TECH

Girls 'Better At Making Story-Based Video Games Than Boys' Study Reports

28/11/2014 14:48 GMT | Updated 28/11/2014 15:59 GMT
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Teenage girls are better at making video games than boys -- as long as teaching methods are designed to harness their strengths, the University of Sussex has reported.

The university tasked groups of 12- and 13-year-old boys and girls with designing and building their own game using a 'narrative' coding language.

While the engine was based on Neverwinter Nights 2, the programming was carried out using the university's own Flip language - which allows non-programmers to script events with easy 'blocks'.

flip

By linking blocks together, a user can tell the game to print text, change elements of gameplay and start new missions when different events occur - like the slaying of a dragon.

Dr Kate Howland and Dr Judith Good at the Informatics department then looked at the differences in approach between boys and girls.

Their results (which can be read in full here, if you have a subscription) clearly show that the girls build more complex programs and scripting events than the boys.

The study, published in January 2015's Computers & Education journal, says that the girls used an average of seven different triggers -- twice as many as the boys -- and were better at creating 'complex' scripts with two or more conditional clauses.

Boys, by contrast, "nearly always" chose to trigger scripts based on speech.

However, the researchers said that the study does not prove girls are inherently better at making games, but that they respond to a more narrative, language-based teaching approach.

In general girls outperform boys in literacy and English language. By re-orienting traditionally 'technical' computing classes in this direction, they were able to up-end bias and ensure girls performed to a higher standard.

Dr Howland and Dr Good created Flip to do exactly that.

Dr Good said: "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.

"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."