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“It Feels More Real”

An Interpretive Phenomenological Study of the Meaning of Video Games in Adolescent Lives

Forsyth, Susan R. PhD, RN; Chesla, Catherine A. PhD, RN, FAAN; Rehm, Roberta S. PhD, RN, FAAN; Malone, Ruth E. PhD, RN, FAAN

doi: 10.1097/ANS.0000000000000183
Original Articles

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.

Social and Behavioral Sciences (Drs Forsyth and Malone) and Family Health Care Nursing (Drs Chesla and Rehm), University of California, San Francisco; and School of Nursing, Samuel Merritt University, Oakland, California (Dr Forsyth).

Correspondence: Susan R. Forsyth, PhD, RN, Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 3333 California St, LHts-455, Box 0612, San Francisco, CA 94118 (

We thank Quinn Grundy, Kate Horton, and Leslie Dubbin for their invaluable feedback.

The authors disclosed the receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article. Susan Forsyth is funded by a dissertation award from the Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program (TRDRP), grant #22DT-0003.

The authors have disclosed that they have no significant relationships with, or financial interest in, any commercial companies pertaining to this article.

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