The argument of whether video games have a positive or negative effect on society cannot be simply put in black and white. If you asked my 15 year old brother, he’d say the his games are doing no harm to him whatsoever; turn around and ask my boss who is in her fifties, and she might say otherwise. The effects produced from playing video games are broad and require researchers to create subdivisions, whether it’s psychological, physical, etc. A big point of gaming is this idea of bringing people together but others say gaming is causing a depletion in human socialization skills. Being able to have a face-to-face conversation is something we learn at a young age and overtime become more and more comfortable with it. As human beings we require a certain amount of interaction in order to function properly which is where we begin our issue with video games and the effects they seem to have on the players.
There are many possible effects of playing video games and some have helped push the “gamer” stereotype to be true. One of the biggest stereotypes of gamers would be they lack that crucial human need, social interaction. This can be applied on multiple levels including family ties, classmates, and even self-sustainability. One of the more important ones for us as humans is our romantic relationships.
Romantic relationships are a key component of our existence and without them our species would collapse. Video games, more specifically online gaming, has recently started to place a strain on those crucial relationships. Joann Lianekhammy and Judy Von De Venne of the University of Kentucky conducted a study, World of Warcraft Widows: Spousal Perspectives of Online Gaming and relationship Outcomes, which took note of the relationships between spouses who either had one partner who played online games or both did. They first found that players who played online games, specifically MMORPGs, tended to spend more time playing then players of other mediums (Lianekhammy, J., & van de Venne, J. (2015). Another study, done by Ahlstrom, Lundberg, and some others, showed that these games were in fact affecting people’s relationships.
They took a look at both players with non-gaming spouses and couples who both played (Ahlstrom, Lundberg, 2012). In both types of the couples, they found a lower marital satisfaction because of two factors: couples went to bed separately because of one spouse gaming all night and an increase in arguments over gaming. Another very interesting point was how couples with a non-gaming spouse reported and even lower marital satisfaction than those with both spouses gaming. During this analysis, they also took asked if the couples had children, was the gaming affecting them as well? In turn they found that a change in relationship showing the woman becoming the primary caretaker of the house and kids. It also mentions how they felt both physically and emotionally distant from their partner. In the case of just one spouse playing games, the wife tended to see a change in the husband’s everyday behaviors. They started isolating themselves from their family and peers as well as neglecting their own health. Here they found that the women became more resentful towards their partners, along with excess stress and a sense of loneliness within their relationship.
Essentially, as the title of the study suggests, they began to feel like widows. Many of these widows are female but there are some males in this category. We tend to see more relational problems within male gamers versus that of female gamers (Coyne, S. M., Busby, D., Bushman, B. J., Gentile, D. A., Ridge, R., & Stockdale, L. (2012). The study focused on 50 (assumed married females) people and asked specific questions about their “widow” lifestyle. These analyses included categories such as family, relationship, feelings, and coping mechanisms. Some stand-out statistics from each category are as followed:
- Family – 28% said their partner showed a lack of responsibility in the home
- Relationship – 36% said they wanted more attention
- Feelings – 24% said they feel anger/rage towards their partner
- Coping Mechanisms – 36% said they give/receive advice from other wives
Another study looked at how playing video games can cause conflict and aggression within a relationship. The couples recorded their game playing habits, conflict regarding the media, and aggression, both physical and relational (Coyne et al., 2012). Couples have been said to report using media both together and independently, and this is where the conflict usually begins. It also looked at the link between excessive gaming and reduced behaviors imperative for relationship maintenance, more found in college students. The more time that was spent gaming, the less they spent time on “relationship-enhancing activities.”
Back in 2016, Dr. Phil hosted a couple where a wife claimed her husband had a gaming “addiction,” playing 12-14 hours per day and that his habits were “destroying her marriage” (Dr. Phil, 2016). He claimed he only played for about six hours a day, which was then addressed by Dr. Phil as still being an “extreme problem.” The wife goes on to explain how her husband even purchased a flat screen TV while on vacation in order to continue playing his games. The issue had gotten to the point where he moved out and in with his parents.
Another group on YouTube, Cracked, took a look at the types of lessons games teach people about romantic relationships, more specifically the negative lessons. The group took a parody approach, making the one character all for dating in games and the other wasn’t buying into it. Lots of games contain “dating mechanics” in them including Fable, Mass Effect, Dragon Age, etc. The “gamer” in the video goes on to explain all these things you can do in the games, including touching strippers until they ask for a three-way. To him, these are what make a relationship because that is what he has been taught from playing these games. He’s even pumped to say how you can have two-three dozen conversations about your significant other’s life. The other guy, who’s making fun of his friend playing the game, plays into what he’s saying. Overall, the video shows how the dating mechanics of video games are morphing people’s perception of actual dating. The gamer even cracks jokes about listening to your partner in the game tell you about their day and follows it with “typical woman, huh?” This is placing a stereotype saying all women do is talk and to obtain what you want from them, all you need to do is listen to them rant for a few minutes. These games are teaching improper dating techniques, essentially hurting a person’s socialization skills.
As we’ve seen through multiple studies, the argument on whether video games have a positive or negative effect on society is definitely full of grey areas. Overtime, the issue of video games invading our relationships has become more and more prominent. I mean, there is a website specifically for women dealing with this stuff (WoW Widows) so it is no secret that gaming affects relationships. Whether it is positive or negative, video games, along with the media as a whole, is affecting us everyday. It is up to us to decide which outcome it will be.