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Frontiers in Public Health


Background: Electronic sports (esports) has become a practical intervention for young people craving social connections since the COVID-19 pandemic. Past studies have shown an equivocal role of esports participation in boosting social ties or social connectedness. It is unclear if their relationship is affected by subjective attitudes of gamers. Moreover, the present COVID-19 pandemic may further modify this relationship to a greater extent.

Objective: This study primarily aimed to investigate the moderating effect of participants' subjective attitudes toward esports gaming on the relationship between in-game interaction during esports participation and participants' anticipated social connectedness among Chinese young adults during the COVID-19 lockdown periods in China.

Methods: We conducted a nationwide online questionnaire survey through the Credamo platform among 550 Chinese young adults in the present study. The Social Connectedness Scale-Revised was used to assess participants' social connectedness levels.

Results: Four hundred and fifty-three participants were included in the final analysis. The effective response rate was 82.4%. Our results showed that the esports participation measured by in-game communication frequency among participants, as an independent factor, was negatively associated with participants' social connectedness scores (β = -0.13, p < 0.05). However, when the moderating effect of subjective attitudes toward esports gaming was considered, the association between communication frequency and social connectedness scores was turned into the opposite direction with a larger effect size (β = 0.35, p < 0.001).

Conclusion: Our primary finding revealed that a positive mindset in esports gaming is indispensable in boosting social connectedness. Overall, our study provided supporting evidence for the benefits of esports on individuals' social connectedness. In future circumstances similar to the COVID-19 era, playing esports games is strongly encouraged in an attempt to maintain social connections and relieve psychological stress. In the meantime, we believe that having a positive esports experience, often associated with a positive mindset during gaming, can better promote social connectedness. Nevertheless, the amount of time spent on gaming per day should be of great concern, as esports games can be addictive, especially for teenagers and college students.



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COVID-19, attitude, communication frequency, online game, public mental health, social connection