Introduction to Sociology/Video Games and Virtual Worlds

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A relatively new area of research in the social sciences has focused on video games and virtual worlds. This chapter explores some of the findings related to those domains of social life.


By one estimate, close to 68% of all Americans play some form of video or computer game.[1] A different study looking at video gaming among teens found that 51.2% of high school students play video games, though this differs substantially by gender, with 76.3% of boys and 29.2% of girls playing video games.[2]

Benefits of Video Games[edit]


There is no evidence that, among most high school students, playing video games leads to worse health.[2] In fact, among boys gaming is associated with lower odds of smoking.[2]


One benefit of video games is enhanced visual attention.[1] Action games that are fast-paced and emphasize rapid responses to visual information while demanding divided attention, like Halo, improve players ability to focus on relevant visual information. In the modern world filled with information and possible sensory input, being able to focus your visual attention on important and relevant information can actually help prevent sensory overload. Individuals who play action games consistently outperform individuals who do not on tasks related to visual attention. To rule out the possibility that it is simply people with better visual attention focusing abilities who play fast-paced games, individuals were trained using the games and their visual attention scores improved as a result. Thus, one benefit of certain types of video games is an enhanced ability to flexibly and precisely control attention.[1]

Detrimental Effects of Video Games[edit]


While video gaming does not affect most high school students negatively, in a small subset (4.9%, gaming itself is a problem (i.e., they have difficulties limiting the time spent gaming).[2] Among this subset, gaming is linked to regular cigarette smoking, drug use, depression, and serious fights.[2]


Among girls, video gaming in a few cases has been associated with getting in serious fights and carrying a weapon to school.[2]


  1. a b c Bjorn Hubert-Wallander, C. Shawn Green and Daphne Bavelier. Stretching the limits of visual attention: the case of action video games. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Cognitive Science, 2010.
  2. a b c d e f Desai, Rani A., Suchitra Krishnan-Sarin, Dana Cavallo, and Marc N. Potenza. 2010. “Video-Gaming Among High School Students: Health Correlates, Gender Differences, and Problematic Gaming.” Pediatrics peds.2009-2706.