Purpose: Increases in video game use have led to mental health concerns, citing greater risk for depressive symptoms (DS) and reduced “in-real-life” (IRL) social involvement. However, recent studies have uncovered potential social benefits to online gaming. Many games provide avenues to extend real life relationships and make new online friendships. This pilot study aims to use social network analysis to determine associations between connections and DS in a gaming community.
Methodology: As a pilot study, members of an online gaming site were asked to report demographic characteristics, DS, IRL social support, and online social support as well as IRL people and members of the online community with whom they spoke to about important life matters. Multi-level modeling was used to parse variance described by demographic characteristics, IRL measures, and online measures. Linear network autocorrelation modeling (LNAM) was used to determine relationships between network connections and DS.
Findings: Members (n=37; µ=24.76 years old, SD=6.55; 100% male; 89.2% white) on average felt depressive symptoms “not at all” to “several days” over the past two weeks. Multi-level modeling including online network measures explained 50% of variance (R2=.50, F(9,27)=2.98, p=.01); online connections were associated with DS (β=0.46). LNAM indicated DS were associated with IRL support (β=-2.66), IRL connections (β=1.81), online support (β=2.40), and network effects (β=0.06) meaning a gamer’s DS were similar to those of their online connections.
Value: Members with more DS may be seeking help through online channels. This may be important for future research to consider alternative forms of help-seeking behavior.