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The relation between videogame preferences and career interests

The study examined if there is a relation between video game preferences and career interests.

Wai Yen Tang, Blogger

March 16, 2015

9 Min Read

There was a reddit AMA from someone associated with Kerbal Space Program that female kerbals will be included in the game. It’s quite a pleasant surprise and this relates to issues about how videogames influence youth’s career interests. Kerbal Space Program, Guitar Hero, America’s Army among many others had influences on youth’s career aspirations. Of course, this influence varies and it was not quite clear how big of an influence videogames have on career interests.

I came across a study by Erica Giammarco (University of Western Ontario), Travis Schneider (UWO), Julie Carswell (Research Psychologist Press) and William Knipe (Lucas Secondary School) examined the relation between videogame preferences and career interests.


The current study used an mTURK sample to determine if there is a relation between video game preferences and career interests. Previous research has found that individual (e.g., personality) differences influence gaming preferences (Zammitto, 2001) and we sought to extend these findings to the domain of career interests. In addition, we examined the potential moderating role of gender. Since researchers have found that gender disparities in spatial attention can be reduced by playing certain types of video games (Feng, Spence, & Pratt, 2007), and it has been demonstrated that spatial ability is an important predictor of success in careers where women are typically underrepresented (Blickenstaff, 2005), we predicted that women with a preference for these types of games (versus a general preference) may have more interest in these careers. We found that gaming motivations were differentially associated with career interests. In addition, gender was found to significantly moderate a number of these relations, such that the association between gaming tendencies and career interests was stronger for women than for men. Findings from the current study should help guide future research that aims to increase the representation of women in STEM careers.

This is cross-posted at VG Researcher.

There are gender differences in careers interests in science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM. There is a wikipedia article about women underrepresentation in STEM fields which pretty much reflects the reasoning why the authors conducted this study. The authors focused on two factors women’s interest in STEM careers: ability and interest.

Spatial ability, that is being able to mentally manipulate 2D or 3D objects, is a predictor in succeeding in STEM careers. Prior research found that women scored lower than men on spatial abilities, but with training that gap can be bridged. This bridging can also be accomplished through videogames.

Interest is the second factor in taking STEM majors. People chose what to major, some want to be musicians because of their musical inclinations or some want to be a game designer because of a convergence of their love of programming, gaming and other things that fit. Women tend be interested in interpersonally oriented careers like teaching. Those orientations are at odds with what STEM’s more analytical orientation. Thus, there is a mismatch between what STEM careers demands and what women’s career orientation, in effect this reflects a disproportionate women to men ratio in STEM majors.

The authors noted that since videogames can be a useful training tool for improving spatial abilities. Would videogames also be a potential factor in people’s STEM career aspirations? Videogames are popular among men and women, maybe videogames can act as a gateway? However, it should be noted genres are not equally popularly among men and women, there are proportionally more men than women who regularly play first-person shooters, for example. So, they examined the relationship between vocational interests and videogames motivations.


Participants: 264 survey respondents recruited through mTurk. Average age is 34.10 (SD = 10.48), 128 men and 136 women. Men played on average 13.45 hours per week (SD = 11.37) whereas women played 9.32 hours per week (SD = 11.99).


Vocational interest: a short version of the Jackson Vocational Interest Survey which consisted of 170-items answered on a 5-point Likert scale. These 170 items measures for 34 basic interests: academic achievement, accountability, adventure, authoritarian leadership, author-journalism, business, consulting, creative arts, elementary education, endurance, engineering, family activity, finance, independence, interpersonal confidence, job security, law, life science, mathematics, medical service, mediation persuasion, nature agriculture, office work, organization, performing arts, personal service, physical science, sales, skilled trades, social science, supervising others, teaching, technical writing.

Videogames motivations: The uses and gratifications for videogames from Sherry et al. (2006) 20-items answered on a 5-point agreement scale. The measure assesses for six gratifications: competition (e.g., I get upset when I lose to my friends), challenge (e.g., I play until I complete a level or win in a game), social interaction (e.g., my friends and I use video games as a reason to get together), diversion (e.g., I play video game when I have other things to do), arousal (e.g., video games keep me on the edge of my seat).


The authors presented some descriptive statistics. Women significantly scored lower than men on the videogame gratification scales: Arousal (M women = 3.24 vs. M men = 3.58), Competition (Ms = 2.57 vs. 3.07), Fantasy (Ms = 3.34 vs. 3.68), and social interaction (Ms = 2.74 vs. 3.60).

Predictably, women scored lower than men on STEM-related interests. For example, engineering (Ms = 2.10 vs. 3.08), mathematics (Ms = 2.21 vs. 2.90), physical science (Ms = 2.51 vs. 3.17). Conversely, women scored higher than men on more interpersonal-related interests. For example, social science (Ms = 3.28 vs. 2.99), creative arts (Ms = 3.88 vs.3.01), family activity (Ms = 3.92 vs. 3.41).

The authors analyzed the data through correlations. They correlate videogames gratifications with the 34 basic interests and it’s a big correlation table.

The authors hypothesized that videogame gratifications would correlate with certain similar career interests. Arousal would be positively correlated with adventure and medical services, and negatively correlated with job security and accountability. The results says that only adventure was significantly correlated.

They hypothesized that challenge would be positively correlated with academic achievement and independence. The results says yes they are positively correlated.

They hypothesized that social interaction would be positively correlated with interpersonal confidence and authoritarian leadership and consulting careers. The results says yes they are positively correlated.

They hypothesized that fantasy would be positively correlated with the creative arts. Nope.

The authors forgot to mention about their hypothesis with diversion in their results section. There is a negative correlation with organization, academic achievement, accountability, job security, and endurance.

They hypothesized that competition would be positively correlated with engineering, physical science, mathematics and medical service. Yes, they are. They also happen to be STEM careers as I noticed.

Besides the hypothesized correlations, there are other correlations that are also linked with STEM interests, like engineering’s positive correlations with all of the videogame gratifications, except challenge which is kind of odd. The same for physical science, with challenge and diversion as non-significant correlations. Mathematics is positively correlated with competition and social interaction. In contrast, social science has no correlations with any of the videogame gratifications. The authors did not addressed these correlations.

The authors wondered if there are gender differences in the strength between videogame gratifications and career interests. So, they compared the men and women’s correlations and using Fisher’s Z-statistics test to see if they are statistically different. They presented the results where there are significant differences between the men and women. The results turned out very interesting.

Among the significant correlations between videogame gratifications and careers interests in women, there are no significant correlation for the men. For example, there is a positive correlation between competition and interest in physical science for women, but no such correlation appear for the men. Diversion is positively correlated with mathematics and physical science for women, but not for men.

Hold on a minute, they hypothesized earlier that competition is correlated with physical science and mathematics, but did not predict such relation with diversion. Their results suggest that the correlation between competition and physical science is primarily driven by women. But why is there a positive correlation for diversion? I cannot offer any explanations nor was this discussed at length by the authors.

There are other notable differences between men and women. The correlation between competition and interest in law, consulting, and mediation persuasion is significant for women, but not for men. Interests in sales is positively correlated with arousal and social interaction for women, but not for men. IMO, this is very interesting to see that the relationship between videogame gratifications and career interests is stronger for women than men.


The take home message is that videogame gratifications are associated with different career interests. These gratifications appear stronger for women than men. This is particular for STEM-related interests, such as engineering, physical science and mathematics.

The authors offered a suggestion they learned from this survey. They suggested gamification as a way to increasing women’s interests in STEM careers. In particular, gamifying training regimens to increase women’s spatial abilities that will them succeed in STEM-related courses and jobs.

My take on this study is that they need to go deeper and I am having a difficult time agreeing with their conclusions. First, a correlation does not establish whether gaming led to having an interest in those careers, perhaps those careers led to gaming. Second, they did correlations, which means to examined the relationship of one variable with another independent of other factors. We do not know how the six videogame gratifications together affect interests in a career interest. For example, engineering is significantly correlated with all videogame gratifications, except for challenge. But which of those five gratifications together have the strongest influence? A regression analysis might tell us something. Third, the authors have not examined the possibility that exposure time to videogames could be correlated with career interests. This is important as men play more videogames than women do. Videogame gratifications might be an influence in career interests, but what if some one who likes being competitive in games, but did not play a videogame in months or years? Fourth, we should consider the relative strength of videogame gratifications in relation to other known predictive factors of career interests.


Giammarco, E. A., Schneider, T. J., Carswell, J. J., & Knipe, W. S. (2015). Video game preferences and their relation to career interests. Personality and Individual Differences, 73 , 98-104. DOI:10.1016/j.paid.2014.09.036

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