Video game use may strain relations

By Stephanie Daly, News Staff

The social lives of college students who play video games may be at risk. At least that’s what a recent study’ suggests.’
Laura Walker, an assistant professor at Brigham Young University’s School of Family Life in Utah, and Alex Jensen, a student at the university who worked with her, conducted a study that measured how video game and Internet use affects interpersonal relationships for young adults.
The study, entitled ‘More Than Just a Game:’ Video Game and Internet Use During Emerging Adulthood,’ appeared in the Jan. 23 edition of the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Walker and Jensen examined 813 college students from around the country to see if there was a relationship between the amount of time they spent playing video games and’ the’ quality of their interpersonal relationships, which included trust, support and affection for and from their family and friends.
The study investigated a link between video games and their association with risky behavior, level of self-perception and quality of relationships through student surveys.
The results showed a correlation between gaming and behavior like drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana, having low self-perception and maintaining poor interpersonal relationships.’
‘Video game use was related to negative outcomes across the board,’ Walker said in an e-mail to The News.
Video games were not necessarily the cause of negative traits like alcohol and marijuana use, Walker said, but there is a relationship between them.
Many students at Northeastern said they thought the results were accurate,’ that those who spent hours with their Xbox could experience troubled interpersonal relationships.
‘I think people can get caught up in video games and I think it’s an easy thing to put a lot of time into, which would make you neglect other parts of your life,’ Kelsey Tucker, a middler digital art major, said.
While the results were not particularly surprising to students like Tucker, Walker said she went into the study without those expectations.
‘We had hoped that video game use might be correlated with some positive outcomes, but that was not the case,’ Walker said in the e-mail.
Andrew Linberg, a relationship therapist and clinical director at Arbour Counseling Services in Allston, said that when people spend an excessive amount of time playing video games, romantic relationships, in particular, can suffer. ‘ ‘ ‘
‘When you look at a video game junky, their social life may suffer from being overly involved with it,’ Linberg said. ‘If they’re playing video games five or six hours a day, they’re going to miss opportunities to interact with significant others.’
Some students said it’s a hobby that often morphs into an obsession.
‘Some people become really addicted to video games,’ said Gustavo Sanchez, a middler finance and accounting major.’ ‘Instead of going out with their friends, they’ll play video games.’
The study found mostly negative results, but gaming can have positive effects, Anthony Centore, a relationship counselor at Thrive Boston Counseling and Psychotherapy Center, said.
‘If people are using video games with others it could be positive, it would be recreational,’ Centore said. ‘But people who are fixated on video games are isolating themselves.’
‘ However, Centore said he worked with couples who have used video games as a means of bonding.
‘For some couples, it can become a positive in their relationship,’ he said.’
Multiplayer video games can even be a social activity for the family, said Judith Perrolle, a sociology professor at Northeastern.
‘My grandsons and I get together and play Sonic the Hedgehog and it’s a nice set of interactions,’ Perrolle said.’ ‘If you have family game night, it doesn’t really matter if it’s online games or board games. The important thing is that people are getting together.’
However, Fleming said he does not think video games make for good social interactions.
‘No matter what you do ‘hellip; you’re not being social because all of your actions go through the game, not to each other,’ Fleming said.