Monday, July 7, 2003
Chicago -- Roughly two-thirds of college students play video games, but the image of a nerdy guy who spends all day in a dimly lit room blowing up computer-generated bad guys is off-base, according to a new study.
College gamers are not necessarily male -- or anti-social hermits. And while about a third of those surveyed admitted playing computer games during class, the games generally don't conflict with their studies, said the researcher who conducted the survey for the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
"It's not taking the place of studying; nor is it taking away from other activities," said researcher Steve Jones, chairman of the communications department at the University of Illinois at Chicago. "What they seem to have done is incorporated gaming into a very multitask-oriented lifestyle."
The survey, released Sunday, was compiled from questionnaires completed last year by 1,162 college students on 27 campuses nationwide. Its results have a margin of error of 3 percentage points.
Nearly half said gaming kept them from studying "some" or "a lot" -- though their study habits matched closely with those reported by college students in general, Jones said.
"There's this stereotype of game slackers wasting time, goofing off, that really isn't valid," said Marcia Grabowecky, a Northwestern University psychologist who has studied visual perception in humans, including those who play computer and video games.
David McNulty, a 19-year-old computer science major at the University of Maine, started playing video games, such as Nintendo's wildly popular Mario Brothers, at age 5. He now plays host to game-playing parties and joins online games with people who live across the world.
McNulty said he stopped playing during his first semester because he was worried it would hurt his grades, but he found that his social life suffered.
He started playing again and says it hasn't affected his studies.
"It takes less time to play a few games than to go downtown or see a movie with your friends. It's easier to meet them online and shoot at them," McNulty said, chuckling.