No surprise, gamers are no less social than the average person

Saturday, June 14, 2008

There was an article in the Globe and Mail yesterday on a study about gamers being no less shy or social than the average person, which is no surprise to any of us that played/play a lot of video games (and Dungeons and Dragons) and yet have no idea why all of a sudden we're supposed to be shy nerds because of it. This article is a good one to reference when somebody attempts to bring up that myth. According to the article:

SYDNEY — Playing video games for hours on end may be bad for your health, but, according to an Australian study, it doesn't mean you are a lonely nerd and won't damage your social skills.

The study, by Australian psychology graduate Daniel Loton, found that 15 per cent of 621 adult respondents to an online survey were identified as "problem gamers" who spend more than 50 hours a week playing games.

But only one per cent of those gamers appeared to have poor social skills, specifically shyness, Mr. Loton said, contradicting the stereotype that video game fans tend to be lonely, geeky, and addicted to gaming because they are unable to socialize.

"Our findings strongly suggest that gaming doesn't cause social problems, and social problems are not driving people to gaming," Mr. Loton, from Victoria University, told Reuters.

"What is important to note is that even problem gamers did not exhibit significant signs of poor social skills or low self-esteem."


The findings come after widely reported statements made last year by the American Medical Association (AMA), which labelled MMORPG gamers as "somewhat marginalized socially, perhaps experiencing high levels of emotional loneliness and/or difficulty with real life social interactions."

Citing concerns of video game overuse, the AMA is likely to consider adding "video game addiction" to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders at its 2012 review.

But Mr. Loton said calling excessive gaming an addiction may be taking it a step too far.

"There is a great deal of anecdotal evidence about gaming addiction. Online forums abound with tales of people who can't get off the computer," he said.

That's the problem with anecdotal evidence. There's a saying along the lines of "data is not the plural of anecdote", and this is a good example.

I'm curious what the situation would be in Korea however. There are a few large differences: in North America people will usually play video games at home. We would play video games for example at the house of a friend of ours, but whenever we felt like we would go for trips to Nose Hill Park (a huge park in Calgary), drive around or go to coffee shops, etc. Korea has quite a different situation because playing at home isn't quite as fun: most people live in apartments and there's not very much privacy. At the same time PC Bangs (PC방; bang=room in Korean) are super cheap at about 1000W (about $1) per hour, and people will play games there for long periods of time, eating ramen and often with people around you smoking as well. My guess though is that fundamentally there would be no difference. Korea also abounds with anecdotal evidence, such as somebody who apparently died after not leaving the PC bang for two days straight (or was it more?), two guys that got in a physical fight after one of their characters killed the other one online, etc. But once again none of this is data, just more anecdotes.


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