Video Game Playing and Academic Performance in College Students

Article excerpt

The relations between media consumption, especially TV viewing, and school performance have been extensively examined. However, even though video game playing may have replaced TV viewing as the most frequent form of media usage, relatively little research has examined its relations to school performance, especially in older students. We surveyed 671 college students concerning their history of video game usage and school performance. In general, video game players had lower GPAs, but this finding varied by gender. Video game players also reported a greater likelihood of playing video games to avoid doing homework. There were consistent negative associations between liking to play violent video games and school performance.

Introduction

The popularity of video games has grown tremendously over the past 20 years. Video games now rival television and film as entertainment media for leisure time use. Contemporary youth report watching between 2 and 3 hours of TV per day and playing video games between 23 and 60 minutes per day (Marshall, Gorely, & Biddle, 2006). Eight-one percent of American youth report playing at least once per month and about 9% of 8-18 year olds can be considered pathological users (Gentile, 2009). Fewer studies have addressed adult playing time, but 49% of gamers are between 18-49 years old and the average game player age is 34 (Entertainment Software Association [ESA], 2010). Overall, approximately 81% of 18-29 year olds play video games (Lenhart, Jones, & MacGill, 2008).

Video game research has primarily focused on the relations between aggression and video game use. Video game playing has been associated with increases in aggressive behavior and decreases in prosocial behavior (Anderson, 2004; Gentile & Anderson, 2003). Relatively little research has examined the relationship between video game use and other behaviors like school performance. Before TV viewing and other forms of media became mainstream forms of entertainment, educators and parents expressed concern that this entertainment might begin to compete for academic time and eventually decrease school performance (Gentile & Anderson, 2003; Shin, 2004). As video games become more prevalent, concerns are also being expressed about potential detrimental relationships between video game play and school performance.

This concern is proving to be particularly interesting due to the attributes of video games that make them unique. For example, the effects of video game playing could be greater than for other types of media because of the interactive demands of playing the video game. Students may report being able to study while watching TV, whereas playing a video game may require more focused attention. Video games also incorporate basic learning principles and instructional techniques such as actively reinforcing behaviors and an adaptable level of difficulty that make them more appealing (Swing, Gentile, & Anderson, 2009).

The relation between media consumption and school performance is complex. There are many different types of media, (e.g., television, music, video games, internet, magazines) with some having demonstrated educational value (Din & Calao, 2001). TV has received the most research attention. Children that view programs that focus on educational content, such as Sesame Street, typically display more advanced language skills than their peers (Wright, Huston, Murphy, St. Peters, Pinon, Scantlin, & Kotler, 2001). This is especially true of children from disadvantaged homes. However, TV viewing in general is associated with lower levels of doing homework, studying, and leisure reading (Shin, 2004). Studies examining the effects of video games have also yielded mixed outcomes. For example, video game playing and computer use have been associated with higher levels of spatial skills, (Reisenhuber, 2004; Terlecki & Newcombe, 2005) but overall poorer performance in school (Roberts, Foehr, Rideout, & Brodie, 1999). …