Escaping reality through videogames is linked to an implicit preference for virtual over real-life stimuli (2019)

J Affect Disord. 2019 Feb 15;245:1024-1031. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.11.078.

Deleuze J1, Maurage P2, Schimmenti A3, Nuyens F4, Melzer A5, Billieux J6.



From the theory of compensatory Internet use, escapism through videogames may constitute a coping strategy that is sometimes helpful but, in some cases, maladaptive. To date, however, evidence supporting this view has been gathered only through the use of explicit self-reported questionnaires, which are known to be biased. Accordingly, the aim of the current study was to test whether the escapism motive is related to a preference for the virtual environment.


A laboratory task that allowed the measurement of implicit attitudes, namely, the Affect Misattribution Procedure, was created with stimuli from real world and videogames. The task was administered online with a series of questionnaire and completed by 273 online gamers from the community.


Participants had more positive attitudes toward pictures depicting virtual environments than toward those depicting real environments. Furthermore, participants who frequently used videogames to escape real life and were highly engaged in video gaming had a more pronounced positive implicit attitude toward virtual environments.


This study contributes to a better understanding of the psychological processes underlying escapism in videogames and calls for a refinement of the escapism construct, which can be related to both problematic (i.e., potential coping strategy) and nonproblematic patterns of videogame use. Among the limitations, it should be noted that the selection of stimuli related to videogames is restricted to one genre of game, and that the participants’ environment could not be controlled due to the online design.

KEYWORDS: Affective Misattribution Procedure; Coping strategy; Escapism; Implicit measure; Online gaming

PMID: 30699844

DOI: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.11.078