Smartphone gaming can be harmful for some seeking relief from boredom
Smartphone gaming can be harmful to players who game to escape their negative mood and feelings of boredom, a new study has found.
Researchers at the University of Waterloo found that bored “escape players”—those who have difficulty engaging with the real environment and sustaining attention—may seek “flow,” which is a deep and effortless state of concentration in an activity linked to loss of awareness of time and space.
“We found that people who experience intense boredom frequently in everyday life reported playing smartphone games to escape or alleviate these feelings of boredom,” said Chanel Larche, study lead author and a PhD candidate in cognitive neuroscience at Waterloo. “The problem with this boredom ‘fix’ is that they end up playing whenever they are bored, and end up experiencing problems tied to excessive game play.
“During gameplay, players may achieve optimal arousal, engaged focus and attention and a reduction in feelings of monotony, but this heightened urge-to-play among escape players can have negative consequences and lead to excessive time gaming.”
Larche conducted this study with Waterloo’s cognitive neuroscience professor Michael Dixon.
Using the popular smartphone game Candy Crush, Larche and Dixon had 60 participants with current level standings in the game between 77 and 3307 play at various difficulty levels from too easy—which meant there was a lack of skill-challenge balance, low flow and low arousal—to balanced, which was more challenging and that caused greater flow, arousal, less boredom and a stronger urge to continue gameplay. This was done to determine whether players would choose to continue playing a game where there was a balance of challenge and skill conducive to flow, rather than an easier game that would generate less flow.
Their results confirmed that individuals who game to escape boredom by using smartphone games such as Candy Crush become more immersed in gameplay than non-escape players. However, when escape players find these games more rewarding as a relief from boredom, they may play more frequently and for longer periods.
“Those who play to escape experience greater flow and positive affect than other players, which sets up a cycle of playing video games to elevate a depressed mood,” Dixon said. “This is maladaptive because, although it elevates your mood, it also increases your urge to keep playing. Playing too long may lead to addiction and means less time is available for other healthier pursuits. This can actually increase your depression.”
Larche says these findings might encourage game developers to consider implementing responsible video gaming tools directly within their games. For example, having a time-limit option to allow players to specify how long they wish to play could be helpful for players susceptible to problematic escape play.
Co-authored by Dixon, the study, Winning isn’t everything: The impact of optimally challenging smartphone games on flow, game preference and individuals gaming to escape aversive bored states, appears in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
Call for participants in new saliva-based asymptomatic COVID-19 screening on campus
All students, faculty, and staff on campus, along with their families (aged 18+) are invited to participate in the Asymptomatic Saliva Testing Research at Waterloo (ASTRAW) project.
This project, led by Professors Trevor Charles and Jozef Nissimov from the Faculty of Science, aims to determine the feasibility of a new saliva-based rapid test for the early detection of COVID-19 on campus, and also track variants of concern in our community through virus genome sequencing.
If you are interested in participating, you can pick up a study kit outside of Biology 1 on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon. Participants are asked to provide a saliva sample twice a week, on their own time, and deposit it into the drop-off box on campus in the same location the kit was picked up from. Coordination of samples and testing is being done by the Waterloo Centre for Microbial Research (WCMR).
If a sample comes back positive, the participant will be contacted and encouraged to confirm the results at a certified Ontario provincial COVID-19 testing centre.
This study looks for the virus in saliva samples instead of the more common nasopharyngeal swab. It uses the same detection method as the nasopharyngeal swab (quantitative polymerase chain reactions, or qPCR) but the researchers will also sequence the virus genome. This will provide more information into the virus’s genetic material and will identify potential Variants of Concern that may be circulating in the campus community.
To find out more information, or to sign up and participate, visit the study website: https://uwaterloo.ca/waterloo-centre-microbial-research/ASTRAW
Saliva tests are still in development and are therefore research grade and not clinically diagnostic. It is not known yet how sensitive these tests are and whether they are as good or better than the conventional nasopharyngeal swab laboratory test performed at an approved provincial testing site.
Your participation in this project will be very valuable and will help to not only mitigate potential outbreaks on campus, but also learn more about the genomic sequence of COVID-19 and its variants.
This study has been reviewed by and received ethics clearance through a University of Waterloo Research Ethics Board.
Online conference on aging and spirituality broadens international connections
By Margaret Gissing. This article was originally published on the Conrad Grebel University College website.
This past June, scholars, practitioners, support workers, health care experts, and interested parties from across the globe gathered together virtually over the course of three weeks to advance the connections between spiritual practice and the effects of aging at the ninth International Conference on Aging and spirituality. Many health care support workers and religious/spiritual practitioners recognize the benefits to a broader approach of spiritual needs among all aging individuals and communities beyond end of life care, and recognize the diverse experiences of elder care around the world. The conference connected researchers with practitioners in a way that fosters community and advances this important intersection of care.
Originally started in Australia in 2000, the conference had previously been hosted in the UK, New Zealand, Scotland, and the USA. For 2021, the conference was to be held at Conrad Grebel University College in Waterloo, ON, Canada, until the pandemic brought world travel and in-person events to a complete stop.
Jane Kuepfer, Schlegel Specialist in Spirituality and Aging at Grebel and the Schlegel-UW Research Institute for Aging, worked with an established committee as the conference co-ordinator, to offer the conference online. “Many people were excited for the opportunity to participate in this conference virtually,” Kuepfer explained, “especially in the midst of pandemic, when they are longing for meaningful engagement.”
The decision created a version of the conference that connected more people from around the world simultaneously than in-person conferences had previously allowed for. “We certainly had more international participation than I would have expected in person – and good participation from older adults, who could conveniently use Zoom from home,” Kuepfer added. “Also, chaplains could participate without having to take time away from work.”
The modified three-week conference (normally three days) hosted seven 90-minute live presentations over Zoom, reaching participants across eight countries. The committee accepted twice as many abstracts as they had presentation room for, so 13 presenters pre-recorded their presentations for on demand viewing by attendees. The presenters represented six countries, including contributions from Singapore, Hong Kong, and Israel.
With this year’s theme of Vital Connections: Claiming voice and learning to listen, speakers covered topics of COVID-19 and pandemic care in elder spaces, moral injury, medicine and spiritual well being, workplace engagement, dementia, oral traditions in Afro-Indigenous communities, mental health, art interventions, and more. Participants also heard directly from elders, who were encouraged to send in 60 second clips describing what has helped them feel connected during the pandemic.
“Working internationally benefits the field of spirituality and aging immensely,” explained Kuepfer. “The conference has been an opportunity for researchers from a variety of disciplines, along with spiritual care practitioners, to collaborate – sharing observations and research findings and learning together about spiritual needs we hold in common across religions and cultures as we grow older. It’s also an opportunity to engage diverse resources, like the Australian Aboriginal practice of Dadirri, The Ba’al Shem Tov’s 3-step approach to unwelcome experiences (Jewish), or the use of storytelling and song by East African elders.”
Participants expressed their gratitude for the chance to expand their knowledge and connect with others passionate about this important and expansive area of care. “As spiritual care persons, we can feel very alone in our work,” noted a participant during the final live session. “It has been wonderful to be reminded that all over the world, we are a team making a difference and how important this work is.”
An in-person conference will take place in 2022 in Canada on Grebel’s campus, which will continue this year’s theme and discussions in person. While the conference has passed, recordings are still available. Those interested can register online to receive access to the recorded sessions, pre-recorded sessions, and posters until September 30, 2021. Registration and presentation information can be found at https://uwaterloo.ca/ageing-spirituality/.