“This could mean that highly active players get more depressed or that depressed people are more likely to be active role players.”
I would imagine the later of those (and they should probably realize that most people don’t actually role play in these games).
I’ll admit to being a bit depressed when I started playing City of Heroes many years back. It definitely acted as a bit of escapism. Of course games like this are pretty addictive – Everquest is also known as ‘Evercrack’ to many – so if you are feeling unhappy and not looking to go out and socialize much, it’s very easy to fall deeply into them. If you are happy and enjoy other things in your life, it balances out the addiction somewhat and you only devote half your waking hours to playing them.
But is it a bad thing to play online for hours on end when feeling depressed? If it reaches levels of addiction that stop you going to work, talking to your kids or eating then yes but that’s more to do with addiction than depression. Otherwise, I’m not sure it’s really a problem – possibly the opposite.
Gaming often seems to be looked down on as ‘wasted’ time by those that don’t do it – serving no purpose other than using up hours of your life that could have been spent doing more productive things. I suppose it’s true in some ways – I could have learnt to speak another language in the time I’ve spent playing computer games but I honestly doubt I would bother if I had that time to use over again. And I don’t see it as being less productive then ‘going for a nice walk’ or ‘reading a book’ as have sometimes been suggested to me.
And for those feeling down, it’s an escape. It might not help fix the underlying problems in their life but it certainly lets them take a break from wallowing in them for a while.