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The Civic Potential of Video Games (and the responsibility of developers)

November 8, 2010

I’m doing a bit of work for the Wellcome Trust at the moment, and during this research game across this interesting study of just over 1100 young people (PDF) looking at how they play games.  What they found was interesting:

The quantity of game play is not strongly related to civic and political engagement. Teens that play video games frequently are just as involved in civic and political activities like raising money for charity and convincing others how to vote as those who play infrequently. Overall, on the eight indicators of civic and political engagement included in the survey, there is no significant difference between teens who play every day and those who play less than once a week.

So there is no correlation between playing games and not caring about the world around you. Not only that but:

Many teens have gaming experiences that parallel aspects of civic life:
– 76% of youth report helping others while gaming,.
– 52% of gamers report playing games where they think about moral and ethical issues.
– 44% report playing games where they learn about a problem in society.
– 43% report playing games where they help make decisions about how a community, city or nation should be run.

So playing games engages people in thinking about the big issues; morality, politics and the like – this means those of us making games have a responsibility as what we do within development.

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