Girls are better game designers than boys – study

28 Nov 2014

A new study involving boys and girls between the ages of 12 and 14 has shown that, on average, the girls outperformed the boys in creating more complex and creative games.

The findings were part of an eight-week survey undertaken by the University of Sussex as part of the university’s informatics department who asked the secondary school students to create games using a new visual programming language that can show the pupils what they have created in plain English.

Led by Dr Kate Howland and Dr Judith Good, the two genders’ projects were compared side-by-side, with the results suggesting that girls are more likely to be motivated to explore programming and create rich gameplay experiences by building on their skills in literacy and storytelling.

The researchers were able to determine the complexity of the games by the amount of ‘triggers’ placed into their games, such as when a character is killed or an object moves to another part of the screen.

Creating more complex games

In many cases, the games the girls had created had twice as many of these triggers than the boys and were much more successful at creating complex scripts with two or more parts and conditional clauses.

The boys in this study nearly always chose to trigger their scripts on when a character says something, which is the first and therefore considered the easiest trigger to learn.

Publishing the results in the journal Computers & Education, Howland and Good had developed the program called ‘Flip’ in a bid to ease the somewhat daunting prospect of coding for young people who would have no prior knowledge or experience in coding.

Good attributes the survey’s findings to the different rates of literacy among boys and girls, “Given that girls’ attainment in literacy is higher than boys across all stages of the primary and secondary school curriculum, it may be that explicitly tying programming to an activity that they tend to do well in leads to a commensurate gain in their programming skills.”

Kids on laptops illustration via Shutterstock

Women Invent Tomorrow is Silicon Republic’s campaign to champion the role of women in science, technology, engineering and maths. It has been running since March 2013, and is kindly supported by Accenture Ireland, Intel, the Irish Research Council, ESB, Twitter, CoderDojo and Science Foundation Ireland.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic