Massively multiplayer online role-playing games: problematic use

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Byrne, Andrew M.

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East Carolina University


Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPGs) are a form of mass media with potential for behavioral addiction among some users. In past literature on internet addiction, MMORPG users have been included alongside other internet users. The outcomes of MMORPG participation, usage frequency, and demographics have not been adequately analyzed apart from users of other internet-based functions. Screening instruments developed for internet addiction have not been validated on MMORPG users. This study addressed the lack of screening research on MMORPG users, using the Internet Addiction Test (IAT), the most used screening instrument for this media. It also explored demographic and frequency traits on a robust sample of MMORPG users. The population sampled was 5313 users of the MMORPG, World of Warcraft. Three research questions resulted from the literature search: an exploratory factor analysis, demographic and frequency exploration, and face validity. The first research question asked, "What is the factor structure for the IAT when administered to a sample of MMORPG internet users?" The exploratory factor analysis yielded a two-factor oblique factor structure which included 18 of the original 20 IAT questions. The second research question asked, "What is the relationship of demographic variables (age, race, gender, weekly playing/gaming, and length of experience playing/gaming) to the final IAT score?" Weak and moderate main effects on IAT score were found for age and weekly hours playing. The third research question asked, "What is the relationship between score severity as reported by the IAT and respondents' impressions on whether they identify themselves as 'addicted to MMORPGs' ?" The IAT was found to be predictive of respondent perceptions of addiction. This research was the first to explore a factor structure for MMORPG users on a behavioral addiction instrument, and among the largest validation studies on the IAT in English. The results were conceptualized through Uses and Gratifications theory as unique user media choices, and consistent with elements of behavioral addiction. The results also provided a distinct profile for MMORPG users. This research demonstrated the importance to counselors and counselor educators of robust sampling of homogeneous media user groups and individualized screening for addiction.