BBFC report on violence and videogames

17 04 2007

The British Board of Film Classification has published a report about game players’ habits and game effects, throwing up some interesting points concerning game violence and the negative effects of press coverage.

The report is based on qualitative research carried out on gamers ranging from children as young as seven through to players in their early 40s, as well as parents of young players and industry representatives.

The following is a breakdown of the key findings.

1. While children are beginning to play games at an increasingly early age, the overall age of games players is getting older.

2. There is a marked difference in male and female game tastes, with males preferring shooters and sports titles, and females generally opting for life simulation and puzzle games.

3. Male players are much more inclined to play for lengthened periods.

4. Negative press coverage has an adverse effect, with titles portrayed negatively often proving highly popular.

5. Younger gamers’ choice of games is influenced by peer pressure and word of mouth.

6. People view game playing as a risk-free means of escapism and feel in control of game experiences as opposed to real life.

7. Game playing is active and brings about feelings of achievement as opposed to passive forms of entertainment such as TV and film. Gamers are driven by achievement but are unlikely to become emotionally involved. They care more about progress than elements such as storytelling.

8. The interactive nature of game playing means players are less likely to forget they are playing a game than they would be to forget they are watching a film or TV show.

9. Gamers suggest game playing is mentally stimulating and a good way of improving hand-eye coordination.

10. Violence in games creates tension, challenges and a sense of vulnerability in players – gamers tend to focus on preventing harm to their character rather than inflicting harm on other characters. While there is an appeal associated with being able to inflict violent acts without fear of reprisal, gamers know that they are playing games and don’t misconstrue the act as real life.

The vast majority of gamers reject the notion that video games encourage people to be violent in real life or that they have become desensitised to violent acts.

Most gamers are not overly concerned about violence in games because they view TV and film violence as more realistic and disturbing, although they are aware that game violence, particularly in adult rated titles, can upset younger players.

While non-games playing parents are surprised at the violence portrayed in games, they are not overly concerned that it will negatively affect their children. Parents agree that games regulation is important but some also said they were happy to give children adult games because they weren’t real.

11. Non-games playing parents would prefer children to pursue outdoor activities as opposed to spending prolonged periods playing games. They are particularly concerned about young boys. These parents are however more worried about the threats associated with internet chat rooms.

David Cooke, Director of the BBFC said, “There is no question that video games are an important form of entertainment for an ever increasing number of people. As the technology improves the games will become more and more realistic and it is important that games are properly rated to protect younger players from the games with adult content, which the BBFC does.

“This research provides some valuable insights into why people play video games and what effect they think playing has on themselves and friends. It has also highlighted parental attitudes to video games. We hope that it will provide some food for thought for the industry, and everyone who has an interest in the impact of games and we will be taking the research outcomes into account as we review our games classification policies over the coming months.”

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