Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dropped into Blizzcon

Photo from MaryDang.

I have spent the weekend in Anaheim, California, scoping out the Convention Center for work I'll be doing next summer.

Our site visit put us right in the middle of BlizzCon, the monster World of Warcraft show and convention where enthusiastic gamers congregate. From what I saw, this is a happy, imaginative culture of devoted role-players and slayers of fantasy monsters.

So, being the politico I am, I had to ask myself, do these people vote? Do they interact with the civic culture outside the game universe? I know I don't know.

Thanks to Google, I found what may provide some of the answer. The Pew Research Center released a report last month entitled Teens, Video Games and Civics. FWIW, convening WOW players don't seem to be teens, but maybe the act of going to a convention makes an economic skew toward an older age group. And WOW is not a video game; it is a MMORPG-- massively multi-player online role-playing game. But Pew may provide some pointers to answers to my questions. They surveyed teens, but I would not be surprised if their findings applied to some extent to the older age groups, especially perhaps to folks who might convene together at Blizzcon.

Among teens who play games with others in the room:

  • 65 percent go online to get information about politics, compared to 60 percent of those who do not.
  • 64 percent have raised money for charity, compared to 55 percent of those who do not.
  • 26 percent have tried to persuade others how to vote in an election, compared to 19 percent of those who do not.
  • Teens who take part in social interaction related to the game, such as commenting on websites or contributing to discussion boards, are more engaged civically and politically.
  • Among teens who write or contribute to these game-related websites: 18 percent have protested in the last 12 months, compared to 8 percent of those who play games but do not contribute to online gaming communities.
Fascinating stuff. Apparently, social interaction of any sort increases civic participation measurably. It's worth all this canvassing and talking to each that we politicos do.

Further, if game players become protesters at high rates there is some kind of alienation being expressed. Hard to know what kind -- most of us are alienated in one way or another. But apparently gamers are, relatively, inclined to act on their alienation.

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