recently completed a study at the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa
finding that gamers’ activities and preferences within games could be
linked to addiction. The study looked at players within massively
multiplayer online games, for instance Blizzard’s World of Warcraft or Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XI.
study, which examined in-game behaviors on a number of levels, found
that playing with real life friends, side activities like exploration
or taking pictures, and membership to social guilds may be related to
less harmful play. On the other hand, stealing from or otherwise
manipulating players, along with membership to more goal-oriented
“hardcore” raid guilds may be related to addiction. Player versus
player activity was related to both less damaging and addictive
behaviors on different levels of data analysis. While these
relationships are present, it is not known whether games are actually
the cause of this behavior, or if these are simply behaviors that
already addicted players seek out.
Based on these
relationships, the study suggested that the process of becoming
addicted is likely very complex. It is suggested that more research
connecting in-game activities and addiction is needed, and that
determining whether games are to blame will most likely require a
longitudinal study, looking at a group of gamers over a length of time.
It is also noted that studying this link between gameplay and addiction
could open doors for addicts generally. From the study:
are a million little pieces working together in these games.
Understanding this process not only holds the potential for helping the
people with real gaming problems. Research within prototypical game
worlds may have real implications for helping people with other kinds
of non-game addictions.”
There were also a number
of suggestions on improving the ways in which future studies of
videogames collect their data. After making the attempt at using one
new method for getting data on gamers, the study made a number of
observations on the technical and ethical limitations for data
collection in videogame studies.
It is also noted
that despite a lack of good information on what “addiction” could
actually mean, gamers and advertisers use the term far too much.
Popularizing the word “addiction” as a mark of quality hurts not only
players, but also sales. Players already widely confuse good games with
harmful overuse. From chapter one of the study:
sustained misuse of perceptions and stereotypes on the part of
marketers will likely have an increasingly devastating impact on game
players that do have problems. Understanding the intersect between
addiction and videogames is a necessary precursor toward first,
understanding what to regard as addiction, and second, search for clues
as to how we might begin to help the people whose play is having a
clearly negative affect on their lives.”
follows are select extracts from this thesis. At the end of this
article, you may download the thesis in its entirety, in PDF format,
which also includes details of the works cited in the following pages.