Report: Gaming is Good for the Kids

By Blake Ellison, Sep 16, 2008 1:50pm PDT The Pew Research Center, a non-profit "fact tank" that often turns its eye to the American media, has released its report on youth gaming habits. The outlook, it turns out, is rather good.

The study issued a questionnaire to 1,102 teens aged 12-17, boys and girls, and found that virtually all American youths--86 percent--play console games. Whether on a PC or a console, 76% of kids play online.

By Pew's survey, "the five most popular games among American teens are Guitar Hero, Halo 3, Madden NFL, Solitaire, and Dance Dance Revolution." By genre, racing, puzzle and sports games were the most popular, while virtual worlds (such as Second Life), MMOs, and survival horror titles were the least played.

Interestingly, the survey found that the social implications of multiplayer and online gaming could actually be healthy. Pew found that 65% of kids play their main game with friends in the same room. And when playing online, 70% play with people they know in real life at least some of the time.

As for online gaming's rampant cursing, racism and voice-chat stupidity, today's teens aren't ignoring it. 63% of young gamers reported "people being mean and overly aggressive while playing." But, the report counters, "nearly three-quarters report that another player responded by asking the aggressor to stop at least some of the time."

Pew's survey also looked into "pro-social" behavior and found the results heartening. For example, 85% of those that reported witnessing online jackassery "also report seeing other players being generous or helpful while playing." While proportions of jackassery to helpfulness were not disclosed, it appears that online interactions show the full range of actual social interaction.

As the Pew Center often researches American public life and discussion, its gaming study asked respondents about civic participation. In short, the study found that gamers who are more active in "civic gaming" such as forum discussion or guild organization tend to be more active in civil life, such as being politically informed or donating to charity.

Parents were also surveyed, and the results provide some insight into mass-media controversy surrounding video games. Among parents whose kids play games, a majority (62%) answered that games have no influence, one way or the other, on their kids. But among the parents whose kids do not play games, 55% answered that video games have a negative influence. For their part, Pew found no relationship between parental monitoring and teens' exposure to online shenanigans.

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