Online gaming addiction? Motives Predict addictive play behavior in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing games by Daria J. Kuss (M.Sc., M.A.), Jorik Louws (M.Sc.), and Reinout W. Wiers, (Ph.D), was published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, Vol. 15, #9 in 2012. Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking is published by the Mary Ann Liebert Inc. publishing company.

This paper is another small research study that utilized the internet to sample a small population of players, using three research questionnaires. In this study the sample population consisted of 175 MMORPG players and 90 non-MMORPG players whose responses were statistically analyzed across such factors as gaming behavior, problems as consequences of gaming, and game motivations.

An example of a MMORPG game environment.

The researchers give a description of MMORPG gaming in that it involves an online virtual world where players create individualized game characters and interact with one another. They note that such games provide a wide variety of incentives to players; and that players of different ages can develop problem game playing behavior patterns.

The researchers also note there are similarities between online gaming addiction and substance addiction, and at least one systemic review suggests a “a variety of psychophysiological symptoms and psychiatric comorbidities as well as a number of negative consequences”. Specifically, the researchers draw attention to the amount of time MMORPGs demand from players in the course of game play.

Basically, previous researchers determined that high time investment into a game, and high engagement in a game were both associated with problems related to gaming. They refer to another researcher (Yee) who identified and measured three main components of player motivation and carefully provide operational definitions for each component. These components are:

  • Achievement (including advancement, mechanics, and competition)
  • Social (including socializing, relationship, and teamwork)
  • Immersion (including discovery, role-playing, customization, and escapism).

The researchers next discuss previous research involving motivation as it relates to addiction, much of which has been inconclusive. One study pointed to immersion as a possible predictor of “problematic internet use”; another study pointed to achievement, escapism and socializing as predicting addictive gaming. This inconclusiveness is what the researchers were hoping to shed some light on with this particular study.

One of those game-related problems that tends to interfere with occupations.

With this particular study, the researchers were looking to compare MMORPG players with players that did not play MMORPG games with respect to problems associated to game-playing. Next they were seeking to analyze the relational processes of specific game motivations and problems related to game playing. The research hypothesis was MMORPG players experience significantly more problems due to gaming than do non-MMORPG players.

The researchers predicted that specific game motivations and sub-components, and time investment in the game would predict gaming related problems (advancement, socializing, immersion, escapism, role-playing, discovery, and customization). They define game-related problems to mean a “maladaptive pattern of excessive and uncontrollable gaming resulting in negative consequences for the occupational and social life of the subject.”

Additionally, the researchers hoped to determine correlations between time investment and gaming motivations, and gender differences in gaming motivations and gaming-related problems. With all of  this in mind, the researchers recruited their participants through an addiction website advertised on gaming forums. Non-MMORPG game players had to respond to 90 percent of the questions on two questionnaires; all questions on three questionnaires for the MMORPG players.

An example of immersion- discovery or achievement- mechanics?

The data sample included 375 total respondents, 110 excluded due to incomplete data sets. The resulting data sample was 265 participants, 189 of which were male, and 76 of which were female. The researchers go on to describe average age (21), those in school, 70.2%; 27.2% working a job; 2.6% unemployed. Of the MMORPG group there were 175 respondents, average age was about the same; there were fewer females in this group.

Next the questionnaires are described; the first covered demographics (age, gender, education), habitual behaviors, alcohol and drug use, preferences in computer games, amount of time per week spent gaming, the longest gaming session in number of hours. The second questionnaire was a Dutch measurement called the Problem Video Game Playing Questionnaire (PVP); this required a process for translation.

Further details on the PVP include internal consistency, construct validity and scale measures relating to gambling and substance addiction, severity of addiction, and also the frequency and duration of play. The third questionnaire was borrowed from Yee, and measures motivation components and sub-components. The researchers also explain this is the only previously validated measurement tool for MMORPG player motivations.

Next is explained the procedure of data collection via the internet and informed consent which is followed by a full explanation of the statistical approach. I’ll skip the explanation of Cronbach’s alpha, hierarchical regression analysis, and internal consistency for the sake of keeping all of us awake and still interested (you in the back, yes you. Don’t slink down in your chair. Sit up straight, we are moving on).

This is followed by the results section,  a very lengthy discussion section, and a beautiful reference list the likes of which could keep me on this topic for at least a couple of years. The results indicated that non-MMORPG players spent significantly less time per week than MMORPG players; and MMORPG players are significantly more adversely affected by gaming related problems than non-MMORPG players.

Definitely an example of Achievement-mechanics and competition.

The results indicated that variable reinforcement schedules within MMORPGs produce a similar effect to gambling by encouraging continued play; as does the continuity of the game itself. Excessive MMORPG playing has been linked to not only addiction but also to physiological seizures. Results also appeared to validate previous studies regarding motivational sub-components escapism and mechanics.

The researchers found that time investment as a factor in gaming-related problems was less a factor than sub-components; specifically escapism, which is described as a player’s desire to avoid reality by focusing on the playing the game. Next was the sub-component of immersion, which is part of the component mechanics, and this is related to the need to spend time learning the game environment and strategy in order to achieve.

Escapism and immersion are significant predictors of gaming-related problems as they relate to social and occupational aspects of life. The researchers also point out that the mechanics sub-component diverges from other addictive disorders such as substance addiction. There is a trade-off, loss of social or occupational aspects but success in mechanics and in-game competitiveness; other addictions do not have trade-offs.

The results caused the researchers to question whether or not online gaming addiction should be classified as a psychopathology at all. They suggest that because of the differences, such as the trade-off, and the relevance of the sub-components of immersion and competition, online gaming addiction as a behavioral addiction may not be addictive in the same ways as substance addictions.

Achievement- advancement 

This difference should be explored in future research studies possibly making use of qualitative research methods to further determine important details between motivations and addiction experience, and between substance and behavioral addiction patterns. In addition to ideas for future study, limitations are also discussed such as small sample size, convenience sampling, and problems with the PVP Questionnaire .

The PVP Questionnaire does not distinguish between types of games, such as computer or console games, online or offline games, or game genres and the researchers also note there is a need for measurement tool improvement with regard to validity and reliability, especially because some scales that were included were valid and reliable for adult populations while otherwise the PVP was meant for a younger age cohort.

Example of silly WoW gamer humor.

Despite the limitations, the results are interesting; they definitely suggest there is merit in further research of the topic. The researchers were able to narrow down specific sub-components from others as more likely to contribute to and predict game-related problems for players of MMORPGs versus players of other types of games is useful; likewise being able to determine the most important motivations for amount of time invested in the games is also very useful.

For more information on the publisher go here:  Mary Ann Liebert Inc.

To read Online gaming addiction? Motives Predict addictive play behavior in Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing games, it can be retrieved from here: Liebert Publishing