Myths Dispelled: Gamers Have Friends, Girls Like Grand Theft Auto

ZX Spectrum

[Photo by Planet Sinclair]

New research dispels the well-worn stereotypes that computer gamers having no social skills and girls avoid violent games like Grand Theft Auto.

A new study, published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, surveyed 1,254 children from the US. It asked how often children played computer games, which games, and what they got out of it (Olson et al., 2007).

The results revealed:

  • 94% of young teens had played computer games in the last six months.
  • Two-thirds of boys aged 12 to 14 and one in four girls had played an M-rated game (meant for those over 17) in the last six months.
  • Children playing violent M-rated games were more likely to play in groups. Friendship groups amongst boys, in particular, were often based around violent computer games.
  • One in five girls had played the violent game Grand Theft Auto ‘a lot’ in the last six months. It was their second favourite game, after The Sims – in which players manage a virtual person and their family.
  • Children used games to help them manage their emotions. When angry or stressed they liked to use games to get these emotions out.


Gaming no longer unsociable

Things sure have changed in the last couple of decades. When I was a lad computer gaming was a very unsociable activity. This was partly because good multi-player games hadn’t yet been developed. Now players can battle each other while sitting side-by-side, or virtually across the internet.

This increase in the sociability of game playing must partly result from no longer having to ‘wait your turn’ while a friend’s go keeps on going. Also, gaming technology is now so advanced and widespread most kids have access to it.

It all beats a rubber-keyed Spectrum 48k any day. Even one with a microdrive.

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About the author


Dr Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and the author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick". You can follow PsyBlog by email, by RSS feed, on Twitter and Google+.

Published: 3 July 2007

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