Looking At The Effects Of Online Gaming


In order to find out a relation between online games and various aspect of player’s life such as learning, behaviour, social life, and others, many studies have been done. When considering, how can online gaming effect on the player, we come to the four main domains.

These are learning in the game based environment, relation between violent games and aggressive behaviour, minors and inappropriate content and addictive behaviour.

Aim of this essay is to focus on game addiction as it itself affects many aspects of the life.

What motivates player to play and why some players become addicted whilst others do not? Further, what from psychological point of view makes the games addictive and what addiction is? Also aim is to identify differences between game genres and the amount of time they are being played and to answer question if and why online games are becoming so much more popular then games played offline. Is an interaction with other people the only reason?


If there is speech about addiction, there is also need to mention a motivation. As these two go hand in hand. There is no game addict, who has no motivation to play.

First to mention is Bartle’s model (Seay, 2006) of types of players. It defines four types of players and their specific motivations.

They are :

achiever, explorer, killer and socializer [see appendix C for explanation].

Yee later derived five “motivational facets” as opposed to Bartle’s player types. (Seay 2006, Yee 2002)

They are :

relationship, immersion, achievement, grief, leadership. [see appendix C for explanation].

These were further modified and are being referred to as Facets α (Seay, 2006)

They are :

Achievement – players place an emphasis on feeling like and being regarded by others as

accomplished players.

Escapism – players value gaming as an opportunity to get away from the pressures

of the real world.

Role playing – players enjoy the fact that gaming allows them to become part of a fantasy


Manipulation – manipulation players are characterized by a desire to annoy and exploit

other players.

Relationship – Relationship players are attracted to the social aspects of gaming.

[for full description see Appendix]

Challenge and skills are interrelated and the diagram below helps to understand difference between online and offline games in relation to addiction.

(Hernáez, 2006) used this diagram based on the study of psychologist Csikszentmihalyi, to demonstrate relation between skills and challenge. According to Csikszentmihalyi (1990) flow is “the state in which people are so intensely involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”.

If applied on video game, it is clear that game should increase challenge equally to player’s skill, to keep the player within the flow.

According to annual report (Nielsen 2008) 56% of “light” gamers and 78% of “heavy” gamers play online games. In most offline games the difficulty is set at the start and will remain on the same level till the end of the game. What leads to player moving from flow to control and eventually to boredom, when he losing interest. Whereas online games, particularly massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs) are designed to keep player in the flow by increasing challenges accordingly to abilities.

MMORPGs are most often connected to the game addiction. Yee 2002 wrote about attraction and motivation factors of MMORPG games. Motivations are mentioned above, so let’s explain attraction factors. There are three main attraction factors of mmorpg that encourage time investment and personal attachment.

Briefly these are :

Inherent reward cycle player is always close to some reward, whether it is level, skill or quest

Network of online friends that player accumulates over time. They encourage playing to remain at the same level so they can keep playing together

Immersive nature of virtual environment which encourage players to become attached to their virtual characters and tries to enchant player with a fantasy, and make him feel that he is part of something grand and extraordinary

Parker 2009 defines addiction as : “psychological disorder that affects the way the brain functions by impacting chemical processes related to motivation, decision making, learning, inhibitory control, and pleasure seeking. Behavioural addictions like gambling and sex are forms of psychological dependence; addictions to substances like drugs and alcohol are forms of both psychological and physical dependence.” [ for full description see appendix B]

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When it comes to particular effects as a consequences of addictive behaviour these can be divided into two categories. First is the one which contain physiological consequences, which are mostly the same as with general excessive use of computer whatever the reason (work, games, internet..) and these count back problems, dry eyes, repetitive stress injuries, negative changes in sleep patterns, irregular eating, leading to starvation or obesity, and drowsiness and depression of immune system from lack of sleep (Grabianovski, 2010). These are the same for everyone.

The second category represents psychological effects. These are mainly connected to change in the social life of the player and may be various for every player, depending on what type of player it is and what are his motivations for playing. Seay 2006 assumes that players driven by achievement and escapism are most likely to get addicted. Low ability of self regulation is another factor contributing to addictive behaviour. Bandura (1999 cited in Seay 2006, p. 44-45) defines in his social cognitive theory term “self-regulation” as : the ability of an individual to manage his own behaviour through observation, evaluation, and consequation. Increased amount of play hours leads to loneliness, decreased social support and decreased size of social network (Seay, 2006. p. 54) and these factors contribute to development of depression.

Freeman 2006 defines massively multiplayer online role-playing games as : a particular genre of online games in which players from around the world create their own characters that interact with other players in the game’s virtual world. Players gain points with which to buy powers and advance in the never ending game played in real time.

As all players are consistently improving the challenge for others remains on high level even when playing for long time.


Data were collected for the research through questionnaire, because aim was to get a larger amount of quantitative data rather than smaller amount of qualitative data. Twenty five participants (six women) aged in range between eighteen and thirty one years participated. Questionnaire was made anonymous and self-administered in order to maximize rate of honest answers, since some people may feel embarrassed for their answers and thus prefer to answer not honestly if identity is known or when talking face to face on interview. Care was taken to avoid questions, which could cause embarrassment, anger, sadness or frustration. Idea of using observation seems to be not appropriate at all, since it is very time consuming and natural behaviour of observed participant is very questionable. The questions used are closed except of two. Because of the nature of questions, three of them contain option of multiple answers. Reason is to make it easier for participants, by listing the most expected answers and add field for other__ answer, for the case appropriate answer was not included in the list, rather than make question opened. Likely participants would instead of writing full list of their reasons just leave some out. Open question is No.5, which asks for reason why participant prefer online games as this may be more very specific reasons. Also question No.8 is open, asking participant for three favourite games. Purpose is to determine favourite games genre in relation to playing time. To confirm that online MMORPG are most popular among “heavy” players. To get a further information relating to motivations, it would be useful if participants filled out a online test for Bartle’s types.


Idea was to prove that mmorpg games are most popular among heavy and hard-core players, as they cover motivation elements of all four player types defined in Bartle’s model. Further to identify what are the factors, that lead player to addictive behaviour.


Three quarters of participants stated they prefer to play online games. More than one third play video games for more than 15 hours a week. More than half of them consider main reason to be higher challenge and nearly the same number stated the reason to be socializing with people online. Other reasons occur only marginally. See appendix A for charts.


The main reason for playing online games in general is higher challenge, what matches with Csikszentmihalyi’s diagram and adds credit to its validity. The most popular game played online is first person shooter, but when it comes to “hardcore” players the mmorpg games become dominant. MMORPG offer open end gameplay in virtual world which is virtually endless, that is the reason why, “heavy” (more skilled) players are more engaged in online games.

Half of the participants for this research, play for less than 8 hours a week, so it is hard to demonstrate relation between playing time and mmorpg online games based on data gathered. But comparison was done to demonstrate what part of these occasional or “light” players play MMORPG games online. Not surprisingly very small part [see chart 4, appendix A].

On question what aspects of life are most affected by playing, the mostly affected are other hobbies and sleep. This was also predictable, when taken to account that number of heavy players


Increasing popularity of online games is related to Csikszentmihalyi’s diagram, which defines the flow (challenge/skill). This is what players look for in games and find mostly in online virtual environments (mmorpg).


Game addiction is very dangerous and may lead to social isolation, broken relationship, divorce, job loss, health problems and depression. Well designed MMORPG contain elements for every player type so, whoever plays it, whatever the motivation is, it is somehow included, that is why these games are most addictive.



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