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MMORPG Escapism Predicts Decreased Well-Being: Examination of Gaming Time, Game Realism Beliefs, and Online Social Support for Offline Problems

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Abstract

Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) escapists are individuals who indulge in the MMORPG environment to avoid real-world problems. Though a relationship between escapism and deteriorated well-being has been established, little is known about particular pathways that mediate this relationship. In the current study, we examined this topic by testing an integrative model of MMORPG escapism, which includes game realism beliefs, gaming time, offline social support, and online social support for offline problems. MMORPG players (N = 1,056) completed measures of escapist motivation, game realism beliefs, social support, well-being, and reported gaming time. The tested structural equation model had a good fit to the data. We found that individuals with escapist motivation endorsed stronger game realism beliefs and spent more time playing MMORPGs, which, in turn, increased online support but decreased offline social support. Well-being was favorably affected by both online and offline social support, although offline social support had a stronger effect. The higher availability of online social support for offline problems did not compensate for the lower availability of offline support among MMORPG escapists. Understanding the psychological factors related to depletion of social resources in MMORPG players can help optimize MMORPGs as leisure activities.
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... The act of escaping into games is known as game escapism (Kuo et al., 2016;Warmelink et al., 2009), i.e., motivation to play an online game to take a break from realworld problems. Game escapism is known to generate enjoyment and a sense of achievement (Merhi, 2016), and to prolong gaming time (Kaczmarek and Drążkowski, 2014), thereby strengthening continued playing intention (Merhi, 2016). However, not all games can attract and retain "escapees," i.e., gamers that want to escape from problems encountered in the real world. ...
... The online game literature has explored the impact of escapism on playing games, revealing that escapism would motivate online gameplay (Merhi, 2016) and prolong gaming time (Kaczmarek and Drążkowski, 2014), resulting in excessive game use (Chang et al., 2018). Escapism could be one source of enjoyment, which further enhances gamers' intention to play (Merhi, 2016). ...
... Playing online games also helps resolve an individual's social issues encountered in the real world. Specifically, gamers receiving social support from gameplay can enhance their well-being (Kaczmarek and Drążkowski, 2014), relieving their experience of real-world stress (Ferguson and Olson, 2013). Thus, we hypothesize: ...
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... In addition, escapism is often comorbid with depression and high stress (Ballabio et al., 2017). A recent study found that players with stronger escapism motives have a more powerful sense of the realism of a virtual game, which might decrease their offline support with respect to real-world problems and harm their wellbeing (Kaczmarek and Drążkowski, 2014). ...
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