“It Feels More Real”: An Interpretive Phenomenological Study of the Meaning of Video Games in Adolescent Lives

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The pervasiveness of video gaming among adolescents today suggests a need to understand how gaming affects identity formation. We interviewed 20 adolescents about their experiences of playing, asking them to describe how they used games and how game playing affected their real-world selves. Adolescents presented a complicated developmental picture: gaming placed players into virtual worlds that felt “real”; games were used to practice multiple identities; and gaming, often undertaken within a world of hyperviolence, provided stress relief, feelings of competence, and relaxation. Gaming occurred in complex “virtual” but “real” social arenas where adolescents gathered to interact, emulate, and develop identities.

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