Research into Why We Play

Thanks to GameDaily, I learned about a British Board of Film Classification report about the reasons people play video games.

There were a number of findings that surprised me:

  • There is a sharp divide between male and female games players in their taste in games and how long they spend playing. Some of you might be saying “Duh!”, but I was sure that women played the same games that men played. Perhaps the data I had was specific to hardcore gamers.
  • Gamers appear to forget they are playing games less readily than film goers forget they are watching a film because they have to participate in the game for it to proceed. The report also goes on to say that gamers are not emotionally involved but instead are concentrating upon “making progress”. So most people really do play games mechanically and don’t care about story? Is this really why there are people who will gladly pay every month just to gain experience by doing the same thing over and over again? Are games nothing more than “I Win” buttons to most players? Disturbing.
  • A range of factors seems to make less emotionally involving than film or television. The adversaries which players have to eliminate have no personality and so are not real and their destruction is therefore not real, regardless of how violent that destruction might be. Er, did we really just say that video games are less emotionally involving BECAUSE they aren’t realistic? If we give the adversaries personality (and I am sure that there are more than a few games that do so already), does their destruction result in games that allow minors to lose their grasp on reality?

There isn’t much else in the report that we didn’t already expect. Game players generally understand the difference between video games and real life. Game players are not all children, although parents (and I may add politicians) still think that games are for children only. One of my favorite lines:

Parents should not treat video games in the same way they would board games.

Parents aren’t readily giving their children The Newlywed Game boardgame, yet they think nothing of letting them play GTA 3? There are adult and mature-themed board games, so why are video games supposed to be played exclusively by children?

You can download the full report at the BBFC website.

6 comments to Research into Why We Play

  • You know, its annoying to see research like this coming from people *OUTSIDE* the game industry. Films, when they were new, were marginalized by society. Books were the same way etc…

    So, I don’t think its reasonable to expect outsiders to create a discussion, a historiagraphy if you will, for the meduim that is video games. When the industry starts to take itself more seriously, I’ll be excited to read what reports *they* write.

  • True, but this group rates games. It is kind of like an ESRB for Britain.

    Also, with the kind of people who are playing games today, there are really no outsiders. Even if there were, it is good to get exactly what they are thinking.

    They interviewed people who play games as well as parents and teachers, as I understand it, so it isn’t as if they made assumptions from afar.

  • Newlywed is a really tame example of an “adult” boardgame. You should have used “Busen Memo” or “Sex the Game” :).

  • Well, I specifically mean, the people doing the research should have made a game themselves…but as you point out, that might be the case…since they are involved with the game industry.

    An example though, it’d be odd to see Roger Ebert heading a study about rap music and its effects on modern culture. Or to see Robert Frost write articles about interpretive dance. Sure, these people know a lot more about those topics compared to what I know, but they aren’t part of that industry.

    Eh, I guess only time will tell, nice find though.

  • Impossible: Actually I was going to use “The Kama Sutra Game”, but then I thought comparing sexy adult board games to mature-themed video games would be unfair and extreme.

  • Simon

    Tadhg at particleblog has used the same report to make the case for splitting games into two different media called videogames and videoplays. It’s interesting reading.