Understanding first controlled gaming in teenagers. A qualitative study among young French daily or week-end gamers
The study aims at describing the video gaming contexts of French adolescents in the general population, their motivations to play and how their practices are regulated.
Main hypothesis: The ability to create a social bond is the main incentive of gaming for teenagers, more than the intrinsic features of games, and is a source of enrichment and a core regulation lever.
Method: The exploratory qualitative study is based on semi-directive interviews with 30 gamers aged 11 to 15, playing at least 3 times a week any types of video games (2/3 are boys), by videoconference or telephone, during partial or total anti-covid lockdown in the spring of 2021.
Results: Gaming is done on interstitial times, sometimes repeatedly over a day, after school and family duties and extracurricular activities have been satisfied. The priority given to school duties and homework is internalized by teenagers. For moderate and intensive gamers, this school pressure is a major regulator of the time dedicated to gaming.
Chatting and laughing while playing online with real-life friends is the main interest valued by teenagers, more than the qualities of the games (goal, universe…) or narcissistic attractions (performance, victory). This pleasure of getting together offsets the boredom generated by the repetitive character of games and is a self-regulatory factor.
Online gaming is used as a social network, or as a substitute by those who are not of legal age. It confronts players of all ages, gender and social backgrounds, by choice or by algorithmic or random assignment, and sometimes places the youngest in high-stress situations (competitions, aggressiveness).
Conclusion: While associated with the risk of problematic behaviour or addiction, online gaming is also a social bond-building area where interactions take place without the arbitration of educators but are likely to train psychosocial skills between peers.