Computer gamers and university

Interesting article in the guardian yesterday (via @mikedicks) discussing research that computer gamers are less likely to go to university.

This research tracked 17,000 born in 1970 and looked at their likelihood of going on to get a degree, finding that while reading significantly increased chances, playing computer games – as a sole recreational activity – decreased them. The article does discuss some of the limitations of the research, that the nature of computer games (and – I might add – universities) has changed fundamentally since the 1980s, and that it doesn’t prove any causal link between reading/gaming and likelihood to go to university (albeit as an aside in the very last sentence of the article).

However, I think a key point is glossed over. The study looked at people who were “playing computer games regularly and doing no other activities”. Surely this is an issue of single-focus rather than one of computer games per sae? I would argue that doing any activity to the exclusion of others is likely to have detrimental affects. Somehow it’s computer games get singled out as the problem.


  1. Mathias Poulsen

    Hi Nicola,

    Just read the article, and share your skepticism.

    Looking at the current state of higher ed, though, the conclusions doesn’t really surprise me – despite the potential flaws of the study.

    Study says nothing about the intelligence or competence of “players” as compared to “readers”; if anything, I see it illustrating the inherent narrow academic prioritization of writing over any other mode of communication.

    Should I extrapolate and draw some relatively loose conclusions (and perhaps even be a bit rude towards higher education), I would say that the study shows a somewhat conservative approach to teaching and learning in universities – perhaps in combination with a widespread perception of this situation in the general public.

    If universities are – or are believed to be – only relevant for those primarily considering themselves “readers”, where does that leave those who do not?

    Are universities too narrowly focused on the written word & “traditional” ways of teaching and learning, excluding those who prefer other approaches?

  2. nicola (Post author)

    Hi Mathias

    I agree with your point. It would have been interesting if the study had looked at other areas of achievement (other than ‘attending HE’ and ‘money’) and would have perhaps provided a more balanced viewpoint.


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