As part of a bid to understand why so many Chinese gamers are obsessed with online games, a “preliminary” study was conducted with hopes that the findings could assist in the prevention and treatment of those afflicted.
Researchers Wei Peng and Ming Liu began by defining online gaming dependency as “a psychological state characterized by psychological discomfort experienced by online gamers when they are unable to play online games as they wish.”
The study (PDF) sampled 166 Chinese online gamers, who, on average, had been playing online games for around six years. On a normal weekday, those queried averaged 3.06 hours in-game, a figure that shot up to 5 hours per weekend day.
The main contributing factors to online gaming dependency, according to the researchers, were:
• Maladaptive Cognition—“Online gamers may perceive that they are much more valuable and successful in the virtual online game world than in the offline real world…”
• Shyness—“Online social interactions can be especially appealing and important for shy Internet users who otherwise may have their social needs unmet.”
• Depression—“Depressed people may be especially attentive to media content that can lessen their dysphoria.”
• Negative Consequences—Online gamers were more likely to suffer from maladies such as physical, personal life and academic/professional problems.
Saying that the study was "one of the first attempts to examine the online gaming dependency phenomenon in China using a theoretical approach," the researchers wrote:
The strong correlations between online gaming dependency and real-life problems suggest that online gaming with psychological dependency is likely to become a negative activity that results in various detrimental effects in offline contexts. Even with a relatively low online gaming dependency, players may still experience some negative life consequences.
What’s the best way to treat these type of gamers?
The finding suggests that for the prevention and treatment of online gaming dependency, it is critical for health professionals to attend to the presence of maladaptive thoughts among online gamers. Different from other types of dependency, the amount of exposure may not be the deciding factor for media-related dependency.
This finding further suggests that simply reducing the amount of time spent on online gaming may not be an effective solution to prevent or recover from dependent online gaming if the cognitive and psychological problems of the player still exist. The practical implication of this finding is that parents, teachers, and counselors should be aware of and pay enough attention to the psychological well-being as well as cognitions of the players they try to help.