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Background and aims

This paper proposes that future research into electronic gaming machines (EGMs) is likely to benefit from conceptual and methodological approaches that capture the dynamic interplay between game parameters as well between the psychological needs of gamblers and their behavior.

Methods

The argument concerning the importance of player dynamics is developed in two sections. The first involves an analysis of existing work, which investigates individual gaming machine features and then a discussion; the second reappraises the value of Apter’s (1982) Reversal Theory as a framework for understanding behavioral dynamics and the interplay between gambler’s need states and their play choices.

Results

It is argued that existing methods based on the modification of single features are going to be limited and that differences in observed behavior may relate to measurable differences in motivational states before and during gambling sessions.

Discussion and conclusions

It is concluded that a more dynamic and interactive approach to studying EGMs could be facilitated by innovations in Big Data and greater access to genuine player data. It is argued that such work may help to inform in situ research methods as well as clinical interventions for gamblers at risk or those already involved in interventions involving exposure and controlled gambling.

Open access

Internet gaming disorder (IGD) is a proposed condition that refers to persistent gaming leading to clinically significant impairment. However, there have been few attempts to study the different types and degrees of harm caused by IGD. This commentary describes some of the negative intrapersonal and interpersonal effects of an extreme time investment in gaming activities in the context of IGD. Future research should examine the way in which IGD harms may occur at different levels and degrees. This may enhance the screening of individuals whose behavior is suspected to meet the definition of the proposed IGD criteria.

Open access
Authors: Daniel L. King, Paul H. Delfabbro, Joel Billieux and Marc N. Potenza

Abstract

Stay-at-home mandates and quarantines related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have led to greatly increased participation in online gaming. Initiatives such as #PlayApartTogether that promote gaming for socializing and stress reduction may achieve positive outcomes. Although gaming can be a healthy coping strategy for the majority, it can also pose risks to some vulnerable individuals. Protracted periods of social isolation and technology-based activity pose the danger of solidifying unhealthy lifestyle patterns, leading to difficulties to readaptation when the COVID-19 crisis has passed. Balanced and effective approaches to gaming during the COVID-19 pandemic are needed to support physical and psychological wellbeing.

Open access

Background and aims

The criterion of tolerance in DSM-5 Internet gaming disorder (IGD) refers to a need for increasing time spent gaming. However, this focus on “need for gaming time” may overlook some of the broader motivations, outcomes, or effects of gaming that underlie excessive play. This study aimed to explore regular and problematic gamers’ experiences and perceptions of tolerance in IGD.

Methods

An online survey of 630 adult gamers yielded 1,417 text responses to open-ended questions. A thematic analysis of 23,373 words was conducted to extract dominant themes.

Results

Participants reported that they increasingly desired game items, status, or story progress as they became more involved or invested in games. As players develop higher standards of play in games, an increasing number of potential reward outcomes may have diminishing mood-modifying effects. None of the participants, including those with self-reported IGD, explicitly referred to a need for increasing time spent gaming.

Discussion and conclusions

These results suggest that players may be motivated by preferences for specific goals or reinforcers in games rather than wanting an amount of time spent gaming. Thus, problematic gaming may involve a need for completion of increasingly intricate, time-consuming, or difficult goals to achieve satisfaction and/or reduce fears of missing out. Further research is needed to determine whether these cognitive and motivational factors related to gaming stimuli should extend or replace the concept of tolerance in IGD or be considered as separate but related processes in disordered gaming.

Open access

Background and aims

Familial influences are known to affect the likelihood of an adolescent becoming a problem gamer. This systematic review examined some of the key findings in empirical research on family factors related to adolescent problem gaming.

Methods

A total of 14 studies in the past decade were evaluated. Family-related variables included: (a) parent status (e.g., socioeconomic status and mental health), (b) parent–child relationship (e.g., warmth, conflict, and abuse), (c) parental influence on gaming (e.g., supervision of gaming, modeling, and attitudes toward gaming), and (d) family environment (e.g., household composition).

Results

The majority of studies have focused on parent–child relationships, reporting that poorer quality relationships are associated with increased severity of problem gaming. The paternal relationship may be protective against problem gaming; therefore, prevention programs should leverage the support of cooperative fathers.

Discussion

The intergenerational effects of problem gaming require further attention, in light of adult gamers raising their children in a gaming-centric environment. Research has been limited by a reliance on adolescent self-report to understand family dynamics, without gathering corroborating information from parents and other family members. The very high rates of problem gaming (>10%) reported in general population samples raise concerns about the validity of current screening tools.

Conclusions

Interventions for adolescents may be more effective in some cases if they can address familial influences on problem gaming with the active co-participation of parents, rather than enrolling vulnerable adolescents in individual-based training or temporarily isolating adolescents from the family system.

Open access

Abstract

Aim

Critics of gaming disorder (GD; i.e., Internet gaming disorder in the DSM-5; Gaming disorder in the ICD-11) have expressed concerns about the potential risks of misclassification (e.g., false positives). An important consideration of relevance to this discussion is the extent to which commonly used screening instruments contain appropriate, sensible, and relevant items. The aim of this review was to evaluate the face validity of items within current tools for GD.

Methods

A systematic review of databases identified 29 instruments. An item bank (n = 417 items) was independently evaluated by three professional raters (i.e., a senior academic in clinical psychology, a senior psychometrician, and an academic/clinical psychologist) according to guidelines for defining and measuring addiction and gaming disorder.

Findings

Evaluation of the item bank identified issues related to: scope (i.e., “scope creep” or items of questionable relevance); language (i.e., confusing language, unusual wording or syntax); and overpathologizing (i.e., pathologizing typical and/or beneficial aspects or consequences of gaming). A total of 71 items across 23 tools had at least one face validity issue.

Conclusions

Most items (83%) demonstrated satisfactory face validity and were consistent with either the DSM-5 or ICD-11 GD classification. However, many tests contain at least one item that may pathologize normal gaming behaviors. Such items refer to basic changes in mood when gaming, a desire to play or continue playing games, and experiencing immersion when gaming. This analysis highlights the challenges of screening for problematic behaviors that are thought to arise within the context of normal recreational activities.

Open access
Authors: Kyriaki Alexandraki, Vasileios Stavropoulos, Tyrone L. Burleigh, Daniel L. King and Mark D. Griffiths

Background and aims

Adolescent Internet pornography viewing has been significantly increased in the last decade with research highlighting its association with Internet addiction (IA). However, there is little longitudinal data on this topic, particularly in relation to peer context effects. This study aimed to examine age- and context-related variations in the Internet pornography–IA association.

Methods

A total of 648 adolescents, from 34 classrooms, were assessed at 16 years and then at 18 years to examine the effect of Internet pornography preference on IA in relation to the classroom context. IA was assessed using the Internet Addiction Test (Young, 1998), Internet pornography preference (over other Internet applications) was assessed with a binary (yes/no) question, and classroom introversion and openness to experience (OTE) with the synonymous subscales within the Five Factor Questionnaire (Asendorpf & Van Aken, 2003).

Results

Three-level hierarchical linear models were calculated. Findings showed that viewing Internet pornography exacerbates the risk of IA over time, while classroom factors, such as the average level of OTE and introversion, differentially moderate this relationship.

Discussion and conclusion

The study demonstrated that the contribution of Internet pornography preference (as an IA risk factor) might be increased in more extroverted classrooms and decreased in OTE classrooms.

Open access
Authors: Daniel L. King, Sally M. Gainsbury, Paul H. Delfabbro, Nerilee Hing and Brett Abarbanel

Background and Aims

Gambling and gaming activities have become increasingly recognised as sharing many common features at a structural and aesthetic level. Both have also been implicated as contributing to harm through excessive involvement. Despite this, relatively little attention has been given to the fundamental characteristics that differentiate these two classes of activity, especially in situations where the boundaries between them may be particularly hard to distinguish. This is evident, for example, in digital games that incorporate free and paid virtual currencies or items, as well as the capacity for wagering. Such overlaps create problems for regulatory classifications, screening, diagnosis and treatment. Is the problem related to the gambling or gaming content?

Methods

In this paper, we review the principal sources of overlap between the activity classes in terms of several dimensions: interactivity, monetisation, betting and wagering, types of outcomes, structural fidelity, context and centrality of content, and advertising.

Results

We argue that gaming is principally defined by its interactivity, skill-based play, and contextual indicators of progression and success. In contrast, gambling is defined by betting and wagering mechanics, predominantly chance-determined outcomes, and monetisation features that involve risk and payout to the player. A checklist measure is provided, with practical examples, to examine activities according to features of design and function, which may inform guidelines for policy makers, researchers and treatment providers.

Discussion and conclusions

We suggest that, in some instances, using category-based nomenclature (e.g., “gambling-like game”) may be too vague or cumbersome to adequately organise our understanding of new gaming/gambling hybrid activities.

Open access
Authors: Daniel L. King, Alex Russell, Sally Gainsbury, Paul H. Delfabbro and Nerilee Hing

Background and aims

Social casino games (SCGs) are not technically considered a form of gambling but they do enable players to spend money in a game that is gambling themed or structurally approximate to gambling. It has been theorized that SCGs could be a gateway to gambling activities or otherwise normalize the experience of gambling for young people, particularly when money becomes involved. The aim of this study was to investigate whether adolescents’ financial expenditure in SCGs was associated with broader gambling activity, including level of participation, expenditure, and problem gambling symptoms.

Methods

An online survey was administered to 555 adolescents, including 130 SCG players (78 non-paying and 52 paying users).

Results

Paying SCG users tended to be employed males who play more frequently and engage in more SCG activities, who report more symptoms of problem gambling and higher psychological distress than non-paying SCG users. Paying SCG users reported more frequent engagement and spending in monetary gambling activities, and two-thirds of SCG payers recalled that their SCG use had preceded involvement in financial gambling.

Discussion and conclusions

Spending in simulated gambling activities by adolescents may be a risk factor for problem gambling. Although SCGs may currently defy classification as a form of gambling, these activities will likely continue to be scrutinized by regulators for the use of dubious or exploitative payment features offered in a gambling-themed format that is available to persons of all ages.

Open access
Authors: Paul Delfabbro, Daniel L. King and Neophytos Georgiou

Abstract

Background

Engagement in responsible or ‘positive play’ strategies is known to be negatively associated with problem gambling, as indexed by measures such as the Problem Gambling Severity Index (PGSI). Less is known about whether positive play is associated with reduced harm or a greater ability to enjoy the recreational benefits of gambling.

Aims

This study investigated the relationship between positive play and gambling harm after controlling for PGSI scores and whether positive play moderated the relationship between PGSI scores and harm. It also examined whether positive play was related to perceived benefits associated with gambling.

Methods

The study utilised an online panel sample of 554 respondents who completed a survey that included the PGSI, measures of gambling harm drawn from Browne et al. (2016), and the newly developed Positive Play Scale (Wood et al., 2019). The study involved predominantly monthly gamblers with higher levels of gambling risk: 23% problem gamblers; 36% moderate risk; and 21% low risk gamblers.

Results

The results indicated that positive play was negatively associated with reduced gambling harm. The behavioural Positive Play subscales relating to pre-commitment and honesty and control explained additional variation in harm after controlling for PGSI scores. Higher levels of positive play also moderated and reduced the relationship between the PGSI and gambling harm. Perceived benefits were, unexpectedly, found to be higher in problem gamblers and negatively related to positive play.

Conclusion

Behavioural measures of positive play appear to be useful moderating factors in understanding the relationship between problem gambling and harm. Higher-risk gamblers appear to experience both greater costs as well as benefits from gambling, which likely reflects a stronger personal need to engage in the activity.

Open access