Internet addiction and psychosocial well being among MMOG players (Caplan et al., 2009)

Whenever I need to track something down, be it a journal article, a soundtrack or participants. I become very obstinate in my search; I can’t stop searching because whenever I think of a new method or lead, it gives me hope. And it really bothers me that I don’t possess it or can’t use it. It’s like having hoarder’s guilt or something like that.

This is the second part of studies investigating the relation between MMOGs and internet addiction. Scott Caplan, Dmitri Williams and Nick Yee examined how some aspects of MMOGs might contribute to the development of internet addiction.


The current study examined problematic Internet use (PIU) among people who play MMO games and sought to determine whether aspects of the MMO experience are useful predictors of PIU. The study sought to determine whether game-related variables could predict PIU scores after accounting for their relationships with psychosocial well-being. Novel methods allowed us, for the first time, to connect ingame behaviors with survey results of over 4000 MMO players. The results revealed that MMO gaming variables contributed a substantively small, but statistically significant amount of explained variance to PIU scores. 

Wanted: I’m looking for a paper that compared Americans’ versus Asians’ computer mediated communication styles. I remember the findings described that Americans’ were more ‘confrontational’ or something like “I stand by my opinion because it’s better than yours” whereas the Asians were less ‘confrontational’, were more ‘agreeable’ or something like in the line of “let’s look over our opinions”. I’m not sure if it involves MMOGs.

The study’s purpose is to consider MMOGs’ contribution to problematic internet use among other internet activities, such as instant messaging. The authors argued cogently one of the factors of PIU, the preference for online communication over face-to-face communication, might be potentially linked to MMOGs’ highly social environment and virtual interaction. Given that social interaction is a necessity to advance in-game, it becomes clear that players found it as their favourite aspect of an MMOG.

Nevertheless, humans have a large degree of variations in nearly everything, so we must consider other and specific factors contributing to PIU. The authors examined the following which are potential MMOG-related predictors of PIU:  play time in MMOG, the use of voice in games (Voice over internet protocol), their play motivations which is sub-divided in three: achievement, social and immersive (i.e. escapism, role-play, character customization, etc.).

General internet use and psychosocial well-being were examined in order to gauge MMOG’s role in PIU. They examined the amount of internet use, interpersonal uses of the internet, psychological well being (e.g. loneliness, depression, anxiety, shyness, social skills), aggression, and deriving a sense of community from online relationships or in real life.


Participants: 4278 players from Everquest 2 participated in the study over a two day period. Average age is 32.47, age range from 18 to 65. No other demographic information given. The authors had Sony’s cooperation in providing them a means to directly recruit participants, giving a worthwhile reward to participants (an exclusive in-game item) and access to participants’ data (with consent, of course). This is incredible to be able to reach that many participants and to have access to their video game data. I wish other MMOG companies, like Blizzard, would be as cooperative as Sony.

Imagine the unobtrusive field studies one could undertake and the potential social applications from these studies. It might be useful for gamer psychiatrists to observe their patient’s video game behaviours, this could help them determine their treatment methods.


General internet activity: single item asking how many hours spent per week, excluding when it’s used for work. Two items asking how participants used the internet for social (e.g. emailing, instant messaging) and informational purposes (e.g. reading news, sports, wikipedia), answered on a 5-point scale.

MMOG activity: participants’ play time per week were obtained through the game’s database. Wait, shouldn’t they get anything more than the number of hours? What about where they spent their time? For example, dungeons, outdoors, mining, towns, etc. When they logged in and logged out? I’d like to see how play time patterns correspond to participants’ well-being. For example, players logged in late at night, not logging out or, if possible, the interval time between their log-in after they finished school or work. They might not be relevant, but with such access to this kind of information, I’d feel like a kid playing in a sandbox of data.

Psychosocial well-being: several instruments are used to produce a composite score for psychosocial well-being: UCLA Loneliness Scale, abridged version of the extraversion subscale of the Revised Eysenck Personality Questionnaire, the physical and verbal subscale of the Buss-Perry Aggression Questionnaire, and a three item statement questionnaire measuring for sense of community, answered on a 3-point scale. Three direct “yes or no” questions about being diagnosed with depression, anxiety, behavioural addiction and substance addiction. I have some reservations about those three questions, mainly about the social desirability effect. Nevertheless, I shouldn’t discount the data because of the large sample size, confidentiality of the study and the majority of people are honest (IMO).

Internet addiction: measured by the Generalized Problematic Internet Use Scale 2. It’s consisted of 15 items which are sub-divided into 5 categories: preference for online social interaction, using the internet for mood regulation, compulsive internet use, and cognitive preoccupation with the internet and negative outcomes due to internet use.

MMOG motivations inventory: A condensed version of Nick Yee’s motivations questionnaire which consisted of 10 items answered on a 5-point scale. This questionnaire measured participants’ social, achievement and immersive motivations.

Use of voice technology: single item asking how often they used voice technology in Everquest 2, answered on a 5-point scale.


Here’s a few descriptive statistics: Average play time per week is 25.69 (SD = 18.67). Average internet use per week is 30 (SD = 19.75). That’s quite a lot of time spent on the computer. 22.2% of participants answered they have been diagnosed with depression (this means they were either diagnosed at one point in their life or currently diagnosed), 15.9% said yes to anxiety, 3.2% to behavioural addiction and 5.3% to substance addiction. With a sample of over 4000 participants, it’s bound the numbers would not be zero.

They analyzed the data through multiple regression analysis.

I’ll omit the non-video game variables because they were all found to be statistically significant. After taking into account of the following variables: age, gender, general internet use and psychosocial well-being, they found that play time per week, use of voice technology and immersive motivation were positive predictors of internet addiction. Although, they accounted for an additional 2% in explained variance of PIU scores. Meaning: they’re significant factors in predicting internet addiction under the study’s analysis model, but not as important as the other factors, such as psychosocial well-being or general internet use.

The authors explained immersion motivation as a significant contributor to PIU due to the preference for the game’s escapist nature, and the desire to avoid face-to-face social interaction. On the other hand, the lack of significance for the achievement motivation may be due to the low number of items which may entail a lack of accuracy. For example, the measure did not assess for the need for structured advancement (i.e. levelling up or finish a high-end dungeon), but instead looked at the desire for power, competition and optimization. With regards to social motivation, they haven’t directly elaborated, but I’m not sure if they inferred it. They argued that the relative lack of community in MMOGs may have been a protective factor in PIU. They suggested comparing other online social environment, such as Facebook, to test this hypothesis.

Players who use voice technology in-game are at a higher risk of suffering PIU. They argued the use of voice technology is tied to the social aspect of MMOGs and helps players connect more intimately with others online. As they connect with others online, they become more sociable online and derive a sense of online community, it puts them at risk of neglecting their more important real life connections (IMO).

The authors have some reservations about the link between PIU and the amount of time spent playing due to being its weakest predictor. They reasoned that the quantity and quality of play time should be examined.

One study limitation is its correlational nature which it cannot establish causation, so we don’t know if people’s problematic tendencies come to MMOGs or MMOGs create these problematic tendencies.

The authors concluded despite the small impact MMOG has on internet addiction it should not be ignored, as any additional factors would compound psychosocial problems. They highlight the fact that online video games are a small part of a complex nature of internet addiction. Therefore, focus should be on the other known factors of PIU.

Caplan, S., Williams, D., & Yee, N. (2009). Problematic internet use and psychosocial well-being among MMO players. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 1312-1319.


2 thoughts on “Internet addiction and psychosocial well being among MMOG players (Caplan et al., 2009)

  1. Critics argued that the publication did not take into account the full breadth of Catholic Social Teaching, including economic, social justice, or other life issues. ,

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