This article is originally by |TG|E-Male - A.K.A. Dr. Strangelove. Reposted to fix visibility issues.
"OMG ur so gay."
The differences between adolescent and adult gamers is in many ways clear to the members of Tactical Gamer (TG). Anyone who spends more than a few moments on a 'pubbie' server -- a largely unmoderated public online game environment -- can see the difference in the text-based game chat. Comments tend towards the homophobic, racist, and misogynistic and often reflect childhood anxieties over parentage, sexuality, gender, and difference (for a child, there are few things more fearful than being seen as different).
If an adolescent is 'fragged' (killed), it is because someone is hacking. If their team loses the round, it is because the game is 'gay.' These type of responses probably reflect the undeveloped brain of adolescents -- kids often see their problems as due to external causes and unrelated to their own actions. Indeed, the ability to see and accept the consequences for one's actions is often cited as the very mark of adulthood.
A group of psychologists who explored the differences between adolescent and adult gamers noted that, as of 2004, there were no studies that compared these two groups of gamers. As is often the case, academics can be a little slow to get into the game (and are often a little slow when they are in the game...).
The study, limited to one game, Sony's Everquest, produced some results that would strike many gamers as bordering on the dead obvious, but are also suspect when compared to TG's community of primarily adult gamers. Adolescents play, the authors note, 'slightly more than adults.' Yet I suspect that many TGers play more hours than the average kid, because they have more freedom to control their own time. Nobody tells us when to go to bed. Except our girlfriends (if we have any). Or my wife (if I listen).
Curiously, adolescents engage in gender swapping (playing as the opposite gender) significantly less than adults (45% adolescents versus 62% adults). Insecurity over identity (a characteristic of adolescents) is certainly a factor here. Sometimes it takes a real man to 'dress up' like a lady. Also of interest, adult females are less likely to gender swap, perhaps because 'females do not want to contradict gender stereotypes surrounding aggression and violence.' Yet the study's sample was far too small to draw any firm conclusions on this behaviour pattern. The TG community encompasses games such as World of Warcraft and first person shooters such as Bad Company 2, and there may be greater gender swapping in the larger and more diverse WoW community than in less diverse military run and gun style of games such as BC2.
Adults are highly motivated to play online games because of their social aspects, while kids claim their favourite aspect is the violence. Personally, I represent a combination of the two motivations, as I like to blow my friends up real good.
What both groups have in common is that they give up something else to play online games, 'almost 80% of both adults and adolescents reported sacrificing at least one thing in their lives in order to play at the level that they did.' Adults tended to sacrifice social events while adolescents sacrificed their education or work. Given that adults are giving up one form of sociability (real word) for an online social pastime, while kids are giving up schooling and income, it might be that excessive online gaming has more consequences for the young, dumb, and cashless.
There is a tendency to assume that anyone who spends a considerable amount of time with online games is addicted or otherwise sick and twisted. This is far from the truth. High engagement with online gaming can be 'non-pathological.' It could be the case that 'there are very excessive online gamers who show few negative consequences in their life. However, this study suggests that both adult and adolescent high engagement players do appear to have at least some negative consequences in their lives.'
Overall, the study by Griffiths, Davies, and Chappell is unremarkable as it focused on only one type of online game, and in the end missed many of the significant communicative aspects that distinguish mature players from kids. Their study was limited from the start, as it relied solely upon questionnaire data gathered from a self-selected sample. As is often the case, the psychologists would have learned a great deal more had they also played the darn game.
While the scholars admit that 'at present we know very little about who plays online computer games', within the TG community I suspect that we know a great deal about the differences between adolescent and adult online gaming.
Dr. Strangelove (a.k.a. [TG] E-Male)
Author of The Empire of Mind: Digital Piracy and the Anti-capitalist Movement, and
Watching YouTube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People, (University of Toronto Press).