How Playing Online Video Games Can Help Your Marriage

Future Tense
The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Feb. 14 2012 3:22 PM

How Playing Online Video Games Can Help Your Marriage

107363782
Gaming can bring a couple together.

Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games like World of Warcraft have been cited in several divorces in recent years. Now a study out of Brigham Young University attempts to look at what effect, exactly, MMORPGs can have on a marriage. Researchers identified 349 couples, then asked both spouses detailed questions about game habits and marital satisfaction. (Caveat: This study looked only at heterosexual couples.) They then divided the couples into two groups: those in which both spouses gamed, and those in which only one played.

Some of the results are not terribly surprising: In couples where only one person—usually the husband—gamed, there tended to be higher marital dissatisfaction. Seventy to 75 percent of these couples said that gaming had hurt their marriages. This negative effect was particularly pronounced when the gaming spouse picked up the habit after the marriage, suggesting that if a wife sees her husband and his game as package deal before saying “I do,” it may be less damaging to a relationship.

Advertisement

Professor Neil R. Lundberg says in a BYU press release, “It’s not the hours that make a difference. It’s really what it does to the relationship—whether or not it creates conflict and quarreling over the game.” The study also notes that one key predictor of marital happiness is whether a couple heads to bed at the same time. Since gamers usually log lots of hours at night, couples in which only one spouse played tended not to go to sleep together.

Perhaps more interesting, though, is the results regarding couples that game together. According to the study, 76 percent of respondents from the “both game” group “reported that MMORPG playing had a positive effect on their marriages.” Part of the benefit came from interacting, via their avatars, within the online world. But! The positive effect was much more pronounced when the husband and wife did not belong to the same guild, clan, or group. The researchers note, “Being in the same group with individuals of significantly different ability levels may lead to potential conflicts and poor performance as a group.” So if the husband is a much more skilled World of Warcraft player, he may become frustrated with his wife’s mistakes, and she may resent his resentment. Sharing the hobby, but not depending on each other for in-game performance, was the ideal combination.

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Torie Bosch is the editor of Future Tense, a project of Slate, the New America Foundation, and Arizona State that looks at the implications of new technologies. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 22 2014 2:05 PM Paul Farmer Says Up to Ninety Percent of Those Infected Should Survive Ebola. Is He Right?
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 22 2014 2:27 PM Facebook Made $595 Million in the U.K. Last Year. It Paid $0 in Taxes
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 22 2014 10:00 AM On the Internet, Men Are Called Names. Women Are Stalked and Sexually Harassed.
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 22 2014 10:39 PM Avengers: Age of Ultron Looks Like a Fun, Sprawling, and Extremely Satisfying Sequel
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 2:59 PM Netizen Report: Twitter Users Under Fire in Mexico, Venezuela, Turkey
  Health & Science
Wild Things
Oct. 22 2014 2:42 PM Orcas, Via Drone, for the First Time Ever
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.