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Video Games Are Not Socially Isolating

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Abstract

Since their popularization, video games have developed a reputation for being antisocial spaces. However, this is somewhat contrary to the wealth of social opportunities and functions which contemporary gaming offers, as well as what much of the research in the area suggests. This chapter will outline the key claims and draw on research findings from the academic literature, in order to debunk much of these anecdotal and old-fashioned conceptualizations of what gaming is and who gamers are. This will include a discussion of the various ways in which gaming can be experienced socially, the effects of social play, and how these effects may vary depending on the specific type of game and context of play.

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... Despite their potential, digital games have been assigned the label of antisocial (Kowert & Kaye, 2018), opening debates in which teachers, researchers, policymakers and parents have expressed concerns and criticism about the impact of games on children and adolescents (Bryce & Rutter, 2003). However, the old assumption that digital game players have small or deteriorated social networks (Williams, 2006), has proven to be inaccurate, as contemporary digital games offer multiple opportunities for social interaction (de Kort, Poels, & Ijsselsteijn, 2007;Kowert & Kaye, 2018). ...
... Despite their potential, digital games have been assigned the label of antisocial (Kowert & Kaye, 2018), opening debates in which teachers, researchers, policymakers and parents have expressed concerns and criticism about the impact of games on children and adolescents (Bryce & Rutter, 2003). However, the old assumption that digital game players have small or deteriorated social networks (Williams, 2006), has proven to be inaccurate, as contemporary digital games offer multiple opportunities for social interaction (de Kort, Poels, & Ijsselsteijn, 2007;Kowert & Kaye, 2018). Previous studies have shown how shared online play supports long-lasting bonds and serves to mediate in intimate conversations, which friends sometimes use to disclose sensitive or personal information or to discuss their worries (Cole & Griffiths, 2007). ...
... Finally, the results also show that digital play has an impact on at least three aspects of young patients' lives: (1) social interactions; (2) identity development; and (3) communication. These results are in line with previous research in the field of game studies, supporting the idea that online games are nowadays considered exceptional social spaces affording communication and fostering interaction even among socially anxious or introverted individuals (Kowert & Kaye, 2018;Ramirez & Zhang, 2007). For young cancer patients, these affordances could be key to help normalize the overall experience of cancer treatment and isolation as our results suggest. ...
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In Europe alone, more than 120,000 children and 150,000 adolescents are diagnosed with cancer every year. Thanks to treatment innovations the survival rates of young patients’ cancer increase substantially every year, but improved prognoses are in many cases linked to longer treatments. To cope with the social, emotional, and developmental challenges associated with cancer, play and playful activities are widely recognized as fundamental for adolescents and children. This article presents the results of an exploratory study conducted to better understand the role of free digital play for young cancer patients (0–17 years). Methodology: 15 semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted, divided into two groups. The first group consisted of four experts and the second group consisted of 11 parents of young cancer patients. Conversations with the participants revolved around children’s use of digital platforms during cancer treatment, emphasizing their motivations to play digitally, methods and patterns of use, perceived benefits, and impact on children’s social interactions, identity development, and personal narrative. The results show that digital play becomes a valuable activity for young cancer patients during three phases of the treatment: (1) inpatient care; (2) outpatient care; and (3) remission. We also identified three types of digital play patients engage with: (1) playing with digital games; (2) playfully interacting with digital technologies; and (3) the overlap between digital and non-digital play. Finally, the results also show that digital play has an impact on at least three aspects of young patients’ lives: (1) social interactions; (2) identity development; and (3) communication.
... While there is still debate as to whether socialization in games is as effective at satisfying social needs as interacting offline (e.g., [36,45,74]), recent work shows that stereotypes about the lonely gamer are inaccurate [47,67]. Players view games as a social medium through which they socially interact [49,74,80], and for typical players, there are benefits to well-being [22,50,54,68]. ...
... Investigations into social displacement theories have found support for the idea that in-game ties are negatively associated with physical-world ties [51]; however, in-game relationships are not necessarily "lesser" than physical-world relationships [22,48]. When measures of well-being are considered, ingame social interactions are positively associated with a player's sense of self-esteem [56], perceptions of social competence [56], reductions in loneliness [22,54,68], and increased relatedness [25]. A factor when investigating these concerns is that the line between game-world and physicalworld friendship is blurred-many players use online games to maintain pre-existing relationships [22,23]; conversely, many friendships that start in the game-world eventually get taken to the physical-world [22,81]. ...
... Digital games are known to provide players with social experiences, mainly through interactions with other human players (Kowert & Kaye, 2018), which can be both hedonic and eudaimonic for players. ...
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The year 2020 – and probably a decent amount of 2021 as well – has been dominated by the emergence and global spread of COVID-19, a respiratory infection illness caused by the SARS-CoV-2 type of coronavirus (World Health Organization [WHO], 2020). To combat this pandemic, governments around the world implemented several measures to maintain physical and social distancing between people, including organizing sports and cultural events without an audience or even cancelling them, and limited or no access to restaurants, (movie) theatres, shopping, and other social venues. As such, people are spending more time at home, searching for alternative activities to engage in. One of those activities is playing digital games, which has seen an increased popularity during the pandemic. Next to their increased popularity, digital games have also been found in previous research to offer players an extensive range of experiences that can help players cope with issues that are very present during the Covid-19 pandemic, including stress, loneliness, and negative emotions. Recently, an important distinction made in entertainment research is that of hedonic (e.g., pleasure, fun) and eudaimonic experiences (e.g., meaning, self-reflection, nostalgia, elevation). Based on several case studies (including games such as Doom Eternal, Horizon: Zero Dawn, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and Call of Duty: Warzone), this essay provides a reflection on how playing digital games and why specific gameplay moments led to both hedonic and eudaimonic experiences that helped me as a player cope with the pandemic.
... While the covariation of the three aforementioned concepts (i.e., meaningful, emotionally moving, self-reflective) has been historically subsumed under appreciation (Oliver & Bartsch, 2010), studies discussed here identified social connectedness as being conceptually related to (but not covarying with) appreciation, and which seems unique to digital games. Several different concepts were used as synonyms for social connectedness, including socializing (Carras et al., 2018), connection with others (Caro & Popovac, 2020;McEwan, Phillips, Wyeth, & Johnson, 2020), social connection (Iacovides & Mekler, 2019), togetherness (Kowert & Kaye, 2018), relatedness (McEwan et al., 2020;Tyack & Wyeth, 2017), closeness (Burgess & Jones, 2020), and character attachment (Bopp et al., 2019;Bowman et al., 2016;Burgess & Jones, 2017). ...
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Digital games have evolved into a medium that moves beyond basic toys for distraction and pleasure towards platforms capable of and effective at instigating more serious, emotional, and intrapersonal experiences. Along with this evolution, games research has also started to consider more deeply affective and cognitive reactions that resemble the broad notion of eudaimonia, with work already being done in communication studies and media psychology as well as in human-computer interaction. These studies offer a large variety of concepts to describe such eudaimonic reactions—including eudaimonia, meaningfulness, appreciation, and self-transcendence—which are frequently used as synonyms as they represent aspects not captured by the traditional hedonic focus on enjoyment. However, these concepts are potentially confusing to work with as they might represent phenomenological distinct experiences. In this scoping review, we survey 82 publications to identify different concepts used in digital gaming research to represent eudaimonia and map out how these concepts relate to each other. The results of this scoping review revealed four broad conceptual patterns: (1) appreciation as an overarching (yet imprecise) eudaimonic outcome of playing digital games, (2) covariation among meaningful, emotionally moving/challenging, and self-reflective experiences, (3) the unique potential of digital games to afford eudaimonic social connectedness, and (4) other eudaimonia-related concepts (e.g., nostalgia, well-being, elevation). The paper provides a conceptual map of the current research landscape on eudaimonic game entertainment experiences, and outlines recommendations for future scholarship, including how a focus on digital games contributes to a more comprehensive understanding of eudaimonic media experiences.
... This can create communities that expand the social circles of people. As video games have been for long argued to cause social isolation (mainly wrongly though [12]), this could be seen as positive aspect of LBGs. ...
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... For players whose passion for WoW is in balance with other activities in their lives, gaming provides in-game social opportunities that have out-of-game benefits to social connectedness, which is one of the biggest threats to wellbeing in developed nations. As has been expressed by others previously (e.g., Trepte et al., 2012;Depping et al., 2018;Kowert and Kaye, 2018;Perry et al., 2018), it is past time to throw away the stereotype of gaming as a lonely and socially-isolating activity, and embrace the tangible benefits that can be provided by social gaming as a collective leisure endeavor. ...
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Do video games cause violent, aggressive behavior? Can online games help us learn? When it comes to video games, these are often the types of questions raised by popular media, policy makers, scholars, and the general public. In this collection, international experts review the latest research findings in the field of digital game studies and weigh in on the actual physical, social, and psychological effects of video games. Taking a broad view of the industry from the moral panic of its early days up to recent controversies surrounding games like Grand Theft Auto, contributors explore the effects of games through a range of topics including health hazards/benefits, education, violence and aggression, addiction, cognitive performance, and gaming communities. Interdisciplinary and accessibly written, The Video Game Debate reveals that the arguments surrounding the game industry are far from black and white, and opens the door to richer conversation and debate amongst students, policy makers, and scholars.
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To date, the majority of psychological research on the effects of video games on attitudes and behavior has focused on content of the games, such as the violence. Yet video games have become increasingly multiplayer, with options to interact with other players online. This feature offers players the unique opportunity to compete or cooperate with people from all over the world, including those who belong to different social groups (e.g., North American, Europeans, Asians). In the current article, we seek to bridge the gap between the video game effects literature and the intergroup processes literature by proposing that intergroup competition and cooperation in online video games may influence intergroup attitudes and behavior, with real world implications for both studying and reducing intergroup conflicts. First, we review pertinent theory and literature regarding intergroup competition and cooperation, followed by work on video game context effects. Next, we describe how intergroup competition and cooperation in online video games may impact intergroup processes. Finally, we propose important directions for future research and discuss the implications of this work.
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Given the social nature of digital gaming, an investigation into social processes underpinning the experiences within social contexts of play is greatly warranted. The current research explored the underpinnings of “group flow” within cooperative-based gaming. In particular, this was intended to provide insight into the social processes which facilitate flow experiences in these contexts. This was achieved through a questionnaire in which gamers (N = 76) provided retrospective open-ended accounts of flow during cooperative gaming. Additionally, quantitative data was obtained on flow and post-gameplay mood within this experience, as well as in solo gaming for comparative analysis. Thematic analysis of the qualitative responses revealed a number of factors which determined the experience of flow. These were; effective communication and team-work and task relevant knowledge of group members. Additionally, although flow was found to be lower in cooperative versus solo gaming, no differences in post-gameplay mood were observed. These findings aid conceptual development of facilitators of group flow in cooperative gaming, with insights into how this may extend to other cooperative activities. Additionally, they also provide new practical insight for representatives in the gaming industry on how gaming may be developed with the aim of promoting positive shared group experiences.
Book
Despite their popularity, online video games have been met with suspicion by the popular media and academic community. In particular, there is a growing concern that online video game play may be associated with deficits in social functioning. Due to a lack of empirical consistency, the debate surrounding the potential impact of online video game play on a user’s sociability remains an active one. This book contributes to this debate by exploring the potential impact of online video game involvement on social competence outcomes, theoretically and empirically. Through empirical research, Kowert examines the relationships between online video game involvement, social goals, and social skills and discusses the underlying mechanisms of these effects.
Article
The majority of digital games available today offer a variety of multi-player settings including co-located and mediated play between opponents. Immersion, the sense of being “in the game,” is one of the key components of the gaming experience but existing literature suggests that social play provides more fun but less immersion. There is however little empirical support for this. This paper therefore addresses the question: how does playing digital games in a social situation alter the sense of immersion felt by the individuals playing? This paper presents three experiments that test the relationship between social setting and immersion. The three experiments aim to manipulate the social setting in which players play, be it against a computer, against a person online or against a co-located person. Overall the three experiments show that players are more immersed when playing against another person rather than playing against a computer but there is no significant difference in immersion whether the other person is online or in the same room. This refutes previous claims about social play reducing immersion and indeed that social play enhances the sense of being in the game where interaction is through the game.
Article
This study examined the extent to which there are differences in flow experiences and post-gameplay (positive and negative) mood states in solo compared with social digital gaming. This was achieved by obtaining gamers’ (N = 302) retrospective ratings of the experience of flow and post-gameplay mood based on recent solo and social gaming experiences, through the use of an online questionnaire. Positive mood was found to be significantly higher following social (e.g., playing with other players) compared with solo gameplay, suggesting that playing games with others enhances enjoyment of the activity. Different levels of flow in gameplay were also found to be related to positive mood following both solo and social gameplay. There were no observed differences in experiences of flow and post-gameplay mood between online and offline, or competitive and cooperative gaming contexts. The findings suggest that “group flow” may be a useful concept in understanding the dynamics of social gaming as this has not been sufficiently examined in the current videogame literature.
Article
To be immersed in a virtual environment, the user must be presented with plausible sensory input including auditory cues. A virtual (three-dimensional) audio display aims to allow the user to perceive the position of a sound source at an arbitrary position ...
Article
Collaborative partnerships developed via text-based computer-mediated communication (CMC) commonly shift interactions to alternative formats. Extant research indicates that shifting from one modality to another, or “modality switching,” can have profound positive and negative effects on relational outcomes. Drawing on social presence theory (Short, Williams, & Christie, 197634. Short , J. , Williams , E. and Christie , B. 1976. The social psychology of telecommunications, London: Wiley. View all references) and social information processing theory (SIPT; Walther, 199244. Walther , J. B. 1992. Interpersonal effects in computer-mediated interaction: A relational perspective. Communication Research, 19: 52–89. [CrossRef], [Web of Science ®], [CSA]View all references, 199647. Walther , J. B. 1996. Computer-mediated communication: Impersonal, interpersonal, and hyperpersonal interaction. Communication Research, 23: 3–43. [CrossRef], [Web of Science ®], [CSA]View all references), the present study examined the influence of meeting FtF after varying lengths of time interacting via CMC on relational communication. Consistent with predictions, remaining online yielded greater intimacy and social attraction than the other conditions in which FtF contact occurred. With respect to the CMC conditions, modality switching modestly enhanced relational outcomes in the “early” switching partnerships but more strongly dampened those of “late” switching ones.
Article
Just as with most other communication breakthroughs before it, the initial media and popular reaction to the Internet has been largely negative, if not apocalyptic. For example, it has been described as “awash in pornography”, and more recently as making people “sad and lonely.” Yet, counter to the initial and widely publi cized claim that Internet use causes depression and social isolation, the body of ev idence (even in the initial study on which the claim was based) is mainly to the con trary. More than this, however, it is argued that like the telephone and television before it, the Internet by itself is not a main effect cause of anything, and that psy chology must move beyond this notion to an informed analysis of how social iden tity, social interaction, and relationship formation may be different on the Internet than in real life. Four major differences and their implications for self and identity, social interaction, and relationships are identified: one's greater anonymity, the greatly reduced importance of physical appearance and physical distance as “gating features” to relationship development, and one's greater control over the time and pace of interactions. Existing research is reviewed along these lines and some promising directions for future research are described.
Article
This article investigates a new communication medium—public computer conferencing—by separately and jointly analyzing two basic aspects of human communication: (1) content, the extent to which such systems can support socioemotional communication, and (2) connectivity, communication patterns among system users. Results indicate that (1) computer-mediated communication systems can facilitate a moderate exchange of socioemotional content and (2) basic network roles did not generally differ in percentage of socioemotional content. Some fundamental issues in analyzing content and networks in computer-mediated systems, such as structural equivalence versus cohesion network approaches, are discussed in light of these results.
Article
Based on the GlobalEd inter‐university computer conference, this study examined how effective “social presence” is as a predictor of overall learner satisfaction in a text‐based medium. The stepwise regression analysis converged on a three‐predictor model revealing that social presence (the degree to which a person is perceived as “real” in mediated communication), student perception of having equal opportunity to participate, and technical skills accounted for about 68% of the explained variance. Social presence alone contributed about 60% of this variance, suggesting that it may be a very strong predictor of satisfaction. Reliability data on the social presence scale is provided. The results also indicated that participants who felt a higher sense of social presence enhanced their socio‐emotional experience by using emoticons to express missing nonverbal cues in written form. These findings have implications for designing academic computer conferences where equal attention must be paid to designing techniques that enhance social presence.
Article
The increasing popularity of online and multiplayer games has meant that for many, social interaction and cooperation are vital components of the gaming experience. Previous research has suggested that not only has this made gaming more attractive to socially oriented people but also that it may be socially beneficial in terms of social capital and prosocial behaviors. However, for problematic video game players (those showing signs of compulsive or detrimental video game use), this may not be the case, and a number of theories hold deficiencies in socializing in real life as central to the development of this issue. In the present study, an online questionnaire completed by 416 participants assessed problematic video game use, extraversion, trait empathy, online and offline social capital and prosocial tendencies. Contrary to hypotheses, non-problematic, problematic and non-gamers did not differ in empathy, extraversion or prosocial tendencies. Problematic video game play was, however, associated with significantly higher online social capital and lower offline social capital whereas non-problematic players demonstrated only higher online capital than non-players. This highlights the importance of social support but suggests personality is not an influential factor.
Article
This paper explores the impact of communication media and the Internet on connectivity between people. Results from a series of social network studies of media use are used as background for exploration of these impacts. These studies explored the use of all available media among members of an academic research group and among distance learners. Asking about media use as well as about the strength of the tie between communicating pairs revealed that those more strongly tied used more media to communicate than weak ties, and that media use within groups conformed to a unidimensional scale, showing a configuration of different tiers of media use supporting social networks of different ties strengths. These results lead to a number of implications regarding media and Internet connectivity, including: how media use can be added to characteristics of social network ties; how introducing a medium can create latent tie connectivity among group members that provides the technical means for activating weak ties, and also how a change in a medium can disrupt existing weak tie networks; how the tiers of media use also suggest that certain media support different kinds of information flow; and the importance of organization-level decisions about what media to provide and promote. The paper concludes with a discussion of implications for Internet effects.
Article
Reviews approximately 30 recent research studies that have investigated how human communication is affected by the use of telecommunications media. These studies used various types of media and both cooperative and conflictful communication situations. Several media effects were described in these studies, and consistencies among these results have begun to emerge. Accordingly, it is now possible to test theories of mediated communication and to advance our understanding of nonverbal communication. In addition, it is possible to come to some practical conclusions regarding the suitability of telecommunications media for small-group interaction. (51 ref) (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved)
Article
This paper summarizes some of the measures of nonverbal behavior that have been found to be significant indicators of a communicator’s attitude toward, status relative to, and responsiveness to his addressee. The nonverbal cues considered include posture, position, movement, facial, and implicit verbal cues. In addition to providing criteria for the scoring of these cues, experimental findings that relate to the various cues are summarized.
Article
Over the last few years there has been an increasing interest in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs). These represent the latest Internet-only computer gaming experience consisting of a multi-player universe with an advanced and detailed world. One of the most popular (and largest) of these is Everquest. The data for this study were taken from a range of online gaming forums where individuals shared their experiences of playing EverQuest. Data were analyzed using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), a method for analyzing qualitative data and meaning making activities. The study presents an IPA account of online gamers who perceive themselves to play excessively. The aim of the study was to examine how individuals perceived and made sense of EverQuest in the context of their lives. It is clear that the accounts presented by players and ex-players appear to be ‘addicted’ to EverQuest in the same way that other people become addicted to alcohol or gambling. Most of the individuals in this study appear to display (or allude to) the core components of addiction such as salience, mood modification, tolerance, conflict, withdrawal symptoms, cravings, and relapse.
Article
Loneliness has been associated with increased Internet use. Lonely individuals may be drawn online because of the increased potential for companionship, the changed social interaction patterns online, and as a way to modulate negative moods associated with loneliness. Online, social presence and intimacy levels can be controlled; users can remain invisible as they observe others’ interactions, and can control the amount and timing of their interactions. Anonymity and lack of face-to-face communication online may decrease self-consciousness and social anxiety, which could facilitate pro-social behavior and enhance online friendship formation. Support for this model was found in a survey of 277 undergraduate Internet users that was used to assess differences between lonely and not-lonely individuals in patterns of Internet use. Loneliness was assessed on the UCLA Loneliness Scale; students in the highest 20% (Lonely) were compared with all other students (Non-lonely). Lonely individuals used the Internet and e-mail more and were more likely to use the Internet for emotional support than others. Social behavior of lonely individuals consistently was enhanced online, and lonely individuals were more likely to report making online friends and heightened satisfaction with their online friends. The lonely were more likely to use the Internet to modulate negative moods, and to report that their Internet use was causing disturbances in their daily functioning.
Article
It has been speculated that computer game play by young people has negative correlates or consequences, although little evidence has emerged to support these fears. An alternative possibility is that game play may be associated with positive features of development, as the games reflect and contribute to participation in a challenging and stimulating voluntary leisure environment. This study examined the relationship between game play and several measures of adjustment or risk taking in a sample of 16-year-old high school students. No evidence was obtained of negative outcomes among game players. On several measures—including family closeness, activity involvement, positive school engagement, positive mental health, substance use, self-concept, friendship network, and disobedience to parents—game players scored more favorably than did peers who never played computer games. It is concluded that computer games can be a positive feature of a healthy adolescence.