Study shows gaming helps, hurts social life

A Penn State survey of gamers reveals something a lot of us have already figured out on our own: gaming can be both a boon and a curb on our social lives.

In an examination of people who played multi-player, first-person shooter games, like Call of Duty and Halo, gamers who organized their lives around gaming tended to experience a negative effect on their friendships and relationships but gamers who primarily played the game as a way to reinforce social bonds said they experienced higher levels of social ties and support.

I’m reminded of the various ways people use Facebook. Some people use the social network as a tool to keep in touch with far flung friends and strengthen relationships that might otherwise wither. Others experience Facebook, paradoxically, as more solitary activity, absorbing information about people they know only tangentially; this has been widely shown to make people feel more alone. Maybe it’s time we stop thinking about even core gamers’ relationship to games as monolithic and realize that people are drawn to the medium and the experience for vastly different reasons.