Shooters, MMOGs linked to problem game playing - Study

A new study conducted by the Institute for Special Populations Research in New York reveals that some game genres are more prone to problem game-playing habits.


Video game addiction has become a widely debated public health issue both in the US and overseas in the past five years, despite the lack of a formal diagnosis. While the American Psychiatric Association (APA) recently rejected a proposal to include video game addiction in the next Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V)--to be published in May 2013--researchers around the world continue to investigate methods of determining, treating, and preventing what has now become a recognized mental-health issue.

A recent study conducted by the National Development and Research Institutes' Special Populations Research branch in New York has discovered a link between problem game playing and particular types of game genres.

First-person shooters have been linked to problem game-playing habits.
First-person shooters have been linked to problem game-playing habits.

Luther Elliott, Andrew Golub, Eloise Dunlap, and Geoffrey Ream (the latter from the School of Social Work at Adelphi University in New York) surveyed 3,380 adult participants over the age of 18 who said they played video games for an hour or more during the last week.

The survey paid particular attention to characteristics of video game use, including time played, titles played in the past year, and problems associated with playing. The research team then used to sort the 2,652 valid titles into 15 mutually exclusive genres: massively multiplayer online role-playing games, other role-playing games, action adventure, first-person shooter, other shooter, sports general, sports other, rhythm, driving, platformer, real-time strategy, other strategy, puzzle, board and card games, gambling, and other.

The results of the survey showed that only 5 percent of respondents reported moderate to extreme problem game playing; of that 5 percent, the most problems showed up among those who reported playing either first-person shooters, action adventure, role-playing games, and gambling games during the past year.

The most common titles reported by participants in the problem categories were: Call of Duty (first-person shooter category); Grand Theft Auto (action adventure category); World of Warcraft (MMORPG category); and poker (gambling games category).

This led the team to conclude that there is evidence to suggest that problem game playing is linked to particular kinds of game genres, but that future research into this area is needed, particularly research that pays attention to the game-design elements specific to the problem genres.

"Recent sales figures for blockbuster series such as Call of Duty and Halo indicate a huge audience for the FPS genre in America; our findings suggest that a considerable sub-population is experiencing at least moderate degrees of problem video game playing," the study says.

"Perhaps the immersion potential of a first-person perspective, commonly combined with online competition, largely accounts for the higher rates of problem game playing. For action adventure games, a trend toward nonlinear 'open-world' style environments in which extensive, time-consuming exploration is encouraged may create a context for more pervasive experiences of problem game playing."

"These interpretations are speculative at this point, but suggest important avenues of exploration for future research."

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