The increase of videogame use has raised concerns regarding mental health of gamers (e.g. social isolation, depression); however, online gaming may offer the benefit of social connectivity. Many games provide ways for people to meet and interact, providing social opportunities difficult to come by for some young adults. One way to investigate social connection is through social network analysis, which explores the influence of connections on behaviors. The purpose of this paper is to analyze factors related to social connections within an online gaming community, with an emphasis on the influence of social support and depressive symptoms on network ties.
All members of an online gaming site were asked to report demographics, site use, depressive symptoms, “in-real-life” (IRL) social support, and online social support. Members were also asked to nominate those in their gaming network with whom they spoke to about important life matters. Moran’s I determined the spatial autocorrelation of depressive symptoms and IRL support within the network. Exponential random graph modeling determined factors significantly associated with tie presence between members.
Members (n=37) were significantly more likely to speak to other members about important life matters if they reported more site hours, more depressive symptoms, and less IRL support. Depressive symptoms and IRL support were not significantly spatially autocorrelated within this network.
Results suggest members may be filling an IRL social support deficit with friends they have met online. Additionally, members who reported more depressive symptoms may be seeking help from informal online connections through online gaming.
Prochnow, T., Patterson, M.S. and Hartnell, L. (2020), "Social support, depressive symptoms, and online gaming network communication", Mental Health and Social Inclusion, Vol. 24 No. 1, pp. 49-58. https://doi.org/10.1108/MHSI-11-2019-0033
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