Not all video gamers are loners, bedevilled by failing friendships. Researchers now question the stereotype, claiming that much depends on the role of the games in the life of players.
"There's a common stereotype that if you play video games, you are a loner," said Benjamin Hickerson, assistant professor of recreation, parks and tourism management from the Penn State University.
"But it may have more to do with how a person is involved in gaming that determines how their social support is affected," added Hickerson, according to the current issue of the journal Society and Leisure.
Researchers found, for instance, that people who primarily played games as a way to reinforce social bonds experienced higher levels of social ties and support, according to a Penn statement.
An earlier study said those who played multi-player, first-person shooter games, like the Call of Duty and Halo, organising their lives around gaming activities, tended to experience a negative effect on friendships and relationships.
Hickerson said that behavioral indicators, such as the amount of time and money spent on games, were not related to the gamers' success in maintaining social ties.
"What the study does seem to point out is that video gaming is not always a negative," Hickerson said. "Players may actually be doing something positive when gaming becomes a way to connect with friends they might otherwise not spend time with, especially friends far away."
Hickerson, who worked with Andrew Mowen, associate professor of recreation, parks and tourism management, said that people derive meaning from leisure activities in a variety of ways, including using games to help establish and maintain friendships.
The games also served the need of organising the players' lives around the activities.