Communication and Technology  

Facebook Gamers Play for Human Connection

People who obsessively play Facebook games like Farmville are often mocked for being anti-social and online obsessed. But, new research suggests that compulsive gamers play to connect with others.

New research out of the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications suggests that people who play a lot of online games do so to build and maintain their relationships.

The results come from research conducted by Yu-Hao Lee, Telecommunication professor, and his colleagues, published in the July-September 2015 International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction.

The study involved 129 participants who use Facebook to play simulation games like Farmville.  Participants answered demographic questions as well as questions regarding their use of Facebook games. They also answered questions designed to uncover habitual gaming – playing games automatically, without thinking. This was measured by asking participants how much they agreed with statements such as, “Playing Facebook games is a part of my daily routine.”

The survey also measured compulsive gaming – gaming which participants were aware of but couldn’t control. For instance, participants responded to statements such as, “I have made unsuccessful attempts to control playing Facebook games,” and “I am unable to reduce the amount of time I spend playing Facebook games.”

Additionally, participants were asked about their relationship with people they play Facebook games with, responding to questions like “my relationships with people whom I play games with have improved” and “I feel closer to them after playing the games.” Participants then listed their motivations for playing Facebook games, including “maintaining a relationship I value,” “be well-known for the game” and for entertainment and relaxation.

The researchers found that people who engage in compulsive gaming tended to have more social motivations for playing than did people who were only habitual gamers.  

“Our research shows that social motivations can lead to uncontrollable behavior (compulsive use), but that very behavior is also associated with positive interpersonal relationships,” the researchers explain. “While most research has only focused on the negative outcomes of compulsive media usage, we found that the phenomena commonly labelled as ‘addiction’ can also have pro-social outcomes.”

Donghee Yvette Wohn, New Jersey Institute of Technology
Yu-Hao Lee, University of Florida
Elif Yilmaz Ozkaya, CalState Pomono

Posted: November 16, 2016