Video Games as a Multifaceted Medium: A Review of Quantitative Social Science Research on Video Games and a Typology of Video Game Research Approaches
Although there is a vast and useful body of quantitative social science research dealing with the social role and impact of video games, it is difficult to compare studies dealing with various dimensions of video games because they are informed by different perspectives and assumptions, employ different methodologies, and address different problems. Studies focusing on different social dimensions of video 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 comprehensive view of video games’ social role across topic areas difficult. This interpretive review presents a novel typology of four identified approaches that categorize much of the quantitative social science video game research conducted to date: “video games as stimulus,” “video games as avocation,” “video games as skill,” and “video games as social environment.” This typology is useful because it provides an organizational structure within which the large and growing number of studies on video games can be categorized, guiding comparisons between studies on different research topics and aiding a more comprehensive understanding of video games’ social role. Categorizing the different approaches to video game research provides a useful heuristic for those critiquing and expanding that research, 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 different approaches than usual to shed new light on the topic areas. Lastly, the typology exposes the conceptual disconnects between the different approaches to video game research, allowing researchers to consider new ways to bridge gaps between the different approaches’ strengths and limitations with novel methods.