Online role-playing games such as World of Warcraft, Lord of the Rings and Guild Wars can have both positive and negative impact on real-life relationships and marital satisfaction, found scientists at Brigham Young University (BYU) in which they explored the effects of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPG) on married couples.
For the study purposes researchers looked at 349 married heterosexual couples, dividing all of them into 2 groups. In one of the groups, which included 132 couples, only one person played games (84 per cent of the time it was the husband), and in the second group, which included 217 couples, both partners liked to play video games. In cases where one partner gamed more than the other, it was again the husband 73 per cent of the time. The average age of the study participants was 33 years, while the average length of marriage was 7 years.
According to researchers Michelle Ahlstrom, a graduate student at BYU, and Neil Lundberg, BYU recreation management professor, 75 per cent of spouses who did not engage in video gaming expressed dissatisfaction with their marriage. They also wished the other half put more effort into their family relationship. However, it was found that the problem was not the time the other spouse spent playing video games. It appeared to be the impact of that choice that causes dissatisfaction, by interrupting sleeping patterns, intimacy and provoking arguments. Other problems in marriage included less time spent with each other, less serious conversations, and poorer adjustment skills.
The investigators were surprised to realize that for couples in which both spouses played games, 76 per cent reported that gaming was actually good for their marital relationship. Interacting with each other's avatars (their online persona) online was associated with stronger marital satisfaction in real life, as long as both spouses were satisfied with their mutual participation. In addition, the study found that those partners who gamed on the same team were less likely to report being happy when compared to couples who played on separate teams, possibly in part because more sophisticated players got upset when their less advanced spouses could not keep up.
According to Neil Lundberg, this new study really shows that playing video games has an impact on marital satisfaction. It is not just a random occurrence that a some married couples are dealing with. Based on the large number of married individuals who like to play video games - 36 per cent of multi-player online role-playing games were in marital relationships - it could very well be a widespread issue, Lundberg added.
Not all video games are bad, concluded Michelle Ahlstrom, saying that with any type of gaming the content of the game must be taken into consideration. Also, players must consider what they are doing in the game, how much of their time it is consuming, how it is affecting them in general, including their studies, work, sleep patterns, and especially how it is affecting members of their family and marital relationship.
The study can be found in the Journal of Leisure Research.