Video games are immensely popular, particularly among teens and young adults. Yet there is much to learn about the content and context of teens’ gaming experiences, the mechanics of their play, and the relationships between playing games and a range of academic, social, and civic outcomes.
To date, the main areas of research have considered how video games relate to children’s aggression and to academic learning. There has also been limited research on how video games contribute to (or, perhaps, undermine) the civic development of young people. To date, no large-scale national survey has examined the civic dimensions of video games.
The goal of the Gaming and Civics Survey is to provide the first nationally representative study of teen video game play and of teen gaming and civic engagement. To achieve a portrait of teen gaming, the survey looks at which teens are playing games, the games and equipment they are using, the social context of their play, and the role of parental monitoring. To explore the relationship between gaming and civics, the study examines how particular civic gaming experiences and contexts relate to teens’ civic activities and commitments. Though arguments have been advanced regarding the civic potential of video games, this is the first large-scale study to examine the relationship between specific gaming experiences and civic outcomes.
Video games: any type of interactive
entertainment software; here we use the term
“video game” to mean any type of computer,
console, online or mobile game.
When Steve Russell wrote the world’s first video game in 1961—the two-player spaceship fighter Spacewar—he likely had no idea that more than 40 years later, the gaming industry would be an economic juggernaut and entertainment staple for the majority of the U.S. population. By some estimates, industry sales that include consoles, hardware, software, and accessories generated nearly $19 billion in revenue domestically in 2007. Popular video games can gross more than popular film releases: the highly anticipated April 2008 release Grand Theft Auto IV grossed $500 million in its first week of release, more than twice the largest domestic movie premiere to date, Batman: The Dark Knight.