplay as well as the use of games for
recovery made it easy for participants to infer the intention of the study which may have
influenced the responses. To avoid these potential shortcomings and to validate the results of
the present study, future studies should apply experimental or longitudinal designs or assess
diary data to investigate the recovery effects of entertaining media.
The sample structure is a further limitation of the present study. As participants were
recruited via websites of gaming magazines, the study is not based on a representative sample
of the population of video and computer game users. The sample comprised a high number of
frequent players, whereas casual gamers with lower gaming affinity were underrepresented.
Furthermore, very few female players participated in the survey. None of the variables
considered in this study showed significant differences for men and women. However, given
the well-documented gender differences in video and computer game use and habits (e.g.
Lucas & Sherry, 2004), gender comparisons of the recovery function of games remains a task
for future studies. Furthermore, future studies will also have to investigate and compare the
recovery effects of different game genres.
Games and Recovery
31
As reported in the method section, the internal consistency of the emotion-focused
coping measure used in this study was low. Accordingly, the reliability of the scale is
restricted. Consequently, the correlation between emotion-focused coping and the use of
games to recover from stress and strain has to be validated in future studies.
In contrast to the measure of emotion-focused coping, the DSI (Brantley, Waggoner,
Jones, & Rappaport, 1987) which was used to assess the participants’ exposure to daily
hassles during the last four weeks showed a very high internal consistency (Cronbach’s
=
.96). This indicates that although this scale asks for a very wide range of negative events,
participants showed a generally strong tendency to give most of these items either a high or a
low rating. This might suggest that instead of measuring state exposure to daily hassles, this
scale might rather assess a trait characteristic, such as trait responsiveness to stressful events
or neuroticism. Again, future studies could compensate for this limitation, for example by
gathering diary data on the exposure to stress.
Video and computer games are by far not the only effective recovery activity. A wide
range of leisure activities, such as sports and social activities, have been identified as effective
sources of recovery (Rook & Zijlstra, 2006; Sonnentag & Zijlstra, 2006). It was not the
purpose of this paper, however, to compare the recovery potential of video and computer
games to the recovery effects of other recreational activities. Therefore, it remains unclear
whether games are more or less suitable for recovery than other activities. Depending on the
frequency and intensity of game use, video and computer games could even have a negative
effect on the recovery process. It could be argued that time spent playing video and computer
games decreases the time that is available for other recreational activities, such as sports
(Andersen, Crespo, Bartlett, Cheskin, & Pratt, 1998; Berkey, Rockett, Gillman, & Colditz,
2003). Consequently, excessive game play may interfere with other recreational activities and
hence have a negative influence on recovery. Furthermore, video and computer games
demand full attention and high concentration from the player. Consequently, after long
Games and Recovery
32
gaming sessions, the resources consumed during the game might exceed the recovery effect of
the gaming experience. Hence, instead of facilitating recovery, prolonged game play may
have the opposite effect and may even increase exhaustion. Especially for individuals
suffering from video or computer game addiction (Griffiths, 2007), excessive game use is
likely to be an additional source of stress rather than a recreational activity. Video and
computer game addiction is accompanied by conflicts within private life and the working
domain and negatively affects psychological well being (Griffiths, 2007; Lemmens,
Valkenburg, & Peter, 2009). These potential negative effects of high gaming frequency and
intensity on recovery as well as the interplay of video and computer games and other
recreational activities have to be investigated in future studies.
Despite the abovementioned limitations, this study demonstrates the usefulness of the
recovery concept for entertainment research in general and video and computer games
research in particular. As discussed above, several different approaches, such as mood
management theory (Zillmann, 1988a; Zillmann, 1988b) or research on escapism through
media exposure (Henning & Vorderer, 2001; Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 1990) are directed
at the self-regulating functions of media use. The recovery concept may provide a conceptual
framework which has the potential to interconnect these existing approaches and to widen the
perspective for potential positive effects of entertaining media one well-being and physical
health. Future studies will have to address the question whether other, non-interactive media
have the same recovery potential as video and computer games. All in all, the recovery
concept is a promising theoretical approach, its integration into media use and effects studies
may provide new insights into the self-regulating function of entertaining media and might
proof useful in generating innovative conceptual developments in entertainment theory.
Games and Recovery
33
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Notes
1. The survey was administered in German. All example items or questions presented in the
measures section were either taken from the original English versions of the respective scales
or were translated by the author if no English version exists (e.g. use of games for recovery).
Games and Recovery
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Table 1: Means, Standard Deviations, and Zero-Order Correlations among Study Variables
Variable
M
SD
Min
Max
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
1. General frequency of game use
4.40
0.62
1.00
5.00
2. Playing games for recovery
3.32
0.72
1.00
5.00
-
3. Recovery experience:
Psychological Detachment
4.08
0.81
1.00
5.00
.26**
-
4. Recovery experience:
Relaxation
3.99
0.68
1.00
5.00
.36**
.32**
-
5. Recovery experience: Mastery
3.48
0.79
1.00
5.00
.23**
.06*
.31**
-
6. Recovery experience: Control
4.01
0.77
1.00
5.00
.31**
.28**
.35**
.40**
-
7. Work-related fatigue
1.96
0.47
1.00
3.73
.18**
.14**
.01
-.07**
-.03
-
8. Daily hassles
2.60
0.91
1.00
7.00
.17**
.00
-.01
.06*
.04
.28**
-
9. Problem-focused coping
3.01
0.59
1.00
4.00
-.04
.01
.13**
.13**
.05*
-.08**
-.15**
-
10. Emotion-focused coping
1.83
0.47
1.00
4.00
.24**
.10**
.07**
.06*
.07*
.16**
.26**
-.30**
-
11. Social support
2.78
0.66
1.00
4.69
.07**
-.02
.11**
.18**
.00
-.07**
-.08**
.25**
-.02
Note. ** p < .01. * p < .05.
VIDEO GAMES AND RECOVERY
40
Table 2: Test of Moderator Effect of Social Support Using Hierarchical Regression
Step and Variable
B
SE B
Step 1
Work-related fatigue
.133
.018
.184**
Social support
.060
.018
.082**
.039**
Step 2
Work-related fatigue x social support
-.040
.028
-.054
.003*
Step 1
Daily hassles last 4 weeks
.127
.018
.176**
Social support
.061
.018
.084**
.036**
Step 2
Daily hassles last 4 weeks x social support
-.015
.017
-.021
> .001
Note. Dependent variable: playing games for recovery from stress and strain.
** p < .01 * p < .05
VIDEO GAMES AND RECOVERY
41
Figure Captions
Figure 1. The hypothesized model on the relationship among recovery experience, work-
related fatigue, daily hassles, emotion-focused coping, problem-focused, and playing games
for recovery from stress and strain, with social support acting as moderator.
Figure 2. Structural equation model of the relationship among recovery experience, work-
related fatigue, daily hassles, emotion-focused coping, problem-focused coping, and playing
games for recovery from stress and strain. Ellipses represent latent constructs estimated form
at least two indicators, rectangles represent observed variables. Coefficients at single-headed
arrows represent standardized betas or factor loadings, the coefficient at the double-headed-
arrow between emotion-based and problem-based coping represents a correlation coefficient.
The path between problem-focused coping and playing games for recovery is significant at p
< .05; all other coefficients are significant at p < .001.
VIDEO GAMES AND RECOVERY
42
Playing games
for recovery
from stress and
strain
Recovery
Experience
Emotion-
focused coping
style
Problem-
focused coping
style
Work-related
fatigue
Daily hassles
Social
Support
Psychological
Detachment
Relaxation
Mastery
Control
H1
H2
H3
H4
H4
H5
H6
VIDEO GAMES AND RECOVERY
43
Playing games
for recovery
from stress and
strain
Recovery
Experience
Work-related
fatigue
Daily hassles
Psychological
Detachment
Relaxation
Mastery
Control
.60
.18
.09
.51
.22
-.63
.72
.54
.72
.46
.56
Emotion-
focused coping
style
Problem-
focused coping
style
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Thesis
Full-text available
Being a parent of young children is associated with both joy and stress. High parental stress was shown to be associated with decreased parental wellbeing and negative child outcomes. Thus, it is important that parents successfully cope with stress. Research has shown that becoming a parent often results in constraints on time allocation and a perceived state of isolation, making it harder to cope with stress. Smartphones might be a useful tool for parental stress management. For most parents, smartphones are always and easily accessible. Moreover, smartphones can provide many resources such as social support and information and can be used for short periods. Accordingly, first studies show that parents often use their smartphones to cope with stress. However, parental smartphone use has been widely problematized in academic and public discussions because smartphones are said to distract parents from interacting with their children. Research on how parents use smartphones to their benefit is still limited. Moreover, we do not know yet whether and under what circumstances coping using smartphones effectively reduces parental stress. To fill this knowledge gap, I examined in my dissertation how mothers of young children use their smartphones for coping with stress and under what circumstances coping using smartphones is effective. As mothers are still the primary caregivers, my dissertation mainly focuses on mothers. In a first theoretical step, I conducted a systematic scoping review summarizing and integrating the previous literature on media use for coping. Many studies assessed how media are used for coping. However, the literature had not clearly identified where media have their place in stress management models. In the scoping review, I suggested placing media in the transactional model of stress and coping by differentiating between coping strategies, such as social support or distraction and coping tools, such as talking to a friend or using a smartphone. When confronted with a stressful encounter, individuals choose a combination of coping tools and coping strategies to cope with stress. The fit of this combination with the situational circumstances determines whether the coping efforts are successful. Based on this conceptualization, I conducted a qualitative focus groups study and a quantitative experience sampling study (ESS). In the focus group study, building on a synthesis of the literature on digital media use for parenting and smartphone use while parenting, I interviewed parents in a medium-sized city and a parent-child health retreat clinic about how they use their smartphones for stress management. In the ESS, I additionally drew on theoretical conceptualizations from mobile communication and digital wellbeing research. Over 200 mothers filled in four questionnaires a day for one week and answered questions about a stressful situation that had happened in the last two hours. Both studies showed that when mothers are in stressful situations with their children, they mainly use their phones to distract themselves from the stressful encounter and to find information and support. In the focus groups study, parents reported many instances in which they successfully used their phones for stress coping. In the ESS, mothers, however, experienced a smaller stress decrease in stressful situations in which they used their phone than in situations involving no phone use. Using positive phone content, though, was related to increased coping effectiveness. My dissertation also demonstrated that social norms around maternal smartphone use play an important role when mothers use their phones for coping with stress. To explore this, I suggested a social constructivist viewpoint on media use and media effects. This viewpoint posits that the perception of and feelings around ones own media use are just as important for media effects as characteristics of objectively measurable media use, such as usage time. Further, I argue that these media use perceptions are influenced by what others say about media use and are, thus, socially constructed. Confirming the value of this viewpoint, I show in the ESS that mothers who perceived stronger injunctive norms against parental phone use experienced increased guilt when they used their phone for stress coping. Feelings of guilt around phone use in turn were related to a diminished coping effectiveness. Overall, my dissertation shows that by using positive content, mothers can use their smartphones to their benefit when they are confronted with stressful situations. Negative social norms against parental smartphone use can, by inducing guilt, be associated with diminished coping effectiveness when mothers use their phone to cope with stress. Therefore, academic and public discussions around smartphone use should consider the benefits of smartphone use for parents so that a more nuanced debate does not lead to social pressure and feelings of guilt among parents.
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... Selanjutnya, salah satu hal yang turut mempengaruhi penggunaan game online secara terus menerus hingga menyebabkan individu kecanduan game online adalah karena kebutuhannya untuk melarikan diri dari kenyataan atau "escapism". Hal ini sejalan seperti yang disampaikan oleh Reinecke (2009) bahwa individu bermain game online sebagai cara lari dari masalah ataupun tekanan yang dihadapi oleh individu tersebut. Escapism (melarikan diri) seringkali dipandang sebagai penghindaran dari hal-hal yang nyata, manifestasinya bisa berupa menghindari pekerjaan nyata, teman, dengan kata lain hal-hal yang ada di dunia nyata (Calleja, 2010). ...
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... There is still a lack of consensus on the relationship between cyberslacking and work stress. Several studies have pointed out that using the Internet for non-professional purposes during working hours can be a way of distancing oneself from stressors and relaxing from work tasks, therefore reducing stress (e.g., Andel, Kessler, Pindek, Kleinman, & Spector, 2019;Askew et al., 2014;Coker, 2013;Eddy et al., 2010;Lavoie & Pychyl, 2001;Lim & Chen, 2012;Meier et al., 2016;O'Neill, Hambley, & Bercovich, 2014;Reinecke, 2009;Tu & Chang, 2010). However, other authors (e.g., Lim & Teo, 2005) suggest that cyberslacking, diverting attention from tasks and preventing their completion, leads to work accumulation, therefore increasing work stress. ...
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The main theme of this paper is the study of psychological mediators of neuroendocrine response patterns in relation to psychosocial conditions. Our recent approaches to these problems will be reviewed against the background of earlier studies from our laboratory (cf. reviews by Frankenhaeuser, 1971, 1976, 1979a, b) and relevant work from other laboratories.
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