Study: Gamers Have Friends, Healthy Relationships

Role-playing video games can foster social behavior, too.


PROBLEM: Is it possible to be both a dedicated video game player and a well-adjusted adult? Yes, of course, but a lot of people think it's rare, and that gaming only further isolates people who already aren't super social. 

METHODOLOGY: Two professors at Penn State distributed questionnaires to about 150 players of multi-player, first-person shooter games, like Call of Duty and Halo. They found their participants waiting in line for the midnight release of Call of Duty: Black Ops outside of video game stores in Pennsylvania this past November -- if anyone was going to fit the model of the stereotypical gamer, they figured, it would be these guys. The questions and prompts, which were rated on a scale used to measure involvement in leisure activities, were pretty straightforward about the potential effects of excessive gaming.

Most were straightforward: "I find that a lot of my life is organized around video gaming" was one. Others had more subtle implications: "I enjoy discussing video gaming with my friends." (Subtext: "I have friends.")

RESULTS: The players, most of whom turned out to be male college students, reported spending over $200 per year on video games, and dedicating an average of 20.5 hours per week to playing them. But how much time and money was spent, found the researchers, was in no way related to the gamers' social success.

CONCLUSION: "Not all video game players are destined for lives filled with failing relationships and dwindling friendships," is how Penn State's press release puts it. Their words, not ours. 

IMPLICATIONS: Put more diplomatically, just being really into a time-consuming video game doesn't automatically make a person antisocial. After all, the multi-player design of such games means that players can team up with others to reach common goals -- what could be more sociable than that?

Even those outliers who leant credence to the stereotypes -- some reported spending over 100 hours per week gaming -- aren't lost causes, the researchers insist. According to author Benjamin Hickerson, making video games even more community-driven might help reintroduce such gamers them to the social world.

The full study, "Behavioral and Psychological Involvement of Online Video Gamers: Building Blocks or Building Walls to Socialization?' was published in the journal Society and Leisure.

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Lindsay Abrams is an assistant editor at Salon and a former writer and producer for The Atlantic's Health Channel.

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