Caught in the Web? Addictive behaviour in cyberspace and the role of goal-orientation

New online 3-D virtual worlds are complex and differ significantly from each other.  New research from a team including Prof. Stuart Barnes of Kent Business School examines whether the type of virtual world is likely to make a difference on the development of addictive behaviour.

The study examines the effect of ‘goal-oriented’ and ‘experience-oriented’ environments on players’  addiction to the virtual worlds and how this addiction affects their intention to continue playing and making in-game purchases. A survey of World of Warcraft (goal-oriented) and Second Life (experience-oriented) virtual worlds and showed that cognitive absorption contributes to the development of addiction, which subsequently leads to increased continuance and spending intentions in goal-oriented virtual worlds, but that none of these relationships hold in the case of the experience-oriented world.

Goal-oriented virtual worlds provide a problematic conduit for addictive behaviour and marketing manipulation and the authors believe that they would benefit from further attention by policy-makers. Experience-oriented virtual worlds do not appear to provide the same dangers and would appear to be more healthy avenues for marketing-consumer engagement.

This research was published in the July 2014 issue of Technological Forecasting and Social Change

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