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Internet addiction and personality in first-person-shooter video gamers

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According to a Pew survey, more than half of Americans play video games. Where there’s pleasure there can also be dependence, however: Estimates of Internet addiction — which has been linked to traits such as low self-esteem and social phobia — range from 0.3% to 0.7% of the U.S. population. Players of immersive “first person shooter” games are of particular interest to researchers because they typically spend many hours online, and the consequences of game play can include increased aggression and habituation to violent imagery.

A 2011 study by the University of Bonn and the State University of New York-Stony Brook published in the Journal of Media Psychology, “Internet Addiction and Personality in First-Person-Shooter Video Gamers,” captured self-reported levels of extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, conscientiousness, agreeableness, cooperativeness and self-directedness from 592 male and 18 female active online gamers ages 15 to 24 in Germany. The researchers also measured the number of weekly hours spent with gaming and non-gaming online activities, as well each participant’s body mass index (BMI) and drinking and smoking behaviors. Roughly 500 (82%) of study participants played first-person shooter games such as Counterstrike (65.2%) and Call of Duty 4 (13.8%), while 18% reported playing non-shooter games such as World of Warcraft and FIFA.

Study findings include:

  • Study participants spent between 4 and 37 hours a week online; the average participant spent more than 20 hours a week online. Nearly 61% of study participants were classified as average Internet users; “37.9% fall in the range of persons with occasional problems in daily life due to Internet use … and 1.6% reported severe problems [due to Internet use].”
  • Internet addiction among gamers was strongly associated with low self-esteem and self-acceptance, and an inability to organize their lives — traits that are part of what psychologists label “self-directedness.” A low degree of conscientiousness — defined in part as a “feeling of responsibility for undertaken tasks and following through to a finish” — was also associated with Internet addiction. An elevated score for anger was found to be only somewhat related to time spent online and social maladjustment.
  • While factors such as smoking, BMI and geographic location had little or no relationship with Internet addiction among gamers, “physical ailments resulting in impairments at work or leisure over the course of the last four weeks correlated positively with Internet addiction.”

The authors conclude: “The character dimension Self-Directedness might be a crucial target for behavioral therapists in the context of the ‘addicted’ online gamer’s therapy. As low Self-Directedness is associated with low resourcefulness and self-acceptance … it is of importance to practice coping strategies in problematic Internet users with respect to the demands of everyday life.”

While the dimension of violence is not addressed at length in the study, related research — “A Longitudinal Study of the Association Between Violent Video Game Play and Aggression Among Adolescents” (2011) and “Pathological Video Game Use Among Youths: A Two-Year Longitudinal Study” (2011) — examine these dynamics in further detail.

Tags: youth, addiction

    Writer: | Last updated: April 4, 2012

    Citation: By Montag, Christian; Flierl, Matthias; Markett, Sebastian; Walter, Nora; Jurkiewicz, Magdalena; Reuter, Martin. "Internet Addiction and Personality in First-Person-Shooter Video Gamers," Journal of Media Psychology: Theories, Methods, and Applications, 2011, Vol. 23, Issue 4, 163-173.

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    Analysis assignments

    Read the issue-related MSN article titled "Child Online Gaming Growing."

    1. What key insights from the study and article should reporters be aware of as they cover concerns about internet addiction?

    Read the study titled “Internet Addiction and Personality in First-Person-Shooter Video Gamers.”

    1. What are the study's key technical term(s)? Which ones need to be put into language a lay audience can understand?
    2. Do the study’s authors put the research into context and show how they are advancing the state of knowledge about the subject? If so, what did the previous research indicate?
    3. What is the study’s research method? If there are statistical results, how did the scholars arrive at them?
    4. Evaluate the study's limitations. (For example, are there weaknesses in the study's data or research design?)
    5. How could the findings be misreported or misinterpreted by a reporter? In other words, what are the difficulties in conveying the data accurately? Give an example of a faulty headline or story lead.

    Newswriting and digital reporting assignments

    1. Write a lead, headline or nut graph based on the study.
    2. Spend 60 minutes exploring the issue by accessing sources of information other than the study. Write a lead (or headline or nut graph) based on the study but informed by the new information. Does the new information significantly change what one would write based on the study alone?
    3. Compose two Twitter messages of 140 characters or fewer accurately conveying the study’s findings to a general audience. Make sure to use appropriate hashtags.
    4. Choose several key quotations from the study and show how they would be set up and used in a brief blog post.
    5. Map out the structure for a 60-second video segment about the study. What combination of study findings and visual aids could be used?
    6. Find pictures and graphics that might run with a story about the study. If appropriate, also find two related videos to embed in an online posting. Be sure to evaluate the credibility and appropriateness of any materials you would aggregate and repurpose.

    Class discussion questions

    1. What is the study’s most important finding?
    2. Would members of the public intuitively understand the study’s findings? If not, what would be the most effective way to relate them?
    3. What kinds of knowledgeable sources you would interview to report the study in context?
    4. How could the study be “localized” and shown to have community implications?
    5. How might the study be explained through the stories of representative individuals? What kinds of people might a reporter feature to make such a story about the study come alive?
    6. What sorts of stories might be generated out of secondary information or ideas discussed in the study?