Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Gaming?
AbstractHave you ever heard someone described as a video game addict? Do you think video game addicts actually exist? You can determine that for yourself in this science fair project by examining real data from a California research scientist for over 3,000 video game players!
Sandra Slutz, PhD, Science Buddies
In this science fair project, you'll determine whether there is a subset of the game-playing population who is addicted to video games.
Do you love to play video games? Do you find it hard to stop sometimes? That's usually a normal reaction! When you're having fun, you want the fun to keep on going, right? But what if you couldn't make yourself stop, even when you wanted to. Or if you stopped hanging out with your friends, doing your homework, and participating in other activities just so you could play more video games? Then you might have what psychologists call an addiction.
There are two types of addiction: physical addiction and psychological addiction. Both involve the uncontrollable desire to take part in an action that is not healthy for the individual. In the case of physical addiction, the action is the use of drugs or alcohol. Usually these substances temporarily change a person's mood. While many people can handle that temporary change, an addict (person who is addicted) is different in that over time and with regular use, the quantity of the drugs or alcohol that is required to achieve the same mood change, increases. When addicts try to give up the drugs or alcohol, they suffer from physical and emotional reactions called withdrawal symptoms. The exact type of withdrawal symptoms vary, depending on the substance being abused, but they can include things like nausea, loss of appetite, shaking, rapid heart rate, anxiety, depression, and not thinking clearly. Withdrawal symptoms make a person feel sick and miserable, so addicts often give up on quitting the drugs or alcohol once they feel these symptoms and the cycle repeats itself. This is part of what makes an addiction so difficult to stop.
Psychological addiction usually takes the form of participating in a particular behavior to the extent that it takes over the addict's life. Examples include, but are not limited to, compulsive gambling, shopping, and eating. Trying to quit the behavior doesn't usually result in the physical symptoms of withdrawal, but it can result in emotional symptoms, which means that like physical addictions, psychological addictions are also very difficult to overcome.
Can playing video games become a psychological addiction? Some psychologists have suggested that there is a subset of people who can become so obsessed with playing video games that they have trouble stopping, think about it all the time, and play so much that their job or school performance suffers, as do their personal relationships with friends and family. These researchers think that the actual number of people at risk for developing a video game addiction is small, but that the people who do become addicted are most attracted to playing games called massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs). MMORPGs are a type of computer game played simultaneously by thousands of people. Each person assumes an in-game identity and acts out his or her character's personality as he or she lives and has adventures in the game's fictional world. World of Warcraft, City of Heroes, and EVE Online are all examples of MMORPGs. Researchers working on the topic of video game addiction have hypothesized that part of the addiction to MMORPGs is an effort to escape reality by finding happiness in a virtual life. But not all psychologists agree that video games can be addictive. It will take many more years of scientific research before the experts agree one way or another.
How about you? Do you think that some people can become addicted to video games? In this science fair project, you'll examine real data collected by Dr. Nick Yee, research scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center in California, as part of the Daedalus Project. By analyzing the data, you can come to your own conclusions about what percentage, if any, of MMORPG players are addicted to video games.
Terms and Concepts
- Physical addiction
- Psychological addiction
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG)
- How are physical and psychological addictions similar? How are they different?
- What are the arguments some psychologists give for video game addiction being real? Why do other experts disagree?
For more information about video game addiction, and addictions in general, try these websites:
- Kids' Health. (2007, August 23). Addiction—when you just can't stop. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
- Council on Science and Public Health. (2007). Featured Report: Emotional and Behavioral Effects of Video Games and Internet Overuse. Retrieved July 23, 2008.
- Goldberg, K. (2008, July 16). Are you addicted to video games? The Washington Times. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
- Wikipedia Contributors. (2008, July 16). Video game addiction. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
More information about MMORPGs can be found at:
- Wikipedia Contributors. (2008, July 19). Massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
The data for this project comes from:
- Yee, N. (2005). The Daedalus Project. Retrieved July 19, 2008.
Materials and Equipment
- Computer with Internet access and a spreadsheet program that can read Microsoft® Excel® documents
- Lab notebook
- Graph paper
This science fair project uses real data collected from 3,245 MMORPG players in 2005 by Dr. Nick Yee, as part of the Daedalus project. The players answered a survey consisting of 62 questions. In this experiment, you will analyze the data for the 6 questions that directly apply to addiction. Make sure you have a good understanding of what addiction is before beginning the data analysis.
The data analysis in this science fair project will need to be done on a computer, using a spreadsheet program that can open and manipulate Microsoft Excel documents. If you need help using the spreadsheet program, consult the "help" files, which come with the program, or other online tutorials.
To start this project, you will need to download the
Data and the
Data Code Book spreadsheets.
- Both documents are Microsoft Excel spreadsheets, compressed as ZIP files. You will need to use a computer program, like Microsoft Excel, which can open and manipulate these types of files.
- The Data spreadsheet contains the answers to all 62 survey questions by 3,245 MMORPG players. The questions are arranged in columns and each row corresponds to all the answers from one player. The heading of each column has the code corresponding to a single survey question. The Data Code Book spreadsheet lists the codes, corresponding questions, and options given for answering each question.
- For this science fair project, you will use 6 of the 62 questions for assessing video game addiction. The table below lists those 6 questions, the code for them in the data spreadsheet, and what part of addiction each question addresses.
Name in Data Spreadsheet Survey Question What Part of Addiction is Being Addressed: happiness How much of your happiness in life currently is derived from playing the game? Mood-changing part of an addiction limittime How difficult would it be for you to limit your playing time? Compulsive nature of an addiction socialsuffer Have your personal relationships suffered because of your game play? Harmful part of an addiction spendtime Do you spend more time than you think you should playing the game? Compulsive nature of an addiction worksuffer Has your work/school performance suffered because of your game play? Harmful part of an addiction tryquit Have you tried to quit the game, but were unsuccessful? Difficulty in changing the addictive behavior
Five of the six questions have numerical answers, ranging from 1 to 5, where 1 represents being not at all affected by video games and 5 represents being completely affected by video games.
- The exact meaning of each numerical response is listed in the Data Code Book.
- The sixth question: "Have you tried to quit the game but were unsuccessful?" is answered with a no (1) or yes (2).
Look at the data for the question code-named "happiness."
- Using the tools in the spreadsheet program, sort the answers for the happiness question by their numerical value. Note: if you don't know how to "sort," consult the "help" function in the spreadsheet program.
- Once sorted, use the row numbering on the left-hand side of the spreadsheet to figure out the number of players who chose each response. For example, if the number of players who responded "1" for the happiness question started on row number 3 and ended on row number 1027, then the total number of players who answered "1" would be equal to 1025. (If you don't understand how this was calculated, make a sample spreadsheet of your own with 10 rows and work through the problem.)
- Make a data table in your lab notebook and record how many players gave each response to the question.
Repeat step 3 for the other five questions.
- Note: For the question code named "tryquit," there are only two numerical values, 1 (no, never unsuccessfully tried to quit the game) or 2 (yes, have unsuccessfully tried to quit the game).
Using the data recorded in your lab notebook, make a pie chart for each of the six questions showing how the MMORPG players responded.
- For each question, are the lives of the majority of MMORPG affected or unaffected by video games?
- Are there any questions where no players were extremely affected (i.e. none of them gave an answer of 5)? Are there any questions where a large percentage of players were extremely affected?
A video game addict is someone who finds it difficult to quit or even limit how much time he or she spends playing video games, and his or her happiness, social life, and work output have been severely affected by gaming. This would correspond to someone who answers that he or she is highly affected by video games on all or most of the six questions in the survey. What fraction of game players fits this definition of a video game addict?
To answer this question, you need to look at the answers to all six questions at once for each individual. To do this, add the numeric scores for all six questions together to get one number for each MMORPG player. This will be the video game addiction score.
- The possible video game addiction scores will range from 6 (an answer of 1 on all six questions) to 27 (an answer of 5 on the first two questions and a yes answer on the "tryquit" question).
- Note: More advanced students might want to represent the video game addiction score for all the players surveyed as a histogram. Search the help function of the spreadsheet program for assistance in making histograms.
You will need to decide what numeric score you think qualifies as an addict.
- For example, if you think that only a person who answers "5" to the first five questions and "yes" to the "tryquit" question is an addict, then only players with a video game addiction score of 27 qualify as addicts. Or if you think that a person who is addicted would score an average of at least a 4 on the first five questions, then the cutoff for anyone scoring 21 (4 times 5, plus 1 for the "tryquit" question) or higher would be an addict.
- Base your decision as to what the cutoff should be on your background research and the pie charts you created for each individual question. Remember, there is no right or wrong answer, just be able to explain why you made your decision.
- Write down your cutoff number and your explanation in your lab notebook so that you can refer back to it at any time.
- Based on the video game addiction score cutoff you chose, how many of the MMORPG players in this data set are video game addicts? What percentage of the people surveyed is that? Does your data analysis lead you to conclude that video game addicts do or do not exist?
- Optional: Rather than creating only one cutoff point, you might want to create "levels" of addiction and assign video game addiction score ranges to each level. An example of levels would be a gamer gradation from not addicted to addicted, including: casual, interested, hooked-on, fanatic, and hard-core.
- To answer this question, you need to look at the answers to all six questions at once for each individual. To do this, add the numeric scores for all six questions together to get one number for each MMORPG player. This will be the video game addiction score.
Ask an Expert
- Are males and females equally likely to be video game addicts? If your data indicates that video game addicts do exist, calculate what percentage are male versus female. Hint: Remember to correct for gender bias in the data set by dividing each of your answers by the total number of males and females who took the survey.
- Does a person's video game addiction score correlate with the number of hours he or she spends playing MMORPGs? Use the video game addiction score you calculated above for each player and the number of weekly game play hours per player found in the data spreadsheet to find out. Note: for help understanding correlation, consult the Which Team Batting Statistics Predicts Run Production Best? science fair project.
- Does your background research suggest that there are other questions on this survey that could also be used to assess addiction? What are they? How does your analysis change if you include those questions, too?
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