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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Erica Scharrer

Second Advisor

Michael Morgan

Third Advisor

Seth Goldman

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Keller

Subject Categories

Mass Communication


Military themed games have been broadly critiqued as ideological vehicles that support western military institutions and militaristic attitudes. At the heart of these critiques is a concern for the potential influence these games may have on their audience, yet little empirical evidence exists to either support or refute that concern. Using cultivation theory as a general framework, this study investigates whether associations between playing military themed video games and military-related thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes can be found in an online, national survey of 410 young adult men. Consistent with cultivation theory’s predictions, significant associations between the use of military themed video games and second-order cultivation effects were found, including militaristic attitudes, Islamophobia, and the perceived likelihood of a terrorist attack. Moreover, military themed games were a stronger predictor of such effects than general measures of gameplay, which predicted a participant’s propensity to enlist in the military. However, this study failed to find evidence of first-order effects, nor did it find that trait transportability or the perceived realism of military games were meaningful moderators of second-order effects, as predicted by cognitive models of cultivation theory. These results highlight the potential problematic relationship between military games and their players, but cast some concerns as to the fitness of cultivation theory as the ideal framework to fully explore this relationship.


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.