The following are a list of key findings from my research on parental assessment of video game content appropriateness for their children. You can read the first round of published results here.
- There were no parents in the study who were able to definitively name all of the parts of the ESRB Ratings System or all six ratings and over two-thirds did not know what process games went through to get rated. This resulted in the majority of interviewed parents knowing little to nothing about the ratings system even if they claimed they used it.
- Interviewed parents had very specific criteria they used to judge video game appropriateness against and once any of those lines were crossed, the game was considered unsuitable. Though violence was a concern for interviewed parents, perceptions of violence were far more nuanced than the ESRB Rating System descriptors were able to convey, thus many had to do further research to properly assess the game and make sense of the content. Sexual content, however, was of a far higher concern than violence even for those interviewed parents who considered themselves very liberal in the types of games they allowed their children to play.
- Interviewed parents with special needs children considered the needs of their child and the ability for a game to help him or her as more important than staying within content that was age appropriate.
- Based on the interviews, every family’s and child’s needs are different, including children within the same family. Therefore, a single information system, such as the ESRB Ratings System, may never be able to completely fulfill all of a parent’s information needs as they attempt to bridge their knowledge gap. As long as it provides a place to start, that may be all it needs to do.
- Relevant to the previous finding, interviewed parents attempted to bridge their knowledge gaps in multiple ways in order to assess game content and make sense of it. These included using the ESRB Ratings System, Internet searches (including specific sites as well as more general results) to find game reviews (both community and professional), game marketing (including websites, packaging, and commercials), and Let’s Plays (video game play-throughs).
Credibility of the gaming information source was very important to interviewed parents. They cited both the source of the documentation as well as the reputation of the reporting source to be important factors in establishing credibility.
- Though a few interviewed parents were in favor of a law, most were not. Those in favor cited it as an extra level of protection or as something they thought was already in place. Those not in favor cited issues with enforcement, the inability for laws to really assist them, as well as a general dislike of having the government interfere with their role as parents.
Specific answers to research questions will be published in a separate post.
Here are a few stats from my research on parents and video games copied directly from my dissertation. This post will be the first of several where I talk about my ethnography and the results of my study.
There were 46 total participants in 30 interviews representing 26 households. As defined in Chapter One, a household represents parents who participated alone as well as those who participated together (in the same interview or separately). This singular unit was created to avoid inflation of the numbers where two parents were talking about their shared children and home environments, as that would skew the numbers against those where only one parent participated. Of the participants, 11 were children and 35 were parents. The 35 parents represented 39 qualifying children in total including the 11 who contributed. Of the 35 participating parents, 18 were mothers and 17 were fathers. The parents spanned in ages from 25 to 55. The youngest child participant was 4 and the oldest was 16.
This study afforded opportunities for additional analyses, given the rich qualitative data collected throughout the interviews. Each section below provides this additional information as a way to give context to the research participants and better understand their relationship with video games.
Over 200 games were mentioned throughout the course of the interviews, not including the various versions of multiple game franchises. The top three most mentioned games were Minecraft (85% of households), followed by Grand Theft Auto (65%), and then World of Warcraft (42%). Almost two-thirds (64%) of the 39 children played M-rated games and over three-quarters (77%) played T-rated games. None of the children in the study were old enough to purchase M-rated games and only 31% of the 39 children were old enough to purchase T-rated games.
Video Game Devices
Participants played console, computer, and mobile/tablet games equally (88%). Handheld games (58%), followed by web-based (38%), and then educational (35%) rounded out the list. Over three quarters of all 26 households (77%) used some sort of cloud gaming services such as Steam, Origin, Xbox Live, or PlayStation Network. All households downloaded games digitally, whereas only about three-quarters (77%) still bought physical game media.
Video Game Spaces
The majority of game spaces (58%) were publicly shared spaces with the family. Very few (8% of all households) had completely private spaces where stationary devices such as computer towers or consoles were located in children’s rooms. The remaining households (35%) had mixed game spaces due to the use of portable electronics such as laptops, handhelds, and mobile/tablet devices. The majority of households (69%) had some sort of time restrictions placed on video game play; however, less than half of them (39%) considered them to be strict rules.
An overwhelming majority of the 26 households (92%) performed some sort of assessment on video games before their children were allowed to play them. Almost all of the 26 households (92%) discussed video game content with their children, and most (85%) stated they knew their children to self-regulate and/or they trusted their children to only play the games of which they knew their parents approved.
Almost three-quarters of the 26 households (73%) watched their children play video games and many (69%) played video games with their children. Over half (54%) of the 26 households allowed their children access to the Internet to either play online video games such as massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPG i.e., World of Warcraft) which can only be played online, or to play standard multiplayer video games with others online.
You can read about the key findings here. Answers to my specific research questions will be in a different post.
So, my last post was in February, and there is a very good reason for that. That was the month I got my IRB approval for my dissertation research and the same month my husband left for a nine-month tour in Korea. So, here I’ve been working full-time, being a full-time mom and working on my dissertation.
The working title for my information science dissertation so far is Understanding Parental Information Behavior in Assessing Video Game Content for their Children: An Ethnographic Study. I’ll be using ethnographic methods similar to the ones I used for my Masters thesis including both in-person and virtual semi-structured interviews with parents, an online survey, and observing parents shopping for video games. You can learn more about it at ResearchingVideoGames.
I’m currently analyzing my interviews and will be seeking approval IRB approval for my survey as the fall semester begins. If you are a parent of a child who plays video games and is between the ages of 4 and 17, feel free to email me at researchingvideogames [@] gmail in order to be notified when the survey becomes available. As a parent, you don’t have to be a gamer to participate.
I shall now return you to your regularly scheduled broadcasts!
Following on the heels of last weeks post on my UX Pyramid, I thought I’d talk more about the methods one can use to produce the information that would be used to create the deliverables mentioned in it.
I am an anthropologist first and foremost, so being able to use my anthropological methods in user research is important to me. This particular method uses journaling as a means to gain insights into what the user actually does in the system by having the user document what they do when they do it rather than trying to run them through various fabricated scenarios that we as designers might come up with. This allows us to really see the application (this could be software, games, mobile apps etc.) from their perspective rather than trying to force our perspective on them.
As a part of this process, we ask the user to not only document what they are doing, but also to provide screen shots and any other collateral that might be of note (such as information about another site that may do what they want in a better way).
With the information gathered in the journaling portion of the study, we are then able to provide the users with access to new tools or scenarios we are working on that they may be interested in using. This way we get better feedback as these are parts of the system these particular users actually use.
This research then allows for the segmentation of the user base not only by the type of user they are, but also by the way they use the system and the parts of the application they use the most. All of which provides ample information for personas, concepts, process flows, story boards, and wireframes.
“Communist authorities equally understood Elvis’s subversive manner, even as an Army private.When it was announced that Presley was bound for the U.S. base at Friedberg, the East German Communist Party accused the United States of plotting to undermine the morals of Red youth,’ Karal Ann Marling relates. ‘To show that this act of provocation would not be tolerated, party boss Walter Ulbricht ordered the arrest and imprisonment of fifteen teenagers who marched through the streets of Leipzig in 1959 shouting, ‘Long live Elvis Presley!’” (p. 268)
Cohen, R. D. (1997). The delinquents: Censorship and youth culture in recent US history. History of Education Quarterly, 37(3), 251-270.
“Rather than simply forbidding young people to listen to certain forms of music, read certain books, or see certain movies, many families have abdicated this responsibility to civic action groups and the government. Such a relinquishment of authority over individual lives has led to denunciations of various media forms, calls for self-regulation of individual mediums, and attempts to ban completely some sexually explicit speech.” (791)
”Perhaps even more important than the right of Americans to decide what they wish to read, see, and hear for themselves is the fact that this generation’s purity crusade is diverting national attention away from more important areas. Indeed, many individuals who believe in a government based on popular participation have not yet realized that by devoting so much energy to what is essentially the private business of American citizens, their attention has been successfully diverted from participation in the political and economic planning processes of the nation.” (850)
Interesting that if you consider gaming, specifically violent video games, to be the topic at hand, these conclusions are as relevant today as they were over 20 years ago.
Blanchard, M. A. (1991). American Urge to Censor: Freedom of Expression Versus the Desire to Sanitize Society—From Anthony Comstock to 2 Live Crew, The. Wm. & Mary L. Rev., 33, 741.
You can now cite my Fedora research using this APA citation
Harrelson Hubbard, D. (2013, July). An Exploration of Fedora’s Online Open Source Development Community. Paper presented at the Free Software Workshop, FISL14, Porto Alegre, Brazil. Retrieved from http://softwarelivre.org/wsl/blog/wsl-2013-schedule
You can view it on Scribd.
Well, it’s a go! My committee likes me, they really like me! /silly
Yep! I passed. All that hard work paid off. I have two different dissertation ideas they were happy with. I’ll try running with the first one, if that doesn’t work I’m glad I have a fall back.
This summer I’ll be doing a lit review and this fall I’ll start writing. I hope to be done in 2 years. Seems like such a long time from now, but I know it will go by very quickly.
Now it’s time to pack for Hawaii as we are moving there in about 2 months!