FRIDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- Contrary to what some might think, spending hours online playing video games and interacting with others through avatars may contribute to emotional health, if virtual gaming partners or opponents include real-world family members, findings from a new data analysis suggest.
Various research has touted the negative effects of spending too much solitary time playing video games, so "people think [video] games are bad for you psychologically," explained study author Cuihua Shen. "We challenge that assumption," she said.
"If I am playing with existing family and friends, I am extending my social life in cyberspace, and that is actually good for me psychologically," said Shen, an assistant professor of emerging media and communication at the University of Texas at Dallas.
However, this assertion comes with some caveats. Shen's study found that the quality of family communication took a nosedive when kids and young adults -- primarily those in their 30s -- failed to include family and friends in the many hours they spent playing video and virtual reality games.
In addition, even virtual gamers who played regularly with their families and thus expanded their time together reported the quality of that communication was "slightly lower" than usual.
Shen and co-author Dmitri Williams, of the University of Southern California, analyzed surveys of over 5,000 participants in Sony Online Entertainment's massively multiplayer online (MMO) game, EverQuest II (EQ2). They collected self-reported information about players' psychosocial well being -- including their level of loneliness, family communication time and quality -- and their Internet use, and also looked at Sony's proprietary game server information about players' online behavior.
The investigators found that gamers who played EQ2 with family members experienced various psychoso
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