Study Shows Video Games Have an Influence on Teen Behavior

Want another reason to buy your teen a classic game like a Ms. Pac-Man arcade game? A new study released by researchers at the University of Nottingham shows that when teens play modern video games that have drug and alcohol references, it increases their chances of smoking and drinking. Not only are classic titles like Ms. Pac-Man just that – a classic – it won’t have the kind of detrimental effect that researchers claim titles like Grand Theft Auto V and Call of Duty are causing.

The Study

The Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies at the University of Nottingham reviewed 32 of the best-selling games in Britain between 2012 and 2013, taking note of which games referred to drinking and smoking the most. 44 percent of all the games reviewed contained cigarette and alcohol references.

Then researchers conducted an online survey of 1,094 gamers between the ages of 11 and 17. They were asked if they had played the games that referenced drugs and alcohol. Then they were asked about their own smoking and drinking habits.

The Findings

The young gamers surveyed were twice as likely to have smoked or drank alcohol if they had played at least one of the games containing references to drinking or smoking. If the study’s findings are legitimate, it’s clear that video games have a strong influence on teen behavior – negative behavior.

Will the Gaming Industry Update Their Rating System?

The Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies is calling for an update on how game ratings are determined. In the U.K, ratings are decided by the Video Standards Council. The Centre believes that additional consideration should be given to how exposed children and teens are to alcohol and drug references and further studies should be conducted to find out more about how exposure to these references affects behavior.

Will the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB), the organization that determines ratings in the U.S., pay attention to this study and conduct further research in America? Since ratings will be drastically different for virtual reality games, maybe an overall update to the rating process is needed.