Review of 2014 videogames research: More diverse than about violence and addiction

At last year’s annual review of videogames research, I mentioned gathering data regarding when videogames scholarly articles were published most often. My initial suspicions were that they were more proliferous during spring time than other times of the year, in particular to the end of the year. Jamie Madigan commented videogames studies is dominated by violence and addiction studies.

To answer these expressed views, I started counting and categorizing every article I picked up during this year and entered them into excel spreadsheet.


I have set up search alerts in scholarly databases that will email me whenever new peer-reviewed articles on videogames has appeared. Every Thursday, I dug through more than 30 email alerts and whenever I found a relevant videogames article, I download the full text article, uploaded its citation information to my citeulike and categorized the article according to its primary outcome.

Databases: Google scholar, EBSCOhost, Elsevier’s ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, SAGE Publications, Web of Science, Taylor & Francis Online and Wiley Online Library.

Terms used: I used boolean searches to gather as many articles that may relate to videogames, unfortunately this resulted in high number of false positives, especially coming from Wiley Online Library and SAGE Publications. The terms used are videogame*, digit*, video*, comput*, consol*, game*, digital, electron*, onlin*. Jesse Fox (Ohio State University) gave this advice: include as many key terms as possible in your title and abstract to increase your work’s visibility. Videogame articles that do not use these terms don’t show up in my emails. It’s all fun and good if your article title is an inside joke or reference, but a beginner researcher would not think of it during their searches. Sometimes, articles usually outside of my field don’t show in my emails, even though they are in the databases I’ve set up. For example, this article titled ‘‘LOVE YOU GUYS (NO HOMO)’: How gamers and fans play with sexuality, gender, and Minecraft on YouTube’ written by Amanda Potts, a linguistic and English scholar. I thank Tony Bean for picking it up.

Journals: I subscribed to receive table of content alerts from journals that usually publish videogames research, see resources link for a complete listing.

Category types: I categorize articles based on its primary outcomes. For example, an article about teens’ aggression from playing videogames would fall under aggression rather than developmental. I make new categories whenever an article don’t fit with any of the existing ones, and sometimes I may have miscategorized some articles because of its ambiguity. Some categories were combined because it simplifies the process. The categories are: aggression, addiction, advertising, cognition & neuropsychology, game engagement, Culture & qualitative research, decision making, industry, developmental, religion, Training & Education & Gamification, Health & Exercise, Motivation, Prosocial, Sensation & Perception, User study & game design, Stereotype & Ethniciy, Identity (social, self, gender), Social, Politics & Law & Science, Methodology, Emotion & Mood & Arousal, Sports, Economics, Forensics.


A total of 491 scholarly peer-reviewed articles were picked up over the year of 2014. Weekly article collections averaged at 9.62 (SD = 6.16).

To answer my views on that videogames studies were published most often during springtime, I stared at the excel sheet and found that articles are publishing pretty much evenly during the year. Thus the data does not support my opinion.

To answer Jamie Madigan’s views about research being dominated by violence and addiction research, I present the top 10 categories.

  1. Training, Education & Gamification: 85
  2. Health & Exercise: 75
  3. Addiction: 44
  4. Aggression: 43
  5. Culture & Qualitative research: 43
  6. Cognition & Neuropsychology: 37
  7. Motivation: 24
  8. User Study & Game Design: 21
  9. Social: 20
  10. Identity (social, self, gender): 18

Honorable mentions: advertising stands at 9, game engagement at 13. Gamification alone accounted for 17 articles, including that of Hanus & Fox (2015), Christy & Fox (2014). I should note that the culture & qualitative category are articles that I lumped together because they’re mostly critical culture essays on videogames that do not necessarily fit with each other.

There were also special journal issues: videogames and religion from the Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet. Digital game-based learning from Computers in the School. An issue from European Psychologist had five articles on the debate of violent videogames.

The data supports Jamie’s views in that violence & addiction research are at the top 10, but is overshadowed by the education and health categories. It is possible that violent & addiction research get more press attention than other types of studies since they can be viewed as ‘sexy’ and ‘attractive’ to readers and viewers. I must note for the health category that the number could have been higher if I could included articles from the Games for Health Journal. The problem is that citeulike could not import the Digital Object Identifier information from the journal, and I do not want to spend more time than necessary in collecting articles.

I counted my blog posts (N=23) using the same categorization, here are the categories:

  1. Aggression: 4
  2. Addiction: 3
  3. Motivation: 3
  4. Identity (social, self, gender): 2
  5. Social: 2
  6. Prosocial: 2
  7. Science communication: 1
  8. Advertising: 1
  9. Cognition & Neuropsychology: 1
  10. Game engagement: 1
  11. Education: 1
  12. Health & Exercise: 1
  13. Stereotype & Ethnicity: 1

My blog seem to reflect a bit of what I picked up. Albeit I am leaning much to the aggression, addiction and gender studies.


The take home message is that videogames research publications is more diverse than previously thought. The health sciences and education field have taken an interest in applying videogames and given the numbers published this shows that videogames is showing a lot of positive potential. Of course, it can also be used in maladaptive ways, such as escaping into virtual worlds and not coping well with their social and health problems.

Last year’s number was 263 articles and yet this year I have counted 491. It is possible that I may have miscounted, but the numbers from my citeulike database may also be wrong. Previous counts were done by searching my citation database through articles tagged under ‘videogames’ and its year. Unfortunately, the year in question is the article’s publishing year rather than when I picked it up. So it is possible that I have underestimated the number of articles I picked up in a given year. Hence, when counting for this publishing year’s count, it returned the number to 487, less than my excel sheet counts. It is because more recent articles have been slated to publish in 2015, 23 of them as of this writing, conversely my 2013 article collection may have also included some publications slated for 2014.

The purpose of my blog is to review the latest videogames peer-reviewed studies for the gamer and scientific audiences. This entails a great degree of uncertainty of what to review, if I were to review last year’s publications, then this blog would have been a retrospective review defeating its original purpose.

I have reviewed a tiny fraction of what I picked, nevertheless I was picky in what to review and the criteria varies from time to time (i.e. I do what I want). Sometimes, I want to review easy to summarize articles because I’m in crunch time; some grabbed my attention, like Andrew Przybylski’s competence impeding study; was given a request to review; I rejected papers when they sounded great in its abstract, but turned out horrible when I read the full text. I do try to blog at least one type of study, specific a cognition-related study even if it hurts my brain.

The lack of proportional blogging on education and health-related studies may have stemmed from my lack of understanding and/or its generic contribution to the scientific literature. My impressions of the education studies is that the authors have created some kind of intervention, either they created their own education game or used games as part of the intervention, then they measured for some kind of educational outcome, such as reading level or topical knowledge. Their results found that their intervention improves the outcome and argues for gamifying the curriculum. I figured that someone who is a gamer and an educator might have blogged these studies. As for the health studies, I believe it’s mostly lack of interest in them. I should try to blog some articles, see how much interest there is for these types of studies.

Other news

My posting on Rachel Kowert’s work on emotional sensitivity in online gaming at Gamasutra led to increased visibility and interest in her works that led to write a two-part article on her research and an interview on the second part. I can humbly say that I gave her a little bump. My blogging of Adrienne Holz Ivory et al.’s field experiment on players’ reaction to women’s voice garnered some attention including a short article at Polygon. I find that a good number of people exaggerate my blogging contributions, I barely get three-digit daily views on my blog, not much commenting and very links from gaming forums, in essence I barely have much have an impact factor.

I have completed my candidacy exams, I have evolved from a PhD student into a PhD candidate and thus I must craft my dissertation proposal by the end of the academic year. So I will be on the academic job market by Fall of 2015, although crossing over to industry research has been on my mind as well.

My co-author, Jesse Fox, and I have gathered enough data and sent manuscripts for peer review that I am considering in presenting my findings to a videogames conference, like the Game Developers Conference or Penny Arcade Expo. I welcome suggestions for other venues and which one to present. The research is about sexual harassment in online videogames.

That is all.


5 thoughts on “Review of 2014 videogames research: More diverse than about violence and addiction

  1. Thanks for doing this analysis. It’s interesting. I have to wonder if the familiarity bias is at play with thinking that violence and addiction should be in the top 2 slots. Those topics are more noteworthy and attention grabbing, so we may overestimate how representative they are.

  2. Pingback: Week 3 In Review / Road to PhD

  3. Pingback: 14 Cool Things I Found During My PhD Research This Week : May 4th – 10th / Research Blog

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