OVER half of Irish teenagers play multiplayer video games regularly, according to new research. And while almost a third interact live with other gamers online, 29pc say they have "made friends" with others through online gaming.
The survey, conducted by The Integration Centre, shows that online gamers are more open to friendships with those from other cultures than non-gamers.
62pc of those polled said they had a "favourable" attitude to people from other countries and cultures, while only 50pc of non-gamers expressed the same view.
The new research comes as Irish shops deal with a frenzy of demand for gaming consoles ahead of Christmas.
On Friday, Microsoft launched its Xbox One console. This Friday, Sony will launch its Playstation 4 device. Both machines, which feature extensive online gaming capabilities, have already sold out in Irish shops.
However, the new research suggests that female gamers are less social than male gamers, with almost half saying they "never" play multiplayer games and just 10pc saying that they have made friends through online gaming.
Online gamers are also more likely (55pc) to have social media connections to people from other countries or cultures than non-gamers (40pc).
According to the Cork Institute of Technology study, leisure activities comprise between 40pc and 50pc of an "adolescent's" life.
"The popularity of online gaming among young people, in particular multiplayer games involving many players in different locations, has the potential to influence players' attitudes to people from other countries and cultures," said Ian McCafferty of The Integration Centre.
"Respondents who played interactive online games regularly were more likely to have personal and online friends from other countries and cultures and to have favourable attitudes to people from other countries and cultures.
"Although the percentage differences were less than 15pc when compared with respondents in general, it is nevertheless significant."
The research was conducted by Catherine Kenny, Ian McCafferty and Killian Forde.
"Academics and researchers are now beginning to focus on the potential positive impacts of gaming on young people," said Mr McCafferty.
"The potential of online gaming to change attitudes and stereotypes about other cultures that may exist among players, is one positive impact that requires further research in order to be fully understood and utilised by those working to ensure integration among communities."
Ireland has had the biggest per-capita demand for Playstation 4 consoles in the world, according to Gamestop. The retailer also said that per-capita demand for the Xbox One in Ireland was the highest in Europe and was second globally only to Australia.
Ireland has historically been a strong market for video game machine makers with the world's highest number of PlayStation consoles per head of population.
Analysts predict that Sony's new Playstation will sell 2.4 million units before Christmas and 49 million machines over the next five years, with the latest Xbox to sell 2.2 million before Christmas and 38 million over the next five years.