Gaming habits linked to socioeconomic background

Researchers are looking at the varied gaming practices of players from different socioeconomic backgrounds.

Part of the University's Children and Young People's campaign

The team from Loughborough University is interviewing men and women aged 18 – 30 to find out more about their gaming preferences, game-based interactions, game-related activities, how they perceive the practice and the meanings attached to gaming.

The aim is to explore how different experiences are shaped by social positions, and whether gaming practices mirror and reinforce social-technological inequalities.

PhD student Xiaobin Zhou, who is leading the project, said: “Exploring how video games are embedded in young people’s social context helps us understand the trajectories and differences across gaming practices, and their effects on young people.”

Preliminary findings have already indicated several differences.

Players from all groups reported the social side of playing as an important aspect of their gaming experiences, especially since the Covid pandemic.

Players from higher social classes deemed gaming an interactive way of maintaining connections with friends, which is the alternative to face-to-face socialising, specifically when meeting in person was impossible or inconvenient.

Players from lower social classes stressed playing games together, which became essential in communication with friends. Also, the games they played were more likely to be the collective choice among peers, which sometimes becomes a ‘social pressure’ according to the response.

Secondly, players from higher and lower social class had quite similar gaming habits when underage, especially boys. Many of them spent a considerable amount of time gaming.

However, young men of lower social class continued spending considerable time with the same friends. On the contrary, young men of higher social class spent less time playing games. This may be related to moving on to university or work, their life situation and friends changing, and having more pressure on their time.

Finally, the preliminary findings observed that the relationship between mental well-being and video gaming could be more complicated than ‘problematic gaming’.

Players mentioned that pressure relief, satisfaction through progress and challenges, socialising through games, immersion, and escapism could positively influence their mental well-being. However, it does not mean we can overlook the risk of extensive gaming.

Among all the players, those who experienced physical or mental health issues relied more on gaming for relief and escapism.

It considerably increased the time spent playing and their perception that gaming might become a potential problem.

Xiaobin said: “Gaming practice is embedded in individual life and associated with other social aspects.

“Studying the differences between video gaming practices of players from different social backgrounds allows us to understand this popular cultural participation and the increasing interplay between video gaming and everyday life from a player-centred perspective.

“It can help us investigate whether and how video gaming practice evolves across the life courses and mirrors or reinforces the socio-technological inequalities and considers the digital divide and cultural consumption from a new dimension, particularly regarding young generations.”


Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 23/59

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