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Do World of Warcraft (MMORPG) players experience less loneliness and social anxiety in online world (virtual environment) than in real world (offline)?


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The number of online game players continues to grow, as well as the number of hours spent in online world. World of Warcraft (WoW) is one of the most popular Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG). It is set in an elaborate fictional world, in which players achieve goals through interaction and mutual communication. The present study verified differences in experiencing loneliness (UCLA Loneliness Scale) and social anxiety (Social Phobia Inventory) in WoW players in online and real world (offline) since these two worlds and the functioning of the players in them differ. In the sample consisting of 161 players, it was found that players experience a significantly lower degree of loneliness and social anxiety in online than in real world. The lower degree of loneliness experienced was also associated with playing with friends and known people, with guild membership, as well as frequent communication with teammates through VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services. The results suggest that WoW is a highly social environment that encourages cooperation, communication and friendship.
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Do World of Warcraft (MMORPG) players experience less loneliness
and social anxiety in online world (virtual environment) than in real
world (ofine)?
Marcel Marton
an Lok
Institute of Psychology, Faculty of Arts, Presov University in Presov, Ul. 17. novembra 1, 080 01 Pre
sov, Slovakia
article info
Article history:
Received 19 August 2015
Received in revised form
14 November 2015
Accepted 19 November 2015
Available online xxx
World of Warcraft
Social anxiety
Virtual environment
The number of online game players continues to grow, as well as the number of hours spent in online
world. World of Warcraft (WoW) is one of the most popular Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing
Games (MMORPG). It is set in an elaborate ctional world, in which players achieve goals through
interaction and mutual communication. The present study veried differences in experiencing loneliness
(UCLA Loneliness Scale) and social anxiety (Social Phobia Inventory) in WoW players in online and real
world (ofine) since these two worlds and the functioning of the players in them differ. In the sample
consisting of 161 players, it was found that players experience a signicantly lower degree of loneliness
and social anxiety in online than in real world. The lower degree of loneliness experienced was also
associated with playing with friends and known people, with guild membership, as well as frequent
communication with teammates through VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) services. The results suggest
that WoW is a highly social environment that encourages cooperation, communication and friendship.
©2015 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
In the past ten years, MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online
Role Playing Games) have become a favorite way of spending lei-
sure time for young people and adults. In 2007, MMORPGs were
played by nearly 50 million people around the world (according to MMORPG constitute a separate genre of com-
puter games with a fully developed ctional world with acoustic
and visual detail (Grifths, Davies &Chappell, 2007). They belong
to the group of multiplayer games designed primarily for computer
platforms; they are considered highly social as players are intended
to perform various tasks through interaction with other players,
with whom they may form new relationships and friendships as in
real world. Despite the fact that in the last 10 years many games of
this genre have been produced, World of Warcraft (WoW) has been
the most popular title, with almost 10 million active players as of
2014 (Blizzard Entertainment, Inc. 2014). Yee, 2006a (p. 325) has
aptly assessed MMORPG games as follows: they are places where
people fall in love, get married, elect governors, attend poetry
readings, start a pharmaceutical business, and even commit
genocide. Whatever MMORPGs are, or will become, one thing is
clear. They are not just games.
In relation to computer games and the Internet, it is possible to
distinguish two forms of reality or versions of the world; online
world (termed also virtual environment, virtual world or virtual
life); and real world (real life, ofine world). Virtual world ac-
cording to Gilbert (2011) represents a digital environment, that has
3D graphical interface, supports massively multi-user remote
interactivity, is persistent, immersive and emphasizes user-
generated activities and goals. MMORPGs are for all intents and
purposes, the latest incarnation of a virtual environment in that
they share the concept of a shared virtual world, a representation of
the player as an avatar, characterized with egocentric perspective,
stereoscopic 3-D visualization, real-time interactivity, immersion
and multisensory feedback (Stanney, Hale, &Zyda, 2015, p. 12).
Except some physical limitations of the online world (such as the
inability to physically manipulate objects or to satisfy basic physi-
ological needs, etc.), online world is parallel to the real world (e.g.
Whang &Chang, 2004) and people behave in online world similarly
as in real world (Kozlov &Johansen, 2010; Slater et al., 2006; Yee,
2006b). In the three-dimensional online world, people can expe-
rience emotions, communicate with other people, pursue their
hobbies, study, travel virtually, etc. (e.g. Partala, 2011). Greater
degree of freedom, anonymity and associated differences in
*Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (M. Marton
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Computers in Human Behavior 56 (2016) 127e134
communication and realization of the activities that would hardly
be feasible in real world are typical for the online world. It can be
concluded, that online and real world are similar but also different
in number of properties. Despite the fact about the mentioned
existence of two worlds, the research of experiencing of players is
concentrated only in the real world. As the possibilities and quali-
ties of the online world differ from the real world, such as the na-
ture of social relationships and communication, it seems that some
psychological characteristics should be examined separately for
each environment; not in isolation; for instance, only for the real
world with ndings also applicable to the online world. It is also
supported by a fact, that if a player is immersed in the onlineworld,
he/she experiences his/her existence in the online world, not in the
real world. Therefore, the objective of the study is to verify the
differences in experiencing loneliness and social anxiety in players
in real and in online world. It seems that players experience less
loneliness and social anxiety in online world, which is to be related
to the social nature of MMORPG games.
1.1. Social aspect of MMORPGs
The most important aspect of MMORPG games is not the playing
itself, but the ability to form strong friendships, in which players are
often highly emotionally invested (Cole &Grifths, 2007; Grifths,
Davies, &Chappell, 2004). Therefore, many people use MMORPGs
to meet their social needs, which they are unable to satisfy in real
world (Lo, Wang, &Fang, 2005). In MMORPG, players of various
ages, nationalities, gender, occupation and religious beliefs meet in
order to fulll the objectives offered by the game world (Yee,
2006a). The virtual environment allows people to express them-
selves in a way that would otherwise be unpleasant in real world
(e.g. because of their appearance, sexuality, etc.), which makes
social contact much easier and comfortable thanks to a certain
degree of anonymity (Cole &Grifths, 2007; Morahan-Martin &
Schumacher, 2003). Cole and Grifths (2007) have found that two-
thirds of the players form strong friendships with other players,
with the mean number of good friends made within a MMORPG of
seven, and more than one third of the players had met their
teammates and gaming friends before in real life. However, players
are actively seeking social interaction only in the virtual environ-
ment and not in real world (Kowert &Oldmeadow, 2013). Forming
friendly relationships (meaningful relationships that are supportive
in nature) is an important motivator for playing MMORPG (Yee,
2006a) and for a large number of players, social interactions and
friendships formed in the game environment are equal to those
created in real world (Williams et al., 2006).
The formation of friendly relationships is supported by the
afliation to game teams; called guilds, where players meet with a
common purpose. In general, there are three kinds of guilds: PvE
(Player versus Environment), PvP (Player versus Player) and RP
(Role playing). Guilds are the most important part of MMORPG
social life as that is where new relationships and friendships orig-
inate, which often transcend the virtual world and become parts of
everyday (real) life of many players (e.g. Trepte, Reinecke, &
Juechems, 2012; Williams et al., 2006). This aspect of playing was
also pointed out by Domahidi, Festl, and Quandt (2014, p. 110), who
found that online gamers with a pronounced motive of searching
for social capital and teamplay had a higher probability of meeting
originally online friends personally.Snodgrass, Lacy, Dengah II.,
and Fagan (2011) believe that in players who play with their
friends from the real world, game immersion is not associated with
adverse effects; but instead, it reduces stress and level of MMO
problematic play. Therefore, it is more important to examine
playersmotivation than, for instance, the length of playing or
personality traits. Frequently observed adverse effects of playing
computer games are loneliness and social anxiety, in reduction of
which MMORPG games are thought to play a vital role.
1.2. Loneliness in online world
Loneliness as a psychological construct represents a subjectively
perceived lack of satisfying social relationships; their quantity or
quality, which is accompanied by discomfort and distress (Peplau,
1988). Lonely individuals are attracted to the online environment
and the social interaction in it (Leung, 2011; Morahan-Martin &
Schumacher, 2003); and for these individuals, this environment is
an ideal social space, in which they can satisfy their need to belong.
In online world, lonely people feel more like themselves; they are
more open, friendlier; and they are experiencing more entertain-
ment and share secrets with their online friends because they un-
derstand each other better (Morahan-Martin &Schumacher, 2003).
Anonymity and lack of real, face-to-face communication also re-
duces social anxiety, which may increase the willingness to form
friendly relationships. In online world, MMORPG players can also
be accepted and gain prestige due to their technical skills
(Morahan-Martin &Schumacher, 2003). Despite the fact that on-
line world is attractive for lonely people, Visser, Antheunis, and
Schouten (2013) did not nd direct effect of playing WoW on so-
cial competence and loneliness. Kardefelt-Winther (2014, p. 122)
summarizes it as follows: Problematic real life situations can
motivate a user to go online and use certain applications to full
unmet needs or alleviate dysphoric moods. This can have positive
and negative outcomes. Positive when the compensation is suc-
cessful and makes the user feel better and negative when prob-
lematic outcomes occur; these are not mutually exclusive and may
coincide. When the motivations to go online are grounded in unmet
real life needs or certain psychological characteristics, the risk of
negative outcomes may be higher due to the intensity of use and
permanence that such compensation requires.
1.3. Social anxiety in online world
Schlenker and Leary (1982, p. 642) dene social anxiety as an
anxiety resulting from the prospect or presence of personal eval-
uation in real or imagined social situations(such as conversation,
meeting new people or public speaking). Social anxiety is also very
closely linked to loneliness (Jones, Rose, &Russell, 1990), and in the
form of shyness, it is also one of the factors contributing to expe-
riencing loneliness (Peplau, 1988). Both social anxiety and loneli-
ness represent subjectively experienced issues of interaction with
other people. Social anxiety can hinder the development of friendly
and romantic relationships, achieving goals at school and work, and
at worst, it can develop into a severe personality disorder
(Leitenberg, 1990). Virtual environment and possibilities offered by
MMORPG games can solve all the adverse effects mentioned in
connection to social anxiety. Like loneliness, social anxiety too, is
considered by some authors to be a signicant predictor of online
social interaction preferences or problematic internet use (e.g.
Caplan, 2007; Lee &Stapinski, 2012; Lo et al., 2005). Highly socially
anxious individuals then transfer most of their social activities,
including the formation of strong friendships, into the online world,
where they feel safer and more comfortable than in real world. At
the same time, these individuals deem themselves more successful
in computer based communication than in real, face-to-face
communication (Shalom, Israeli, Markovitzky, &Lipsitz, 2015)
and communicate with a higher number of people online than face-
to-face (Lee &Stapinski, 2012). However, according to Lo et al.
(2005) online games reduce social anxiety only temporarily as
they contribute to no improvements of real world social skills.
M. Marton
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sa / Computers in Human Behavior 56 (2016) 127e134128
1.4. The present study
MMORPG games form a space primarily for mutual communi-
cation, co-operation and formation of new friendships, which may
extend into the real world. Mutual communication does not stay at
the level of written text but is also promoted by the use of webcams
and VoIP communication programs such as TeamSpeak or Ventrilo,
which enable players to see and hear each other. In the virtual
environment, which is often preferred to the real environment,
players feel more comfortable, safer and are willing to form
friendships and conne to others, therefore we assume that players
experience less loneliness and social anxiety in online world than in
real world. Following hypotheses are proposed with regard to dif-
ferences expected in experiencing loneliness and social anxiety in
online and real world:
H1. Players are expected to experience signicantly less loneli-
ness/social anxiety in online world than in real world.
H2. Guild members are expected to exhibit signicantly less
loneliness/social anxiety than non-members in online world
H3. Players who play with friends/people known from the real
world are expected to exhibit signicantly less loneliness/social
anxiety than players who do not play with friends/known
people both in online and real world.
H4. Players who have played WoW for a longer amount of time
are expected to exhibit signicantly less loneliness/social anxi-
ety than players who have played for a shorter amount of time.
H5. Players who use VoIP services to communicate with other
players more frequently are expected to exhibit signicantly less
loneliness/social anxiety than players who do not use VoIP
2. Method
2.1. Participants
Players found on World of Warcraft internet message boards
were asked to kindly participate in research. A total of 180 players
responded, out of which 19 responses were incomplete and had to
be discarded. Missing values were handled with Expectation-
Maximization (EM) method. The nal sample consisted of 161
people, out of which 142 were male and 19 were female, and more
than two thirds of the players were from the United States. The
average age of the sample was 21; the minimum age was 13; and
the maximum age was 50. 124 players were guild members, while
36 players were not afliated with any guild. 112 players played
with friends/people known from the real world, while 49 players
played without friends/people known from the real world. The
average amount of time played per week was 20.77 h, with the
minimum of 3 h and maximum of 65 h per week. The average total
time played was 190.56 days, with the minimum of 2 days and the
maximum of 745 days. With regard to the frequency of commu-
nication programs used by players to communicate with each other,
it was found that 21 players never use the communication pro-
grams; 20 players reported that they used them rarely; 45 players
used them sometimes; and 74 players reported that they used them
2.2. Procedure
Questionnaires assessing loneliness and social anxiety were
administered simultaneously two times; once for the real world
and once for the online world. While completing the question-
naires, players were instructed to imagine that the questions
related solely to either the real world or the onlineworld. (Example
for SPIN1: In this part, you are going to answer 17 short assertions.
This entire section is focused on real world situations only. Please,
answer every assertion honestly).
2.3. Measures
The questionnaire completed by the participants included sec-
tions assessing loneliness, social anxiety, demographics, game
experience and game behaviors.
Loneliness was assessed using the UCLA Loneliness Scale
(Russel, Peplau &Ferguson, 1978). This scale includes 20 Likert-
type questions on a four-point scale, with 1 ¼I never feel this
way and 4 ¼I often feel this way. Loneliness was determined as the
total score of responses to the total of 20 questions. The mean score
for the real world was 38.14 (SD ¼14.25). The mean score for the
online world was 35.00 (SD ¼13.89). The questionnaire reliability
expressed as the value of coefcient omega in real world was 0.95,
95% CI [0.94, 0.96]; in online world 0.95, 95% CI [0.93, 0.96].
Social anxiety was assessed using the Social Phobia Inventory
SPIN (Connor, Davidson, Churchill, Sherwood, Foa &Wesler, 2000),
which was designed to assess symptoms specic to social anxiety
disorder. SPIN was chosen because itconsists of items applicable for
both the real and online world situations. The questionnaire con-
sisted of 17 items, which measured (a) the fear in social situations
(six items), (b) the avoidance of performance or social situations
(seven items), and (c) the physiological discomfort in social situa-
tions (four items). Individuals were asked to respond to questions
regarding how much they were bothered by particular symptoms
during the past week. Each item was measured on a 5-point Likert
scale, ranging from 0 (not at all) to 4 (extremely). The mean score
for the real world was 34.90 (SD ¼13.15). The mean score for the
online world was 24.59 (SD ¼9.15). The questionnaire reliability
expressed as the value of coefcient omega in real world was 0.92,
95% CI [0.90, 0.94], in online world 0.91, 95% CI [0.87, 0.95].
Within the game experience and game behaviors, the following
items were being assessed: afliation to a guild, average time
played per week, total time played (the total time spent playing in
days), the frequency of communication with teammates through
communication programs (How often do you talk through
communication software? such as TeamSpeak or Ventrilo) and
playing with friends/known people (Do you often play with a
known associate of yours? such as friends, colleagues, classmates,
neighbors, etc.).
3. Results
A paired-samples t-test was conducted to compare players
loneliness and social anxiety in online and real world conditions.
Signicant differences were found in the scores for loneliness in
online world (M ¼35.00, SD ¼13.89) and real world (M ¼38.13,
SD ¼14.25) conditions, t (160) ¼2.85, p ¼0.005. The effect size
for this analysis (d ¼0.22) was found to have approached the
convention for a small effect (Cohen, 1977). Signicant differences
were found in the scores for social anxiety in online world
(M ¼24.59, SD ¼9.15) and real world (M ¼34.90, SD ¼13.15 )
conditions, t (160) ¼10.9, p ¼0.000. The effect size for this analysis
(d ¼0.88) was found to have approached the convention for a large
effect (Cohen, 1977). The effect size was determined using the
formula t
described by (Dunlop, Cortina, Vaslow, and Burke 1996).
The results of the paired-samples t-test along with means and
standard deviations for loneliness and social anxiety for both
conditions are presented in Table 1.
Since social anxiety variables in online and real world were
positively skewed, bootstrapping with 10 000 bootstrap samples
M. Marton
cik, J. Lok
sa / Computers in Human Behavior 56 (2016) 127e134 129
was used. The result was found signicant at the level of p <0.01.
A mixed between-within subjects analysis of variance was
conducted to compare scores for social anxiety and loneliness be-
tween 1) players who play with known people (like friends, col-
leagues, classmates, neighbors) and players who do not; 2)
members and non-members of guilds; 3) players who communi-
cate with other players through communication software with
various frequency (never, rarely, sometimes, always); 4) players
who have different total time played (2e62days, 67e148days,
150 e295days, 300e745days).
3.1. Playing with known people
No signicant interaction was found between the type of the
world (online and real) and playing with known people for lone-
liness, F(1, 159) ¼1.323, p ¼0.252, and for social anxiety, F(1,
159) ¼0.227, p ¼0.634. a) The main effect of the type of the world
was found signicant for loneliness, F(1, 159) ¼4.746, p <0.05;
¼0.029. This effect reveals that players perceive loneliness as
signicantly lower in online world (M ¼35.00, SD ¼13.89) than in
real world (M ¼38.13, SD ¼14.25). The main effect of the type of
the world was also found signicant for social anxiety, F(1,
159) ¼104.087, p <0.001,
¼0.396. Players perceive anxiety as
signicantly lower in online world (M ¼24.59, SD ¼9.15) than in
real world (M ¼34.90, SD ¼13.15). b) The main effect of playing
with known people is not presented as comparing average scores
for loneliness and social anxiety for both worlds is not relevant.
Instead, a one-way between subjects ANOVA was conducted to
compare the effect of playing with known people separately for
each of the variables mentioned. A signicant effect was found for
loneliness in online world, F(1, 159) ¼10.708, p ¼0.001, d ¼0.56
and ofine world, F(1, 159) ¼3.970, p ¼0.048, d ¼0.34. This effect
reveals that players playing with known people perceive loneliness
as signicantly lower in online world (M
¼32.70, SD
¼11.81) and
in real world (M
¼36.66, SD
¼13.22) than players not playing
with known people (M
¼40.26, SD
¼16.72; M
¼16.00). No signicant effect was found for social anxiety in
online world, F(1, 159) ¼0.987, p ¼0.322 and ofine world, F(1,
159) ¼1.273, p ¼0.261.
3.2. Playing in a guild
No signicant interaction was found between the type of the
world (online and real) and being a member of a guild for loneli-
ness, F(1, 158) ¼1.067, p ¼0.303. a) The main effect of type of the
world is presented above. b) A one-way between subjects ANOVA
was conducted to compare the effect of membership in a guild for
loneliness. Signicant effect of membership in a guild was found for
loneliness in online world, F(1, 158) ¼8.511, p ¼0.004, d ¼0.55.
Members of a guild experienced less loneliness (M ¼33.12,
SD ¼12.69) than players who are not members of a guild
(M ¼40.47, SD ¼15.27). No signicant effect of membership in a
guild was found for loneliness in real world, F(1, 158) ¼3.067,
3.3. Communication with other players
Signicant interaction was found between the type of the world
(online and real) and communication with other players for lone-
liness, F(3, 157) ¼4.588, p ¼0.004,
¼0.08. The effect size for this
analysis (f ¼0.29) was found to have approached the convention
for a medium effect (Cohen, 1977). The interaction is presented in
Fig. 1.
As can be seen in Fig. 1, players who communicate with other
players through communication software such as TeamSpeak or
Ventrilo rarely or not at all experience more loneliness than players
who communicate with other players always or frequently. These
differences are most noticeable in online world, where loneliness of
the players who communicate with other players sometimes and
always is lower than in real world. Means and standard deviations
are presented in Table 2.
No signicant interaction was found between the type of the
world (online and real) and communication with other players for
social anxiety, F(3, 157) ¼1.123, p ¼0.342. a) The main effect of the
type of the world is presented above. b) A one-way between sub-
jects ANOVA was conducted to compare the effect of different
frequency of communication for social anxiety. Signicant effect of
communication with other players was found for social anxiety in
online world F(1,157) ¼5.249, p ¼0.002, f ¼0.31. Post hoc com-
parisons using the Hochberg's GT2 test indicated that players who
communicate with other players always (M ¼22.55, SD ¼6.54) and
sometimes (M ¼23.77, SD ¼6.42) experienced less social anxiety
than players who do not communicate at all (M ¼30.09,
SD ¼16.65). No signicant effect of communication with other
players was found for social anxiety in real world F(1,157) ¼2.039,
3.4. Different total time played
Four groups of players who had played for different total time
were divided into quartiles. No signicant interaction was found
between the type of the world (online and real) and total time
played ((2e62days, 67e148days, 150e295days, 300e745days) for
social anxiety, F(3, 112) ¼2.464, p ¼0.066 and for loneliness, F(3,
112 ) ¼1.034, p ¼0.380. a) The main effect of the type of the world
was found signicant for social anxiety, F(1, 112) ¼94.88, p ¼0.000,
¼0.46. The main effect of the type of the world was also found
signicant for loneliness, F(1, 112) ¼9.188, p <0.001;
¼0.08. b) A
one-way between subjects ANOVA was conducted to compare the
effect of different total time played for social anxiety and loneliness.
No signicant effect was found for social anxiety in online world,
F(3, 112) ¼0.644, p ¼0.588, for social anxiety in ofine world,
F(3, 112) ¼2.593, p ¼0.056, for loneliness in online world, F(3,
112 ) ¼0.903, p ¼0.442 and for loneliness in real world, F(3,
112 ) ¼2.270, p ¼0.084.
4. Discussion and conclusions
Every player of MMORPG games lives what it seems to be a
double life; one in the real world and the other in the world of
Table 1
Results of t-test and descriptive statistics for lonesliness and social anxiety by type of a world.
n M SD 95% CI 95% Bootstrap CI t df d
Loneliness in online world 161 35.00 13.89 [5.29, 0.96] 2.85
160 0.22
Loneliness in real world 161 38.13 14.25
Social anxiety in online world 161 24.59 9.15 [12.18, 8.44] [-12.17, 8.51] 10.9
160 0.88
Social anxiety in real world 161 34.90 13.15
M. Marton
cik, J. Lok
sa / Computers in Human Behavior 56 (2016) 127e134130
Azaroth. The nature of the online world enables players to form
friendships and communicate with others more easily. Generally,
the social aspect of MMORPG games may be related to different
mental experiencing in online world. This reasoning was the basis
for the objective of the present study; i.e. to verify the differences in
experiencing loneliness and social anxiety in players in real and
online world. The results of the study support the hypothesis that
World of Warcraft players experience less loneliness and social
anxiety in online world. The degree of loneliness and social anxiety
experienced in online world is also reduced by the factors that
increase the degree of social activity such as presence of and
playing with known people, playing with a team-guild (valid only
for loneliness) and communication with other players. The total
time played was not found signicant for differences in observed
Why do players experience less loneliness and social anxiety in
online world than in real world? In online world, WoW players
meet people who share their interests and experiences with com-
puter games, with whom they can discuss them. Online environ-
ment provides players, who are often anxious, with a space, in
which they can form and experience high-quality relationships,
which satisfy their need to belong; for example, also by being
members of various guilds (e.g. Cole &Grifths, 2007; Leung, 2011).
Many players use MMORPG to meet their social needs, which they
are unable to satisfy in real world (Lo, Wang &Fang, 2005) as social
interactions and friendships formed in game environment are
equal to those in real world (Williams et al., 2006). Similarly, found
that WoW players who communicate with a number of other
players feel less lonely; and at the same time, this communication
improves their social well-being. In contrast, players may not feel
accepted in real world and in company of peoplewho do not play or
approve of computer games. According to Erath, Flanagan, and
Bierman (2007), this rejection may cause social anxiety, and com-
pounded by the lack of friends, with whom they could share their
interests, also loneliness (e.g. Weiss, 1973). Players, unable to nd
satisfying social contacts in real world, thus turn to virtual world;
and in this way, they not only experience less loneliness, but by
being accepted in online world, also less social anxiety. Another
explanation may be related to the perception of social anxiety as a
response to threats to social status or reputation(Nesse, 1998, in
Crozier &Alden, 2001, p. 4). In the online environment, WoW
players may perceive less threat to their social status, which can in
turn be increased by their game achievements (e.g. Morahan-
Martin &Schumacher, 2003). Yen, Yen, Chen, Wang, Chang, &Ko
(2012) have found similar differences in social anxiety between
online and real world; although not directly for online games.
Why do players playing with known people experience less
loneliness both in online and real world than players not playing
with known people? Why do players playing in guilds experience
less loneliness in online world than players playing by themselves?
Why do players who communicate with others through the
communication software more often experience less loneliness and
social anxiety than players not communicating as often? For be-
ginners, the social environment of WoW may be completely new;
for experienced players it may be, for example, joining a new guild.
The presence of a known person or a friend is expected to help
players reduce their anxiety and loneliness since they would feel
more secure when not alone (cf. Snodgrass, Lacy, Dengah II., and
Fagan, 2011). Similarly as to when students rst come to school,
Table 2
Descriptives for communication with other players.
How often do you talk on the communication software
Never (n ¼21) Rarely
(n ¼20)
(n ¼45)
(n ¼74)
online 45.33 15.16 42.35 14.77 34.87 12.25 30.26 12.00
real 42.09 16.38 38.90 14.81 39.44 13.89 36.22 13.61
Fig. 1. Interaction between the type of the world (online and real) and communication with other players in loneliness.
M. Marton
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sa / Computers in Human Behavior 56 (2016) 127e134 131
they are in a class full of strangers, so are players who are not
members of guilds and play WoW by themselves; they have fewer
opportunities for communication than members of guilds since the
nature of playing in a guild requires constant contact and interac-
tion (e.g. Zhong, 2011). Playing in a guild or e-Sports clan helps
players satisfy their need to belong (e.g. Cole &Grifths, 2007;
cik, 2015), since playing in a guild or clan, being
involved in its management and participating in ofine events
fosters communication with fellow players, enhances the willing-
ness for self-disclosure and thereby increases the chances of
gathering social capital(Reer &Kr
amer, 2014, p. 187). Being a
member of a WoWguild is typically associated with higher levels of
social support (Longman, O'Connor, &Obst, 2009; Zhong, 2011).
Internet chatting alone was shown by Shaw and Gant (2002) to
reduce loneliness and increase perceived social support. Interaction
in WoW is even more intensive and VoIP service is used for various
modes of communication, not just for typing, e.g. on own chat
channels, which guild members typically have. It is exactly VoIP
services, which enable a higher-quality form of communication and
interaction; and that supports friendship development, which can
reduce perceived loneliness (e.g. van Rooij, Schoenmakers, van den
Eijnden, Vermulst, &van de Mheen, 2014). WoW thus becomes an
ideal online environment for forming relationships and commu-
nication with other people, which is also stressed by Williams,
Ducheneaut, Xiong, Zhang, Yee, and Nickell (2006, p. 357): for
players who knew each other beforehand, WoW was an important
way for them to maintain and even reinforce their relationships.
For most others, it was an entr
ee to bridging social capital that
could build up into something more over timedranging from a few
weeks to a year. For most, this was akin to a mild form of bonding
found in real-world third places. Still, only a handful of players felt
that these relationships mattered more than real-life ones.
Why do players who have played games for different total
amout of time not differ in experiencing loneliness and social
anxiety in online and real world? Based on the fact that the fre-
quency of playing per week may vary throughout the weeks, the
total time played, as data that is not/does not have to be estimated
since it is accurately displayed by some add-ons or in-game com-
mands (/played time), is a better indicator of the time spent by
playing. At the same time, it creates a more accurate prole of
players, since for instance, new players, for whom everything in the
game is new and unknown may play an average of 30 ha a week;
however, if they have played only for 2 weeks, their prole as
MMORPG players is disputable. On the other hand, there is no
doubt that players who have spent a total of 190 days in online
world are MMORPG players. Why, then, is the total amount of time
spent by playing not related to experiencing loneliness and social
anxiety? With regard to human relationships, the online world is
probably quite similar to the real world. Various groups, friendships
and relationships are created in online world in a similar way as in
real world. The fact that players have spent some time in a certain
environment may not necesarily mean that they do not feel lonely
or anxious in this environment. It is possible that during this time,
players have formed several friendly relationships and joined a
number of guilds. It works similarly in real world; people are
members of certain groups, such as classrooms or working groups,
in which they form relationships with other people; however, it
often happens that people in these groups change. It is also
necessary to take into account that players play games other than
just WoW, and thus it is possible that they made friends, with
whom they play other multiplayer games in addition to WoW.
Therefore, the total time played may not correspond to the number
of satisfying and accepting relationships in a sense, the more time
spent in a certain online environment, the less loneliness players
perceive. Sometimes it is not as important how much time players
spend in a certain environment as what people surround them,
what groups they are members of; basically, what kind of envi-
ronment they are in. The total time played may thus not necessarily
be the determining factor for experiencing loneliness. Different
results were found by e.g. Lo, Wang and Fang (2005), in whose
research the heaviest players of online games had the least satis-
fying interpersonal relationships, less than light users and non-
players; and in Wei, Chen, Huang, and Bai (2012) research, they
tended to have more severe social phobia symptoms, which may be
related to using the average time played per week/day instead of
the total time played, as mentioned above, and not specifying the
type or genre of online games played.
Limitations. As interactions were not found to be signicant, the
main effects should be interpreted with caution; however, they are
consistent with our hypothesis. The internal validity of the study
could have been compromised by the fact that some aspects were
not measured or observed, such as the type of the guild (e.g. PvE,
PvP, RP), reasons why some players are not members of a guild or
whether they were members in the past, and playersmotivation
for guild membership or for playing itself. It should also be noted
that only one MMORPG game was examined and the data obtained
through the internet message boards may not be representative of
other players since players who visit these boards may represent a
separate subgroups of WoW players.
The objective of the study was not to examine differences in
loneliness and social anxiety between the players and non-players,
but to explain playersmental experiencing in two distinct envi-
ronments, in online and in real world. In our point of view, the
existence of two different worlds haven't been considered in
exploration of experiencing of players, yet. The results of our study
refer a decrease in a social anxiety and loneliness in online world.
The existing research has already provided some answers to
questions related to clarifying the causes (e.g. Leung, 2011; Lo,
Wang &Fang, 2005; Morahan-Martin &Schumacher, 2003; Yee,
2006a) and consequences (e.g. Lo, Wang &Fang, 2005; Kowert &
Oldmeadow, 2013; Visser, Antheunis, and Schouten, 2013)of
found differences between two worlds. But other questions are
appeared, for example: What is the nature of changes in experi-
encing loneliness and social anxiety of new players? As a theme for
the further research may be reections about a lower level of
loneliness in online environment, which, based on its denition, is
related to the development of friendly relations in this environ-
ment, however, the question is if a creation and development of
these relationships in the online environment leads to the devel-
opment of social skills, which the player can later use in a creating
new relationships in the real environment. Following this, we
present our reection about the search of alternatives to the
MMORPGs in specic cases, when MMORPGs function as a substi-
tution of a real world for a satisfaction of particular human needs.
MMORPG games and online games in general are usually viewed in
black-and-white terms; either as undesirable and having negative
inuence on players or as possibly carrying certain benets. How-
ever, evaluations of MMORPG games should be presented together
with other signicant considerations; for example, if MMORPG
games/online gaming are evaluated as negative, it is necessary to
add some suggestions such as; what steps should be taken in order
to motivate individuals not to become players and play for 50 h a
week, or how and what alternative should be created that would be
equally attractive to online game environment, which would make
players feel comfortable and enable them to make friends and
communicate with others easily. Especially for socially unskilled
individuals (Kowert &Oldmeadow, 2013) communication with a
large number of partners in the virtual environment and online
gaming itself is benecial for socialization (Kowert &Oldmeadow,
2015; Visser, Antheunis &Schouten, 2013). Many friendships
M. Marton
cik, J. Lok
sa / Computers in Human Behavior 56 (2016) 127e134132
made online then expand into the real world (Domahidi, Festl, &
Quandt, 2014). As noted by Kowert, Vogelgesang, Festl, and
Quandt (2015, p. 56), it can be concluded that online video
games exposure and non-problematic engagement is not a risk
factor for low self-esteem, low sociability, or increased loneliness
for adolescent or adult players.
Following is a discussion offered by the authors of the present
study. We think, that one of the main benets of MMORPG is that it
may act as a form of loneliness intervention. Luhmann, Sch
Hawkley, and Cacioppo (2014) state that loneliness intervention
literature addressed four main types of interventions: (1)
enhancing social skills, (2) providing social support, (3) increasing
opportunities for social interaction, and (4) addressing maladaptive
social cognition. MMORPG is believed to address the rst three
types of intervention. Speaking about the alternative to online
gaming, it is necessary to understand playersmotivation to play. If
the online environment acts only as a substitute for the real envi-
ronment, then the activities focused on social skill development
and loneliness, and social anxiety treatment and prevention seem
to be benecial. It may be useful to mention a case study conducted
by King, Valenca, Silva, Baczynski, Carvalho, and Nardi (2013),in
which a social phobia patient used computer games and online
world environment as a means of forming relationships and
maintaining communication with other people; and once the pa-
tient was successfully treated with medication and CBT treatment,
the time he spent in online world has decreased while his exposure
to real-life situations has increased. If players are motivated to play
just for fun, an alternative is not needed as computer games can be
a way of spending leisure time just like making paper models or
playing table tennis.
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Purpose e-Sports is an area of the game scene, in which computer game players specialize in a specific game, form game teams (clans), compete together in tournaments and meet at so-called LAN (Local Area Network) parties. The objective of this study was to compare the different types of e-Sports players from the perspective of their personality traits and explicit motives and to compare e-Sports players with casual players in selected life goals. Methods A questionnaire assessing life goals (Pöhlmann & Brunstein, 1997) and basic personality traits (Personality inventory KUD, 1986) were administered to 108 e-Sports players and 54 casual computer game players. Results In the group of e-Sports players, only clan leaders significantly differed in life goal power from those who were not members of any clan. Significant differences were also found between e-Sports players and casual players in terms of life goals affiliation and diversion. Conclusions e-Sports seem not only to be about playing computer games, but can also serve as a means of satisfying the need to belong. They do this by creating friendly relationships through membership in game teams and participation in LAN parties, or satisfying the need for power by upholding a position of a game team leader and determining its course of action.
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Feeling lonely motivates people to reconnect with others, but it can also trigger a vicious cycle of cognitions and behaviors that reinforces their loneliness. In this study, we examined the behavioral consequences of loneliness in a virtual social environment. A total of 176 participants navigated a character (protagonist) through a two-dimensional browser game and rated the character’s loneliness multiple times during the game. In the first part of the game, another character is introduced as the protagonist’s spouse. At one point, the spouse leaves for an undetermined period of time but later returns. Immediately before this separation, higher ascribed loneliness of the protagonist was associated with more frequent interactions with the spouse. After the reunion, however, higher ascribed loneliness was associated with less frequent interactions with the spouse. Ascribed loneliness was not significantly related to the frequency of interactions with others nor to the frequency of solitary activities. These patterns held after controlling for ascribed positive affect. Participants’ levels of loneliness were related to the level of ascribed loneliness only when the spouse was present but not when the spouse was absent. In sum, these findings suggest that the conditions that trigger the vicious cycle of loneliness are person-specific and situation-specific.
For a long time I have wanted to put together a book about sodal and evaluation anxiety. Sodal-evaluation anxiety seemed to be a stressful part of so many people's everyday experience. It also seemed to be apart of so many of the clinical problems that I worked with. Common terms that fit under this rubric include fears of rejection, humiliation, critidsm, embarrassment, ridicule, failure, and abandonment. Examples of sodal and evaluation anxiety include shyness; sodal inhibition; sodal timidity; public speaking anxiety; feelings of self-consdousness and awkwardness in sodal situations; test anxiety; perfor­ mance anxiety in sports, theater, dance, or music; shame; guilt; separation anx­ iety; sodal withdrawal; procrastination; and fear of job interviews or job evalua­ tions, of asking someone out, of not making a good impression, or of appearing stupid, foolish, or physically unattractive. In its extreme form, sodal anxiety is a behavior disorder in its own right­ sodal phobia. This involves not only feelings of anxiety but also avoidance and withdrawal from sodal situations in which scrutiny and negative evaluation are antidpated. Sodal-evaluation anxiety also plays a role in other clinical disorders. For example, people with agoraphobia are afraid of having a panic attack in public in part because they fear making a spectacle of themselves. Moreover, even their dominant terrors of going crazy or having a heart attack seem to reflect a central concern with sodal abandonment and isolation.
Although survey results suggest that socially anxious individuals may use computer mediated communication (CMC) differently from others and feel differently about CMC relative to face to face (FTF) communication, little is known about their actual experience during CMC. Using an experimental interaction task, we assessed (N = 73) high and low social anxiety participants during CMC and FTF. In addition to self-reported social anxiety, arousal, and perception of success and control, we assessed heart rate and skin conductance, which are physiological indices of arousal. Both CMC and FTF interaction tasks were associated with significant increases in physiological arousal compared to baseline. Although subjective anxiety and arousal were higher in FTF compared to CMC, physiological arousal showed no significant differences across conditions. An interaction effect was found for perceived success such that those high in social anxiety perceived greater success in CMC than in FTF while those low in social anxiety showed no differences across conditions. Further experimental study of subjective and objective indices of anxiety will help elucidate the unique experience of CMC for those with high social anxiety.
The present study examines how players’ behaviors within gaming-communities (clans and guilds) influence the acquisition of social capital in online-gaming. In contrast to most existing studies, our study asks for crucial underlying factors of social capital acquisition and thereby includes players of online-games of different genres to allow comparisons. We hypothesize that frequently playing together (familiarity), participating in offline events (physical proximity) and being involved in clan/guild administration (social proximity) lead to more communication with fellow players and foster self-disclosure towards fellow players, which together facilitates the formation of bridging and bonding social capital. A sample of 682 clan/guild players of the games Counter-Strike and World of Warcraft was recruited via Internet and was asked to fill out a questionnaire. Results of a path analysis support our assumptions and enhance previous findings that players of online-games especially gain positive social outcomes, when they go beyond the game and join game-related groups, engage in clan/guild administration and participate in offline events. By revealing the crucial role of self-disclosure and communication frequency as underlying factors of social capital acquisition in online-gaming, our results provide a deeper insight into these mechanisms than existing studies. Our findings have implications of general importance, since the tested model worked well for player samples stemming from online-games of different genres.