The Social Benefits of Games: Clinical Research

The Social Benefits of Games: Clinical Research

This series of articles explores the current clinical research that exists around the benefits that playing video games can have for wellbeing. Wherever we can, we have linked to a free full version of the publication, and otherwise have referred to its abstract.


Today we’re looking at the social benefits of video games!


The demographics, motivations, and derived experiences of users of massively multi-user online graphical environments

Yee N, Presence 2006: 15 (3), 309-329


One of the largest studies we’ve looked at in this series – this author collected information from over 30,000 different MMORPG players. They asked about demographics, motivations for play, and what kind of experiences the players got from engaging in the game. The results are pretty cool:


The players’ ages ranged from 11 to 68, with the average age being 27 years old. Most players were in game for about 22 hrs a week. The team used a model of different motivations including:

  • Achievement: a sense of accomplishment and success in the game
  • Relationship: being able to socialise with and relate to other players
  • Immersion: getting absorbed in the game world
  • Escapism: feeling like you’re able to take a break from real life for a short time
  • Manipulation: having a sense of control over the world


The motivations for play were different depending on which gender the player identified with. Male players were much more into achievement and manipulation, whereas female players preferred to play for relationships.


In addition, players felt that the relationships formed within the game were meaningful and important to them, that the experiences they had were valid and salient emotionally, and that they could even learn leadership skills transferable to the real world.


Not so doomed: Computer game play and positive adolescent development. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology.

Durkin K, Barber B. 2002 Oct 17;23(4):373-392.


This second study found similar results more defined to a specific demographic. They aimed to bust the myth that video games have negative consequences in young people, so they examined 16-year-old high school students.


Firstly they tried to find negative outcomes – and couldn’t get any evidence of them. Conversely, they found that gamers scored better than non-gamers on a number of measures:

  • Family closeness
  • Activity involvement
  • School engagement
  • Mental health
  • Lower substance use
  • Self-concept
  • Friendship network
  • Disobedience


The team concluded that video game play could be a “positive feature of a healthy adolescence”.


Magical flight and monstrous stress: technologies of absorption and mental wellness in Azeroth.

Snodgrass JG, Lacy MG, Francois dengah HJ, Fagan J, Most DE. Cult Med Psychiatry. 2011;35(1):26-62.


Immersion and escapism – becoming so absorbed that you are able to switch off the world around you and feel like you’re in the game itself – are terms that come with a lot of negative implications. This team set out to investigate those dissociative experiences in WoW players.  Their report discusses both sides of the coin, and explores both the benefits and risks of such experiences. They break down how players are able to emotionally identify with their avatar, and that this can lead to improved wellbeing, relaxation, and relief of stress.


Relationships between electronic game play, obesity, and psychosocial functioning in young men.

Wack E, Tantleff-dunn S. Cyberpsychol Behav. 2009;12(2):241-4.


The old myth is that video game players are obese and fail at school – two factors this study aimed to quantify looking at male US college students. They actually found that there was literally no correlation between frequency of game play and weight, or reduced grades. They also found that many of the students played as a coping mechanism to deal with boredom, loneliness and stress, and that play was able to help them relax.