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Study: Girls made more complex games than boys, liked dev less

Students in UK schools were tasked with using visual scripting to create games in the Neverwinter Nights 2 engine -- to help teach them computational thinking.

Christian Nutt, Contributor

December 1, 2014

2 Min Read

In a new study published in the journal Computers & Education, researchers share results showing girls created more complex games than boys when given the chance -- but were discouraged from pursuing studies in computer science after the experience. The researchers presented three classes of 12-13 year olds (comprising 29 girls and 26 boys, for a total of 55 students) in the UK with a visual scripting language called Flip, which sits atop the Neverwinter Nights 2 engine. The results show that girls made more complicated, narrative-driven games than the boys overall. For example, the chart below, reproduced from the researchers' article on the study (which you can read in full here) shows that girls used more types of "triggers" in their scripting than boys, who mainly relied on the first one they were taught. However, "although girls enjoyed game making, they enjoyed it less than boys, and stated that they were less inclined to study computer science in the future after taking part in a game creation project," the researchers write. The study notes that "girls' attainment in literacy is higher than boys across all stages of the primary and secondary school curriculum," which may have lead them to push for more complex narrative structures. The study, in part, aimed to figure out better ways to teach students computational thinking -- as computer science is now part of the UK curriculum. Results suggest that the use of visual scripting language and game development both did that. But the study also sought to find out whether there are significant differences in the way the genders tackle the subject, because of the "persistent concerns about the underrepresentation of women in computing fields," in the authors' words. The full article can be read here, and it's interesting and information-filled.

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