A Look at Games and Their Beneficial Effects: Part 3

This week on The Game Critic we're continuing our multi-part series on the Beneficial Effects of video game playing with a look at family relations and social ability. This particular portion of the report is credited to "Yoda's Sister." Enjoy!

Alert: It has come to my attention that the source links in this segment of the report were faulty. I have attempted to fix the links. Let us know if this is a running issue.


      The effect of video gaming on the individual's family life is a concern for many people.  Stereotypical "computer nerds" are considered anti-social.  In contrast, current research shows that "a high proportion of time spent with the games is spent with peers or family members," and that "players reported higher levels of family closeness and less risky friendship networks than did the nonplayers" (Durkin et al., 2002).  The definition of "family closeness" used in the study was based off of perceived support from family members, and the frequency of joint family activities.  Their specific data requests were, “Our family enjoys doing things together,” “Members of my family are very close and get along very well,” and “Family members are supportive of each other during difficult times.” Responses were based on a seven point scale attached to phrases ranging from "never" to "a lot" or "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree" depending on the question (Durkin et al., 2002).  The researchers found a statistical correlation between gaming and "family closeness."

      Gamers tended to be closer to their families. Additionally, the more the gamers played, the higher they scored their family closeness.  A possible reason for this correlation is cited in the study.  "Adolescents who feel close to their families may play computer games more because of opportunities to share with family members," or because their families spend more on educational and leisure activities.  Overall, this study shows that playing video games correlates to a higher perceived closeness in family relations (Durkin et al., 2002).  Other studies indicate that video gaming contributes in other sociological aspects as well.


      In a study of elementary school children, researchers dispelled the popular idea that children who play video games become anti-social, and have problems making friends (Sakamoto, 1994). The Ochanomizu University conducted a study in three different elementary schools based on frequency of game use, measures of sociological abilities, social desirability, sociometric status and video game skill. Their sample size was 307 students, 165 of them boys, and 142 of them girls.  Fifth graders with the majority with 130, fourth graders second with 105 students, and the smallest sampling was the sixth graders with 72 students (Sakamoto, 1994). 
Frequency of use (days)
Boys (%)
Girls (%)
 The frequency of game use was measured by how many days per week the student played video games (see Table 1). The majority of boys played between three and six days a week, although thirteen percent did not play at all.  The majority of girls did not play video games at all.   This information was used in the remainder of the study to compare the non players and players of different frequency levels (Sakamoto, 1994). 
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      The specific tools used for measuring sociocognitive abilities were empathy, cognitive complexity and cognitive abstractness.  Empathy was measured using a 20-item empathy scale, and is recorded both with and without factoring in social desirability. Cognitive complexity and abstractness were measured using a free writing exercise.  Each student described a person he or she liked, one whom they disliked, and himself or herself. Cognitive complexity was scored by counting the number of complex constructs the student used in his or her descriptions, while the number of abstract, central and psychological constructs he or she used was counted as their cognitive abstractness score (Sakamoto, 1994).  

      Social desirability was measured by how many times the student was named by the other children as one of their top three favorite classmates.  These scores were then normalized, and classes where either the teacher refused to administer the test, or else the students were highly hesitant were removed from the data.  Video game skill levels were collected in a similar manner.  The students individual ranked who the top three video gamers were in the class, and each student's scores were normalized (Sakamoto, 1994).  

      A summary of the results is shown in the following table (see Table 2).  Note that in order to be statistically significant, the resulting number must be higher than .1, meaning there is a negative influence, or lower than .05, meaning that there is a positive influence.  The only result that showed a statistically significant negative correlation was between frequency of game use in boys and cognitive development.  Frequency of video game use and cognitive abstractness in boys had a marginally significant correlation.  However, the study points out that because neither of these correlations are very strong, nor are the present in the girls, they are more likely to be caused by other influences (Sakamoto, 1994).   

Empathy  1 (without social desirability)
Empathy 2 (with social desirability)
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      These results are corroborated in a study published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.  Titled, “Not So Doomed,” the article explains that the common fear among parents that children who play video games will either have no friends or “risky” friends, is a fallacy (Durkin et al., 2002).  “Risky friends” are classified as those who drink, use illegal drugs, or “are likely to skip class,” ranked on a scale of one (none) to five (all).  “Academic friends” were classified as those who plan on attending college, “and are doing very well in school,” ranked on the same scale system as “Risky friends.”  While these rankings are subjective to the student, they are highly specific and easily quantifiable by the student.  The results show that students who never use video games are more likely to have “risky” rather than “academic” friends, as compared to both low level and high level users.  Also, high level gamers were more likely to join in activities and clubs, as well as sports teams (see Table 3) (Durkin et al., 2002).

Never use
Low use
High use
F statistic
Friendship network


Sports teams
Activities and clubs
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      Contrary to current stereotypes, video gaming does not negatively impact a child’s social life.  The data suggests instead that it may be correlated to a child’s likelihood of having safe friends as well as participating in school, academics, sports and clubs.  In “Not So Doomed,” they give two possible reasons for these results.  The first is that “well-adjusted” children may seek out popular recreational activities, like video games, (Durkin et al., 2002).  Another explanation is that children who play video games enjoy their free time more, and as a result, it “promotes positive affect and social interactions.”  They summarize their results by saying that “the optimal group” was “the low players… this group most often obtained the most favorable rating.” Furthermore, “there was little evidence to suggest that being a high player was associated with developmental problems, and in fact, there was no measure on which the high play group recorded a less positive score than non players” (Durkin et al., 2002) In other words, the best adjusted group was the low level players, although the high level players were in no way hurt by their game playing as compared to the non-players.  

Hope you enjoyed our look at games this week. Let us know what you think! Next Saturday we'll be back with the next article in our series: Global Culturalization. Until then, have a Merry Christmas Holiday!

1 comment:

Time Enforcer Anubis said...

I think the idea that "Gamers are antisocial" comes largely from highschool, where, back in the day (I don't know what it's like now), gamers were the outcasts. Here, it's proven that gamers are quite social people, but society at large pretty much forged their own stigma on gamers.

Gamers are shunned because they're "antisocial", when, really, gamers are just labeled "antisocial" because they're shunned and it gives people an excuse to not learn more about gamers at large.

Yoda's Sister, you did a fantastic job. The only way the gamimg community can tackle all the misinformation about gamers out there is to take the problem on in a dignified and academic manner, with straight facts to back it up, because once they see the facts, they'll look to the spreaders of all the misinformation and ask, "What do you got?"

And they'll have nothing.