Depressive symptoms, developing friendships, and social support through online gaming: A mixed-method analysis of online gaming network communication


Purpose: Online gaming offers avenues to connect with others producing social capital especially for individuals lacking in-real-life (IRL) social support; however, there is concerns related to mental health and depressive symptoms (DS). Virtually mediated social connections are particularly important during times of social distancing. This article investigates discussant networks established through an online gaming site and their possible association with depressive symptoms and social support.

Design: Participants (n=40) recruited from an online gaming site reported depressive symptoms, online and IRL social support, and site members with whom they discussed important life matters. Participants also reported topics of conversation discussed and reason for communication. Quadratic assignment procedure multiple regression was used to determined significant associations between network structure, DS, and social support.

Findings: Depressive symptoms were significantly associated with online (β=0.39) and IRL social support (β=-0.44). Online social support was significantly associated with network structural factors. Topics reported by members most often were bridging capital topics while topics reported by members in most recent conversation were bonding capital topics. Members mentioned bonding social capital concepts as motivation for conversation.

Originality: This article is among the first to approach online gaming communication through social network analysis and qualitative analysis mixed method approach.

Social implications: Building online relationships to provide bonding social capital could supply buffering effects for those feeling socially isolated during social distancing.

Mental Health and Social Inclusion