Why Gamers Might Lose Track of Time While Playing

November 1, 2011 -

If you have ever wondered why you sometimes lose track of time when playing a particularly good video game, new research may have the answer. New research suggests it may be related to a theory called "time perspective." Time perspective assumes the existence of three "temporal frames" in the human brain - past, present, and future. This theory is thoroughly explained in Psych Central:

"The initial idea of time perspective assumed the existence of three temporal frames in the human mind—past, present, and future. Within this theory, a mind can shift attention between these frames, that is, a mind can focus on past experiences (past frame), present stimuli (present frame), or anticipated future events (future frame).

Zimbardo’s empirical verification of the idea brought two main findings. First, people do not use each temporal frame with equal frequency; they usually prefer one frame, which they use more often than others, and this preference is relatively stable in time.

Second, it is useful to divide both past and present frames into two independent factors (past positive and past negative; present hedonistic and present fatalistic) because they represent different mental characteristics with different correlates. Thus, five time perspective factors emerged as five personality factors."

With that theory in mind, researchers hypothesized that they would find a "significant positive relationship between present (hedonistic and fatalistic) factors scores and the amount of time spent playing MMORPGs and a significant negative relationship with future factor scores."

To do this they measured time perspective and the amount of time playing MMORPGs using 154 Czech respondents (141 men and 13 women). Test subjects were recruited in MMORPG Internet forums.

Researcher found the mean hours per week played was 28 hours, with a standard deviation of around 19 hours. The mean hours played per session was right around 4 hours, with a standard deviation of around 2.45 hours.

After examining the data, which was self-reported by participants, researchers found that time perspective was connected to how frequently someone played video games. In other words, the amount of play time directly correlated to a lower level of future time perspective and higher levels of present time perspective — "especially present fatalistic."

The imbalance of present factors toward present fatalistic is noteworthy because the findings differ from other activities such as drug abuse and gambling, where present hedonistic factor was the key variable. Present fatalistic is supposedly connected to feelings of dissatisfaction, aggression, and depression.

Researchers also found that “regardless of motivation for playing, it seems that future orientation prevents extensive playing, probably via time managing skills [sic].”

Basically the study finds that gaming is not like gambling or substance abuse - at least in the small sample group. Instead it is more like a good book or a movie - a form of escapism used to relief the stress of everyday life.

Naturally the findings may not apply to the general public (Americans, for example) due to culture, the sample size of the group, etc. In other words more research is needed to come to some definitive conclusion.

Source: Psych Central


Comments

Re: Why Gamers Might Lose Track of Time While Playing

"After examining the data, which was self-reported by participants,"

When it comes to how much time is spent gaming I don't think self reporting cuts it.

Re: Why Gamers Might Lose Track of Time While Playing

in short... "Time flies when you're having fun."

Re: Why Gamers Might Lose Track of Time While Playing

Hrm.... I wonder what would happen if they redid the study using more planning oriented games like EvE, Civ, or even Minecraft, where it can be said the player is mostly thinking in the future frame.

Re: Why Gamers Might Lose Track of Time While Playing

Up until the last paragraph confirmed it, I was gonna say: Isn't this just the same as losing track of what's going on around you when you get immersed in a good book, or so intently focused on a piece of work (painting for example)? Not really sure why games needed to isolated for the study.

Re: Why Gamers Might Lose Track of Time While Playing

Not so surprising, really, although this study is still interesting. Humanity's sense of time is one of the other actual human senses that grade-school teachers don't tell you about, like proprioception.

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