New study says video games help students socially

By Gus Bode

A new study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project examining the impact of video games on the lives of college students found that electronic entertainment has virtually become commonplace for the student population and is more of a social activity than most suspected.

The study group consisted of students from two- and four-year public and private colleges and universities in the continental United States. The study was conducted between March 2002 and October 2002. The results were released July 6.

The findings of the study show that of those surveyed, 70 percent of all college students reported playing video, computer or online games at least once in a while. Some 65 percent of college students reported being regular or occasional game players.

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Students in the study cited gaming as a way to spend more time with friends. One in five gaming students felt moderately or strongly that gaming helped them make new friends as well as improve existing friendships.

Nick Miller, a junior in journalism, said he used video games as a way to get together with friends and play tournaments together, and that video games were an alternative way to spend an evening.

“Instead of going to the bar and getting hammered, I will stay at home and play video games with my friends,” Miller said. “It is less harmful and less expensive than going out.”

The Pew Internet Project found that two-thirds of respondents said gaming has little to no influence in taking away time they might spend with friends or family.

Laura Bengle, a junior in photography, said her boyfriend plays video games hour upon hour but does not play them when she is around.

“He knows I hate video games,” Bengle said. “He only plays them when I’m not around.”

While video games may not consume time with family and friends, they are used to kill time when gamers are alone. The study found that 60 percent of students surveyed said that video games helped them spend time when friends were not available.

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Matt Elmore agrees. Elmore, a foreign language and international trade student, said that while video games do not affect his social life, they are a good way to pass time.

“Video games are a good way to blow off steam, or a way to waste away an afternoon,” Elmore said.

According to student responses in the study, gaming has little impact, either positive or negative, on their academic lives.

Findings of the study concluded that 48 percent of college student gaming keeps them from studying “some” or “a lot.” In addition, 9 percent admitted that their main motivation for playing games was to avoid studying.

College student gamers reported the hours spent studying per week match up closely with those reported by college students in general, with 62 percent reporting that they study for classes no more than seven hours per week, and 15 percent reported studying 12 or more hours a week.

Nick Moline, a senior in finance, said that he spends about 10 hours a week playing video games and only three hours a week studying. Moline said he probably would not spend more time studying if video games were not available.

“If video games did not exist, I would not study more,” Moline said. “I would probably find another way to procrastinate.”

While some educators have noted the possible benefits of gaming as a learning tool, 69 percent of the gamers surveyed reported having no exposure to video, computer or Internet gaming in the classroom for educational purposes. However, 32 percent of students surveyed admitted to playing games that were not part of the instructional activities during classes, according to Pew Institute Project.

College students have adapted gaming activities to the unique environment of college life.

College students are notorious “night owls” due in part to all-night study sessions and almost constant socializing, and their gaming activities reflect this, according to the study.

Of the college gamers, 41 percent reported playing after 9 p.m., and only 8 percent played before noon, while another 37 percent played between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m.

Playing video games late at night is something that Miller related with.

“Sometimes I stay up until 3 a.m. playing video games, when I should be sleeping,” Miller said.

The fundamental point of the study is that gaming is a part of growing up in the U.S., and by the time the current horde of college students graduates, virtually all of them will have had some kind of experience with gaming.

Reporter Nicole Sack can be reached at [email protected]

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