Psychosocial Causes and Consequences of Online Video Game Play

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Researchers have grown concerned as to whether or not engagement within online video gaming environments poses a threat to public health. Previous research has uncovered inverse relationships between frequency of play and a range of psychosocial outcomes, however, a reliance on cross-sectional research designs and opportunity sampling of only the most involved players has limited the broader understanding of these relationships. Enlisting a large representative sample and employing a longitudinal design, I examined these relationships and the mechanisms that underlie them, in my latest article entitled Psychosocial causes and consequences of online video game play. This aim of this assessment was to determine if poorer psychosocial outcomes are a cause (i.e., pre-existing psychosocial difficulties motivate play) or a consequence (i.e., poorer outcomes are driven by use) of online video game engagement.

The results dispute previous claims that exposure to, or prolonged engagement within, online gaming spaces negatively impacts players’ psychosocial well-being. In that respect, concerns regarding online video game play as a threat to public health seem to be exaggerated. The findings do, however, provide the empirical evidence for a social compensation model among young adult participants and suggest that online games have become alternative social outlets for young adult players with social and psychosocial resources, as reflected by lower reported life satisfaction and social competence. Interestingly, online video game play was also found to positively contribute to adolescents’ psychosocial well-being, as adolescent players reported higher rates of life satisfaction than non-players over a two-year period.

This study is available online ahead of print and can be accessed for free until February 5, 2015. It will also appear in an upcoming print addition of in Computers in Human Behavior later this year. Special thanks to my co-authors Jens Vogelgesang, Ruth Festl, and Thorsten Quandt.

A nice commentary on this article is also available from