Problem game-playing does not diminish social skills or self-esteem, suggests an Australian study conducted by a Psychology graduate from Victoria University
Dan Loton says that his study has shown that only one per cent of game addicts suffer from shyness.
"From a clinical point of view, an addiction is a mental illness with very serious consequences. In this context, we need to ask whether gaming is responsible for causing people's lives to fall apart in the same way we see with gambling, alcohol or drug addiction," news.com.au quoted Loton as saying.
The new finding is significant, especially, because the American Medical Association (AMA) is contemplating formally recognising video game addiction as a mental disorder in 2012.
"There have been some concerns in psychological literature, including the AMA report, that excessive game playing... is related to a difficulty in establishing social relationships and maintaining them," said Loton.
"It was theorised that people who have social difficulties are turning to games, particularly games that offer social communication, to alleviate those difficulties and (are) therefore getting stuck in the game," he added.
During the course of study, gamers were surveyed using two psychological scales-the Problem Video Game Playing scale (PVP) and Social Skills Inventory (SSI)-to measure how addicted they were and how they operated socially.
Loton found that about 15 per cent of the 621 respondents were problem gamers, who spent over 50 hours a week playing games.
Upon further observation of the problem gamers thus identified, he found that there was no clear link between problem gaming and poor social skills or low self-esteem.
The researchers, however, found that players of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG) were more likely to suffer problems with addiction.
"We found that those who played MMORPGs such as World of Warcraft, which currently has over 10 million fee-paying monthly subscribers, were more likely to exhibit problematic game play," Loton said.
"But, what is important to note is that even problem gamers did not exhibit significant signs of poor social skills or low self-esteem. Only one percent of those identified as problem gamers appeared to have poor social skills, specifically shyness," he added.
He further said that further research was warranted before the AMA made a decision to recogne video game addiction as a mental disorder.
He also suggested game addicts to try balancing their play with other activities.
"If a person feels that they're at the point where they feel that they want to stop playing but they can't and it's interrupting elements of their lives, I would advise them to seek counselling," he said.