Exploring Common Conceptions About Boys and Electronic Games

Joan Lawry, Rena Upitis, Maria Klawe, Kori Inken, Ann Anderson, Mutindi Ndunda, David Hsu, Stephen Leroux and Kamran Sedighian
Publishing date
January 1994
20 pages
Electronic games are an integral part of many boys' lives. Based on observations made over a two-month period at an electronic games exhibit in an interactive science museum in Vancouver, Canada, we examine three commonly held views about boys and electronic game culture: (a) electronic games and boys' behaviour while playing them contain elements of aggression, violence, competition, fast-action, and speed; (b) electronic games encourage anti-social, "loner" behaviour; and (c) boys who play electronic games are susceptible to becoming so devoted to playing the games that they neglect other areas of their lives, such as school, physical activity, and family. Our findings indicate the following: (a) while violent games are popular, many boys prefer games that challenge them mentally; (b) there appears to be little connection between anti-social behavior and electronic game playing; and (c) many boys who play electronic games have interests also in music, programming, reading, and school. This paper depicts one facet of the first, exploratory phase of the Electronic Games for Education in Math and Science (E-GEMS) enterprise. E-GEMS is an ongoing research project with the ultimate goal of increasing the proportion of children who enjoy learning and using math and science---specifically by engaging children's interest in these subjects through the play of electronic games in the context of existing classroom educational methods. Hence, we also consider some of the implications for educational electronic game design in view of our findings about current commercial electronic games.