The Civic Potential of Video Games

Chris Evans, Joseph Kahne, Ellen Middaugh

September 2008, 53 pages. John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, 140 S. Dearborn St, Chicago, IL, 60603, 312-726-800,

The authors of this report are members of the Civil Engagement Research Group (CERG), a research organization based in Oakland, California that conducts quantitative and qualitative research on youth civic engagement. Additional to firsthand data and analysis, CERG drew from the 2008 Pew Gaming and Civic Engagement Survey, a national survey of youth and their experiences with video games done in partnership with Amanda Lenhart at the Pew Internet and American Life Project, with funding from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

In an attempt to better leverage the civic potential of video games, the CERG team members summarize research on the number of teens who regularly play video games (about 75%) and the number who are civically engaged according to a set of behaviors identified as "democratic" (42%#37;). They then identify game-related activities that are "democratic" according to the same standards. The authors also discuss how parents, educators, policymakers, and advocates might better use games to provide civic gaming experiences, and conclude by outlining avenues for future research on the civic potential of video games.

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