If you’re trying to encourage your daughter to study in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering or Math then you’re going to want to make sure that she plays video games. Why exactly? Research suggests a strong correlation between girls who are heavy gamers and the likelihood that these girls will go on to pursue STEM degrees. Anesa Hosein at the University of Surrey wrote a paper for Computers in Human Behavior that looked at survey results from 481 females and 333 males concluding that girls between the ages of 13-14 who played more than nine hours of video games a week were more likely to pursue a STEM degree. This pattern did not hold true for young boys.
The data that formed this analysis came from two different datasets. The first set was the Net Generation dataset, which contains information on students in their first year of university life. The other data set is called LSYPE or the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England.LSYPE was administered in seven different waves to British youth between the ages of 13-14 and 19-20. Both data sets contained information on video game usage and which games they are playing.
Is this stereotypical? Maybe not. The more a girl plays games, the more likely it will be a positive factor in encouraging them to pursue a STEM degree. Further research suggests that those who are heavy gamers and pursue STEM degrees are less likely to give up their gaming habits. Do the types of games factor into this? Female gamers were more likely to pursue a STEM degree compared to boys regardless of which type of game they preferred to play—action, MMORPG, puzzle, or platform. These all carried the same impact for eventual STEM students.
Now let’s explore the possibility that this is stereotypical. Not all girls who play video games want to study STEM. And not all girls that go onto study STEM will play video games. I probably fall into that first category. Maybe I didn’t play enough games throughout my life, but I did play them and didn’t end up studying STEM. Which is why the researchers suggest that a “balanced but cautious approach needs to be taken that inspires those girls who are already gamers without alienating those who are not”. But I think it also has to be seen on the flip side. Just because a girl is into video games, doesn’t mean that she has to study STEM.
Should parents be encouraging more gameplay in their children? The research suggests that future studies should be conducted to examine gaming intensity between the ages of 15-16 and 19-20. They also recommend that this research understand why people are playing less. For example – are they studying for exams? I think this is a slippery slope though. Are we pushing young women into video games in the hopes that they will study STEM? Or are we pushing young women who want to study STEM into playing video games? I’m not saying that either is true, but with any study, I think we need to take these kinds of things into consideration. If a young woman wants to play video games and study art, or writing, we should let her do that without pushing our own biases onto that. The same can be said for wanting to study STEM. Everyone should be able to pursue whatever field of study that they want – regardless of what the data suggests.