While both multiplayer and traditional single player video games present a double-edged sword, Smyth’s research found that online, socially integrated multiplayer games create greater negative consequences (decreased health, well-being, sleep, socialization and academic work) but also garner far greater positive results (greater enjoyment in playing, increased interest in continuing play and a rise in the acquisition of new friendships) than do single-player games. “The most striking result of this study is that playing online multiplayer games had much greater positive and negative effects on people than playing traditional single-player video games,” says Smyth. “Students in the study who played online multiplayer games did so about three times as much as those playing single-player game types, averaging over 14 hours a week.” In his study, Smyth randomly assigned 100 college student volunteers to play one of four types of video games: traditional, arcade-style games (such as those found in the local mall); console games like the Sony PlayStation; single player computer games; and fantasy-themed persistent online multiplayer games. Computer networking—linking players from across the world together in a single game—has dramatically changed the nature of video game play from a solitary activity into a large, thriving social experience. Multiplayer online role-play gaming, one type of social gaming, can involve thousands of players in persistent virtual worlds. All students taking part in the study reported decreased health and sleep and interference with real-life socializing and academic work. In contrast to these costs, participants experienced benefits, most notably by those taking part in online multiplayer game play. Online multiplayer gamers enjoyed their play far more than those assigned to more traditional game types, creating new friendships in their online environments. “Video game play does interfere in some aspects of real-life — such as academic performance, health and social life — but game play can also foster strong feelings of virtual support and new friendships,” Smyth says. The study is published in the October 2007 issue of the bimonthly peer-reviewed journal CyberPyschology & Behavior (Vol. 10, No. 5: 717–721).
A Reason Why Video Games Are Hard To Give Up
ScienceDaily (Dec. 28, 2006) — Kids and adults will stay glued to video games this holiday season because the fun of playing actually is rooted in fulfilling their basic psychological needs. ________________________________________
Psychologists at the University of Rochester, in collaboration with Immersyve, Inc., a virtual environment think tank, asked 1,000 gamers what motivates them to keep playing. The results published in the journal Motivation and Emotion this month suggest that people enjoy video games because they find them intrinsically satisfying. "We think there's a deeper theory than the fun of playing," says Richard M. Ryan, a motivational psychologist at the University and lead investigator in the four new studies about gaming. Players reported feeling best when the games produced positive experiences and challenges that connected to what they know in the real world. The research found that games can provide opportunities for achievement, freedom, and even a connection to other players. Those benefits trumped a shallow sense of fun, which doesn't keep players as interested. "It's our contention that the psychological 'pull' of games is largely due to their capacity to engender feelings of autonomy, competence, and relatedness," says Ryan. The researchers believe that some video games not only motivate further play but "also can be experienced as enhancing psychological wellness, at least short-term," he says. Ryan and coauthors Andrew Przybylski, a graduate student at the University of Rochester, and Scott Rigby, the president of Immersyve who earned a doctorate in psychology at Rochester, aimed to evaluate players' motivation in virtual environments. Study volunteers answered pre- and post-game questionnaires that were applied from a psychological measure based on Self-Determination Theory, a widely researched theory of motivation developed at the University of Rochester. Rather than dissect the actual games, which other researchers have done, the Rochester team looked at the underlying motives and satisfactions that can spark players' interests and sustain them during play. Revenues from video games—even before the latest Wii, PlayStation 3, and Xbox systems emerged—surpass the money made from Hollywood films annually. A range of demographic groups plays video games, and key to understanding their enjoyment is the motivational pull of the games. Four groups of people were asked to play different games, including one group tackling "massively multiplayer online" games—MMO for short, which are considered the fastest growing segment of the computer gaming industry. MMOs are capable of supporting hundreds of thousands of players simultaneously. For those playing MMOs, the need for relatedness emerged "as an important satisfaction that promotes a sense of presence, game enjoyment, and an intention for future play," the researchers found. Though different types of games and game environments were studied, Ryan points out that "not all video games are created equal" in their ability to satisfy basic psychological needs. "But those that do may be the best at keeping players coming back." ________________________________________