July 6, 2003

Let the games begin: Gaming technology and college students

Implications of College Students’ Gaming for the Future

Conclusion

Despite the fact that online gaming is one of the fastest growing entertainment industry branches, there is remarkably little data on the development and acceptance of this new medium and even less about its impact on adults.  Market research tends to focus on game adoption and revenue and is largely predictive. Research by social scientists tends to focus on potential social problem areas, such as gaming addiction, social isolation, or emerging violence and aggression primarily in children 18 years and younger.  So far, studies dealing with everyday use and the integration of gaming in children’s social lives are still neglected.  Based on the studies available, one does not even know who is playing electronic games based on categories of race, gender, age, religion, and income, all of which are important in understanding who does or does not have access to online gaming technology and whether it is used at home, at school, at work, or at some other publicly accessible gaming operation.

This study attempted to remedy some of those shortcomings. In our research, for example, significant gender differences were found. While men mainly reported their main reason for playing games as being for fun (45%), most women reported playing them mainly when bored (33%) and half (22%) as many women as men said their main reason for playing games is for fun. Women were much less likely to believe that gaming improved their relationship with friends than men believed (51% of women compared with 34% of men). Women reported playing computer games the most, while men reported playing video games the most (Table 5).

Which one of the following do you play the most?

Young people in academic settings have been found to be heavy users of the Internet, and early adopters of new technology.11 This makes them an ideal group for studying trends in Internet and technology use and therefore and ideal population on which to focus the research of gaming use. While the study of new technology use can only claim to capture a snapshot of a continually metamorphosing geography, it is our hope that this early attempt to more clearly define the path of electronic and online gaming will provide a strong foundation for future research in the field.

Perhaps the most important trend spotted is the integration of gaming into other activities.  Students would take time between classes to play a game, play a game while visiting with friends or instant messaging, or they would play games as a brief distraction from writing papers or doing other work. The compartmentalization of leisure activities that their parents have internalized is largely unknown to the current group of college students. That is not to say that they are unable to relax – quite the contrary. But their leisure is taken in sips rather than gulps, as a breather between other activities.

Gaming is also leading today’s college students toward considering interaction as a routine component of entertainment. The number that were observed either playing multiplayer online games, instant messaging while gaming or chatting with friends in the same room while gaming, along with the number that reported playing games frequently at a friend’s house, leads to the conclusion that gaming is less a solitary activity and more one that is shared with friends and others. Increasing adoption of “always on” broadband technologies and Internet enabled cell phones will likely further contribute to the interactive uses of gaming and entertainment today’s college student will pursue.

  1. See Jones, Steve, et al, “College Students and the Web”. Available at: http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2002/College-Students-and-the-Web.aspx