Jaime Banks

Jaime Banks (Ph.D., Colorado State University) is an Assistant Professor in West Virginia University’s Department of Communication Studies, and a Research Associate in WVU’s Interaction Lab (#ixlab). Her research focuses on human-technology relationships and how people experience and express identities in interactive media. She currently serves as Chair of the National Communication Association Game Studies Division. jabanks@mail.wvu.edu

John G. Cole

John G. Cole (M.A., West Virginia University) is a Teaching Assistant Professor and coordinator of online courses in West Virginia University’s Department of Communication Studies. He is a veteran of the US Army, having served as a crewman with the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and as a Combat Engineer with the West Virginia National Guard 1092nd ECB. Also a lifelong gamer, he began playing text-based games on the PR1ME and continues to play multiplayer games with other veterans. Cole also authors the political/lifestyle blog Balloon Juice.

Diversion Drives and Superlative Soldiers: Gaming as Coping Practice among Military Personnel and Veterans

by Jaime Banks, John G. Cole


Existing scholarship highlights the clinical utility of digital games in reducing stress-related pathologies among military personnel. However, since many servicemembers experience service-related stress but do not meet clinical treatment benchmarks, it is prudent to understand how everyday gameplay may function in self-directed coping associated with physical and psychological stressors. To that end, US military and veteran gamers (MVGs) were surveyed regarding their use of digital games and avatars to deal with service-related challenges. Exploratory multi-method analysis revealed that a substantial proportion of MVGs engage in self-directed coping through digital games. Coping practices variably focus on escapism/diversion, managing physical/psychological maladies, receiving social support, and connecting with civilian life; these coping practices were differently associated with broader gameplay motivations. Additional evidence suggests that military-related avatars may function as institutional identity exemplars in stress-coping related to identity negotiation. 


military, veteran, video games, combat, coping, motivations, escapism, stress, identity


From conversations with friendly neighborhood vendors to explorations of unknown territories, video-game narratives often draw on physical-world phenomena -- narratives that ostensibly move players toward meaningful or exciting experiences, or function as MacGuffins to advance gameplay. Since games are understood to be challenge-and-rule systems with variable outcomes framed as win/loss states (Juul, 2011), conflict narratives are central to many games. Games, broadly, are understood by some scholars as inherent sites of struggle, tension, or conflict as players engage a set of constraints, rules, and depicted foes (such as monsters) or suggested foes (such as the Tetris terminus; see de Peuter, 2015). More specifically, military conflict and martial tropes (e.g., territorial disputes, interdependent squads, perpetual warfare, rank and file, brotherhood) are common (see Harrigan, Kirschenbaum, & and Dunnigan, 2016; Huntemann & Payne, 2009 for comprehensive overviews). The prevalence of these tropes calls into question how those charged with preparing for, supporting, engaging, and remembering armed conflict -- members and veterans of armed forces -- experience these games and characters central to their play.

Of particular importance in this domain is the potential for digital games to mitigate stress associated with military service -- a potential that has been addressed in clinical settings, but not in relation to military and veteran gamers’ (MVGs’) everyday gameplay. In the face of remarkably sparse empirical scholarship characterizing the uses and outcomes of gameplay among this population, this exploratory study investigates whether and how American MVGs engage digital games and avatars in everyday gameplay to alleviate service-related stress.

Military and/in Games

More than 1.1 million Americans are enlisted in the US Armed Services and roughly nine percent of the US population are veterans (US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2014a, 2014b). Although they constitute only a small portion of the aggregate US population, servicemembers and veterans are highly visible through news coverage of military endeavors and popular-media narratives (Maltby, 2012), including digital games. Consider, for example, that the 2015 top-selling console game title was Call of Duty: Black Ops III (Treyarch, 2015), and the top-20 video and computer game titles overall included such military-themed games as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Sledgehammer Games, 2014) and Battlefield Hardline (Visceral Games, 2015), and more general combat-themed games such as Fallout 4 (Bethesda Game Studies, 2015) and World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor (Blizzard Entertainment, 2014; Entertainment Software Association, 2016). These games present interesting circumstances in which depicted characters and events may or may not align with the combat experiences of military and veteran gamers, but nonetheless may contribute explicitly or implicitly to the cultivation of public perception of military culture and practice.

Take, for instance, the 2012 third-person shooter Spec Ops: The Line (Yager Development, 2012) -- the game follows the trials of “Captain Mark Walker” as he leads a squad through Dubai after weeks of catastrophic dust storms and a failed civilian evacuation. As gameplay unfolds, the player encounters violent insurgents and evidence of atrocities and treason, and Walker and his team slowly lose sanity evidenced by escalating hallucinations and aggression. The game’s hallmark, arguably, is placing the player in morally tensioned scenarios with little control, such as requiring the launching of a white-phosphorus bomb into a cadre of dissidents only to find that they were sheltering innocent refugees. Such formal representations of military scenarios and their implications often rely on heuristics rather than on nuanced realism. That is, they have an authentic-yet-limited flavor of what it is to be among armed forces, without the more detailed conditions or practices inherent to the career and lifestyle (e.g., in a combat game, a player may camp in a trench but only for thirty seconds instead of three days; Posey, 2013) -- an engineered “selective authenticity” that satisfies player expectations for the experience (Salvati & Bullinger, 2013, p. 154). Through these limited depictions, civilian gamers may effectively tour military identities (cf. Nakamura, 1995) without having to fully engage the less savory or tedious elements of military service (e.g., violence and psychological impacts; Pötzsch, 2015). Combat and war themes may manifest a sense of personal victory over challenges (Madigan, 2015), supporting high sales figures during wartime as lucrative titles offer uncomplicated pictures of war and celebrate American troops (Huntemann, 2010).

Outside of recreational play, military-themed games are also critiqued as mobilizations of popular culture for martial purposes, including training future servicemembers (Stahl, 2010; Mead, 2013), building support for war (Schulzke, 2013a) through pleasurable, “‘half-real’ ontologies” (Payne, 2016, p. 13), and justifying military action outside international law (Robinson, 2014). Some scholars argue that these games make accessible a range of war and (counter-)terrorism narratives (Young, 2015) and playful reproduction of those narratives shifts how we imagine or even create enemies (Allen, 2012). Others suggest that such games foster a perception of the military as violent, but also of war as necessary (Toussaint, 2015). In contrast, Fest and colleagues (2013) found that the notion of a military-entertainment complex that cultivates sympathy for military logics and norms did not manifest in relation to explicit militaristic attitudes; notably, however, such “militainment” may still function as a barometer for implicit attitudes toward warfare (Stahl, 2010).

This assumed militarization of civilian audiences has also been suggested to help to bridge a schism between American civilians and the US military, a divide rooted in misunderstandings or ignorance of military culture, practice, and purpose (Schulzke, 2013b). They may have other prosocial effects as well, such as evoking social tolerance (Patterson, 2015). Some serious games such as Endgame: Syria (GameTheNews, 2012) and Unmanned (Molleindustria, 2012) invoke such tropes to meaningfully debate the appropriateness or value of conflict, even drawing game events directly from news headlines (see Galloway, 2004). Notably, however, these games are relatively small, independent productions that -- with few exceptions (e.g., This War of Mine [11 bit studios, 2014], available via the Steam platform) -- face difficulty competing with AAA titles and therefore seldom reach a mass audience.

Military Servicemembers and Veterans as a Unique Gaming Population

Broadly, armed forces personnel are understood to experience acute and chronic stress and stress-related pathologies (e.g., anxiety, depression, dissociative disorders) resulting from training and combat (Wald et al., 2011) that may be compounded by civilian stressors (Hobfall, Vinokur, Pierce, & Lewandowski-Romps, 2012). This stress may cause servicemembers to be less effective in their duties due to high perceived threat (Orasanu & Backer, 1996) -- as Marshall (1947) famously reported that 75 percent of World War II troops never fired weapons to kill due to combat stress, despite being under direct enemy fire. At the extreme, combat personnel may experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD; including flashbacks, hyperarousal, feelings of hopelessness or horror) such that PTSD is often referred to as “shell shock” or “battle fatigue” (see MacLeod, 2004; please see Ainspan, Bryan, & Penk, 2016 for an extended review of military service-related clinical issues, and US Department of Veterans Affairs, 2016 for a detailed report on the links between mental health and veteran suicide).

Considering these stressors, MVGs may uniquely experience digital games in the course of everyday play. Use of these interactive media could be problematic, since digital games contribute to individual and cultural understandings of the military and may or may not represent the complex interplays between civilian and military identities (Eason, 2011). Most civilian gamers are not forced to resolve these interplays in their identity tourism (Nakamura, 1995; e.g., tensions among moral, political, social, institutional, trait, and relational identities), but military gamers may be required to manage them intimately. For example, enlisted military personnel felt less efficacious playing a military game and found game violence less acceptable than did civilians, suggesting that actually engaging military activities engenders a greater sense of the gravity and difficulty of warfare independent of its materiality (Kurtz, 2010). MVGs may also push back against gamers who pose irreverently as military members inside the game, seeing them as perverting or trivializing their lived military identities (Lin, 2009).

Digital gaming may also be helpful to military personnel and veterans. Post-trauma adjustment theories suggest that stressors disturb perceptions of one’s ability to achieve personal goals; however, if deeper meaning is sought from the trauma, positive stress-related growth may be experienced (Steger, Owens, & Park, 2015). Heavy gamers (ostensibly those who are exposed to intense conflict or competition through games) tend to have fewer threat-related dreams (Gackenbach & Kuruvilla, 2008) and suffer less threat and war content in military dreams compared to soldiers who engage in more casual gaming (Gackenback, Ellerman, & Hall, 2011). A small number of studies also suggest the utility of virtual-reality first-person shooters in physical rehabilitation (Wiederhold & Wiederhold, 2006) and in mitigating PTSD symptoms by re-exposing veterans to trauma cues (Etter, 2014); even simple, visuospatial-task games such as Tetris (Те́трис; Pajitnov & Pokhilko, 1984) may interfere with PTSD-related flashbacks (Holmes, James, Coode-Bate, & Deeprose, 2009).

Gaming as Self-Directed Coping

Although the importance of clinical gaming therapies should not be discounted, many active duty personnel and veterans may deal with significant stress not meeting clinical benchmarks, or may never seek treatment due to stigma associated with the “disorder” status of many mental health afflictions (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). As such, it is important to investigate MVGs’ everyday gaming motivations, experiences, and outcomes in order to better understand the role gaming may play in coping with military-related stress. Broadly, coping -- cognitive, affective, and behavioral reactions to adversity and to derivative distress -- includes passive coping such as avoidance (most often resulting in continued arousal or tension) and active engagement of a perceived threat (which shifts the neurological response pathways toward greater resilience; Carver & Connor-Smith, 2010). Because interactive media require users to actively engage and because these media do not hold the same stigmas as clinical treatments, digital games may function as self-directed, active coping mechanisms to minimize stress (cf. Sherry, Lucas, Greenberg, & Lachlan, 2006), repair mood (cf. Bowman & Tamborini, 2012), and desensitize MVGs to remembered violence (cf. Carnagey, Anderson, & Bushman, 2007). Since remarkably little empirical scholarship exists examining gaming practices and effects among MVGs, we begin to address this gap in the literature by asking:

RQ1: (How) Do military and veteran gamers use games to deal with military-related stress?

It may also be useful to consider the potential for discrete game elements to aid in self-directed coping. Of particular importance for MVG practices may be the avatar -- the digital body controlled by the player that extends player agency and identity into the game environment. Since personal agency may drive active coping (Thoits, 2006), game avatars as surrogate agents may support catharsis by safely facilitating active participation in trauma simulations (Huntemann, 2010). Further, avatar-mediated goal achievement and experiencing scenarios not possible in everyday life can lead to heightened self-esteem (Ritterfeld, 2009), and controlled avatars may function as social models for affect and motivation (Baylor, 2009). Regarding identity, Stahl (2006) argues that military-themed games simulate military identities through avatars while preventing dissociations from “real-life” civilian gamer-culture identities, resulting in hybridized senses of self. However, MVGs may also extend their subjective “military lifeworld” (Li, 2004, p. 75) identities through avatars rather than simply reproducing condoned institutional identities. Given that game avatars -- as identity extensions and surrogate agents -- may serve stress-coping functions distinct from games holistically, we ask:

RQ2: (How) Do military and veteran gamers use game avatars to deal with military-related stress?


Recruitment and Participants

Participants were recruited via online-forum posts inviting MVGs (current or former US military servicemembers that play any type of digital game) to complete a 20-minute online survey about their digital gameplay; participants completing the survey were entered into a drawing for a $50 game-retailer gift card. The resulting sample was small (N = 87), likely due to the narrow population and psychographic traits. Specifically, during study design and piloting an informant (an US Air Force officer) suggested that recruiting military participants would be challenging because of the frequent questionnaires required during the course of military duties (which speaks to the roughly 50-percent completion rate) and because active military are reluctant to disclose personal information (which speaks to the uncharacteristically high ~40 percent not reporting demographic information). Sample size, attrition, and missing data are acknowledged as limitations of this study.

Participants included self-identified active US military (n = 75) or veteran (n = 12) gamers. A majority (~89%) were enlisted, ~71 percent had been deployed at some point in their careers, and ~40 percent held combat-related specialties. The average length of service was 8.32 years (SD = 6.32) in the US Air Force (~28%), or in the US Army (~37%), or in the US Navy (~14%), or in the US Marine Corps (~13%), or in multiple branches (~8%). The average age was ~35 years (SD = 9.78), 57 identified as Caucasian, and 50 identified as male and 4 as female (with 33 not reporting). On average, participants reported playing digital games 19.2 hours per week (SD = 14.42).

Survey Instrument

The survey included four successive sections: details of military experiences, general gaming habits and details about a favorite game, details about that game’s avatar, and demographics.

(i) Open-Ended Questions. Participants were asked separate questions regarding the types of video games they tend to play, the game most important to them, and why that game was important to them (with no coping prompt); afterwards, they were explicitly asked if they had ever used video games to work through challenges associated with military service (and, if so, to describe that use). To address avatar-use practices, participants were asked to identify by name their favorite avatar in the aforementioned favorite game, and then to answer a series of questions that successively addressed micro-, meso-, and macro-level issues related to that avatar: a description of the avatar (individual/micro), thoughts and feelings about the avatar (relational/micro), how/if the avatar is important to how they play the game (ludic/meso), how/if the avatar is important to how they interact with people (social/meso), how/if the avatar is important to their everyday civilian lives (macro/extra-game), how/if the avatar is important to how they think about themselves as members/veterans of the US military (macro/institutional). Finally, participants were specifically asked whether they had ever used that specific avatar to deal with challenges associated with military service (and, if so, to describe that use); the more neutral “deal” was used in place of the more negative “cope” to mitigate potential demand effects. To explore emergent themes in game and avatar engagement, open-ended questions were interpreted via grounded thematic analysis; responses were iteratively coded in five steps: deep readings, open coding, feature unification, theme reduction, and identification of theme prevalence and relevance (see Braun & Clarke, 2006).

(ii) Measurements. The survey also included metrics for potential covariates for coping tendencies: identification with the military, participants’ gaming motivations, and perceptions of avatars.

Military identification was measured using the warrior identity (WI) scale -- a 38-item, 7-point Likert-style scale addressing 8 dimensions of military identification (Lancaster & Hart, 2015). Acceptable internal consistency was achieved for 5 of the 8 dimensions: service pride (α = .86), connectedness to the military (α = .82), military-identity centrality (α = .75), perceived positive public opinions of the military (α = .91), and fusing of personal/group identities (α = .89). However, because three dimensions (outgroup feelings, military as family, and military-skills appreciation) were not internally consistent (α = .49, .66, .34, respectively) and because some factors were very strongly related (as high as r = .72), an exploratory factor analysis (EFA; principal component analysis [PCA] with varimax rotation) was performed for the 38 WI items, using a .60 factor loading and .40 cross-loading benchmark. This analysis resulted in four interpretable factors comprising 16 survey items: group identification (M = 4.50, SD = 1.36, α = .89), social validation of military identity (M = 4.71, SD = 1.42, α = .91), service pride (M = 6.08, SD = 1.11, α = .85); a two-item factor related to negative affect was not internally consistent (α = .38) and was excluded from the analysis.

Gameplay motivations were measured using the motives for online gaming questionnaire (MOGQ; Demetrovics et al., 2011) -- a 27-item, 7-point Likert-style scale encompassing 7 dimensions: escape (forgetting reality; α = .92), coping (overt mitigations of stress or negative affect; α = .87), fantasy (being somebody/somewhere else; α = .91), skill development (improving coordination, concentration; α = .91), recreation (playing for entertainment and fun; α = .80), competition (pleasure in defeating other players; α = .85), and socializing (having company or meeting new people; α = .88). Although the MOGQ focuses on online gaming while this study attends to broader gaming practices, this scale was chosen and adapted due to its inclusion of explicit coping motivations. Notably, although escapism and fantasy are arguably ways of coping (as did emerge in this study’s findings, discussed below), these motives can be engaged independently of coping and, in the MOGQ model, the explicit articulation of coping practices is held as empirically distinct from what may be more latent modes of coping.

Avatar perceptions were measured using the player-avatar interaction (PAX) scale (Banks & Bowman, 2016b) -- a 15-item, 7-point Likert-style scale with four dimensions: emotional investment in the avatar (EI, α = .86), anthropomorphic autonomy (AA; sense that the avatar exists on its own in a human-like fashion, α = .82), suspension of disbelief (SoD; engaging the avatar and its world as real, α = .88), and sense of control over the avatar (α = .86). Additionally, a one-item relationship type measure (Banks & Bowman, 2016b) asked participants to categorize their perception of their avatar as one of the following: “merely an object on a screen”, “is me”, “we are part of each other”, or “a separate being”.

Additionally, the survey included items measuring military-service characteristics (e.g., branch, specialty, years of service), gaming habits (e.g., hours per week), and demographics (age, gender, race).


MVG Coping in Everyday Gameplay

Motivations for everyday gameplay most heavily emphasized recreation (M = 6.41, SD = 1.03), followed by coping (M = 5.04, SD = 1.61), escape (M = 4.45, SD = 1.89), fantasy (M = 4.33, SD = 1.95), socializing (M = 4.18, SD = 1.80), skill development (M = 4.07, SD = 1.8), and competition (M = 3.88, SD = 1.67); all means were markedly higher compared to those reported among more general, civilian gaming populations (see Demetrovics et al., 2011). Regarding participants’ favorite game genres, ~39 percent were coded as massively multiplayer online games (MMOs, n = 34), ~28 as first-person shooters (n = 28), ~10 percent (n = 9) as sandbox games. The remaining games included strategy, casual, and puzzle games. Among all games, 42 percent were coded as fantasy-themed games (n = 37), 23 percent as military-themed (n = 20), 14 percent as science fiction-themed (n = 12); others included sports, horror, and historical games. Participants reported playing their favorite game an average of 9.86 hours per week (SD = 11.31).

Five non-exclusive themes were identified in MVGs’ articulations of why the favorite game was important: drawing on the game for social interaction or support (usually with other servicemembers or veterans), having a personal connection or history with the game, enjoying the gameplay quality or mechanics, appreciating the game narrative, and feelings of immersion or presence (see Table 1 for frequencies, sub-themes, and example responses). Of the 87 responses, 14 mentioned the military, unsolicited, in explaining the importance of the favorite game. Among these, the majority of mentions were related to social benefits of gaming (e.g., “It’s where I connected to a lot of my military friends and military family. Where I have time to be around others like me, even if it’s only on teamspeak.”) and to ludic attributes that mirror military tactics, techniques, and strategies (e.g., “Because it forces me to use techniques I learned in the military. Working with a squad, communicating.”). Although some of these mentions could be interpreted as coping, none of them explicitly mentioned stress mitigation related to the military.




Social Benefits

(n = 33)


“I can meet up with former military people who understand what true tactics are.”

Personal History

(n = 28)


“It was the first game I ever played and helped shape what types of games I play.”


“I still have good memories associated with people and accomplishments within the game.”


“I have put in more than 300 hours into that game…”

Ludic Attributes

(n = 27)

Gameplay Quality

“… because of the depth of the gameplay involved in it…”


“The constant striving for more xp to unlock better tanks is also highly appealing…”


“The gameplay requires considerable strategic and constant adaptation to human competitors.”

Player Skill

“… every once in a while, I am good enough to be nationally ranked.”

Narrative Attributes

Quality (Depth/Breadth)

“… introduced a wonderfully crafted story and the setting of the game is very interesting with a great backstory.”

(n = 16)


“The game has a running theme of responsibility…”



“… realistic, can apply military strategy/tactics.”

(n = 14)


“… the feeling of just being the hero…”


“[T]he openness and random possibilities, the detail and nuance, and of course, the escapism.”

Intellectual Engagement

“I like games that make me think about important things, and this one certainly does.”

Table 1. Themes and sub-themes for the importance of a favorite video game.

From responses to the question of how (if at all) participant MVGs had used digital games to deal with military-service challenges, four non-exclusive themes emerged: escape and diversion from stress, managing physical or psychological challenges, experiencing camaraderie/support from other MVGs, or enjoying connections to civilian life (see Table 2 for frequencies, sub-themes, and example responses). Nearly half of participants (n = 41) said they had used video games at some point to deal with challenges associated with military service, mentioning at least one of the four themes.





(n = 27)

Stress Relief

“… a mild de stressor. Much like how some people have a beer after work etc.”


“[G]etting involved in a ‘fantasy world’ helps you escape some of the stresses of military life.”

Alleviating Boredom

“… between missions we would often have days or weeks without anything to do. Videogames helped fill in the time.”


(n = 13)

Managing PTSD

“When I have my nights of PTSD fueled nightmares I will play an MMO or a MOBA to calm myself…”

Managing Depression/Anxiety

“I have social anxiety as a result of the military and don’t like being around other people. Gaming is a great outlet for me.”

Managing Anger

“… it was very cathargic [sic] to blow them away. It helped me deal with my anger issues I had toward [troubling co-workers] and my command.”

Managing Injury/Pain

“… as a distraction from the pain resulting from my injury incurred in the military”


(n = 9)


“… playing games allows me to socialize and get that camaraderie that only is present with vets and active duty.”

Civilian Ties

(n = 6)


“I spent the most time playing… NCAA ’08 as the university I was on hold from.”

Table 2. Themes and sub-themes for use of games in coping with military service challenges.

Unsurprisingly, participants who said they play games to cope with military challenges (having mentioned at least one of the four themes) had significantly higher gameplay motivations related to escape (t(78) = -'5.44, p < .001) and to coping (t(77) = -'4.04, p < .001) compared to those who did not mention gameplay coping. Specifically, copers had a mean escape score of 5.47 (SD = 1.47) compared to non-copers (M = 3.47, SD = 1.79), and a mean coping score of 5.73 (SD = 1.20) compared to non-copers’ M = 4.38 (SD = 1.73). Copers also had higher fantasy motivations (M = 5.15, SD = 1.72) than non-copers (M = 3.56, SD = 1.89; t(78) = -'3.93, p < .001), and higher skill development motivations (M = 4.69, SD = 1.77) than non-copers (M = 3.51, SD = 1.73; t(78) = -'3.00, p = .004). In aggregate, copers had served longer (M = 9.75 years, SD = 6.61) compared to non-copers (M = 6.84 years, SD = 5.61; t(80) = -'2.15, p = .035). There were no significant differences in recreation, competition, or social motivations for gameplay, nor in weekly playtime, deployment or combat specialty status, or officer/enlisted status. Although explicit, coded mentions of game-based coping were not associated with military identity measures, both escapist and explicit coping motivations for gameplay were significantly correlated with the personal pride dimension of military identity (r = .239 and r = .283, respectively, at p ≤ .05).

With consideration for the discrete coping themes, those mentioning escapist/diversionary coping featured stronger escape motivations (M = 5.46, SD = 1.33) and higher coping motivations (M = 5.61, SD = 1.25) than did those who did not (M = 3.96, SD = 1.97; t(78) = -'4.03, p < .001; M = 4.77, SD = 1.74; t(77) = -'2.54, p = .017, respectively). Participants reporting game use for social support also had significantly higher escape motivations (M = 5.46, SD = 1.33) than did those not mentioning social coping (M = 3.96, SD = 1.97; t(78) = -'4.03, p < .001), without significant differences in coping, fantasy, or skill-development motivations. Interestingly, participants mentioning game use to cope with physical or psychological maladies had significantly higher escapism (t(78) = -'4.09, p < .001), coping (t(77) = -'3.28, p < .001), fantasy (t(78) = -'5.44, p < .001), and skill-development motivations (t(78) = -'3.18, p = .005) than those not mentioning such coping. In fact, copers dealing with physical or psychological issues had motivation means of at least 1.5 scale points higher than non-copers for the four motivations: escape M = 5.87, SD = 1.24 compared to M = 4.17, SD = 1.91; coping M = 6.33, SD = .77 compared to M = 4.79, SD = 1.64; fantasy M = 6.10, SD = 1.11 compared to M = 3.99, SD = 1.92; skill development M = 5.37, SD = 1.55 compared to M = 3.84, SD = 1.79. There were no significant differences in gaming motivations between those mentioning coping via ties to civilian life compared to those who did not.

There were no significant differences between specific types of coping and non-copers for length of service, gaming hours per week, military identification, combat specialty, officer/enlisted status, or favorite game genre or theme, with two exceptions. Those who mentioned social coping had stronger military identification (M = 5.38, SD = 1.04) than those who did not (M = 4.41, SD = 1.33; t(80) = -'.707, p = .026); those who had been deployed comprised all instances of seeking social support through games, whereas those never deployed did not seek such support (χ2(1, N = 82) = 3.94, p = .05).

MVG Coping through Avatars

Participants largely indicated seeing their favorite game avatars as either objects (n = 26) or as extensions of themselves (n = 24), with very few indicating a sense that avatars are independent social agents (n = 3) or parts of themselves (n = 2). Among avatar-perception dimensions, participants indicated relatively high sense of control (M = 6.11, SD = 1.45), moderate emotional investment (M = 4.04, SD = 1.52) and suspension of disbelief (M = 2.95, SD = 1.76, where lower scores indicate higher SoD), and low AA (M = 1.86, SD = 1.21). Among these MVGs, emotional investment was slightly lower and suspension of disbelief was slightly higher than reported in non-MVG samples (see Banks & Bowman, 2016b).

Among open-ended responses regarding favorite avatars, only a small number of participants mentioned the military at all. Although this precludes meaningful statistical analysis, it is worth noting here the dominant themes in military-related responses to each question. No participants mentioned military concerns at all for the prompts Please describe this avatar, for Is this avatar important to how you think about or play the game? Why or why not?, or for Is this avatar important to how you live your everyday civilian life? Why or why not? The first mention of the military in relation to avatars came in response to the prompt Please describe your thoughts or feelings about this avatar. Three responses mentioned positively valenced identification with military characters and derivative benefits. For example, one participant noted the match between his healer character and his Corpsman career: “Playing this character in the game allows me to be who I was before I was injured. To feel useful again.” Among the participants mentioning military issues in response to the question Is this avatar important to how you interact with other people, inside or outside of the game? Why or why not?, two described a separation of the gameworld from reality (e.g., “[I]t’s just a placeholder of what I once was.”) while the third suggested the avatar’s central function is to enable play with squadmates.

In response to the question Is this avatar important to how you think about yourself as a member or veteran of the US military? Why or why not?, 16 participants were coded as describing the avatar as an identity model or mirror (e.g., “[T]he avatar is a special forces ‘badass’ in the heroic and cinematic sense. This pulls at me in a primal way, to be that ultimate warrior.”), and six were coded as describing avatars as military-identity counterpoints (e.g., “He is the ideal soldier, but being that has never been my goal”). Only one participant specifically mentioned avatar-based coping, unsolicited; he noted that after repeated medical discharges he did not feel like a legitimate veteran and that neither veterans nor civilians could understand his burning desire but inability to serve: “So the avatar is important, because it’s the only way I can work this out.”

In response to the prompt Have you ever used this particular avatar to work through or deal with challenges associated with your military service? If so, please describe the situation(s), only nine participants explicitly said they had; all nine had previously mentioned using games, broadly, to cope with military-service challenges. Among these, two described imagining how the character would function in non-game environments. Specifically, one US Air Force enlisted participant said “When things/situations get shitty… we’ll jokingly say, ‘What would [the character] do?’”). The other described intense frustration with military structures that protect poor supervisors and blame subordinates, driving him to a self-protective mindset in everyday life as in games: “Most are only out for themselves (like my thief). When I’m gaming, I’m completely autonomous. I may succeed or fail, but I did so at my own hand.”

Others treated avatars synecdochically for games, referencing similar coping themes of escape, stress mitigation, and nightmare distraction. One private also noted that his avatar reminded him that the Army was not the whole world: “On active duty, it’s very easy to forget there’s a whole world out there that is doing stuff that isn’t Army. I really didn’t think that was mentally healthy to be so cut off from the America we were supposed to defend.” Importantly, some of these themes were present in responses to other avatar-focused questions, but they were not explicitly described by participants as related to military coping.


This exploratory study found that about half of the military and veteran gamers surveyed had turned to digital games to cope with challenges associated with military service, and those who did tended to have served longer, and reported high escape, explicit coping, fantasy, and skill-development motivations for gameplay. Considering specific drivers for coping, those who sought to escape reality unsurprisingly had higher escape and explicit coping motivations than those who did not, while those who sought to gain social support had only higher escape motivations. Participants seeking relief for chronic physical or psychological maladies also had higher escape and coping motivations than those who did not, but uniquely reported higher fantasy and skill development motivations. Explicit mentions of turning to game avatars to cope were far less frequent, and focused principally on the avatar as a model military identity model or reflective of their own, or as a foil for held military identities.

Given that there were very few differences in military service, demographics, or gaming habits among MVG copers suggests that the practice of gaming-as-coping may be a function of general orientations toward games rather than of some dimension of military service causing MVGs to engage in escapist gameplay. In other words, an escapist orientation toward games in general may lead MVGs to a) rely on favorite games in times of stress or b) come to count as favorite the games that best support escape. As Grodal (2000) notes, the coping experience and effects of gameplay, unlike engagement of other non-interactive media, is shaped by the player’s coping motivations and skill. One notable departure, however, is the unique pattern among MVGs coping with physical or psychological discomfort (e.g., chronic pain, PTSD) to be motivated to play for fantasy (unreal abilities, being somebody else, being somewhere else) and skill development (sharpening senses, concentration, coordination), suggesting that formal stress-related pathologies may drive MVGs toward more active coping (seeking renewed agency and self-efficacy) compared to others’ more passive coping (i.e., stress reduction and forgetting). Across the three primary modes of game-related coping -- escape/diversion, physical/psychological relief, and social support -- high social motivations for play persist; the finding that social motivations were principally described in relation to other MVGs suggests that -- despite military service driving escapist motivations -- military group identity and related social bonds bear out through (and likely because of) those challenges.

Notably, many of the reported favorite games are those that connect back to the military through storylines, gameplay mechanics, or avatar identities. It is possible that this tendency -- along with MVGs’ relatively strong motivations for play, in general -- is linked to games’ structured rule systems that, during leisure hours, may provide comfortable constraint in contrast to relatively unconstrained civilian life (see de Peuter, 2015). Alternately, the affinity for such games could be a function of participants’ strong pride in military service and -- since high escapism and coping motivations for gameplay were associated with this pride -- it may be that those who most embrace military identities have the greatest motivation to escape the material conditions that construct them, in favor of digital spaces that idealize them. Although games were described holistically as vehicles for escape and stress relief, avatars appear to be specific (albeit uncommon) vehicles for coping related to military identity. In particular, military avatars appear to function as identity exemplars against which MVGs negotiate their own legitimacy and efficacy; given that MVGs reported higher suspension of disbelief (seeing the avatar and its world as real) than non-military samples, it may be that such suspension supports seeing avatars as viable, realistic exemplars. These negotiations align with previous scholarship (Banks, 2015) suggesting that gamers who experience significant stress in everyday life may rely on avatars to navigate these challenges by “playing at being” (Rehak, 2003) -- especially since MVGs tended to see avatars as extensions of themselves rather than mere objects. Where avatar-based coping was mentioned, responses intimately suggested that avatars sometimes represent possible selves (Markus & Nurius, 1986) that are not always fully realized during military service. Notably, the exemplary qualities of characters did not extend to the game environment or narratives more generally, as many participants articulated the “unrealness” of games and their separation from the realities of life (see Huntemann, 2010).

Limitations and Future Research

The small sample of MVGs in this study precluded meaningful statistical analysis to unpack more nuanced and generalizable patterns. Additionally, roughly half did not report demographic data. Therefore, comparisons could not be made for game- and avatar-related coping practices by gender, age, race, or education. Further, the scope was limited to American MVGs (whereas norms and structures may vary among other armed forces) and to participant discussions of a favorite game and avatar (whereas perceptions and practices may vary among games and characters). The responses from this population were (in addition to statistical analysis) subjected to interpretive, grounded thematic analysis; this approach relies on the unique lens of a single researcher (here, a civilian scholar of interactive media and identity who grew up in a US Marine Corps family) evaluated for validity by another researcher (a veteran enlisted soldier; now university instructor). As this exploratory study is a systematic-yet-subjective interpretation of a rather narrow population, future research should explore the extent to which findings may be generalized to a broader MVG population and how personological and cultural variables may impact coping practices. Of particular importance is the potential influence of MVG gender, which is known to be associated with a number of relevant dynamics, including both coping strategies (Hobfoll, Dunahoo, Ben-Porath, & Monnier, 1994) and gameplay practices (Lucas & Sherry, 2004).

Additionally, inconsistencies in measured gaming motivations and open-ended reports of coping in favorite games suggest that a) existing stress-related motivations are not salient to MVGs when offering open-ended responses, b) participant perceptions of “dealing with” stress are not isometric with coping motivation measures, and/or c) general coping motivations and salient game-specific motivations are not convergent. Future research should account for nuances among phenomenological notions of stress and coping compared to scholarly operationalizations, and for how game-specific motivations may influence coping practices.

More broadly, findings suggest that a substantial proportion of MVGs may turn to digital games for self-directed coping, that motivations for gameplay are associated with different modes of coping, and that discrete game dimensions may function differently than the game holistically. Future research should attend to how discrete characteristics (e.g., narrative, music, mechanics, camera angles, levels of interactivity) may function in coping processes and outcomes.

This study also offered preliminary evidence that game avatars may function as military-identity mirrors, foils, benchmarks, and counterpoints against which MVGs judge themselves. It has been suggested that those who embrace military occupations and lifestyles often come to intimately incorporate military identities into their sense of self, akin to the incorporation of cultural or ethnic identities (Daley, 1999), warranting further investigation of the interplays between institutional and personally held military identities as they are adopted, assigned, and constructed inside and outside of digital games (cf. Vasalou & Joinson, 2009). In particular, given the tendency for MVGs to approach avatars as either gamepieces or as extensions of themselves (and not as distinct social others, as is more common in non-military populations), future research should also address the way player-avatar relations may function in game-supported coping through variations in identification (cf. Van Looy, Courtois, De Vocht, & De Marez, 2012) or sociality (cf. Banks & Bowman, 2016a).


This exploratory investigation found that a substantial proportion of MVGs surveyed turn to digital games for self-directed coping with military stress; different modes of coping in specific games were associated with broader gameplay motivations, and avatar engagement appeared to serve a coping function specifically related to military identity negotiation. Further investigation is warranted to identify the underlying mechanics and effects of self-directed, game-supported coping toward a better understanding of how interactive media may support military personnel and veterans’ morale and welfare.


Ainspan, N.D., Bryan, C.G., & Penk, W.E. (Eds.). (2016). Handbook of Psychosocial Interventions for Veterans and Service Members: A Guide for the Non-Military Mental Health Clinician. New York: Oxford University Press.

Allen, R.L. (2012). War Games at Work: Networks of Power in the US Army Video Game Project. Unpublished doctoral thesis. Seattle, WA: University of Washington. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: http://hdl.handle.net/1773/20793.

American Psychiatric Association (Ed.) (2013). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Fact Sheet. American Psychiatric Association DCM-5 Development: The Future Manual, May 16. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: http://www.dsm5.org/Documents/PTSD%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf.

Banks, J. (2015). Object, Me, Symbiote, Other: A Social Typology of Player-Avatar Relationships. First Monday, 20:2. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/5433/4208.

Banks, J. & Bowman, N.D. (2016a). Avatars are (Sometimes) People too: Linguistic Indicators of Parasocial and Social Ties in Player-Avatar Relationships. New Media & Society, 18:7, pp. 1257--1276.

------ (2016b). Emotion, Anthropomorphism, Realism, Control: Validation of a Merged Metric for Player-Avatar Interaction (PAX). Computers in Human Behavior, 54, pp. 215--223.

Baylor, A.L. (2009). Promoting Motivation with Virtual Agents and Avatars: Role of Visual Presence and Appearance. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 364:1535. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/364/1535/3559.

Blizzard Entertainment (2014). World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor [PC]. Irvine, CA: Blizzard Entertainment.

Bowman, N.D. & Tamborini, R. (2012). Task Demand and Mood Repair: The Intervention Potential of Computer Games. New Media & Society, 14:8, pp. 1339--1357.

Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006). Using Thematic Analysis in Psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3:2, pp. 77--101.

Carnagey, N.L., Anderson, C.A., & Bushman, B.J. (2007). The Effect of Video Game Violence on Physiological Desensitization to Real-Life Violence. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 43:3, pp. 489--496.

Carver, C.S., Connor-Smith, J. (2010). Personality and Coping. American Review of Psychology, 61, pp. 679--704.

Daley, J.G. (1999). Understanding the Military as an Ethnic Identity. In J.G. Daley (Ed.), Social Work Practice in the Military (pp. 291--303). New York: Routledge.

de Peuter, G. (2015). Online Games and Counterplay. In R. Mansell, P.H. Ang, C. Steinfield,  S. van der Graaf, P. Ballon, A. Kerr, J.D. Ivory, S. Braman, D. Kleine, & D. Grimshaw (Eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Digital Communication & Society (n.p.). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781118767771.wbiedcs070/full.

Demetrovics, Z., Urbán, R., Nagygyörgy, K., Farkas, J., Zilahy, D., Mervó, B., Reindl, A., Ágoston, C., Kertész, A., & Harmath, E. (2011). Why Do You Play? The Development of the Motives for Online Gaming Questionnaire (MOGQ). Behavioral Research, 43, pp. 814--825.

Eason, L.P. (2011). Figments under Fire: Identity and the Transmedial Rhetoric of Combat in Film and Military Shooter Games. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Irvine, CA: University of California, Irvine.

Entertainment Software Association (Ed.) (2016). 2016 Essential Facts about the Computer and Video Game Industry. Entertainment Software Association: Washington, D.C. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: http://essentialfacts.theesa.com/Essential-Facts-2016.pdf.

Etter, D.W. (2014). Modern Warfare: Video Game Playing and Posttraumatic Symptoms in Veterans. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Palo Alto: Palo Alto University.

Fest, R., Scharkow, M., & Quandt, T. (2013). Militaristic Attitudes and the Use of Digital Games. Games and Culture, 8:6, pp. 392--407.

Gackenbach, J., Ellerman, E., & Hall, C. (2011). Video Game Play as Nightmare Protection: A Preliminary Inquiry with Military Gamers. Dreaming, 21:4, 221.

Gackenbach, J. & Kuruvilla, B. (2008). The Relationship between Video Game Play and Threat Simulation Dreams. Dreaming, 18:4, pp. 236--256.

Galloway, A.R. (2004). Social Realism in Gaming. Game Studies, 4:1. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: http://gamestudies.org/0401/galloway/.

GameTheNews (2012). Endgame: Syria [Android]. Bristol: GameTheNews.

Grodal, T. (2000). Video Games and the Pleasures of Control. In D. Zillmann & P. Vorderer (Eds.), Media Entertainment: The Psychology of its Appeal (pp. 197--214). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Harrigan, P., Kirschenbaum, M.G., & Dunnigan, J.F. (Eds.) (2016). Zones of Control: Perspectives on Wargaming. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.  

Hobfall, S.E., Dunahoo, C.L., Ben-Porath, Y., & Monnier, J. (1994). Gender and Coping: The Dual-Axis Model of Coping. American Journal of Community Psychology, 22:1, pp. 49--92.

Hobfall, S.E., Vinokur, A.D., Pierce, P.F., Lewandowski-Romps, L. (2012). The Combined Stress of Family Life, Work, and War in Air Force Men and Women: A Test of the Conservation of Resources Theory. International Journal of Stress Management, 19:3, pp. 217--237.

Holmes, E.A., James, E.L., Coode-Bate, T., & Deeprose, C. (2009). Can Playing the Computer Game ‘Tetris’ Reduce the Build-Up of Flashbacks for Trauma? A Proposal from Cognitive Science. PlOS ONE, 4:1. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0004153.

Huntemann, N.B. (2010). Playing with Fear: Catharsis and Resistance in Military-Themed Video Games. In N.B. Huntemann & M.T. Payne (Eds.), Joystick Soldiers: The Politics of Play in Military Video Games (pp. 223--236). New York: Routledge.

Huntemann, N.B. & Payne, M.T. (Eds.) (2010). Joystick Soldiers: The Politics of Play in Military Video Games. New York: Routledge.

Juul, J. (2011). Half-Real: Video Games Between Real Rules and Fictional Worlds. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Kurtz, M.J. (2010). Of Course a Handgun Can Take Down a Helicopter: Cultivation Effects of Military-Style Video Games. Unpublished master’s thesis. Cleveland, OH: Cleveland State University. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: https://etd.ohiolink.edu/!etd.send_file?accession=csu1336590515&disposition=inline.

Lancaster, S.L. & Hart, R.P. (2015). Military Identity and Psychological Functioning: A Pilot Study. Military Behavioral Health, 3:1, pp. 83--87.

LeDooux, J.E. & Gorman, J.M. (2001). A Call to Action: Overcoming Anxiety through Active Coping. The American Journal of Psychiatry, 158:12, pp. 1953--1955.

Li, Z. (2003). The Potential of America’s Army, the Video Game as Civilian-Military Public Sphere. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: https://dspace.mit.edu/handle/1721.1/39162.

Lin, P. (2009). The Military-Entertainment-Complex-“Me”: Exploring Global Gamers’ Identities and Agency in the War/Military Videogame Genre. Paper presented at the 2009 Under the Mask: Perspectives on the Gamer conference, Luton, England (n.d.). Retrieved on November 25, 2016: http://underthemask.wikidot.com/local--files/papers-2009/Philip%20Lin.doc.

Lucas. K. & Sherry, J. (2004). Sex Differences in Video Game Play: A Communication-Based Explanation. Communication Research, 31:5, pp. 499--523.

MacLeod, A.D. (2004). Shell Shock, Gordon Holmes and the Great War. Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, 97:2, pp. 86--89.

Madigan, J. (2015). Getting Gamers: The Psychology of Video Games and Their Impact on the People Who Play Them. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Maltby, S. (2012). Military Media Management: Negotiating the ‘Front’ Line in Mediatized War. New York: Routledge.

Marshall, S.L.A. (1947). Men Against Fire. New York: Morrow.

Mead, C. (2013). War Play: Video Games and the Future of Armed Conflict. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Molleindustria (2012). Unmanned [PC]. Milan/Pittsburgh: Molleindustria.

Nakamura, L. (1995). Race in/for Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet. Works and Days, 25:26, 13.

Orasanu, J.K. & Backer, P. (1996). Stress and Military Performance. In J.E. Driskell & E. Salas (Eds.), Stress and Human Performance (pp. 89--126). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Pajitnov, A., & Pokhilko, V. (1984). Те́трис [PC]. Moscow: List.

Patterson, C.B. (2015). Role-Playing the Multiculturalist Umpire: Loyalty and War in BioWare’s Mass Effect Series. Games and Culture, 10:3, pp. 207--228.

Payne, M.P. (2016). Playing War: Military Video Games after 9/11. New York: New York University Press.

Posey, J. (2013). Tastes Like Chicken: Authenticity in a Totally Fake World. Presentation delivered at the Game Developers Conference, San Francisco, CA, March 21. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: http://schedule2013.gdconf.com/session-id/823740.

Pötzsch, H. (2015). Selective Realism Filtering Experiences of War and Violence in First-and Third-Person Shooters. Games and Culture, online before print, May 31. DOI: 1555412015587802. Retrieved on November 25, 2016.

Rehak, B. (2003). Playing at Being: Psychoanalysis and the Avatar. In M. Wolf. & B. Perron (Eds.), The Video Game Theory Reader (pp. 103--127). London/New York: Routledge.

Ritterfeld, U. (2009). Identity Formation and Emotion Regulation in Digital Gaming. In U. Ritterfeld, M. Cody, & P. Vorderer (Eds.), Serious Games: Mechanisms and Effects (pp. 204--218). New York: Routledge.  

Robinson, N.T. (2014). Have You Won the War on Terror? Military Videogames and the State of American Exceptionalism. Millennium: Journal of International Studies, 43:2, pp. 450--470.

Salvati, A.J. & Bullinger, J.M. (2013). Selective Authenticity and the Playable Past. In A.B.R. Elliott & M.W. Kapell (Eds.), Playing with the Past: Digital Games and the Simulation of History (pp. 153--167). New York: Bloomsbury.

Schulzke, M. (2013a). Rethinking Military Gaming. America’s Army and its Critics. Games and Culture, 8:2, pp. 59--76.

------ (2013b). Serving in the Virtual Army: Military Games and the Civil-Military Divide. Journal of Applied Security Research, 8:2, pp. 246--261.

Sherry, J.L., Lucas, K., Greenberg, B.S., & Lachlan, K. (2006). Video Game Uses and Gratifications as Predictors of Use and Game Preference. In: P. Vorderer & J. Bryant (Eds.), Playing Video Games: Motives, Responses, and Consequences (pp. 213--224). New York: Routledge.

Sledgehammer Games. (2014). Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare [PC]. Los Angeles, CA: Activision.

Stahl, R. (2006). Have You Played the War on Terror? Critical Studies in Media Communication, 23:2, pp. 112--130.

------ (2010). Militainment, Inc.: War, Media, and Popular Culture. New York: Routledge.

Steger, M.F., Owens, G.P., & Park, C.L. (2015). Violations of War: Testing the Meaning-Making Model among Vietnam Veterans. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 71:1, pp. 105--116.

Thoits, P.A. (2006). Personal Agency in the Stress Process. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 47:4, pp. 309--323.

Treyarch (2015). Call of Duty: Black Ops III [PC]. Los Angeles: Activision.

Toussaint, H. (2015). Misfire: An Exploration of the Military First-Person-Shooter Video Game Genre as a UK Armed Forces Recruitment Tool. Journal of Promotional Communications, 3:1, pp. 200--218.

Ubisoft Montreal (2014). Watch Dogs [PC]. Rennes/Montréal: Ubisoft.

US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (Ed.) (2014a). Military Careers. Occupational Outlook Handbook, December 17. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: http://www.bls.gov/ooh/military/military-careers.htm.

------ (2014b). US Military Veterans and Nonveterans in the Labor Force, 2013. The Economics Daily, June 6. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: http://www.bls.gov/opub/ted/2014/ted_20140606.htm.

US Department of Veterans Affairs (Ed.) (2016). Suicide Among Veterans and Other Americans. 2001--2014. [Report by the Office of Suicide Prevention.] Washington, D.C.: United States Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved on November 25, 2016: http://www.mentalhealth.va.gov/docs/2016suicidedatareport.pdf.

Van Looy, J., Courtois, C., De Vocht, M., & De Marez, L. (2012). Player Identification in Online Games: Validation of a Scale for Measuring Identification in MMOGs. Media Psychology, 15:2, pp. 197--221.

Vasalou, A. & Joinson, A.N. (2009). Me, Myself and I: The Role of Interactional Context on Self-Presentation through Avatars. Computers in Human Behavior, 25:2, pp. 510--520.

Wald, I., Lubin, G., Holoshitz, Y., Muller, D., Fruchter, E., Pine, D.S., Charney, D.S., & Bar-Haim, Y. (2011). Battlefield-Like Stress Following Simulated Combat and Suppression of Attention Bias to Threat. Psychological Medicine, 41:4, pp. 699--707.

Wiederhold, B.K. & Wiederhold, M.D. (2006). Evaluation of Virtual Reality Therapy in Augmenting the Physical and Cognitive Rehabilitation of War Veterans. International Journal on Disability and Human Development, 5:3, pp. 211--215.

Yager Development (2012). Spec Ops: The Line [PC]. Novato, CA: 2K Games.

Young, R. (2015). Going Fifth Freedom: Fighting the War on Terror in the Splinter Cell: Blacklist Video Game. Critical Studies on Terrorism, 8:1, pp. 147--162.

©2001 - 2016 Game Studies Copyright for articles published in this journal is retained by the journal, except for the right to republish in printed paper publications, which belongs to the authors, but with first publication rights granted to the journal. By virtue of their appearance in this open access journal, articles are free to use, with proper attribution, in educational and other non-commercial settings.