Recently, there has been a lot of research on how online gaming affects health; some show the positive side of gaming, while others focus on its negative side. Now, a new study has found why some people become hardcore gamers while some just play these games for fun and never develop an addiction.

According to researchers at University of Missouri, escaping from daily life along with social interaction in a virtual world and its rewards are main factors influencing gaming behavior.


MU Researchers Identify Risk-Factors for Addictive Video-Game Use among Adults from MU News Bureau on Vimeo.

"The biggest risk factor for pathological video game use seems to be playing games to escape from daily life. Individuals who play games to get away from their lives or to pretend to be other people seem to be those most at-risk for becoming part of a vicious cycle. These gamers avoid their problems by playing games, which in turn interferes with their lives because they're so busy playing games," said Joe Hilgard, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Psychological Sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science.

A related study on the subject had found that people who play video games aren't loners and may actually be good at relationships. Even the new study shows that just devoting excess time to online games isn't actually an addition. The real problem begins when these gamers start lying about the amount of time they spend on games and miss work or social interactions to play games.

"People who play games to socialize with other players seem to have more problems as well," Hilgard said in a news release. "It could be that games are imposing a sort of social obligation on these individuals so that they have to set aside time to play with other players. For example, in games like World of Warcraft, most players join teams or guilds. If some teammates want to play for four hours on a Saturday night, the other players feel obligated to play or else they may be cut from the team. Those play obligations can mess with individuals' real-life obligations."

According to researchers, there are certain games that fuel a person's addiction to online gaming. Games such as Farmville or Diablo provide users with "rewards". These rewards could be scores, equipment, characters or even a kind of fantasy world where the user can get lost and forget problems of everyday life. In many aspects, video game addiction is no different from drug addiction, which is associated with poor coping skills.

Currently, the most addictive online games are Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs). These games are "triple threats for encouraging pathological game use because they present all three risk factors to gamers," said Hilgard.

The study, "Individual differences in motives, preferences, and pathology in video games: the gaming attitudes, motives, and experiences scales (GAMES)," is published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.