How Game-Savvy are our Students?

Our students are playing video games.

A lot of video games, in fact.

According to a Pew study of 2008 data, 97% of American 12-17 year-olds play digital games on a computer, console, or mobile device. That’s 99% of boys, and 94% of girls.

pew games study finding: 97% of teens play digital gamesThe Pew study involved over a thousand kids aged 12 to 17. While the 97% statistic may not come as a surprise, the study abounds in interesting, less-expected findings and I recommend reading the whole report. That said, a few points stood out in particular. If you’re considering using digital games in your program, you’ll want to get to know this data. Margin of error for these data points is +/- 3%.

  • All of your students play, regardless of where you teach.
    When Pew asked kids, “Did you play a game yesterday?” the answers looked like this – regardless of race, ethnicity, or family income.
    pie chart teens who played games yesterday
  • The majority of teens – 60% — own 3 or 4 gaming devices. Only 14% own no devices, or just one. But their device use does vary by gender: boys are much more likely to play on a console (96% v. 76% of girls), and less likely to play on a phone (43% v. 53%). Note that both boys and girls are still more likely to play games on a console than on a phone. When it comes to computers, though, the gender difference disappears: boys and girls are equally likely to play games on a computer (74% v 73%).
  • Teens are omnivorous gamers. Eighty percent of them play games from five or more different genres, and 40% play eight or more genres. That means even the most dedicated Halo players are extremely likely to also play many other kinds of games — probably Guitar Hero, for one, which was the number one most-mentioned game title among teens polled. And although Halo is also one of the most popular titles, first-person shooters only barely make the top 10 preferred genres. Here’s the list, straight from the study:

Game Genres in Order of PopularityWhat can we take away from this study about using digital games with our students? I see two principal lessons here: (1) we can expect all our students to have some literacy with digital games — regardless of their families’ socioeconomic position; (2) our students are playing to stereotypes — boys love Halo, girls play more “casual” mobile games — but they’re also playing outside them, regularly enjoying a wider variety of games than we might expect. Not only can we ask them to accept a wider variety of digital learning games, but we should do so, taking advantage of different genres’ various strengths and suitabilities.

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