Year

2017

Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology (Clinical)

Department

School of Psychology

Abstract

Over 23 million individuals were playing Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) in 2014. This project aimed to conceptualise MMORPG use in the context of social anxiety and its associated features, and then test this model using cross-sectional (N = 626) and longitudinal data (N = 94) obtained from adult MMORPG players. Study 1 utilised Davis’ (2001) cognitive-behavioural model of pathological internet use as a framework for the conceptualisation, with levels of social anxiety, expression of true self, and perceived in-game and face-to-face social support as predictors of Generalised Problematic Internet Use Scale (GPIUS) scores and hours spent playing MMORPGs per week in a structural equation model (SEM). The sample was randomly split in half, and the results indicate that the hypothesised model was a good fit to the data from both samples. More specifically, higher levels of social anxiety, expressing true self in-game, larger numbers of in-game social supports, and fewer supportive face-to-face relationships were significant predictors of higher GPIUS scores, and higher numbers of in-game supports was also significantly associated with time spent playing. Study 2 utilised 12 month longitudinal data to extend on these findings, where increases in social anxiety and in-game social support, and reductions in face-to-face support, were examined as outcomes of increased MMORPG engagement. Change scores (T2 –T1) were calculated for each variable of interest. Multiple regression analyses indicated that increases in MMORPG use over time significantly and positively predicted heightened levels of social anxiety when controlling for gender and changes in depression and stress levels. Changes in MMORPG use was not significantly correlated with in-game or face-to-face support measures. Increases in MMORPG use was also found to positively and significantly predict increases in depression over time when controlling for changes in stress and general anxiety levels.

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