During my last six months in DC, I worked almost exclusively on the Pew Internet Project’s most recent report, Teens, Video Games and Civics, which was released Tuesday. This report looks at the gaming activities of 12-17 year-olds in the U.S.: the types of games they play, how they play them, and the social aspect of gaming. Furthermore, the report found positive connections between gameplay and civic behavior.
Having been a gamer since about age 6 when I would play Space Invaders and Breakthrough on my parents’ Atari, this report is very near and dear to me. Gaming is now ubiquitous — 97% of teens play video games. this means that girls are now playing games about as often as boys, which was certainly not the case 20 years ago. I remember being one of the only girls in my gradeschool who actively played video games on a regular basis; while it didn’t seem to bother me at the time (because finishing Ninja Gaiden was too important!), I am heartened that kids share games to a larger degree now.
Based on the data in this survey, I think we can safely say that video games are not the devil-spawn that some more of the more outspoken conservatives like to proclaim. Gaming, like everything else out there, has a good and a bad side, but in my opinion, the good tends to outweigh the bad. Kids who game are not missing out on life, but are instead interacting with their peers, and in some cases, learning from their experiences and getting more involved with their community.