The official British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) monitoring body has issued a new report (pdf
) on player behavior towards video games, including why people play games, what effects games have on players, and player attitudes towards video game violence.
The report was based on interviews and group discussions involving people who play games between the ages of 7 and 40 years old. In addition, data was also pulled from parents, video game developers, and game reviewers writing within the specialist press.
One of the key findings of the report include that while people are starting to play games at a younger age (as young as three years old), the number of adult gamers is growing as well. Other findings include that 'peer group pressure' is a driving force in game choice, and that taste in video games varies greatly between ages and sexes.
The BBFC report also found that most players surveyed play games in order to “escape from everyday life.” In addition, given that video games are a “safe environment in the sense that what happens is structured by learnable and reliable rules,” many respondents noted that games are actually more “effectively relaxing and de-stressing than more passive activities like watching TV.”
Looking to video game violence, the report found that such violence adds “mightily to the tension in games,” chiefly because it taps into players' sense of vulnerability. “Most gamers concentrate on their own survival rather than on the damage they inflict on others,” wrote the report.
However, the report added that while players may enjoy the escapism that such virtual violence affords, few carry over this into real life. In fact, many gamers interviewed noted that “violence on television and in films is more
upsetting than violence in games.”
While some parents included in the study expressed concern that their children were spending too much time playing games, others noted relief that they were involved in a safe indoor activity rather than “roaming the streets.” Many parents noted that they were “surprised” by the amount of violence in games, but were “confident” in their own children's ability to discern between reality and what gown on in the game. “However, some believe they have noticed children imitating the language, and some of the actions, in games,” the report added.
Also interesting is the note that those surveyed reported that world of mouth seemed to carry a greater weight in deciding what games to play than marketing. However, the report notes that “comment in the media generally, usually negative, has helped some games (for example Manhunt
) into prominence.”
"There is no question that video games are an important form of entertainment for an ever increasing number of people,” commented BBFC director David Cooke. “As the technology improves the games will become more and more realistic and it is important that games are properly rated to protect younger players from the games with adult content, which the BBFC does.”
He added: “This research provides some valuable insights into why people play video games and what effect they think playing has on themselves and friends. It has also highlighted parental attitudes to video games. We hope that it will provide some food for thought for the industry, and everyone who has an interest in the impact of games and we will be taking the research outcomes into account as we review our games classification policies over the coming months."