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BYU Today

No Consolation in the Console

Video game

Every day, young adults across the country race sports cars, shoot enemy combatants, and win NBA championships—all in the privacy of their homes. But what does this mean for these gamers’ non-virtual lives?

In a study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, BYU undergrad Alexander C. Jensen (’09) and family life assistant professor Laura P. Walker show that as the time young adults spend playing video games increases, the quality of their relationships with peers and parents tends to decrease.

For the study, 813 college-aged adults from around the country reported how often they play video games. They also answered questions about the time, trust, support, and affection they share with friends and family. Besides revealing a modest association between video games and relationship quality, the survey data raise questions about other aspects of young adults’ lives.

“The most striking part is that everything we found clustered around video-game use is negative,” says Walker. Statistical analyses suggest that the more time young adults spend playing video games, the more frequent their involvement in risky behaviors like drinking and drug abuse. And for young women, self-worth tends to decrease as video-game time increases.

The data also reveal gender trends: nearly three-fourths of men in the study played video games at least a few times a week. By comparison only 17 percent of their female counterparts played more than once a month.

“The gender imbalance begs the question of whether chasing a new high score beats spending quality time with a girlfriend or wife,” Jensen says.

The new study stems from Project READY, a collaborative effort by scholars at several universities across the nation to better understand the attitudes and behaviors of young people. Project READY is spearheaded by Walker and BYU family life professors Larry J. Nelson (MS ’96) and Jason S. Carroll (BS ’96), who are also coauthors on the study.