Gamers not social misfits, after all
Old stereotype no longer true
It's official - gamers are not socially inept, even those who arguably spend far too much time with in front of the screen, joypad in hand.
That's the key finding of a research programme into so-called problem gaming conducted by Victoria University psychology Honours graduate Dan Loton.
Loton wanted to investigate gaming addiction, to see whether it could prove as dangerous to health and wellbeing as addictions to gambling, booze or drugs. To that end, he devised an online questionnaire designed to probe gamers' personalities.
Some 621 gamers - mostly male, mostly Australian - completed the survey, of which only 93 people - 15 per cent - could be described as 'problem gamers' - people who spend more than 50 hours a week playing online games.
That appears to contradict the volume of anecdotal evidence from online forums that a fair few gamers spend far too much time online, unable to disconnect from the computer and the virtual worlds it hosts.
"The characteristics that might define a 'problem gamer' would be things like an intrusive preoccupation with gaming, where the amount of time they spend playing is affecting their work, sleep and close relationships," said Loton. "They want to stop playing games but can't.
"We found that those who played Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), such as World of Warcraft, were more likely to exhibit problematic game play," he added.
The survey's questions were designed to tease out a number of other details too, including social skills. Loton found, contrary to popular belief, that they're not socially inept. Only six people - one per cent of the total - showed signs of social difficulties, and that was primarily shyness.
Even those gamers classed as 'problematic' didn't show any particular tendency toward social inability. They're not spending many hours on line as a way of avoiding other people.
"Our findings strongly suggest that gaming doesn't cause social problems, and social problems are not driving people to gaming," said Loton.
"I think it's an evolution of social and cultural stereotypes that suggest only nerds and geeks play computer games," he added. "The reality is that nowadays everyone is playing video games."
I'll admit it, I was a wow addict. Going cold turkey from this game was one of the hardest things I ever did - I wouldn't say I was a hardcore addict, but maybe 3/4 nights a week I would spend anything between 3 and 6 hours on it. It got to the point where my relationship with my missus, my diet, my work and even my health were suffering and it was very hard to admit to myself that the cause of these problems was the game.
Saying that, I agree with the above poster, "Jack" - games take more heat from the media than television does. They'll shriek like banshees when some criminal act is committed by a gamer, but will quite happily air shows like Dexter which shows pretty horrific scenes of mutilation.
From my time in Wow I met a few pretty cool people, and even travelled down to London to meet up with them. This game actually acted as social lubrication; how anyone can suggest that gamers are social misfits is beyond me.
The bar seems pretty high on this one
I admit that I've played over 48 hours myself straight through, but I did recognise it as an unhealthy practice and nearly got me dumped. Anyone spending more than 20 hours a week at an absolute maximum is in serious need of a life, by the time it gets to 50 they're beyond help.
Paris, because if you spend 50+ hours a week gaming, watching her online videos will be the nearest you get to having a girlfriend
Re: Why no "Television Addiction" study?
This actually was an issue during the '70s and '80s when the "addiction is bad m'kay" crowd did a series of studies into the effects of TV on children of the day (which included myself at the time!)
I would actually say that TV is worse than either Internet or gaming, since the latter two at least require some interaction on your part, and gets you to actually use your brain in communication and problem-solving activities. Contrast this to TV, where the viewer simply sits passively and is force-fed information without any action on the viewer's part. Given the choice, if I had kids I'd far rather they spent 4 hours a day playing WoW than spend the time glued to The Box being stuffed with advertising and media propaganda.