The Civic Potential of Video Games


Joseph Kahne, Ellen Middaugh and Chris Evans. 2009. The Civic Potential of Video Games. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning June 2009. Cambridge: MIT Press.

This report draws from the 2008 Pew Teens, Video Games, and Civics 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. That survey led to the report, “Teens, Video Games, and Civics,” which examines the nature of young people’s video game play as well as the context and mechanics of their play. In addition to examining the relationship between gaming and youth civic engagement, “Teens, Video Games, and Civics” also provides a benchmark for video and online gaming among young people on a national level and the first broad, impartial look at the size and scope of young people’s general gaming habits. 


This current report, The Civic Potential of Video Games, focuses solely on the civic dimensions of video game play among youth. Although it shares some text and findings with the “Teens, Video Games, and Civics” report, it provides a more detailed discussion of the relevant research on civics and gaming. In addition, this report discusses the policy and research implications of these findings for those interested in better understanding and promoting civic engagement through video games. The interpretation of data and the discussion of implications reflect only the authors’ perspectives. The Pew Internet Project and the MacArthur Foundation are nonpartisan and take no position for or against any technology-related policy proposals, technologies, organizations, or individuals and do not take a position on any of the proposals suggested here.

Joseph Kahne, Ellen Middaugh and Chris Evans
Publication Date
Tuesday, June 30, 2009