Monday, October 6, 2008

Video Games Will Not Cause the Downfall of Society

The Pew Institute released a new study on “Teens, Video Games, and Civics” last week that provides some great insight on youth and gaming culture and where they meet. Social media researcher Danah Boyd highlights a few key points:

Almost all (97%) of teens play games. They play many different kinds of games and gender is a salient factor.
Gaming is often social and teens often game with people they know.
Parental monitoring of game play varies.
Teens encounter both pro-social and anti-social behavior while gaming.
There are civic dimensions to video game play.
Boyd points out that perhaps one of the most illuminating findings from the report is that the archetypal gamer isn’t the antisocial, Dungeons and Dragons geeks they’re stereotyped as. The near ubiquity of game-playing among teenagers and the growing diversity of gaming experiences is changing the image of the gamer. She explains:

Games are regularly referenced as proof that the world is ending. The stereotypical image of a gamer is an oily-haired, pimply-faced geeky boy with no social skills or interest in human interaction. The prevalence of gaming amongst youth dispels that notion, but there is still a myth that those who game are anti-social. As such, it is often assumed that gaming makes people anti-social, anti-community, anti-civic.

Pew’s findings show that there is no correlation between civic/political activity and gaming. In other words, high participation in gaming does not decrease civic participation…

…Participation in gaming does not cause a decrease in civic participation and, if anything, certain forms of gaming activity are correlated with civic engagement (although causality cannot be determined).

All too often, we blame technology for the downfall of society. Gaming has long been the super demon, the crux of media effects panics. It’s fantastic to have a study to point to that conclusively shows that our fears make no sense.

Apophenia: Teens, Video Games and Civics
Source PSFK

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