The video game has become one of the most popular and pervasive forms of entertainment. On a regular basis, more than half of all Americans age 6 and older play some form of electronic digital interactive video games, including ones played in arcades, on handhelds, on game consoles, on personal computers, and on the Internet. The average game player is 33 years old and the average adult man and woman players play 7.6 and 7.4 hours per week, respectively (Entertainment Software Association, 2004). United States retail sales of video games, including portable and console hardware, software and accessories, reached $10.5 billion in 2005, surpassing motion-picture box-office figures in consumer entertainment expenditures (1) (NPD Group, 2006). This popularity is expected to increase as video games become equipped with enhanced speed, more detailed graphics, and increased online network functionality (Williams, 2002).
The popularity of video games is accompanied by social concerns regarding excessive video game use, sometimes hyperbolically called "video game addiction." Both popular and scholarly articles drew attention to the problem of excessive video game consumption by associating it with psychiatric conditions such as substance abuse dependency (van Grinsven, 2003), the so-called addictive personality (Griffiths & Dancaster, 1995), and pathological behavior (Fisher, 1994; Griffiths, 1992; Griffiths & Hunt, 1998; Phillips, Rolls, Rouse, & Griffiths, 1995).
However, the term "addiction" is problematic, particularly in understanding excessive media use. According to Shaffer, Hall, and Vander Bilt (2000), addiction is a lay term rather than a scientifically defined term, leading to the conceptual confusion surrounding excessive media use. Similarly, Peele (1995) pointed out that the term addiction may be abused in that it tends to generate a sense of urgency about psychological problems with the (often self-serving) purpose of alarming the lay public. Now leading media addiction researchers have adopted the term "problematic" media use (Caplan, 2005, p. 721; Kubey & Csikszentmihalyi, 2002, p. 74) in its stead. Many so-called media "addicts" would not be clinically diagnosed as such because their usage, no matter how excessive it might appear to the casual observer, did not have the dire but necessary consequences of broken families or ended careers attached to it (cf. Shaffer et al., 2000). And, many people overcome the symptoms of media addiction without professional intervention (Hall & Parsons, 2001).
LaRose, Lin, and Eastin (2003) argued that media addiction was overstated and that in many cases its "symptoms" may be understood as benign problems that are within the individual's capability to correct rather than malignant problems requiring professional intervention. Drawing on the social cognitive theory of self-regulation (Bandura, 1991), they proposed a model of unregulated media usage that ranges from normally impulsive media consumption patterns to extremely problematic behavior. Unregulated media consumption may affect any media user to some degree at various times, and may become problematic even at relatively low absolute levels of use while remaining unproblematic at high levels.
From this perspective, the present study explores socio-cognitive mechanisms of self-regulation in a model of video game consumption behavior. It extends previous research by integrating Csikszentmihalyi's (1975) theory of flow experience, which has also been proposed as an explanation of video game consumption (Sherry, 2004). By investigating the linkage between flow experience and self-regulation in decision-making processes in media usage, this study attempts to explicate sociocognitive media consumption mechanisms.
A Social Cognitive Perspective of Video Game Usage
Social cognitive theory is a comprehensive theoretical framework for understanding human behavior. …