Gender, ethnicity and social gratification as predictors for video game play (Green & McNeese, 2008)

Before I start filling left-out details from the abstract, I’d like rant some of the bad writing of this paper because after reading the first few paragraphs of this study, I had the impression that the authors don’t have a positive opinion on video games.

Abstract

This study examines gender, race, and the need for social gratification as significant predictors of the number of hours of weekday and weekend digital game play. Secondary analysis of data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Education Longitudinal Study of 2002 revealed that that Caucasian and Asian students were associated with diminished digital game play, whereas African Americans students were associated with increased play. Results also indicated that the need for social gratification and being male was associated with greater digital game play.

The first sign of bad writing is the connection between the Columbine Shooting and violent video games. They wrote, in as-a-matter-of-fact tone, that video games are implicated as a contributing factor to the Columbine Shootings and Westside Middle School (Jonesboro massacre). They referenced this “fact” from a journal article (Smith et al., 2003) of which the article in question only made a single mention of it (with no elaboration) and its references were from non-scholarly sources (e.g. Newsweek & some online source) What does this mean? Perhaps a case of writing laziness or they’re trying to pass this statement with from a credible and scholarly source? Hogwash! So I sent e-mails to the authors of both articles to settle this case of misinterpretation.

To continue my dissection of their writing, they used information from the ESA fact sheet (2005) to demonstrate the pervasiveness of violent video games. They counted the top 40 games, instead of the top 10, just to show that 30% of the top 40 were E-rated games of which they used that number to suggest that violent or sexually explicit games are popular. My question would be for which demographics? It’s as if they’re telling us that these T & M-rated games are also popular for children and adolescents. Not so if you break down the list according to age groups, this way, we would know what games are popular for certain demographics. Of course, they might say that it doesn’t matter because if children are already playing violent video games, they would grow to ask ultra-violent video games or they would play violent video game the moment they can. Therefore, they have reasons to worry. Bah!

They mistakenly referred a “multi-user game on the internet” as a MUD (as a general term), which is technically correct. But, today it is generally referred to as MMO.

They devoted three-quarters of a page writing about racial and gender stereotypes in video games and yet they did not made any overt attempts to tell the readers the connection to the present study. Oh sure, the connection is about ethnicities and video games, but that’s such a plain and loose connection that it is such a complete waste.

So on to the details!

Why ethnicities? Previous studies have found significant differences in the amount of video game play between ethnicities. The differences are mainly between Caucasians, African-Americans and Hispanics, although there’s no data consensus which group spends the most or the least.

 Why gender? Why bother saying more when most studies found that boys and men play more hours than girls and women. They briefly elaborated the reasons, but it’s mainly about cognitive abilities. They wrote nothing on male-dominated gaming culture or girls and women’s perspective on video games, IMO that’s something important to mention,

Why social gratifications? Basically, they play video games because it’s fun and they like it when they play them with others. That’s the gist.

Why not more factors I ask? Now I’m thinking that not only this is bad writing, but also a bad study. They did not consider factors than those three? I wish they say something about why those three are important in light of other factors, such as parenting, thrill-seeking, socio-economic status, attitudes on video games (from parents to peers), cost-benefit of alternative entertainment (say raves or clubbing or going to the movies), accessibility to all forms of entertainment, and most importantly, portability of entertainment.

Method

They’re using data from another study, data from 2002. What the hell? So right now, I’m thinking they’re just data mining to find some kind of statistical relationship? Geez… They have 14,048 high school sophomores participants, roughly equal gender distribution, half of the sample are Caucasian, then in descending order, Hispanics, African-American, Asian, multiracial and Native-American.

Material

Since it’s archival research, they selected 98 questions relevant to the study.

Results

Okay go back to the abstract and you know the results. Other than that, they haven’t shown any numbers or details, so I’m pretty much left in the dark.

Discussion

If anybody thinks that ethnicity is a simple predictor of video game play, then I would see them as simpleton fools. I believe that ethnicities are not true predictors of video game play and they are more like proxy predictors. It’s quite certain another factor is mediating the relation between ethnicity and video game play. One possible factor is socio-economic status (SES) since those in low SES class can’t spend as much on video games as other SES class and that a lot of African-American are likely to be in the low SES class. But this could be discounted because a video game, video game console or handheld can be bought second-hand which can be cheap. Another factor could be parent-related, right now I’m thinking of white Soccer Moms and wonder if there are ethnic differences in parental attitudes on video game. Maybe white parents are more averse in something that doesn’t benefit their kids and are more likely to restrict their video game play (citation needed).

They considered other factors, such as cultural or language barriers to be possible factors in video game play time. They explained the language barrier by citing a study that found that English-speaking families are more likely to play video game than non-English-speaking families because all video games are English. Sounds fair, but what the participants they are talking about are high school sophomores. I don’t think English would be a significant barrier since they’re all should be proficient in English.

Another factor is the groups’ preferences for entertainment portability, like handheld games, like the PSP or Nintendo DS. I’ve often noticed that there are African-Americans playing handheld than Caucasians or Asians. This could greatly account for the differences in game playtime. In fact, the authors should have considered the entertainment quality of video games, It’s possible that Caucasian or Asian would have played as many hours as African-Americans if they can because you can’t really carry your desktop computer or your plasma screen and surround sound system around.

Strange that idea came from the article and yet they did not discuss about it at all in their conclusion. Once again, they showed themselves to be bad writers.

Green, M. E., & McNeese, M. N. (2008). Factors that predict digital game play. Howard Journal of Communications, 19(3), 258-272.

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