Investigating markers of behavioural addiction in excessive massively multiplayer online role-playing gamers


There is current debate as to whether excessive use of massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) constitutes an addiction. The aim of the following two studies was to investigate two markers of behavioural addiction, cue-reactivity and impulsivity, in a sample of MMORPG users. Study 1 employed a rapid serial visual presentation paradigm that required identification and recall of MMORPG or neutral words. Eighteen MMORPG users identified as addicted using the Addiction-Engagement Questionnaire had significantly better recall of MMORPG words compared to neutral words whereas 19 highly engaged and 20 non-MMORPG users showed no differences. These findings are consistent with previous behavioural addiction research. Study 2 explored evidence for trait impulsivity and disinhibition using a continuous performance task and the Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11. Twenty-three regular MMORPG users and 21 non-gamers did not differ in levels of impulsivity but MMORPG users exhibited significantly lower disinhibition. Significant relationships were found between addiction and both overall impulsivity and the non-planning factor of impulsivity, but not between addiction and the attentional or motor factors of impulsivity. Implications for research conceptualising excessive MMORPG use as a behavioural addiction and methods of identification are discussed

MMORPG; addiction; attentional bias; impulsivity; high engagement
Author biographies

Olivia Metcalf

Author photoOlivia Metcalf is a PhD candidate at the Research School of Psychology, Australian National University, Canberra. For her thesis project she has investigated the psychopathology of excessive video gaming and related behavioural, cognitive and physiological markers. She has previously conducted research on the human visual system using psychophysical techniques.

Kristen Pammer

Author photoDr. Kristen Pammer is an associate professor and undergraduate advisor at the Research School of Psychology, Australian National University, Canberra. Her interests involve the attentional and cognitive processes engaged in various activities, including video gaming. Her research largely involves neurological and psychophysiological methods.

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