Multiple Investigations into Gaming and Psychosocial Functioning in a Community Sample of Adult Gamers
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Human Development and Family Science
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As one of the world’s most popular pastimes, video games have been a focus of study for several decades. Yet, there are still necessary areas of investigation, particularly those informed by human developmental perspectives that also yield implications for psychosocial functioning. In this dissertation, video game engagement is positioned as a proximal process, a driving mechanism of human development that is influenced by individual characteristics of gamers. Utilizing a community sample of 226 adult gamers, the two studies within this dissertation collectively examine how individual characteristics in game engagement, specifically, gaming motivations, and perceptions of gameplay, are related to psychosocial functioning. Grounded in basic psychological needs theory, the first study used structural equation modeling to examine links between gaming motivations (e.g., diversion) and social gaming (i.e., time spent playing with others) with psychosocial distress, in the context of general coping behaviors (e.g., self-distraction). The results indicated that the associations between diversion motivated gaming and higher psychosocial distress were exacerbated by self-distraction coping behaviors. Additionally, active coping was associated with lower psychosocial distress but did not interact with gaming motivations. Implications include discouraging gaming as a method of diversion from real-life responsibilities and practicing more active coping behaviors. The second study, informed by life course theory and symbolic interactionism, used a mixed method analytical approach. First, latent profile analyses distinguished four unique subgroups of gamers based on their perceptions of benefits and detriments derived from gameplay. Then, a phenomenological approach was used to describe gamers’ experiences in detail, both as a whole sample and across subgroups. Although some differences in experience were expressed between subgroups, similar themes regarding benefits (e.g., stress relief, shared social activity) and detriments (e.g., maladaptive distraction, conflicts in close relationships) were identified. Finally, analyses of variance were used to test differences in psychosocial outcomes between subgroups, and generally indicated that groups who reported more benefits than detriments experienced better outcomes. Implications include rebalancing boundaries between gaming and other life roles. Overall, the two studies convey the applicability of applying human developmental theories to the study of gameplay and next steps include examining interdependent relational and familial outcomes.