The BBFC (British Board of Film Certification) have published a report entitled Video Games and subtitled Research to improve understanding of what players enjoy about video games and to explain their preferences for particular games. You can read it here.
I haven't had time to go through it in detail yet, but it seems to frequently reach conclusions based on majority positions that would not be reflected in a more differentiated model. It would be nice if researchers looked at the work that was already done before wading in, but I guess every new study adds something of value.
A few interesting notes:
- They sensible note that 'Generalisation is hazardous because of the variety of behaviour' (point 7), but still make a lot of generalisations.
- Stories: They seem to be confused about the importance of story to games, believing because many players are involved in the process of solving the game problems that this creates a disconnect with story content (point 18): 'For most gamers, but with emphatic exceptions, storylines appear to be a relatively weak element in the overall appeal of games.' Other studies contradict this claim, and division of the audience into clusters also breaks down this claim.
- Crying: Further evidence, if such was needed, that games already make people cry (point 19 and p55 - not p54 as quoted in the report).
- Humour: They dismiss humour as a conspicuous draw for games (point 21), but recognise that this factor is present. Probably, this is key economic factors (fiero/excitement/immersion et al) drowning out important secondary factors.
- Violence: Some of the best commentary in the report is on this subject. 'We need to note that many games, including some of the most popular, do not contain any violence at all' (point 24), and 'gamers seem not to lose awareness that they are playing a game and do not mistake the game for real life' (point 27). It is also nice to see comparisons with other media handled: 'most gamers are not seriously concerned about violence in games... [and] think violence on television and in films is more upsetting than violence in games' (point 33). Finally: 'Gamers exonerate games of any responsibility for real violence because they are so confident that their own propensity to be violent has not been affected by playing games' (point 34).
- Unreality: on children losing touch with real life, I was amused by this comment: '[Parents] complain that children who play a lot of games become monosyllabic and unsociable, emerging from their rooms pasty-faced and zombie-like after hous of incomprensible engagement with a fantasy world' (point 38).
- Age Classifications: This is a key area that the BBFC is interested in, and another strength of the report. As has been observed before: 'Some parents simply ignore classifications' (point 43), but additionally: 'Many parents seem inhibited about exercising authority in this area' (point 44).
If you check it out, be sure to let me know any thoughts you have!