A lecturer from Cornwall College Newquay has been investigating sensation seekers and finding out the science behind how different people get their ‘buzz’.
Surf Science & Technology lecturer Chris Selvey is fascinated with the psychology behind the various types of sensation seekers and has been dedicating his time researching the science that motivates the behaviour. Chris’ current research, which forms the basis of a Research Masters qualification, is looking to determine the differences between the individuals interested in various types of thrill seeking pastimes including mountain bikers, surfers, climbers, excessive gamers, snowboarders, substance abusers and joy riders. His work investigates the motivation, Long Term Excessive Participation [LTEP], personality of the individuals and focuses on two pastimes in particular; surfing and gaming.
Through his research, long-time surfer Chris aims to profile, compare and potentially find significant similarities in certain aspects of the psychology of a typical gamer and surfer. Chris said: “Although on face value these two groups of some of these sensation seekers don’t seem at all similar, I propose that actually their personalities are much more alike that you may initially think. They both all need to fulfil that thirst for a ‘sensation’ but just get their ‘buzz’ in different ways.
“Some of these sensation seekers enjoy activities that are risky, but are generally healthy. The reasons behind these good health claims are due to the positive effects of having an active lifestyle or just ‘spending time’ in the natural environment. Other sensation seekers get their buzz by doing things, such as excessive computer gaming, that are potentially unhealthy or harmful to themselves and sometimes to others around them. Could people who are struggling with the unhealthy or harmful variations of sensation seeking be directed towards healthier activities to get this fix? This is what my research is looking to find out.”
Excessive gaming is a growing issue in today’s world and one that has been gaining increased media attention in recent years. In South Korea, game addiction is already a concern, with several deaths over the past ten years from players undertaking six to seven day solid game sessions and suffering heart attacks or profound physiological shutdowns from lack of food, sleep or rest. The sale of timers, energy bars and purchasable power packs for popular titles such as Candy Crush, Age of War and First Strike encourage addictive play, with the hope that money will be spent to allow the consumer to keep playing for longer periods than is healthy. Media Lecturer at Cornwall College Matt Warner, shares his concern. He said: “Addictive behaviour in gaming is a topic that is only just being talked about both in popular culture and the gaming industry. Over the last five years, the increase of gaming cafés, larger, more time consuming titles and the creation of gaming leagues and tournaments competing for cash prizes has seen a rise in excessive play by consumers.
This is further exacerbated by new game markets. The rise of free to play gaming and online MMOs has seen game developers carefully studying and exploiting peoples inherent addictive behaviour in games. Like any chemical rush, be it from exercise, extreme sports, surfing, smoking or gaming, the rush of endorphins and adrenaline can be a powerfully addictive response. The rush of gaming is real, and sooner or later, game companies will be held to account for how they design their games to encourage this sort of addictive behaviour.
“This is only the beginning however, with the advent of virtual reality, the attraction to living within a game world whilst a players ‘real’ life trickles past them will be closely followed by those that are already concerned by games ability to encourage and exploit this addictive pastime.”
Chris’ ongoing research throws up some fascinating questions- Are surfers and gamers intrinsically motivated, engaging purely for pleasure and satisfaction? Or are they more extrinsically driven, for some element of external reward? Can it be said that the levels of participation are actually more related to an addiction? Do surfers and gamers use their chosen activity as a mood modifier? Does it dominate their thoughts? Does conflict, with other activities or loved ones, occur as a result from participation in their chosen activity?
Chris is eager to get closer to some answers, he continues: “If this research does find significant similarities between the psychological aspects of these two groups, through questionnaire based study, then alternative ways of getting a sensation seekers buzz could be proposed and utilised. This could then potentially enhance the quality of life of some individuals who are struggling with excessive gaming addiction.
“Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that all gaming is detrimental to health, only excessive gaming that is potentially affecting an individual’s quality of life. I am also not suggesting that all surfers are in peak health and lead positive lives, as this is also not true. But as a surfer of 25 years I genuinely feel that it has had, and continues to have, a positive effect on my life, my health and my wellbeing. I have also observed, in friends who surf, that this positivity is evident and I believe that surfing plays a big role in that. If this can be utilised to enhance the quality of life of just a few individuals, then surely that’s got to be a good thing.”
Chris welcomes anyone (gamer or surfer) who would like to take part in this study, please do get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org