Girls who play video games are three times more likely to study STEM than non-gamers

Girls who play video games are three times more likely to study STEM than non-gamers

I played a lot of video games when I was a teenager. I have fond memories of hours dedicated to the pixelated missions of the likes of Zelda and Mario Bros on my family’s Nintendo Entertainment System. I later went on to study physics and then engineering at university.

Is there a connection between my degrees and my love of video games? That’s the question I wanted to answer with my recent research. I found that girls who were heavy video game players were over three times more likely to take a physical science, technology, engineering or maths (PSTEM) undergraduate degree than non-gamers.

This suggests that identifying and encouraging young women gamers could help get more of them studying these subjects at university.

This would be practical way to start addressing the gender imbalance and shortage of qualified people in sectors that rely on PSTEM expertise. Having said that, in the long term we should be looking for ways to encourage more girls to study these subjects regardless of their other interests.

For my research, I examined data from the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE), which followed a group of teenagers from 2004 until 2016 when most had turned 25.

I looked at the records of 3,500 girls in the study to determine whether their level of interest in video games when they were 13 or 14 had any relationship with the degree subject they later studied.

Girls who played over nine hours of video games a week were 3.3 times more likely to study PSTEM. This was the case even after accounting for their socio-economic background, their ethnicity, past performance and how good at their chosen subject they felt they were. Video game-playing boys, meanwhile, were only 1.5 times as likely to take up a PSTEM degree.