Dan Loton, an ethics officer at Victoria University's (British Columbia) Office of Research, explored the subject of excessive video gaming and whether it is related to social skills and self esteem.
For the study, Loton developed an online questionnaire that included scales to measure social skills and self-esteem. There was also the Problem Video Game Playing Scale (PVP) used to determine "problematic and dependence forming electronic game play."
"There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence about gaming addiction, said Loton in a statement. "Online forums abound with tales of people who can't get off the computer. But from a clinical point of view, an addiction is a mental illness with very serious consequences. In this context, we need to ask whether gaming is responsible for causing people's lives to fall apart in the same way we see with gambling, alcohol or drug addiction."
Loton analyzed 621 completed surveys, and found that roughly 15 percent of the respondents were identified as "problem gamers" who spent more than 50 hours a week playing games.
He said that gamers who played Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs), such as World of Warcraft, (which currently has over 10 million fee-paying monthly subscribers) were more likely to exhibit problematic game play. However, Loton said it is significant to note is that even these "problem gamers" did not exhibit significant signs of poor social skills or low self-esteem. Only one percent of those identified as "problem gamers," appeared to have poor social skills, specifically shyness.
"We also looked at whether problematic play is impelled by social difficulties, by using a multiple regression analysis to see if high scores on the social skills and self esteem scales could predict problematic playing scores," Loton said. "Our findings strongly suggest that gaming doesn't cause social problems, and social problems are not driving people to gaming."
Interestingly, the findings fly in the face of statements made by the esteemed American Medical Association which said last year that it was considering adding "video game addiction" to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders at its next review in 2012.
According to the AMA, MMORPG gamers were "somewhat marginalized socially, perhaps experiencing high levels of emotional loneliness and/or difficulty with real life social interactions." Loton said such views may be prejudiced by outdated stereotypes.
"I think it's an evolution of social and cultural stereotypes that suggest only nerds and geeks play computer games," he said. "The reality is that nowadays everyone is playing video games."
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