Current Findings in MMO Research and Marriages: Or, my rant about headlines and media coverage

The rounds of headlines that are coming out of the last round of research on the impact of gaming on marriages (and from what I see, MMORPG’s) look like this:

When it could look like this:

and the most balanced headlines I’ve seen:

See, all these articles reference the research of Michelle Ahlstrom, Neil R. Lundberg, Ramon Zabriskie, Dennis Eggett, Gordon B. Lindsay who researched and wrote an article called  ME, MY SPOUSE, AND MY AVATAR: THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN MARITAL SATISFACTION AND PLAYING MASSIVELY MULTIPLAYER ONLINE ROLE-PLAYING GAMES (MMORPGS)

What bothers me the most is that every one of the articles linked above go on about the statistics and reasons people fight (and divorce) over excessive video game play. Of course, blaming the game, not the person or the relationship (thanks to Kotaku for pointing this out yet again for those who tend to forget). The titles reflect the negative view the media feeds off of when it comes to video games, addiction, social problems, violence, etc… (reminds me of the whole cigarettes are bad for you and lets do everything to make you stop smoking EXCEPT not selling cigarettes, because where would we make all that money from otherwise!? thing – but I digress).

What I find the most interesting is, after all the articles point out the negatives (without mentioning the context of the couples), is that there were positive effects found in the research. But the fact that the abstract itself gives six lines of the bad stuff (detailing it) and ends with ” Positive effects of gaming together were also identified.” …. can you maybe share in the abstract as much as you’ve shared the negative impacts?

Personal anecdote. My partner started playing EverQuest when it was released. It took up all of his time. It made me cranky (he has an obsessive personality). After a few months (3 actually), I decided to see what all the hype was about, made an avatar, loved it so much, we bought a second computer, opened a second account and we played together for 6 years (Dark Age of Camelot, Lineage II, and World of Warcraft). It was some of the best times of our lives as a couple – and as parents of young kids. We were housebound more often than not (never had any babysitters), and we played with Danes so our play schedule wasn’t infringing too badly on family life (and they loved fishing and doing tradeskills, so we all got to play!).

When we were faced with criticism from outside people (who didn’t play), we would always explain that it was no different than spending the weekend together camping, playing golf, whatever. The point was that we were doing something together that we both enjoyed. We even met people from around the world through our gaming experiences (and a trip to Denmark to remember!). Our circumstances and interests centered around gaming, and we are thankful for those bonding times. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had plenty of fights because he didn’t heal fast enough (he was a gnome cleric for a while) or I didn’t get my slow in on the mob fast enough (I always played a shaman)… there were nights I went to bed mad because my corpse was left out to rot (in early EQ days, there was a timer, and if you didn’t get your corpse out in time, your items would disappear – most corpse retrievals were long battles in secondary armor if you weren’t friends with a good monk).

Point is, all of these articles quote the article as saying:

  • “According to the study, 76 percent of respondents from the “both game” group “reported that MMORPG playing had a positive effect on their marriages.”
  • “The take-home message is that doing things together, whether you’re video gaming or doing something else, is better than doing something apart,” Lundberg says. “This confirms the idea that doing things that create interaction and bonding is obviously going to strengthen a marriage.”
  •  However, shared gaming produced a positive effect on the marital relationship for 76 percent of the couples playing together (which constituted 62% of the study participants).

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