Gaming Culture and Addiction: A Research Proposal


The present paper offers a proposal on the under-researched but very significant topic of gaming addiction (Feng, Ramo, Chan, & Bourgeois, 2017; Sigerson, Li, Cheung, & Cheng, 2017; Stockdale & Coyne, 2017). In particular, the paper suggests a study that would review the problem from the cultural perspective by investigating the specifics of culture (beliefs and practices) that might contribute to the development of addiction. The paper includes the review of the problem, purpose, and questions of the research, followed by the examination of the methodology (sampling, data collection, and analysis details), related limitations, and ethical considerations.

Problem, Purpose Statement, and Research Questions

Gaming addiction is a healthcare issue that has been recently acknowledged. It has a negative impact on the well-being of the affected population and their families while also posing certain societal threats because of its contribution to psychopathological behaviors and violence (Feng et al., 2017; Sigerson et al., 2017; Stockdale & Coyne, 2017). The fact that the addiction has only been recently acknowledged is connected to the shortage of research on the topic (Feng et al., 2017). The American Psychiatric Association (2013) and Feng et al. (2017) highlight the fact that consequently, it is difficult to establish the prevalence: for example, the studies that the authors have reviewed offer different definitions and use varied instruments to measure addiction. Still, Feng et al. (2017) suggest that, based on the analysis of multiple prevalence studies developed between 1998 and 2016, it can be tentatively inferred that internet gaming addiction has the average prevalence of 4.7% with no statistically significant differences between countries with sufficient access to the Internet. In summary, gaming addiction is a major, prevalent, and under-researched issue, which is why it needs to be studied.

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Feng et al. (2017) offer no suggestions on the incidence of offline gaming addiction, but the American Psychiatric Association (2013) does not describe the latter as a specific disorder. It is noteworthy, however, that there may be differences between the gaming addiction resulting from online and offline gaming, but this possibility remains unexplored (Laconi, Pirès, & Chabrol, 2017). In any case, the American Psychiatric Association (2013) also labels the online gaming addiction as requiring additional research, which is why the addiction resulting from both online and offline games can be viewed as worth investigating.

It is also noteworthy that one of the aspects of gaming addiction that receive insufficient attention is that of its cultural context (Cade & Gates, 2016; Graham, 2014; Kuss, 2013). At the same time, it has been established that sociocultural factors can have an impact on addiction development and the behaviors and well-being of the affected populations (Gray, Buyukozturk, & Hill, 2017; Snodgrass et al., 2016). Nowadays, there is also a growing interest towards gaming culture in research (Cade & Gates, 2016; Eklund, 2015; Graham, 2014; Gray et al., 2017). In particular, the investigation of the culture is important for the improved understanding of gaming communities and addiction, and the cultural perspective on addiction is helpful to the people who work to rehabilitate persons with addiction (Cade & Gates, 2016; Graham, 2014). Thus, the investigation of the cultural aspect of gaming addiction is both necessary and rather topical.

In summary, the problem that the proposed study is going to consider consists of the fact that gaming addiction, especially its potential varieties (offline and online gaming addiction), require additional investigation, particularly from the cultural perspective (“Annotated bibliography,” 2016). Given the theoretical nature of my degree, the problem is appropriate for my education, and I am equipped to address it. The proposed study’s purpose consists of contributing the evidence to the discussion of the culture of online and offline gaming communities and its potential contribution to the development of addiction. The purpose addresses the problem by prompting the exploration of the above-mentioned under-researched topics. Consequently, the following research questions are of interest to the study (“Mini-proposal,” 2017).

  1. What are the features (beliefs and practices) that characterize online and offline gaming cultures? Are there differences or similarities?
  2. Can the features potentially affect the development of addiction?
  3. Can the differences that have been found between the two cultures result in different impacts on the development of addiction?

The focus on beliefs and practices is proposed to limit the specific features to be considered and is based on relevant research (Kuss, 2013). As more data is gathered on the topic, additional features may be introduced.

Research Methodology

Given the specifics of culture-focused research, the proposed study is going to be qualitative (Barker, 2016). Qualitative methodology is not the only approach to cultural research, but it is a good choice for the task because it provides insights into the phenomena that it investigates (Creswell, 2014; Patton, 2014). The proposed research is also geared towards exploration, for which qualitative methods are appropriate (Patton, 2014). It should be pointed out that quantitative methods could be helpful in a comparative study of offline and online gaming addiction (for example, in determining the statistical differences in addiction levels found in online and offline gaming communities). However, quantitative methods are unlikely to be able to pinpoint the potential effects of culture and specific cultural features on addiction since such variables are difficult to isolate. Therefore, the proposed study needs qualitative methods to respond to its questions while quantitative methods are unlikely to be helpful, which rules out the possibility of a mixed methods study as well.

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Research Design and Its Justification

The proposed study is going to employ the design termed ethnography, which is a classic qualitative approach that specifically focuses on the exploration of cultures (Barker, 2016; Creswell, 2014; Patton, 2014). Since the latter is the aim of the proposed study, it is apparent that the approach should be helpful. Apart from that, ethnography is exploratory (that is, seeks to uncover and understand a phenomenon) (Creswell, 2014; Patton, 2014), which also makes it applicable to the proposed study. Snodgrass et al. (2016) demonstrate that ethnographic methods can be applied to the study of gaming culture and use them to gather the data about the features of gaming culture that can affect the well-being of gamers (in particular, their stress-coping behaviors). Therefore, the proposed study should be able to employ ethnography to its benefit.

The proposed sampling approach is a mix of voluntary and quota sampling. In particular, the recruitment advertisements will be placed where online and offline gamers are likely to encounter them. The potential participants will then contact the researchers to get more information about the study if they are interested, which constitutes voluntary sampling (Cheung, Klooster, Smit, Vries & Pieterse, 2017). Quota sampling (the determination of the quota for the number of participants belonging to different groups) will be used to ensure the representation of online and offline gaming communities (Patton, 2014). The recruitment will be performed after it is checked that potential participants correspond to the inclusion criteria, do not correspond to the exclusion criteria, and can participate based on the quota of participants in their group (online or offline gamers). The recruitment will be viewed as complete after the participants return their signed informed consent forms, which will occur before the data collection procedures.

The population of interest is gamers. The primary inclusion criterion is the attribution of oneself to an online or offline gaming community. For the time being, it is proposed to focus on self-assignment, which, admittedly, implies the possibility of bias. It is possible that more objective methods of determining a participant’s affiliation will be found, but for the time being, the mentioned issue is a challenge and limitation to be taken into account. Also, the geographical criterion may be of importance since focus group discussions are most often carried out in person. However, the use of communication technology is also an option, even though it is connected to additional issues related to the required equipment and software (Stewart & Shamdasani, 2014), which is why it is viewed as the less preferable option for the proposed research. As a result, if the study experiences trouble in finding the required number of participants within a particular location, this criterion may be revoked, and the design of the study may be slightly altered to respond to the potential challenges of sampling.

The key exclusion criteria are currently defined as the vulnerabilities of potential participants. In fact, only the persons who can legally give consent will be recruited, the age of the participants will be between 18 and 50, and no people who have any form of relationship with the researchers will be approached (since the relationship could result in questionable consent). The exclusion criteria should not be viewed as discriminatory since they exist to protect the potential participants from the possible risks of the study. No additional exclusion criteria will be suggested, and people of any age, gender, race, and creed will be able to participate.

It should be pointed out that voluntary sampling has notable limitations; it is a non-probability approach, which limits its representativeness, and it can be associated with the bias that might stem from self-selection (Cheung et al., 2017). However, the topic of the proposed study does not presuppose self-selection bias because it is meant to be exploratory and will focus on discovering the participants’ perspectives rather than favoring any of them. Similarly, the study does not claim to be representative or exhaustive; instead, it will focus on contributing some evidence to an under-researched topic and improving the knowledge on it. However, voluntary sampling has the major advantage of supporting the voluntary nature of participation, which is a significant ethical concern that will be further addressed with informed consent (American Psychological Association, 2017). Thus, voluntary sampling is appropriate for the proposed research because its limitations can be viewed as irrelevant while its advantages can be used in the study.

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Regarding the size, focus groups typically include between eight and twelve people (Hair, Celsi, Money, Samouel, & Page, 2015), although alternative numbers are also a possibility (Fusch & Ness, 2015; Stewart & Shamdasani, 2014). As a result, the presently proposed approximate sample size is twenty-four people (including twelve people for the online culture group and twelve people for the offline culture group). However, the final sample may change. The unexpected changes to the desired sample size can be viewed as a challenge, but quota sampling allows flexibility (Patton, 2014), which should help it to respond to the various outcomes of the recruitment process, including late withdrawals from the study. Therefore, the specifics of the sampling methodology will help the study to manage some of the related challenges.

Ethnography focuses on the worldviews of the participants, and one of the key approaches to ethnography is the interview (Creswell, 2014). In turn, focus group discussions are classified as a type of interviews which involves multiple participants at once and focuses on engaging them in a conversation with each other (Hair et al., 2015, p. 191). Focus groups are an appropriate method for ethnography (Barker, 2016). An important advantage of focus group discussions is their ability to achieve data saturation relatively quickly due to their dynamic and reflective nature (Fusch & Ness, 2015). As a result, the proposed study will use focus groups as its primary method of data collection.

The following procedures will constitute the data collection element of the proposed study. The researchers will arrange the focus group discussions with the aim of making the time and location convenient for the majority of the participants. Both in-person and technology-assisted interviews are a possibility depending on the specifics of the final sample and, possibly, the preferences of the participants (Stewart & Shamdasani, 2014). The arrangement of the discussions is admittedly a challenge, but it will be resolved by establishing the communication between the researchers and participants. The participants will also be provided with the copies of informed consent forms, which they will sign and return. After the informed consent procedures, the participants will be engaged in focus group discussions.

It is planned to audio-record the focus group discussions, which is viewed as a recording option that offers a balance of an improved precision of data collection (as compared to transcribing) and moderate confidentiality protection (as compared to video recording) (Krueger & Casey, 2014). In particular, the use of transcribing might result in mistakes and incomplete data recording, and the use of video-recording poses increased confidentiality concerns (“Ethical considerations,” 2016). Thus, the proposed study intends to use audio-recording to resolve certain challenges related to data collection, and the participants will be informed about this fact in their informed consent forms. If they refuse to be audio-recorded, they will not be able to participate.

The focus group discussions will need a focus group guide, which should include the questions to be considered and some instructions meant for the facilitator (Stewart & Shamdasani, 2014). According to Krueger and Casey (2014) and Stewart and Shamdasani (2014), interview guides are typically developed specifically for individual studies since they need to respond to particular research questions. Stewart and Shamdasani (2014) describe the process of guide development as prolonged and participative: the key stakeholders of the research, including the facilitator, develop a draft, which is then tested and adjusted to the needs of the study. Also, the guide should employ a variety of discussion-promoting strategies (for example, prompting questions, clarifications, pauses, and so on) and participant-engaging methods (for instance, the use of additional items like the blackboard to pinpoint ideas) (Krueger & Casey, 2014). The development of the guide is a challenge, but the books by Krueger and Casey (2014) and Stewart and Shamdasani (2014) contain detailed advice on the matter, and the proposed research will use them to develop the instrument. In order to inform the guide from the content perspective, the study will employ the currently available studies on gaming culture.

An important factor in the success of a focus group discussion is the facilitator (moderator) (Hair et al., 2015; Stewart & Shamdasani, 2014). In fact, one of the challenges and limitations of focus groups is the possibility of facilitator bias, which can be eliminated, among other things, through the ability of the facilitator to remain objective and refrain from relying on their own perspectives and reactions (Hair et al., 2015). Similarly, it is important for the moderator to encourage positive behaviors and discourage negative ones. For example, the problematic actions that can be encountered include the reluctance of shy participants to contribute, the tendency of certain participants to agree with others rather than offer their perspective, and the behaviors of assertive participants who may attempt to stifle alternative opinions. The moderator’s responsibility is to discourage such behaviors. Therefore, the performance of the facilitator is crucial for the success of the study, which is why it is preferable to employ a trained facilitator as pointed out by Fusch and Ness (2015), Hair et al. (2015), Krueger and Casey (2014), and Stewart and Shamdasani (2014). By engaging an experienced moderator, the study will address some of the key challenges related to focus group discussions.

Data Analysis, Reliability, and Validity

It is proposed to employ thematic analysis for the qualitative data, which is a typical approach in qualitative research (Patton, 2014). Thematic analysis helps to determine the recurrent “themes” (entities that unify the experiences of participants) through an iterative process of reviewing the collected data with the help of the strategies that are deemed appropriate (matrices, charts, and so on) (Patton, 2014; Polit & Beck, 2017). It is a suitable method of determining the features that the participants attribute to their respective cultures, which is why it will be able to address the research questions; in fact, the analysis of themes is a key component of ethnographic analysis (Polit & Beck, 2017). The proposed study does not intend to use ethnographic analysis because it is rather comprehensive. Since the proposed research will only focus on some specific features of culture (beliefs and practices), the comprehensive approach is not needed and would imply a waste of resources. As a result, only one of its components, which fits the needs (problem, purpose, and questions) of the study, will be employed: the thematic analysis.

Efforts will be made to ensure the trustworthiness of the study, which, for qualitative approaches, implies aspects like objectivity (limited bias), replicability, credibility, and transferability (Patton, 2014). Researcher bias will be limited with the help of the employment of an experienced facilitator. Also, it is planned to use triangulation (Polit & Beck, 2017): that is, employ at least two independent researchers for the analysis of the data. In order to improve credibility and replicability (confirmability), the study’s report will contain a thorough and accurate description of its methodology. Finally, in order to improve all the mentioned elements of trustworthiness, the study will also be very specific with its limitations and will only provide the conclusions that are justifiable from the findings. Thus, the study will be sufficiently trustworthy due to a number of relevant strategies.

Limitations and Ethical Considerations

There are several limitations that should be noted with respect to the methodology of the study. The sampling method is a non-probability one (Cheung et al., 2017), and even though the study does not intend to be exhaustive, the fact has to be taken into account. Similarly, the problem of the bias that can be related to the participants determining their connection to a particular community needs to be considered when drawing conclusions (unless a more objective method of discovering affiliation is found). Apart from that, focus groups can be affected by the subjective opinion of the facilitator and are prone to asserting the perspective of the majority of participants (Hair et al., 2015; Krueger & Casey, 2014). This problem will be at least partially addressed by hiring an experienced facilitator and promoting the engagement of participants in a variety of ways, but the limitation will remain relevant as an inherent risk of the data collection method. Also, the focus group discussion may be an insufficient measure in uncovering all the features of gaming cultures, but it will offer a contribution of evidence, which is the aim of the study. In summary, in order to manage the mentioned limitations, they will be taken into account when making the conclusions and specified in the final report.

The risks of participation are minimal: they consist of the minor possibility of discomfort related to focus group questions. As a result, the study needs to consider only the most common ethical issues, including the voluntary nature of participation, confidentiality, and anonymity (American Psychological Association, 2017; Fielding, Lee & Blank, 2011). The approaches that will ensure the voluntary nature of participation will include the use of the voluntary sampling method and the introduction of appropriate informed consent procedures. Also, the choice to avoid recruiting vulnerable populations or using any compensation beyond the research-related expenses (for example, traveling costs coverage) will ensure that the participation is voluntary (“Ethical considerations,” 2016). Regarding confidentiality and anonymity, it will be guaranteed by avoiding the use of names during focus group discussions (instead, nicknames will be used) and restricting the access to the materials of the study. In particular, only the researchers will have access to audio-recordings, which will be stored in a secure location and eventually destroyed. No personal and identifying information will be collected, and the participants will not be mentioned in the final report. All this information will be presented to the participants in their informed consent forms, and it will be made clear that they can refuse to participate.

Conclusion

The present paper has reviewed the key aspects of the proposed study, which will focus on the examination of the problem of gaming addiction from the cultural perspective with attention paid to the differences between online and offline cultures. The methodology is guided by the research questions, and as a result, the proposed study will use ethnographic data collection methods, voluntary and quota sampling, and thematic analysis. The related limitations will be taken into account to ensure the trustworthiness of the research. The appropriate use of informed consent and other methods of participant protection have been considered along with the possible solutions to the anticipated challenges. The proposed study would be expected to contribute some evidence on the topic of gaming culture and its potential effects on addiction, which is an under-researched perspective. The outcomes will be of interest to theorists and the people who provide support and care to the people who suffer from gaming addictions.

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