To conduct the study, Haninger and Thompson selected a random sample of 81 video games from the 396 T-rated video game titles released for play on the major video game consoles in the United States by April 1, 2001. An independent game player videotaped at least one hour of game play for each game, which the study authors coded for depictions of violence, blood, sexual themes, gambling, and alcohol, tobacco, or other drug use; whether killing or injuring characters is rewarded or is required to advance in the game; characterization of sex associated with sexual themes; and use of profanity in dialogue, lyrics or gestures.
Haninger and Thompson found that 79 of the 81 games (98 percent) contained violence for an average of 36 percent of game play, with 77 games (95 percent) receiving content descriptors for violence. Notably, the study found that 90 percent of games rewarded or required the player to injure characters, and 69 percent of the games rewarded or required the player to kill. Other findings show content in more games than expected based on the ESRB content descriptors, including the observation of blood in 42 percent of games (with 27 percent receiving content descriptors for blood), the depiction of sexual themes in 27 percent of games (with 20 percent receiving content descriptors for sexual themes), the use of profanity in 27 percent of games (with 17 percent receiving content descriptors for profanity), the depiction or use of substances in 15 percent (with only 1 percent receiving a content descriptor for substances), and the observation of the player character gambling in one game (with no games receiving content descriptors for gambling). The authors found that video games were significantly more likely to depict females partially nude or engaged in sexual behaviors than males.