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Players Will Report Greater Social Online Video Game

While no known research has explored the social utility of online games in relation to other mediated social outlets (such as social networking websites or chatrooms), researchers have linked shy individuals,12,14,16,28 and those displaying the behavioral components of shyness,11 with increased online video game use. The current study will evaluate the relationships between ES and gaming-related friendships within online gaming environments. It will also examine the relationship between ES and social online video game play, which, in this context, refers to playing with at least one other person through a networked Internet connection.

As researchers have consistently found shyness to hold significant relationships with social uses of the Internet13,14,16,18,26 and online games are believed hold the potential to compensate for the social difficulties. While no known research has explored the relationship between online video game use, shyness, and friendship formation, researchers have noted the potential for online games to provide a space where shy individuals can overcome their difficulties with friendship formation and gain access to new social contacts.25–27 Thus, the following prediction was made:

Additionally, due to the social affordances provided by communication in online gaming environments, it is possible that shy individuals are not only using these spaces to generate friendships but also to maintain “offline” friendships in a space that is more socially accommodating than face-to-face communication.

To assess ES, three items from the ES subscale of the Social Skills Inventory31 (SSI) were used. According to Riggio,31 ES refers to one’s skill in receiving and interpreting the nonverbal communications of others. Individuals who are emotionally sensitive can accurately interpret the subtle emotional and nonverbal cues of others. High levels of ES are believed to represent a hypersensitivity to the nonverbal signals of others,30 as being overly emotionally sensitive to nonverbal and emotional cues can lead to a discomfort and/or inhibition in interpersonal situations and behaviorally manifest itself as social self-consciousness or social avoidance.32

As this study was conducted within a larger omnibus study on online game players, a shortened version of the ES subscale of the SSI was enlisted.57 The ES short-scale was created by choosing the three highest loading items from a previous study in which the full SSI was administered to more than 600 participants (for more details, see Oldmeadow et al.57). Taken together, these three items (i.e., “I always seem to know what peoples’ true feelings are no matter how hard they try to conceal them,” “I can accurately tell what a persons character is upon first meeting him or her,” and “I can instantly spot a ‘phony’ the minute I meet him or her”), demonstrated an acceptable level of reliability (α=0.65), considering the number of items.

In line with other research,10,58,59 a measure of play frequency was employed as the measure of video game involvement, with a higher rate of play indicating greater interaction, or involvement, within online gaming environments. Play frequency was recorded as average daily play time (minutes) of social online game play (i.e., playing with at least one other through a networked Internet connection). Prior to analysis, play frequency was recoded to represent hourly play time per week.

To assess game-related friendships, participants answered a series of questions about their offline and online social relationships. Specifically, participants were asked to report the number of online friends (ONF) they had not met offline (ONF only) and the number of ONF with which they play Autobot77 online games and had also met offline (ONF met offline). As offline and online gaming-related contacts can be linked through modality switching, or “the shifting of interactions from one communication channel to another,”60 participants were also asked to report the number of offline friends they know from daily life that they had transferred to online gaming environments (Offline friends transferred to ONF).

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