Yes, you heard that correctly, online gaming is affecting marriages across the United States – but not in the ways you might expect.
When we think of online gamers, the image of dark basements with awkward teenage boys playing marathon sessions of World of Warcraft comes to mind first. While that may have been true for the early gaming systems, those teenage boys have lifted themselves from their parent’s basement, grown up and married, now with families of their own – but they still like to game. About 36 percent of players in massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPG’s) are married and 22 percent have children.
A recent study from Brigham Young University, published in the Journal of Leisure Research, set out to see if playing MMORPG’s affects marriages. They discovered it does but in both negative, and surprisingly, positive ways depending on the habits of the players. Of 349 married, heterosexual, English-speaking couples surveyed from across the United States, 132 couples reported that only one person played and 84 percent of the time it was the husband. In the other 217 couples both partners played, but 73 percent of the time the husband still played more.
Where gaming led to conflict in about 75% of couples, it wasn’t the length of time spent online but rather the disruption of family time, specifically bedtime. Couples who did not go to bed at the same time reported marital dissatisfaction.
“Activities that stand in the way of bonding, routines, and intimacy are obviously bad,” says Neil Lundberg, coauthor of the study, “and online gaming is just an additional example.”
The surprising results of this study came from couples who gamed together. 76 percent reported that gaming was good for their marriage. For those who game together, interacting with each others avatars leads to higher marital satisfaction, but both must be satisfied with their mutual participation, especially the individual who plays less.
“We didn’t expect that some couples would game together as a way to spend time together,” Lundberg told The Scientific American. “These folks really came through in the sample and said, ‘We enjoy interaction in gaming – it’s kind of like an online date. We see this as a really positive thing for our relationship.’”
For couples gaming together, there was a caveat: if playing on the same team, they were less likely to report being as satisfied. The author suspects that more advanced gamers get frustrated with their less skillful spouses.
In the end, marriage takes two to make it work and any activity removing one person from daily life for extended periods of time, is going to have an affect – leisure activities, such as gaming, being no exception.
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