Depression, Social Isolation and Fantasy Role-playing Game Use Among Young Adults: Comparing Tabletop to Videogame Formats
For over three decades, there has been much controversy surrounding the use of fantasy role-playing games. The media and other groups have linked the use of fantasy role-playing games to violence, suicide, murder, Satanic practices, and other detrimental outcomes. Video game fantasy role-playing games have also been blamed for causing players to become depressed, isolated and suicidal. Empirical research on the effects of fantasy role-playing games on players is inconclusive. Heavy use of these games has been linked to negative outcomes. There is little information regarding whether the negative outcomes found in some studies are based on the format of the game (pencil-and-paper versus video game) versus the content of these games. This study investigated whether there is a difference among self-reported feelings of loneliness and depressive symptomatology among young adult players of fantasy role-playing games based on their level of use (heavy versus light) and format preference. A 2 x 2 factorial design was employed to compare groups of players on measures of loneliness and depressive symptomatology. Based on a review of the research, it was hypothesized that players who report heavy use of the video game format would produce significantly higher scores on depression and loneliness measures than other groups. The results indicate that those participants expressing a preference for the video game format showed significantly higher scores on the depression measure than those who expressed a preference for the pencil-and-paper format, suggesting that depressive symptoms are more common among those who prefer video game to pencil-and-paper fantasy role-playing games. Those participants reporting heavy use of either format produced significantly higher scores on both the depression and loneliness measures than those reporting light use. The results of this study suggest that there could be some detrimental impact of excessive use of fantasy role-playing games on players' social relationships and mood but it is also possible that those who are depressed and isolated tend to engage in excessive game-playing. Some implications for treating isolated and depressed young adults who use games excessively are discussed.
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