Date of Award

10-30-2020

Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Department

Psychology

First Advisor

Kimberley A. Babb

Keywords

addiction, attachment, coping, gaming, interpersonal, loneliness

Rights

info:eu-repo/semantics/openAccess

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Abstract

Previous research suggests that individuals who play Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs) may experience interpersonal benefits from their in-game interactions with other players (Kaczmarek & Drazkowski, 2014). At times, however, these online relationships may develop at the expense of their offline relationships and some players may even be at risk for developing problematic gaming behaviours (PGB). The current study aimed to better understand the online and offline interpersonal experiences of MMORPG players and to identify interpersonal risk factors for developing PGB. A total of 149 MMORPG players between the ages of 18 to 46 years completed a set of online questionnaires which included measures for PGB, time spent playing, social support, loneliness, gamer identity, attachment, coping behaviour, antisocial behaviour, and impulsivity/risk-taking behaviour. They also completed a set of open-ended questionnaire items that examined their perspectives on their online and offline relationships, as well as their online gaming behaviour. The findings indicated that participants who spent more time playing MMORPGs reported lower offline interpersonal support, greater avoidant attachment, and greater identification with the online gaming community. Time spent playing was not associated with online interpersonal support nor was it associated with online or offline loneliness. Contrary to expectations, neither avoidant attachment nor coping style moderated the link between time spent playing, and either interpersonal support or loneliness. However, players with greater avoidant attachment and those with greater avoidance coping tended to report lower interpersonal support and greater loneliness within online and offline domains. Players with greater social support coping also reported greater online and offline interpersonal support, as well as lower online loneliness; but, greater social support coping was not linked to offline loneliness. Lastly, findings indicated that players with greater avoidance coping, greater antisocial behaviour, and those who reported less offline interpersonal support were at greater risk of having higher levels of PGB. The findings indicated some parallels between players’ online and offline relationships; however, players’ interpersonal gains within one domain did not necessarily compensate for deficits within the other domain. Players who are socially motivated to play, engage in more social support coping, and fewer avoidance coping behaviours may find it easier to create and maintain online connections. Thus, understanding how players engage with online games, rather than relying on overall time spent playing, may better predict players’ risk for developing higher levels of PGB. The findings from the study may inform health professionals about the online and offline social contexts in the lives of online gamers, which may help individuals at risk for developing significant distress related to their online gaming behaviour. This research may also inform game developers seeking to improve user experiences by establishing a more supportive online community for players and promoting healthier video game engagement.

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