It’s OK to escape into online role-playing games with the right coping style

Published:17 May 2019

TOP: CQUni researcher Lorelle Bowditch (centre) with her research supervisors Associate Professor Anjum Naweed (CQUniversity) and Dr Janine Chapman (Flinders University). BELOW: Proudly showing off her research poster.

Online role-playing gamers such as World of Warcraft fans are often associated with negative forms of escapism but there are also plenty who have positive experiences.

It turns out that a key difference in outcomes hinges on how each gamer approaches the stressors of their daily life.

The first research study of its type has shown that these individual differences in life coping strategies actually ‘moderate’ the link between each gamer’s motivation to play Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) and their psychological well-being.

That’s according to CQUniversity researcher and keen WoW gamer Lorelle Bowditch, of Mackay, who considers herself among players who are positively engaging with the game while avoiding compulsive preoccuptation and other addiction symptoms.

She said people faced with the everyday stressors of modern life could either use favourable coping strategies (a focus on problem-solving or restructuring approaches to problems) or poor coping strategies (such as avoidance or wishful thinking).

“The implications of these findings may offer new insight into the way we understand Internet Gaming Disorder and should be included as a key variable in future research into the outcomes associated with online video gaming, which is a multi-billion-dollar industry involving millions of players.

“When the escapism of MMORPGs is coupled with poor life coping strategies, the risk of negative gaming outcomes may be higher.”

Ms Bowditch says that training in positive coping skills could be used in conjunction with Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, which has already been used as an intervention in the treatment of Internet Gaming Disorder symptoms.

“Understanding the strategies that can reduce the potential impact of Internet Gaming Disorder, and potential interventions aimed at preventing it, are pivotal,” she says.

Ms Bowditch recently presented a poster at the Australian & New Zealand Addiction Conference on the Gold Coast, following a previous journal article on the subject. She is planning to begin a PhD project focused on coping strategies, escapism and gaming outcomes.

Her research supervisors include Associate Professor Anjum Naweed of CQUniversity and Dr Janine Chapman of Flinders University.

The research findings can be downloaded HERE.