Girls better than boys at making story-based computer games, study finds

November 28, 2014
Girls better than boys at making story-based computer games, study finds
The pupils made their games using software made available with the popular medieval fantasy game Neverwinter Nights 2

(—Teenage boys are perhaps more known for playing computer games but girls are better at making them, a University of Sussex study has found.

Researchers in the University's Informatics department asked pupils at a to design and program their own using a new visual that shows pupils the computer programs they have written in plain English.

Dr Kate Howland and Dr Judith Good found that the in the classroom wrote more complex programs in their games than the boys and also learnt more about coding compared to the boys.

There are persistent concerns about the underrepresentation of women in computing - only 17% of the UK's computer science graduates in 2012 were female, despite a promising reduction of the gender gap in maths-related subjects at school level.

Some believe that girls are put off in their teenage years by the common portrayal of the 'nerdy boy' in TV and film.

This new study, published in the January 2015 issue of the journal Computers & Education, suggests that girls can be motivated to explore programming and create rich gameplay experiences by building on their skills in literacy and storytelling.

Dr Good says: "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.

Girls better than boys at making story-based computer games, study finds
Flip uses a visual editor and plain English translation to help pupils program their computer games

"In other words, if girls' stories are typically more complex and well developed, then when creating stories in games, their stories will also require more sophisticated programs in order for their games to work."

The young people, aged 12-13, spent eight weeks developing their own 3D, role-playing games, using software made available with the popular medieval fantasy game Neverwinter Nights 2, which is based on the popular Dungeons & Dragons franchise.

Games like these are built on 'scripts', simple programs that describe what happens if or when a particular condition is met – e.g. if the player kills the dragon, a message is displayed on screen. However, many young people with no prior programming experience are daunted by the complexity of the coding languages used to build these scripts.

So, Dr Howland and Dr Good developed a new programming language called Flip that 'scaffolds' pupils as they script events within their game. It uses a simple interface in which users create scripts by connecting graphical blocks together. As well as generating the code to build the game, Flip also translates these scripts into plain English to help pupils understand the scripts they have created.

A range of different events were used by the to trigger their scripts – for example, when a character is killed, or says something, or moves into a particular part of the screen.

The girls used seven different triggers – almost twice as many as the boys – and were much more successful at creating complex scripts with two or more parts and conditional clauses.

Boys nearly always chose to trigger their scripts on when a character says something, which is the first and easiest trigger to learn.

Explore further: Computer games give a boost to English

More information: Learning to communicate computationally with Flip: a bi-modal programming language for game creation is available online now and will be published in print in the January 2015 issue of the journal Computers & Education.

Related Stories

Computer games give a boost to English

August 28, 2014

If you want to make a mark in the world of computer games you had better have a good English vocabulary. It has now also been scientifically proven that someone who is good at computer games has a larger English vocabulary. ...

New push to get girls into computer sciences

June 19, 2014

Google has given The Associated Press an early look at how it's trying to change the gender disparity in its own workforce, and in the pipeline of potential workers, by launching a campaign Thursday called "Made with Code."

Mothers nurture emotions in girls over boys, new study finds

November 12, 2014

A new study published today in The British Journal of Developmental Psychology has found that conversations mothers have with their daughters tend to contain more emotional words and content, than the conversations they have ...

Without women, the computer game boom years may not last

July 9, 2014

An encouraging report by the International Game Developers Association recently found that women now make up 22% of the computer game workforce. This is a massive improvement from the previous figure of just 4% of the UK ...

Video game playing tied to creativity

November 2, 2011

Both boys and girls who play video games tend to be more creative, regardless of whether the games are violent or nonviolent, according to new research by Michigan State University scholars.

Recommended for you

Meet Savannasaurus, Australia's newest titanosaur

October 21, 2016

The outback region around Winton in central Queensland is arguably Australia's ground zero for giant dinosaur fossils. Here, graziers occasionally stumble across petrified bones on their paddocks, amid the stubbly grass and ...

Early fossil fish from China shows where our jaws came from

October 20, 2016

Where did our jaws come from? The question is more complicated than it seems, because not all jaws are the same. In a new article, published in Science, palaeontologists from China and Sweden trace our jaws back to the extinct ...


Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Nov 28, 2014
Boys nearly always chose to trigger their scripts on when a character says something, which is the first and easiest trigger to learn.

It's also the hardest trigger to block. With item placement (or simply character positioning) a player can inadvertently block a positional trigger by an NPC and block continuation of the story. In other contexts such a block can lead to game abuse (tricking AI into suboptimal pathing etc. )

Scripting game stories is hard - players are very creative at trying to subvert such scripts.
Currently games are in dire need of people who can script robust narratives (let alone interesting ones).
2.3 / 5 (3) Nov 28, 2014
The irony here is, female gamers are subject to online abuse and intimidation by their male opponents. Particularly when the female gamers either beat them or, are overall, better players than the male gamers.
3 / 5 (2) Nov 28, 2014
Uh isn't the sample a little narrow? This is like saying that women write better novels than men because a few of them made the best-sellers list this year.

The best games are written by the most talented authors, male or female.
not rated yet Nov 28, 2014
Making a game to behave how the player expects is the main skill. If you play a game and random stuff is happening unexpectedly you would get annoyed specially in an RPG type game.

Perhaps it would be more logical to put "Girls are more unorthodox than boys with story writing in an RPG". And to be honest, that is naturally going to be the case, we know games from the last few decades being the way they are because most of them were made by men given only until recently it has been a male dominated industry, there for we expect a particular thing. We also know girls think differently to boys. So we would see different designs.

The fact that the article claims "better than boys" is just not constructive, nor is it scientific because its subjective. It's also just deliberately trying to create gender divide as usual for no reason.

Also comes to no surprise the two people who came to the conclusion was two female doctors. Clearly feels like they have an agenda.
Nov 28, 2014
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
not rated yet Nov 29, 2014
Gurls and bois have their own strengths and weaknesses. They should work together to create the best games; the gurls could bring the cattiness, spite, and pure downright evil and malevolence to the experience, and the bois the thuggery and violence and ignorance of all finer feelings.
Now that would be some game...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.