Summary: A new study explores the complex intersections of online gaming, social connectivity, and mental health. By analyzing the social structure of an online football simulation gaming site, researchers reveal how elements like social support, community sense, and symptoms of depression can influence social interactions over time.
Gamers who experienced more online social support or lacked real-life support were more likely to engage with other members.
This research underscores the powerful role that online gaming can play in shaping mental health, offering not only a source of entertainment but also a potentially supportive community.
- Online gamers with more social support within the gaming community or less real-life support are more likely to engage with other members, highlighting the social significance of online gaming.
- Players who reported a stronger sense of community within the gaming site were more likely to form communication ties and discuss real-life issues, underscoring the potential of online gaming communities for social connection.
- Gamers with greater depressive symptoms were less likely to initiate communication over time, indicating a need for more formal support structures, like telehealth mental health care options, within these online environments.
For millions of Americans playing some type of video game is a daily occurrence.
Games can be a welcome form of entertainment and relaxation for many, and the internet can even make gaming a social activity. However, excessive video game playing to the point of isolation, addiction or changes in mood or behavior are growing concerns with this pastime.
These possible negative effects may also contribute to anxiety and depression in some people and gaming may have varying effects on social connections.
A new study published in Sociological Focus builds on existing research hinting at the importance of social connectivity and support for online gamers.
In this study, Tyler Prochnow, PhD, and Megan Patterson, PhD, of the Department of Health Behavior at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health, and colleagues from the University of North Carolina and Baylor University, used social network analysis to examine the social structure of an online gaming site at two points in time.
The goal of this analysis was to see how social support, sense of community and symptoms of depression affect social connections over time.
The research team analyzed a social network consisting of members of an online football simulation gaming site, surveying members at the beginning and end of the game’s season.
In the game, players play as the head coach of a football team and compete against other members of the site over 10 months. Members are able to communicate directly with each other through the site’s forums, chat and direct messaging capabilities.