Games for Learning: Does Gender Make a Difference?

Games for Learning: Does Gender Make a Difference?

Elizabeth A. Boyle, Thomas Connolly
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-360-9.ch017
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Developing educational computer games that will appeal to both males and females adds an additional level of complexity to an already complicated process. Schools and universities need to be inclusive and new learning methods and materials should aim to be gender neutral. Traditional computer games are more popular with males than females, although the use of some simple guidelines in developing games for learning should reduce this preference. However females have a more careful and committed approach to learning and may be more willing to try out new methods of learning including computer games. These opposing influences make it difficult to predict how gender will impact on the acceptance of games for learning. There is some evidence that both males and females enjoy the kinds of games that have most potential for learning. The impact of new computer games for learning needs to be evaluated to ensure that they facilitate learning without disadvantaging one gender over the other.
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Previous Research

Table 1 summarizes some of the findings of the literature on gender differences in playing computer games for leisure in terms of patterns of play, characteristics of games and reasons for playing.

Table 1.
Summary of gender differences in playing computer games for leisure: patterns of play, characteristics of games and reasons for playing
Amount of play and patterns of play
Males are much more enthusiastic players of computer games for leisure than females Gorriz & Medina (2002)
Connolly et al (2007)
More males than females play games for leisure Connolly et al (2007)
Males play for significantly longer periods of time per week than females Connolly et al (2007)
Hartmann and Klimmt (2006)
More males than females play for extended period of time Connolly et al (2007)
Males have higher IT skill levels and are more confident users of computers generally Lee (2003)
Males have better computer skills and more positive attitudes to computersBonnano & Kommers (2008)
Males are more interested in IT and computer science than females Pinker (2008)
Characteristics of games
Males prefer games with violent content, such as shoot-em-ups Connolly et al (2007)
Females prefer puzzle type gamesBonnano & Kommers (2005)
Females prefer board games, quizzes, puzzles and card/dice games Lucas and Sherry (2004)
Females prefer educational gamesGorriz & Medina (2000)
Female characters are under-represented in games Dietz (1998)
Representation of female sexuality in game characters is highly exaggerated Beasley & Standley (2002)
Males are better than females at the spatial awareness and visualisation skills that underlie many games Halpern (1992); Subrahmanyam & Greenfield (1994)
Reasons for playing games
Males give higher ratings to challenge as a reason for playing games than females Lucas and Sherry (2004)
Connolly et al (2007)
Males more likely than females to use games to increase physiological and emotional arousal and excitement Anderson and Bushman (2001)
Jansz (2005)
Games with a competitive structure appeal more to males than to females Hartmann and Klimmt (2006)
Connolly et al (2007)
Males are more likely to use computer games to socialise with their friends Lucas and Sherry (2004)
Females rate social interaction between characters in games as important Hartmann and Klimmt (2006)

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