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  • Differences between Adolescent and Adult Gamers

    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).
     

     
    Comments 25 Comments
    1. Vinman13's Avatar
      Vinman13 -
      Great article and so true.
    1. MacLeod's Avatar
      MacLeod -
      It is an interesting article, however it is generalized in my opinion and not completely relevant to all gamers. I myself am not an adult gamer however I do not find myself going on rampaging immature soliloquies in TS.

      Comments tend towards the homophobic, racist, and misogynistic
      I have heard comments such as these before from both adult and adolescent gamers.

      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.'
      Yet again, not the case many a time to the adolescent gamer.

      It is obvious that there is currently a large player base for most games comprised of adolescents, and yes many of them are quite immature and annoying, however I find that grouping every person who falls into the previous category as an immature bigot is utterly untrue. Watching some type or listening to them on TS can be a good measure of the players maturity, but not always a good measure of their age.

      My two cents.
    1. MarineSeaknight's Avatar
      MarineSeaknight -
      This was an excellent read. I especially concur with your points on the reasons for our gaming. When I first got into it, the action/violence was definite what had me hooked. However, over time with a few online communities, I began to notice that it was the people, not the game that made the experience as good (or bad!) as it was. I recall hearing from TGers on several occasions that it was their belief that it didn't matter what game you played - it's the people you played it with.

      Of course, deep down we probably knew this all along. Sometimes it takes a while to realize even the most obvious things. Again, I enjoyed the article E-Male.
    1. Ferris Bueller's Avatar
      Ferris Bueller -
      E-Male, you're one of the few scholarly folk I've ever met who can keep interest in what would otherwise be an over-intellectualized and boring article. Kudos! Brilliantly written.
    1. E-Male's Avatar
      E-Male -
      Quote Originally Posted by MacLeod View Post
      It is an interesting article, however it is generalized in my opinion and not completely relevant to all gamers . . .

      . . . I find that grouping every person who falls into the previous category as an immature bigot is utterly untrue. Watching some type or listening to them on TS can be a good measure of the players maturity, but not always a good measure of their age.
      Academic studies are often misread because they are mistakenly thought to apply to all instances.

      The study, and my comments, are about characteristic behavior within fairly diverse groups, so it is understood that there will always be exceptions. These exceptions do not diminish the significance or reality of the socio-psychological patterns identified.

      There are clear differences.

      Yet, as you point out, we all behave as children now and again.

      We carry all former stages of development with us. Thus the complexities.
    1. E-Male's Avatar
      E-Male -
      Quote Originally Posted by Ferris Bueller View Post
      E-Male, you're one of the few scholarly folk I've ever met who can keep interest in what would otherwise be an over-intellectualized and boring article. Kudos! Brilliantly written.
      Thank you!

      The trick, I think, is to actually do what one studies (a surpising number of academics don't get out of the 'lab') and study what one loves.

      And of course, I love you guys . . .
    1. oniell121's Avatar
      oniell121 -
      Awww...thanks.
    1. Groshak's Avatar
      Groshak -
      great article!

      i would say, i'm an exception too. i don't think, that i have negative consequences because of gaming only positive. i mean i found this great community, where gaming is more fun than before, and i can hold my english skills on a useful level, which is important for my job.

      if there would be a negative aspect which could impact my career, i would stop or reduce it.

      i have to say, i didn't play online games (after i stopped playing wow) until i found TG and i guess i would not do it without it, because i would miss something (can see it always on public server)

      cheers
    1. Vouk's Avatar
      Vouk -
      Well...

      Of course there is a difference between adolescent and adult gamers. But I honestly don't think that the difference is THAT significant. I'm in the privileged position to be born in the mid '80s and to have expierienced the real rise of games to a mainstream medium as a part of the target audience. I've started playing online games a good 10 years ago when I was 15.
      I've been through a lot of games and a lot of communites. From mainstream games like CS (From old 4x or 5x versions to CSS) to less popular games like Operation Flashpoint (Which serves a more mature audience like TG). I've even expierienced the rise of MMOs with Ultima Online, one of the first really successful games which earns the name MMO.
      So... I think I know what I'm talking about (In a very subjective and personal kind of way, of course)

      Yes, there is this community which may be called 'gamer-kiddies'. One can find them in every community, in every game, forum and chat. And yes, a lot of those people are jerks who throw around insults and overall seem to be eager to keep their bloodpressure and that of their fellow community members as high as possible.
      Cheaters, Hackers, Lamer, TK and of course the common species of 'belua vulgaris' which keeps us all so very entertained with agressive behavior and pseudo-humoristic statements.

      But are those habits really a matter of age?
      I doubt it. Yes, we all have expierienced young players who started yelling every time they got killed, we all know those racist, homophobe or sexist rants.
      I just think that adolescent gamers are faster to shout out and to fall for the urge to yell. But that does not mean that adult players really are less likely to fall into such behavior.

      It's more a matter of communities I think.
      Take PR for example. The game itself is very complex and quite difficult to fully grasp (I struggle myself). It's more likely to find adult gamers there just because of the simple reason that it's a game which doesn't offer stunning graphics and demands a lot of patience and restraint to play the way it's meant to.
      Characteristics which do not apply to a lot of young people.
      MW2 on the other hand looks great, it's modern (no pun intended), offers fast-paced gameplay and is quick to reward the player. It's more a natural habitat for younger gamers.

      So basically you're more likely to stumble upon a lot of young gamers in such sub-genres and thus you're more likely to expierience teenage-rants.
      Does that conclude that adolescent gamers are significantly more agressive or likely to insult people? Not neccessarily. But it sure seems that way, simply because there are a lot more adolescent gamers to be met.

      Basically I think that such behavior is a matter of character, upbringing and 'personal' maturity. And as we all know maturity is not a matter of mere age but of personal growth.



      The study doesn't seem of high importance to me. It is quite old and as you've stated the academics did not seem to have quite understood the deeper mechanics of gaming itself. It's an outside view of a very hard to understand community and phenomenon.

      A little side note regarding gender swapping.
      I don't think that there is any significant amount of gender swapping in FPS at all. Simply because the player mostly does not have the option to choose between genders. Also the roleplaying element is completely missing which makes the question of gender absolutely obsolete.

      In WoW you'll find a lot of gender swapping, both with adolescent and adult players. However I don't think that insecurity over identity really is a factor there. Mostly it's just a matter of character design. (Did you ever look closely at a Nightelf-male? They look ridiculous.)
      And besides such trivial reasons, sexual components also come into play. There is a lot of sexual actions and behavior included in MMOs, but that would lead us too far away from the topic.


      Just my two - very much chaotic and unorganized - cents.
    1. DrBeat's Avatar
      DrBeat -
      Very nice, but it just shows how much of an outlier I am. Yes, it is very easy to pinpoint the differences between "teenage and adult gaming," but I'm easily still at adolescent at 16.

      while kids are giving up schooling and income, it might be that excessive online gaming has more consequences for the young, dumb, and cashless.
      Of course, it doesn't have to be. I still maintain a 4.0 with five AP classes.

      Well its a study, which shows trends; very well done and thank you for sharing.
    1. Catman1975's Avatar
      Catman1975 -
      Quote Originally Posted by E-Male View Post
      And of course, I love you guys . . .

      We love you too E-Male
    1. Ven's Avatar
      Ven -
      Now throw into that the whole PC VS Console thing as well, many PC gamers are above the 15-16 mark in age due to the cost inherited from this type of platform. Consoles are geared more towards an adolescent audience where the hardware is relatively cheap and can play mainstream games longer without upgrading. Nothing funnier than an ll yr old before his nads have dropped dropping F-bombs and calling everyone that kills him a "homo"
    1. Jeepo's Avatar
      Jeepo -
      E-male, great article, you never disappoint!

      You have known me in both stages as a gamer, back in the 1stMIP when we rolled together I was a very young adult, to now where I am SOMEWHAT more mature. It certainly rings true, and hits a few home points very well. You could make your own study here yourself, I am sure you could get a wide sweep of people who would be interested. I agree with the fundamentals, and with Marines point. It is the PEOPLE, not the game any more for me. Particularly as you get older, and other things get in the way of play time, you want to get "bang for buck". I could care less if it is PR, BC2, ArmA, Total war or Hello Kitty, as long as I am playing with FRIENDS, then I care not. Hence why this community is so strong.

      I look forward to many more articles e-male.

      I might force my other half to read this, to convince her I am not "addicted"!
    1. Grim.the.Grim's Avatar
      Grim.the.Grim -
      Amazing and well written article E-male. Kudos! On a side note...did the research say anything about playing with or without pants?
    1. Magnum50's Avatar
      Magnum50 -
      Interesting article... and I agree with most of your comments and points... but you left out a different type of "maturity", or in this case "immaturity'... and thats what I've seen the last year or so here at TG, and the reason I am no longer a active SM.

      Sure the gameplay is ran with maturity and great organization here at TG... but there is also huge immaturity here based on groups within a group, friends being appointed game admins, and TG Officers who defend out of control game admins to the end no matter what the fact or evidences. TG has forgotten who and what this gaming group was made for, and now it's just a boys club, and if your not part of that boys club your labeled a trouble maker, or or opinions and/or complaints and/or suggestions are just ignored.

      Yes, TG is the "premiere mature gaming group" gamplay wise and community wise as long as your part of the boys club. Me, I've been out casted by over zealous game admins and TG officers... but I still visit and post occasionally in a hope that one day, the man in charge will say enough is enough and bring back the true meaning of Tactical Gamers to TG.

      I'm waiting, don't let me wait long will ya.
    1. ScratchMonkey's Avatar
      ScratchMonkey -
      When talking about video games, it's probably useful to compare them to other social/competitive activities, like soccer, bowling, and darts. Or, for kids, high school sports teams. Are the "drawbacks" of in-person games the same as those of video games?
    1. Googol's Avatar
      Googol -
      Interesting read, but you make a lot of generalizations without bringing in any form of data yourself. As an adolescent (16 years of age, senior in high school), I find that this article doesn't really reflect my experiences in PC gaming.

      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.
      For example, my motivation is more like the combination of the two aspects, and perhaps a little more of the social aspect.

      Quote Originally Posted by Vouk View Post
      Does that conclude that adolescent gamers are significantly more agressive or likely to insult people? Not neccessarily. But it sure seems that way, simply because there are a lot more adolescent gamers to be met.
      I concur with this statement. Fast-paced, instant-gratification FPSes are sure to attract a large, immature adolescent audience. However, the mannerisms described in the article are in no way limited to adolescent gamers.

      In my PC gaming experiences (particularly PR), I have met many more immature adult gamers than I have adolescent. Of course, I only really frequent TG servers as well as other higher quality servers. I'd imagine the adult to adolescent ratio is much bigger than in, say, Modern Warfare 2. Basically what I'm trying to say is that while age is a factor in a gamer's attitude, the thing a gamer is trying to achieve in his/her gaming experience is a much larger factor. Thus, I'm at TG!
    1. E-Male's Avatar
      E-Male -
      For those who find that the research does not match their experience, you must keep in mind that the social sciences (any human sciences), generally speaking, describes general patterns -- patterns that always have exceptions.

      That your individual experience should contradict a model does not negate the possible correctness or utility of the model in question.

      As to motivations, they are always complex, multidimensional (often contradictory), and often opaque (we do not know our own minds -- see Freud...).

      Both the brain structure and psychological development of an adolescent is significantly different than that of an adult, thus we are bound to see a variety of differences between these two groups in play 'style', motivation, impact, and gratifications.

      The article noted that the comparative study of these two groups vis a vis online gaming is still in its infancy. We are all lab rats (while, mostly, you're my lab rats...).

      Stay tuned for next week when I review a recently published study on gaming and cognitive efficiency.

      Same bat time, same bat channel . . .
    1. Jackspyder's Avatar
      Jackspyder -
      A great read E-Male. I think the game being played has a huge impact though. what you are saying is SO true for games like MMOs COD BF etc but thankfully the best games (imo) such as arma2 have a very high level of maturity across all ages. The unit i play arma with has players ranging in ages from 14 to i think 55 and they all show a mature attitude to the game and each other. In fact often times the most immature people are the adults :P but that is usually down to very late night small alcohol induced sessions (some of the best )

      Really look forward to your next article, could have some very interesting results
    1. Berlancic's Avatar
      Berlancic -
      Bang on the money man. Very nice to read.

      Yeah, the motivations can differ greatly. I have a friend who, for whatever reason, seems to insult a lot of people on BC2. He is an absolute awesome player at the game, yet he's good at school, he's more respectable. I made a note to him once on BC2 a few weeks ago "Hey that's the first guy you've been nice to since I've started playing BC2". He is highly driven by K/D, but when he plays other games, the situation is different. He has plenty of time for social stuff. I'm not a psychologist, but that's an odd case.

      He does give up sleep quite a bit. More and more of people from my generation are becoming insomnia sufferers. I can expect to be playing less and less now, especially with the "serious" years beginning to take part. But, every now and then, I still want the satisfaction of blowing up some random. Whereas an adult I assume is not going to take a day off work just to play a game.

      Thanks for the read Dr!
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