Conference PaperPDF Available
© The Authors. Published by BCS
Learning and Development Ltd.
Proceedings of HCI 2014, Southport, UK.
Videogames: Dispelling myths and tabloid
headlines that videogames are bad
Christian M Jones Laura Scholes Daniel Johnson Mary Katsikitis Michelle C. Carras
University of the
Sunshine Coast
University of the
Sunshine Coast
Queensland University
of Technology
University of the
Sunshine Coast
Johns Hopkins
University
Queensland, Australia Queensland, Australia Queensland, Australia Queensland, Australia Baltimore, MD, USA
cmjones@usc.edu.au l.scholes@usc.edu.au dm.johnson@qut.edu.au mkatsiki@usc.edu.au mcarras@jhsph.edu
Videogamers are often portrayed as adolescent overweight males eating fast food in their
bedroom, and videogames often blamed in the media for violent crime, obesity, social isolation and
depression. However videogaming is a mainstream activity. In Australia 65% of the population play
videogames (Digital Australia 2014), and humanity as a species play about 3 billion hours of
videogames a week. This paper dispels the myths and sensationalised negative tabloid headlines
that videogames are bad by presenting the latest research showing that videogames can help fight
depression, improve brain function and stimulate creativity; that gamers have higher levels of
family closeness and better attachment to school; and that videogames help boys and young men
to relax, cope and socialise. Children and adolescents deliberately choose to play videogames in
the knowledge that they will feel better as a result, and videogame play allow players to express
themselves in ways they may not feel comfortable doing in real life because of their appearance,
gender, sexuality, and/or age. The potential benefits of videogames to the individual and to society
are yet to be fully realised. However already videogames are helping many gamers to flourish in
life.
Videogames, violence, obesity, social, depression, flourishing, wellbeing, mental health.
1. INTRODUCTION
Videogames have been blamed for many of the
problems faced by society. Problems from obesity
to obsession, and from depression to violence. The
‘media’ (TV and newspapers) have reported
videogames as glorifying violence, and videogame
players as smelly, overweight, acne-ridden males,
living with their parents, never leaving their
bedroom and surviving on pizzas and Redbull.
Caroline Overington in the “The Australian” has
said “anyone over the age of 30 who spends any
time deep in some sagging sofa, console in one
hand, the other down the front of their pants,
imagining themselves to be a combatant in some
pretend city, is lame.” and that gamers “don’t
participate in life in any meaningful way.” Michael
Atkison, former South Australian Attorney-General,
during his push to block an R18+ classification for
video games in Australia (February 2010), referred
to the games as “terrorist simulators’ and stated
that his family was “more at risk from gamers than
we are from the outlaw motorcycle gangs who also
hate me”.
With this type of media and government
representation of videogames and videogame
players, it is little wonder why many gamers
wouldn’t include videogaming as an interest on
their curriculum vitae. However with 93% of
households in Australia having a gaming device
(Digital Australia 2014) an employer should be
more surprised to see the absence of gaming on an
employee resume. Furthermore, the average
gamer is 32 years old; 47% of gamers are female;
and the average adult gamer has been playing for
11 years and plays every day (Digital Australia
2014).
A gamer is simply a person who plays games.
Whether playing FIFA 14 with 3 friends in front of
the lounge-room 55” LED TV, or playing a mobile
version of Words with Friends with your mother
whilst you are on the bus and she’s on her lunch
break, you are gamers and are considered by
some in the media to be, at best wasting your time,
and at worst harming your health.
In “A Life Well Wasted,” an internet radio show
about videogames and the people who love them,
Robert Ashley explores why people play games.
He says that people play video games for a variety
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Videogames: Dispelling myths and tabloid headlines that videogames are bad
Jones • Scholes • Johnson • Katsikitis • Carras
of different reasons. “They are fun; they are an
escape from the pressures of day-to-day life.
People play for social reasons, people play for a
sense of accomplishment. There are opportunities
for a deeper immersion than we can get through
movies or television, experiencing worlds and
stories that aren’t attainable in the ‘real world’.”
(Ashley 2013)
Gaming is a social hobby and ’Gamers’ will discuss
their favourite games in forums and chat online
during gameplay. Massively Multiple Online games
(MMOs) such as World of Warcraft and World of
Tanks provide opportunities never experience
before by humanity to play together. For example,
WoW has 8 million subscribers and World of Tanks
has 75 million registered players (Humphries
2013). Also gamers will gather in large numbers at
conventions like The Electronic Entertainment Expo
(>50,000 attendees) and Penny Arcade Expo
(PAX) (>70,000 attendees in US alone) to share in
their love of gaming.
However just like Rock n’ Roll of the 1950’s, Comic
Books in the 1960’s and Punk of the 1970’s, video
games and the people who play them seem to be
the reason for the imminent downfall of western
civilisation (Ashley 2013). But new media has
always been feared. Novel reading in the 1860s
was consider to be “… one of the great vices of our
age. Multitudes care for nothing but light reading.
The bookstores abound with works of fiction. The
records of our public libraries show that there are
more readers in this department than any other--
perhaps more than in all the rest. The literature
which finds its way into the hands of our people, as
they journey by land or water, is almost invariably
fictitious.” (Crane 1869). In 1910 it was early motion
pictures that received bad press. "85 percent of the
juvenile crime which has been investigated has
been found traceable either directly or indirectly to
motion pictures which have shown on the screen
how crimes could be committed." (criminologist
cited by Münsterberg, circa 1910)
Too often we hear stories of school shootings
fuelled by video game violence, teen deaths
caused by ‘obsessive’ playing and game induced
rage the cause of murder. Remember that new
media has been blamed before and will be blamed
in the future for societal issues.
Recently, the gaming community has become more
vocal of the positive benefits of videogames to
them as individuals and to broader society.
Researchers have begun to realise what gamers
have know for a while, that playing videogames is
good for positive wellbeing (see Allahverdipour, et
al 2010; Barr, Khaled, Noble & Biddle 2006; Colwell
2007; Boyle, et al 2011; Durkin & Barber 2002;
Hull, 2009; Przybylski et al 2011; Ryan & Deci
2008; Snodgrass, Lacy, Dengah, Fagan & Most
2011; Wang et al 2008). Over the last five to ten
years, increasing attention has been given to the
possibility of games improving health and wellbeing
(Desai, Krishnan- Sarin, Cavallo & Potenza 2010).
A number of more recent studies have considered
a more nuanced approach to the positive and
negative influences of game play and a number of
significant studies have demonstrated clear
benefits to individuals who spend time in game
play. There is also increased concern that the
potential value of videogames has not been
sufficiently considered, particularly in terms of the
benefits for young people at risk (Kutner & Olson,
2008).
This paper challenges the many sensational
headlines reported in the media asserting that
videogames cause obesity, addiction and social
isolation by presenting the latest research
evidencing the positive benefits of playing games.
The research evidence has been compiled from a
comprehensive review of over 200 international
research papers linking videogame play with
positive wellbeing (Jones et al 2014, Johnson et al
2013).
2. PLAYING GAMES MAKES YOU FAT
The stereotypical gamer is viewed by the broader
society as an adolescent overweight male with
acne, eating fast food in his bedroom. However
research neither supports this stereotype, nor any
negative impact of playing games of physical
wellbeing. Instead the gamer of today is 32 years
old, equally probably to be female as male, and
plays videogames with their children. True, gamers
eat fast food, but no more often than the rest of the
population.
Research has shown that frequency of play does
not significantly relate to body mass index (weight)
(Wack & Tentelett-Dunn 2009). A team at Michigan
State University in East Lansing selected a group
of 482 12-year-olds and followed them for three
years. Parents and children responded to six
waves of surveys covering each child's internet
use, how much they played video games and how
often they used a mobile phone. Parents were also
asked about their children's exam scores, height,
weight, race and socioeconomic status, while the
kids were tested in reading, mathematics,
visuospatial recognition and self-esteem. The team
found that while video games were used more than
the internet and mobile phones, none of these
activities predicted a child's weight or BMI. Instead
they found that race, age and socioeconomic status
were the strongest predictors (Jackson et al 2011).
The researchers also found some benefits of
technology use: children who used the internet
more had higher test scores in reading. Those who
played more video games had better visuospatial
skills (Jackson et al 2011).
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Jones • Scholes • Johnson • Katsikitis • Carras
Time playing videogames does not appear to
replace time in physical activities. Data suggests
that playing videogames is associated with
increases in participation in physical sports.
3. YOU’RE ADDICTED TO PLAYING VIDEO
GAMES
Girl starved to death while parents raised virtual
child in online game, The Guardian, UK, 6 March
2010
A three-month old South Korean girl starved to
death after her parents devoted hours of time to
raising a virtual girl in an online role playing
game called Prius Online. The game, similar to
Second Life, allows players to create virtual
worlds and virtual characters. The parents of
the young child would leave their infant
unattended while they went to internet cafes
and only return occasionally to feed her
powdered milk. The baby was found to have
died due to malnutrition after the parents return
from a 12 hour gaming session.
Diablo death: Teenage dies after playing video
game for 40 hours without eating or sleeping”, The
Mirror, UK, 18 July, 2012.
An 18-year old Taiwanese boy called Chuany
died after failing to eat or sleep for over 40
hours in a private room in an internet cafe. It is
believed that he suffered a fatal blood clot after
spending a long time seated.
Figure 1: “Gamers can't tell real world from fantasy”,
The Mail, UK, 20 September 2011
Some players have become obsessed with, and
addicted to, playing videogames, resulting in
physical and mental harm, family breakdowns and
even death, Figure 1. However are videogames the
cause of this addictive behaviour or is addictive
gameplay a consequence of the player’s
psychological wellbeing.
Although the terminology is still being debated
(Lemmens et al 2011) some researchers have
begun to voice concerns about addictive gaming
behaviour (pathological gaming) as a legitimate
behavioural disorder. The American Psychiatric
Association has recently designated “Internet
Gaming Disorder” as a condition requiring further
study (American Psychiatric Association, 2013).
Some studies of small groups of players who spend
excessive amounts of time on games have shown
that symptoms of addiction can arise including
withdrawal, preoccupation, loss of control, and
interpersonal or intrapersonal conflicts (Gentile,
2009; Grüsser, Thalemann & Griffiths 2007), while
other studies fail to support links between heavy
play and negative psychosocial outcomes in non-
addicted gamers (Lemmens et al 2011, Van Rooij
et al 2011). Although longitudinal research on
pathological gaming is relatively scarce, three
studies have evaluated the psychosocial predictors
and outcomes of pathological gaming among
adolescents (Lemmens et al 2011, Gentile et al
2011, Van Rooij et al 2011). These authors
evaluated a large number of potential risk factors
for the development of pathological gaming and
concluded that time gaming as well as
psychosocial factors such as impulsivity, social
competence and emotional regulation all predicted
the development of pathological gaming. They also
found that those who became pathological gamers
were more likely to show increased scores on
scales measuring ADHD, anxiety, and depression.
Consistent with Gentile and colleagues’ research,
Lemmens and colleagues also found that lower
psychosocial wellbeing was generally a precursor
of pathological gaming, with diminished social
competence, increased loneliness, and lower self-
esteem predicting an increase in pathological
gaming six months later (Lemmens et al 2011).
They also found that pathological gaming was
associated with even greater amounts of gaming
six months later, as well as increases in self-
reported physical aggression for boys.
A study by Van Rooij and colleagues (2011) of
online gamers points to the persistence of
pathological gaming over the course of a year, with
half of a group of pathological gamers (described
as having both heavy play and high self-reported
addictive use) showing continued pathological use
a year later. In sum, the research suggests lower
psychosocial wellbeing is more likely to be a cause
rather than a consequence of internet gaming
addiction (Chak & Leung 2004; Ko et al 2005), but
that harm may result from play that is rated by
players as addictive.
Przybylski, Weinstein, Ryan, and Rigby (2009)
conducted research exploring the consequences of
different styles of engagement in videogame play.
The researchers were particularly interested in how
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Videogames: Dispelling myths and tabloid headlines that videogames are bad
Jones • Scholes • Johnson • Katsikitis • Carras
need satisfaction in other areas of life moderated
the relationship between videogame play and
wellbeing. Based on a large sample (n=1324) of
videogame players, they established that high
levels of basic psychological need satisfaction were
positively related to ‘harmonious’ passion for
videogame play (the activity is personally
important, freely chosen and in harmony with other
aspects of life), whereas low levels of need
satisfaction were related to ‘obsessive’ passion for
videogame play (the activity is experienced as a
compulsion and conflicts with other facets of life). In
turn, harmonious passion contributed to enhancing
experiences of play and game enjoyment energy
post-play but did not influence amount of play. In
contrast, obsessive passion contributed to a
disordered pattern of play including greater
amounts of play, higher tension post-play, and less
game enjoyment for players of some game types
(Przybylski, Weinstein, Ryan & Rigby 2009).
Game type, need satisfaction, harmonious passion
and obsessive passion, game enjoyment, weekly
play time, post play energy and tension, life
satisfaction, psychological and physical health were
measured in a study of 1,324 (1,168 male)
videogame players ranging in age from 18 to 43
years and recruited from a popular online
community that provides a forum for discussions
about videogames and Internet culture (Przybylski
et al 2009b). Post-play energy and tension was
measured via the energy and tension subscales of
the Activation-Deactivation Adjective Checklist
developed by Thayer (1986). Participants were
asked to rate 10 mood adjectives relating to how
they felt after playing their favoured game
(Przybylski et al 2009b). Terms used reflected
energy and vitality (e.g., active, energetic,
vigorous), and tapped tension and anxiety (e.g.,
jittery, clutched up, fearful). Titles of the games
enjoyed by participants were categorised into five
distinct game genres with games represented
including first-person shooters (316), massively
multiplayer online games (309), role-playing games
(284), strategy games (223), and action-adventure
games (192) (Przyblski et al 2009). It was found
that for those engaging with videogames
harmoniously, greater hours of play were
associated with greater post-play energy. In
contrast, for those engaging with videogames in an
obsessive manner, greater hours of play were
associated with reduced post-play energy.
These studies suggests that how young people
engage with videogames (harmoniously or
obsessively), is more important in terms of the
impact of videogame play on wellbeing than which
videogames they play. Specifically, where
harmonious engagement occurs players are more
energised and moreover, more videogame play can
lead to greater vitality.
Thus, it is a person’s ‘pre-existing’ addictive
behaviour linked with psychosocial factors that
predicts addiction to videogame and length of play
session. Whether the player wants to play
(harmonious passion) or has to play (obsessive
passion) effects their energy and satisfaction of
their needs. These findings suggest that the
amount of play may be less important for any
positive or negative impact of videogames and
instead it how videogames are played, whether
they are played with others, and with whom they
are played.
4. GAMERS DON'T HAVE FRIENDS
Figure 2: "Video Games Sending Kids Crazy", The Daily
Telegraph, Australia, 28 November, 2011, Bruce
McDougall
The media often present videogame players as
loners, having low self-esteem, low social skills and
preferring to play games on their own, Figure 2.
However the Digital Australia national survey
suggests otherwise, with over 65% of Australians
playing videogames and playing games every day,
and over 80% of mums and dads playing
videogames (Digital Australia 2014). Videogames
in themselves don’t undermine social connections
but rather provide unprecedented access to
millions of other players around the world.
Massively Multiplayer Online games (MMOs)
attract many hundreds of thousands of players, for
example Dofus has over 41 million players
worldwide, Guild Wars (1 and 2) over 9 million, and
World of Warcraft over 8 million players.
These MMOs are online “places” in which social
interaction can occur and are unique in the fact that
they collect and mix people (Williams et al,. 2006).
World of Warcraft (WoW) is a vibrant social space
for millions of players, populated with a range of
social experiences ranging from ephemeral
impersonal groups to sustained and deep
relationships that extend offline. Games such as
WoW include structure and rule sets impacting on
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Videogames: Dispelling myths and tabloid headlines that videogames are bad
Jones • Scholes • Johnson • Katsikitis • Carras
what kinds of people play, what they do, and how
and why they interact with one another. As part of
gameplay social organisations are created with the
design encouraging the formation of persistent
player associations (Taylor, 2003).
Genres of videogames other than MMOs also offer
opportunities for socialising with other players. For
example first-person-shooters and sport games
almost always include online multiplayer modes
that allow for both competitive and cooperative
play. Similar modes are also sometimes included in
action games, platforming games, puzzle games
and other genres. McGonigal reports that
videogame players are part of something bigger
than themselves (McGonigal, 2011). Reporting that
in the final campaign in Halo 3 when gamers must
protect the Earth from alien attack, players
collective completed over 10 billion kills (achieved
April 2009), which is 12,000 kills a minute. Although
there is no real value in killing an alien in Halo 3,
McGonigal suggests that this doesn’t mean they
don’t have meaning. Meaning is significant not just
to ourselves or friends and family, but rather to a
much larger group such as the whole Human race.
Seligman suggests that the larger the group you
can attach yourself to the more meaning you can
derive (Seligman, 1998, p287). Connecting with
millions of videogame players across the world
against a common in-game attack is bigger than
any one player and this can derive meaning and
wellbeing. In the eight years of Halo 3 play to April
2012, players compiled more than 123 billion hours
of gaming, or more than 85 million days, achieving
more than 136 billion kills and earning over 79
billion medals (in-game awards based on a player's
actions during a typical multiplayer match) for their
gaming.
When WoW players work together in guilds they
often participate in highly structured organizational
experiences working towards common goals.
Players in formally structured guilds tend to have a
more social experience than others. Playing WoW
is thus like a team sport, which has its own rules,
literal boundaries, and social norms (Williams et al.,
2006). There are however self-initiated tactics,
team strategies, styles, and goals that make the
play space a stage for socialization, organization,
and networks.
MMO gamers under the age of 18 have reported
that friendships they form online are comparable or
better than their real-life friendships (Yee, 2006).
WoW players report creating social capital through
online gameplay with players using the game to
extend real life relationships, meet new people and
form relationships of varying strengths (Williams,
Ducheneaut, Xiong, Zhang, Yee, & Nickell, 2006).
As Cole & Griffiths (2007) found in their study of
912 self-selected MMOs players from 45 countries,
the social interactions in online gaming form a
considerable element in the enjoyment of playing,
with three quarters of both male and female players
having made good friends within online games
(Cole & Griffiths 2007).
It can be argued that online communication is being
used to enhance both the quantity and quality of
communication between friends, leading to greater
closeness and intimacy (Valkenburg and Peter
2011). Playing online with friends who are also
friends in real life is healthy, as interactions help
regulate game play (Snodgrass, Lacy, Dengal,
Fagan, 2011). Playing with real life friends also
allows players to transfer positive gaming
experiences into real life. However playing with real
friends makes it harder to immerse, impacting on
some of the stress reduction benefits although also
potentially reducing the risk of problematic play and
addiction. Playing with real life friends also allows
players of WoW to share their experiences of
success and achievement to bolster and repair
their feelings of worth and esteem as players.
Players are then able to transfer in-game
accomplishments and status to their real-life
networks of friends and family. Playing WoW in this
way creates cognitive and social bridges between
on- and off-line worlds providing more objective
perspective on MMO use and allowing better self-
regulation. Therefore, playing with friends has the
potential to affect levels of problematic play by
mediating immersion and enhancing real-life
relationships increasing social and psychological
resilience (Snodgrass, Lacy, Dengal, Fagan, 2011,
Colwell, 2007; Hull, 2009; Trepte, Reinecke, &
Juechems, 2012; Wack & Tantleff-Dunn, 2009).
Positive relationships within online videogames
provide opportunities for social and emotional
support. Two fifths of study participants said they
would discuss sensitive issues with their online
gaming friends that they would not discuss with
their real life friends, and with female players more
likely to do this (Cole & Griffiths, 2007). Two fifths
of participants had met their online friends in real-
life, suggesting that online videogaming is a social
activity and facilitates social connections. A third of
participants were attracted to another player (26%
males compared to 42% females) suggesting that
MMOs offer a safe environment for players to
become emotionally involved with others. It would
appear that videogames allow players to express
themselves in ways they may not feel comfortable
doing in real life because of their appearance,
gender, sexuality, and/or age.
Online social videogames such as Words with
Friends (similar to Scrabble) are encouraging
families and friends to keep in touch. These games
alert players that it is their turn and players can
chat and/or leave messages. In fact the game can
be an excuse and mechanism for conversations to
occur, with mothers and daughters discussing
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Jones • Scholes • Johnson • Katsikitis • Carras
every day events and exchanging messages of
affection. Playing these asynchronous games
where both players don’t need to be online at the
same time but can play their turn when convenient,
encourages players to continue to exchange and
regularly (McGonigal, 2011). This ‘stickiness’ (the
ability of the game to keep the players playing)
draws together the players to build and maintain
positive relationships.
Videogames can eliminate loneliness. Even when
friends and family are separated by time and
distance, videogames can allow players to interact,
share and be social (Pwn or Die Blog 12 ways,
2009). Meeting online to play together in a game,
can provide strong social and emotional ties, and
more meaning for society both within and beyond
the game.
5. PLAYING GAMES MAKES YOU VIOLENT
Figure 3: "Killer’s Call of Duty Obsession" - The Sun,
UK, 18 Dec 2012, Damien McFerran
Traditionally, much of the research on videogames
has focused on the negative effects of playing,
Figure 3. However we argue that research
reporting the effects of violent games on
aggression has room for improvement. The existing
body of research has been criticised for concerns
about publication bias and an emphasis on the use
of laboratory measures of aggression that
exaggerate relationships between videogame
violence and aggression and do not accurately
predict real life behaviour (Boyle, Connolly &
Hainey 2011; Ferguson, 2007; Kutner & Olson
2008; Sherry 2004, 2007).
More recent research includes studies focusing on
longitudinal measures that attempt to demonstrate
causal relationships between violent videogames
and aggression. Many of these studies rely on self-
reported measures of aggressive feelings or
attitudes (Lemmens et al 2011; Möller & Krahé
2009; Anderson et al 2010; Shibuya, Sakamoto,
Ihori & Yukawa, 2008), while other studies include
self-reported counts of aggressive behaviours
(Shibuya et al 2008; Bucolo 2011) or combined
teacher and peer ratings (Gentile & Gentile 2008).
While some of those studies do report associations
between earlier violent videogame play and later
self-reported aggression (Anderson et al 2010;
Bucolo 2011;Möller & Krahé 2009) or combined
peer-and teacher-reported aggression (Gentile &
Gentile 2008), others do not support long-term
direct effects of violent videogames on self-
reported physical aggression (Lemmens et al 2011;
Shibuya et al 2008).
Violence is not an important factor in contributing to
game enjoyment. Players play violent games for
the same reasons they play other games, such as
enjoyment of the challenge and the freedom to act
in a virtual world (Przybylski, Ryan & Rigby 2009).
There are many creative, social and emotional
benefits from playing videogames, including violent
games (Kutner & Olson 2008). Focusing on violent
videogames as a precursor to aggression may
cause parents, social activists and public-policy
makers to ignore the much more powerful and
significant causes of violence amongst young
people that have already been well established,
including a range of social, behavioural, economic,
biological and mental-health factors (Kutner &
Olson 2008; Ferguson et al 2013).
6. PLAYING GAMES MAKES YOU STRESSED
OR DEPRESSED
Figure 4: “Gaming can cause depression” - The Sun,
UK, 18 March 2010, Steve Pope (psychotherapist)
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Videogames: Dispelling myths and tabloid headlines that videogames are bad
Jones • Scholes • Johnson • Katsikitis • Carras
Miley Cyrus urges youngsters not to use the
internet as it's "dangerous" and "wastes your
life". Miley, 17, said she's been happier since
closing her Twitter page. Things like texting,
Twitter, Facebook and videogames can
apparently cause teenagers to become
depressed, and should be 'banned'. In this
article, Figure 4, Steve Pope talks about
working with an English Premier League
Football club to find out why the players weren’t
playing well in away games. He attributed their
poor form on playing Call of Duty when
travelling on coaches to away matches. He
says “They spend all day killing people, then
come off it and have to go about their daily
business. I believe such games are one reason
we are becoming more violent”
It may be easy for the media to report that social
technologies and in particular videogames are a
cause of negative emotions, stress and depression.
However emerging research suggests that
moderate game play instead contributes to positive
emotions (Allahverdipour et al., 2010; Kutner &
Olson, 2008; Ryan, Rigby, & Przybylski, 2006;
Przybylski, Ryan, & Rigby, 2009: Wang et al.,
2008) and emotional stability (Przybylski et al.,
2011). Positive mental wellbeing has also been
associated with game play as a means of
relaxation and stress reduction (Russoniello,
O’Brien, & Parks, 2009; Snodgrass, Lacy, Dengah,
Fagan, & Most, 2011; Wack & Tantleff-Dunn,
2009).
The amount of game play is a moderating factor on
the player’s personal wellbeing. Durkin and
Barber’s (2002) examination of the relationship
between game play and several measures of
adjustment for 1304 high school students, found
that videogame play was unlikely to be harmful and
instead was often associated with positive
outcomes. There were advantages for those
adolescents who occasionally played videogames
(low use) and those who played daily (high use)
compared to the young people who reported that
they never played games (never) (Durkin & Barber,
2002). Specifically, depressed mood was
significantly lower in the ‘low’ use group compared
to the ‘never’ and ‘high’ groups who reported
similar outcomes. Self-esteem was also higher in
the ‘low’ use group with self-concept regarded
higher by players than non players, with ‘high’ use
players scoring the highest in this domain. Both
groups of players also reported higher levels of
family closeness and less risky friendship networks
than non-players, with attachment to school also
higher in these two videogame play groups.
Allahverdipour et al. (2010) found that middle-
school students with moderate amounts of
gameplay report better mental health compared to
non-gamers and excessive gamers. Gamers spent
an average of 6.3 hours per week playing video
games with 47% reporting that they had played one
or more intensely violent games including: Dead or
Alive, Def Jam, Doom, Driver, Mortal Kombat,
Grand Theft Auto, Resident Evil, and Prince of
Persia. Moreover, 92% of boys and 96% of girls
played video games although boys typically played
games for greater duration than girls. However, it is
the amount of gameplay that appears significant,
with moderate gaming among young men providing
a healthy source of socialization, relaxation, and
coping (Wack & Tantleff-Dunn, 2009). Defining
‘non-gamers’ as those who did not play at all, ‘low’
1-6 hours per week, ‘moderate’ 7-10 hours per
week, and ‘excessive’ as more than 10 hours per
week, Allahverdipour et al. (2010) found a
curvilinear relationship between videogame playing
and mental health outcomes with ‘moderate’
gamers faring best. Although ‘excessive’ gamers
showed mild increases in problematic behaviours
(such as somatic symptoms; anxiety and insomnia;
social dysfunction, and general mental health
status), it was ‘non-gamers’ who indicated the
poorest outcomes on these constructs. Non-
gaming has been found to put boys, in particular, at
greater risk for problems. This effect for non-
gamers has also been reported by others who
found gaming positively contributed to creative,
social, and emotional benefits (Kutner & Olson,
2008).
There is concern that the potential benefits of
videogames (including some games with violent
content) have not received enough attention.
Kutner and Olson, co-directors of the Harvard
Medical School Center for Mental Health and
Media, recently found that boys who did not play
any videogames during a typical week had a high
risk of emotional disturbance. Boys playing
videogames are using these games for emotional
regulation, to help them relax, to forget problems,
or to feel less lonely (Kutner & Olson, 2008). While
the survey did find correlations between Mature-
rated violent gameplay and some common
childhood problems such as aggressive behaviours
or school problems this risk was for both boys and
girls. However results did not show causality and
most children who played violent games did not
have problems. In fact many of boys describe using
violent videogames to manage their emotions and
to deal with anger, frustration and stress (Keyes,
2002; Kutner & Olson, 2008).
Children use videogames as a means of mood
alteration or ‘letting off steam’, following problems
at school, or with friends or with parents (Colwell,
2007). Feelings of anger, guilt, or frustration are
dissipated after some time spent in game play.
Furthermore children have an understanding of the
mood altering benefits of their videogame play and
explicitly make choices to engage with videogames
to manage their emotions.
58
Videogames: Dispelling myths and tabloid headlines that videogames are bad
Jones • Scholes • Johnson • Katsikitis • Carras
8. CONCLUSIONS
Arguably the first successful videogame, and which
led to the popularisation of the medium, was Pong,
developed and released by Bushnell and Dabney in
1972. Videogames have come a long way in 40
years from the early ‘electronic tennis’ to the deeply
emotive narrative of ‘The Last of Us’ and the
immense online worlds of ‘Eve Online’. Similarly it
is time for the media to recognise that videogames
have grown up and are able to sophistically explore
complex and sensitive subject matters such as
‘Papo & Yo’ a fantasy adventure videogame
involving a young Brazilian boy Quico and his
abusive, alcoholic father.
Gamers are not a minority, nor atypical of society.
Instead most of ‘us’ play games, and play games
every day. Whether you play causal games such as
Words with Friends or enjoy a World of Warcraft
party, as a species, humans play about 3 billion
hours a week (about 125 million days worth, or
342,239 years). By the time they are 21, most
children will have played about 10,000 hours worth
of video games, which is about the same amount of
time they will spend in school. Humanity wants to
play games and games are good for us. Research
is showing that videogames can help fight
depression, improve brain function and stimulate
creativity. Videogame players report higher levels
of family closeness, less risky friendship networks
and better attachment to school than non-players
(Durkin & Barber 2002). Moderate videogame play
among young men can provide a healthy source of
socialisation, relaxation, and coping (Wack &
Tantleff-Dunn 2009), and videogaming among
college-aged men has been seen to provide a
healthy source of socialisation, relaxation, and
combating stress (Wack & Tentelett-Dunn 2009,
Snodgrass, Lacy, Dengal & Fagan 2011;
Snodgrass, Lacy, Dengah, Fagan & Most 2011;
Snodgrass et al 2012). Moderate videogame play
can contribute to positive emotions (Allahverdipour,
Bazargan, Farhadinasab & Moeini 2010; Kutner &
Olson 2008; Ryan, Rigby & Przybylski 2006;
Przybylski, Ryan & Rigby 2009; Wang, Khoo, Liu &
Divaharan 2008), and can contribute to emotional
stability (Przybylski, Weinstein, Murrayama, Lynch
& Ryan 2011). Depressed mood has been found to
be significantly lower in the moderate players of
videogames compared to those who ‘never’ play
videogames and those who play videogames to
excess (Durkin & Barber 2002), and non-gaming
has been found to put boys, in particular, at greater
risk for problems. Boys who did not play any
videogames during a typical week had a higher risk
of emotional disturbance compared to children who
were using games for emotional regulation — to
help them relax, to forget problems, or to feel less
lonely (Kutner & Olson 2008).
Children play games as a means of mood alteration
or ‘letting off steam’ in response to problems with
friends or parents, and it appears that children and
adolescents deliberately choose to play
videogames in the knowledge that they will feel
better as a result (Colwell 2007).
Videogames have been found to be an effective
play therapy tool. Children can be helped to change
their views of themselves and the world around
through metaphors in games, e.g., ‘the force’ in
Lego Star Wars, gaining ‘attributes’ in SSX-3
(snowboarding), and conquering ‘quests’ in
RuneScape (Hull 2009). Self-esteem was higher in
the moderate videogame players, while self-
concept was higher amongst players compared to
non-players (Durkin & Barber 2002), and
videogame play may allow players to express
themselves in ways they may not feel comfortable
doing in real life because of their appearance,
gender, sexuality, and/or age (Coles & Griffith
2007).
The ‘average’ gamer aged 32 has grown up with
videogames; our children intuitively know how to
use videogames; and the elderly are adopting
videogames to maintain physical and mental
wellbeing and social connections. The potential
benefits of videogames to the individual and to
society are yet to be fully realised. However already
videogames are helping many gamers to flourish in
life. Gamer designers and gamers must take
responsibility for the quality and use of
videogames, and the media must welcome the
greatest opportunity ever experience by humanity
to play together, and to play well together.
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Four studies apply self-determination theory (SDT; Ryan & Deci, 2000) in investigating motivation for computer game play, and the effects of game play on well-being. Studies 1–3 examine individuals playing 1, 2 and 4 games, respectively and show that perceived in-game autonomy and competence are associated with game enjoyment, preferences, and changes in well-being pre- to post-play. Competence and autonomy perceptions are also related to the intuitive nature of game controls, and the sense of presence or immersion in participants’ game play experiences. Study 4 surveys an on-line community with experience in multi-player games. Results show that SDT’s theorized needs for autonomy, competence, and relatedness independently predict enjoyment and future game play. The SDT model is also compared with Yee’s (2005) motivation taxonomy of game play motivations. Results are discussed in terms of the relatively unexplored landscape of human motivation within virtual worlds.
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