Menus Subscribe Search

Findings

madden-nfl-15

Madden NFL 15. (Photo: EA Sports)

The Positive Effects of Sports-Themed Video Games

• August 19, 2014 • 4:00 AM

Madden NFL 15. (Photo: EA Sports)

New research finds sports-themed video games actually encourage some kids to get onto the field.

It’s widely believed that video games are partially responsible for the childhood obesity epidemic, since they encourage kids to sit in front of screens rather than go outside and play. If that’s your worry, you might want to … buy your kid a new video game.

Just make sure its title contains the acronym NFL, NBA, or MLB.

Newly published research suggests adolescents who play more sports-themed video games are more likely to get involved in real-life sports activities over time.

What’s more, playing these games appears to enhance kids’ self-esteem by allowing them to develop and master sports-related skills and knowledge.

“This finding suggests that sports video games may provide a safe environment for adolescents to develop sport-related skills and knowledge, and experience the thrill of victory.”

Brock University psychologists Paul Adachi and Teena Willoughby followed 1,492 students from eight Ontario, Canada, high schools for four years, from grade nine to 12. As part of a larger annual survey, they were asked how often they had played organized sports during the past month.

Their self-esteem levels were measured through a questionnaire given during ninth and 10th grades. On the 11th- and 12th-grade surveys, they were asked how frequently they played sports video games.

“We found support for a long-term, bidirectional association between sports video game play and involvement in sports,” the researchers report in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture.

Not surprisingly, they discovered adolescents who played sports more frequently were also more likely to play sports-themed video games. More importantly, they also found “sports video game play predicted greater involvement in sports over time.”

In other words, playing sports-themed games actually encouraged some kids to turn off their computers and get onto the playing field. But precisely what inspired them to suit up?

At least part of the answer, it appears, is “confidence.” The researchers found that “playing sports video games predicted higher self-esteem, and in turn, self-esteem predicted greater involvement in (actual physical) sports.”

“This finding suggests that sports video games may provide a safe environment for adolescents to develop sport-related skills and knowledge, and experience the thrill of victory, which over time may enhance their self-esteem, and, in turn, encourage them to participate in real-life sports,” Adachi and Willoughby conclude.

We’ve long known that sports can help youngsters develop useful habits by linking hard work with the rewards that come with victory. This research suggests that, for kids too shy or uncertain to learn the basics of a sport in front of their peers, the video-game console can serve as a safe space to develop their abilities and self-confidence.

Tom Jacobs
Staff writer Tom Jacobs is a veteran journalist with more than 20 years experience at daily newspapers. He has served as a staff writer for The Los Angeles Daily News and the Santa Barbara News-Press. His work has also appeared in The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and Ventura County Star.

More From Tom Jacobs

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

September 19 • 4:00 PM

In Your Own Words: What It’s Like to Get Sued Over Past Debts

Some describe their surprise when they were sued after falling behind on medical and credit card bills.



September 19 • 1:26 PM

For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won’t change minds.


September 19 • 12:00 PM

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.


September 19 • 10:00 AM

Why the Poor Remain Poor

A follow-up to “How Being Poor Makes You Poor.”


September 19 • 9:03 AM

Why Science Won’t Defeat Ebola

While science will certainly help, winning the battle against Ebola is a social challenge.


September 19 • 8:00 AM

Burrito Treason in the Lone Star State

Did Meatless Mondays bring down Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples?


September 19 • 7:31 AM

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.


September 19 • 6:00 AM

The Most Untouchable Man in Sports

How the head of the governing body for the world’s most popular sport freely wields his wildly incompetent power.


September 19 • 4:00 AM

The Danger of Dining With an Overweight Companion

There’s a good chance you’ll eat more unhealthy food.



September 18 • 4:00 PM

Racial Disparity in Imprisonment Inspires White People to Be Even More Tough on Crime

White Americans are more comfortable with punitive and harsh policing and sentencing when they imagine that the people being policed and put in prison are black.



September 18 • 2:00 PM

The Wages of Millions Are Being Seized to Pay Past Debts

A new study provides the first-ever tally of how many employees lose up to a quarter of their paychecks over debts like unpaid credit card or medical bills and student loans.


September 18 • 12:00 PM

When Counterfeit and Contaminated Drugs Are Deadly

The cost and the crackdown, worldwide.


September 18 • 10:00 AM

How Do You Make a Living, Molly Crabapple?

Noah Davis talks to Molly Crapabble about Michelangelo, the Medicis, and the tension between making art and making money.


September 18 • 9:00 AM

Um, Why Are These Professors Creeping on My Facebook Page?

The ethics of student-teacher “intimacy”—on campus and on social media.


September 18 • 8:00 AM

Welcome to the Economy Economy

With the recent introduction of Apple Pay, the Silicon Valley giant is promising to remake how we interact with money. Could iCoin be next?



September 18 • 6:09 AM

How to Build a Better Election

Elimination-style voting is harder to fiddle with than majority rule.


September 18 • 6:00 AM

Homeless on Purpose

The latest entry in a series of interviews about subculture in America.


September 18 • 4:00 AM

Why Original Artworks Move Us More Than Reproductions

Researchers present evidence that hand-created artworks convey an almost magical sense of the artist’s essence.


September 17 • 4:00 PM

Why Gun Control Groups Have Moved Away From an Assault Weapons Ban

A decade after the ban expired, gun control groups say that focusing on other policies will save more American lives.


September 17 • 2:00 PM

Can You Make Two People Like Each Other Just By Telling Them That They Should?

OKCupid manipulates user data in an attempt to find out.


September 17 • 12:00 PM

Understanding ISIL Messaging Through Behavioral Science

By generating propaganda that taps into individuals’ emotional and cognitive states, ISIL is better able motivate people to join their jihad.


Follow us


For Charitable Products, Sex Doesn’t Sell

Sexy women may turn heads, but for pro-social and charitable products, they won't change minds.

Carbon Taxes Really Do Work

A new study shows that taxing carbon dioxide emissions could actually work to reduce greenhouse gases without any negative effects on employment and revenues.

Savor Good Times, Get Through the Bad Ones—With Categories

Ticking off a category of things to do can feel like progress or a fun time coming to an end.

How to Build a Better Election

Elimination-style voting is harder to fiddle with than majority rule.

Do Conspiracy Theorists Feed on Unsuspecting Internet Trolls?

Not literally, but debunkers and satirists do fuel conspiracy theorists' appetites.

The Big One

One in three drivers in Brooklyn's Park Slope—at certain times of day—is just looking for parking. The same goes for drivers in Manhattan's SoHo. September/October 2014 new-big-one-3

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.