Video Games as a Multifaceted Medium: A Review of Quantitative Social Science Research on Video Games and a Typology of Video Game Research Approaches

James D. Ivory


Although there is a vast and useful body of quantitative social science research dealing with the socialrole and impact of video games, it is difficult to compare studies dealing with various dimensions ofvideo games because they are informed by different perspectives and assumptions, employ differentmethodologies, and address different problems. Studies focusing on different social dimensions ofvideo games can produce varied findings about games’ social function that are often difficult to reconcile—or even contradictory. Research is also often categorized by topic area, rendering a comprehensiveview of video games’ social role across topic areas difficult. This interpretive review presentsa novel typology of four identified approaches that categorize much of the quantitative social sciencevideo game research conducted to date: “video games as stimulus,†“video games as avocation,â€â€œvideo games as skill,†and “video games as social environment.†This typology is useful because itprovides an organizational structure within which the large and growing number of studies on videogames can be categorized, guiding comparisons between studies on different research topics and aidinga more comprehensive understanding of video games’ social role. Categorizing the different approachesto video game research provides a useful heuristic for those critiquing and expanding thatresearch, as well as an understandable entry point for scholars new to video game research. Further,and perhaps more importantly, the typology indicates when topics should be explored using differentapproaches than usual to shed new light on the topic areas. Lastly, the typology exposes the conceptualdisconnects between the different approaches to video game research, allowing researchers toconsider new ways to bridge gaps between the different approaches’ strengths and limitations withnovel methods.

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