This is something that I didn’t think I’d see come out – a study (Gaming, Gender, and Time: Who Makes Time to Play? Jillian Winn & Carrie Heeter – Sex Roles (2009) 61:1–13 DOI 10.1007/s11199-009-9595-7) that links the lack of time spent gaming with a lack in leisure time. Whoa… I gotta sit down. But all joking aside, it does look at some interesting gender differences.
The study also suggests that a lack of interest in gaming could also impact the number of women going into technology related fields:
Girls’ lack of interest in gaming has the potential to widen the gender gap in gaming and occupations in game development, computing, and technology. Playing games can increase technical and computer skills, plus self efficacy in these areas…
Additionally, more and more learning games are entering the classroom as alternative teaching tools, which are thought to be more “fun” and interactive than traditional instruction. If girls are less engaged by games than boys, they may miss out on opportunities in the classroom, workplace, and even society as games grow to be a part of our culture. It’s time girls got into the game.
Some might think, wait, but girls/women are into casual games as well – aren’t they massive time sinks?
Casual online games are playable in small chunks of time, as little as 5 to 10 min. According to the IGDA Casual Games White Paper, market research shows the majority of the casual online game audience today is women 30–45 years old (IGDA 2006). Popcap Games (Information Solutions Group 2006) reports that over 76% of its players are female, and 89% of its players are 30 or older. Females spend more time on average playing online casual games (9.1 h per week) than do males (6.1 h per week). Although combining across game genres, men spend more time playing than women do (IGDA 2006). Looking across studies, gaming behaviors are strongly related to both age and gender, although this relationship has not been systematically examined. What is it about casual games that are especially attractive to older women, who could not have grown up playing digital games?
Speakers from industry and academia speculate the reason adult women are such avid casual gamers is because women have less available time to spend playing games and thus can best play in small chunks (Beyond Barbie Workshop 2006; Girls ‘n’ Games Conference 2006). However, this common sense expectation of a relationship between available time and casual game play is conjecture, not confirmed by research. Women 35 and older spend more time playing casual online games than younger women, and than men and boys (Information Solutions Group 2006).
Ok, so we know girls/women are playing differently, but then how do you account for how they use phones and other gadgets seemingly just as often, if not more so than men?
Games have the potential to be highly attractive for women. Genevive Bell, a cultural anthropologist at Intel, observes that women use technology as often as men, but in different ways. “Women tend to use technology in ways that make busy days more manageable, which is why cell phones, laptops and wireless Internet access are popular” (Sidener 2005, Time Management section, 1). The availability of laptops and faxes increases the ease of mixing work and leisure activates (Floro 1999). A study by Apt and Grieco (1998) determined women benefit from distance education, which allows them to have more flexible school schedules. Distance Education worked well for women in particular because lessons could be delivered in components,
accessed remotely, completed incrementally, and available at anytime. These features encouraged time management, allowed tasks to be completed over multiple chunks of time, and provided an influx of flexibility (Apt and Grieco, 1998). The features of distance information technologies that are attractive to women can be used to understand women players’ needs in games. Although some women are satisfied by today’s games, women who are not attracted to typical digital games may prefer games that are designed in component forms and can be played in an incremental manner rather than in a one-time block mode.
So again we see this reference to girls/women (and in this case specifically women) the reference to being able to do things in smaller chunks of time as opposed to one large chunk. It also seems that so far this article, other than talking about gender and gaming wouldn’t be of much interest to those reading an edtech blog right? Well there is one more interesting piece:
A female player who knows she can spend as little as 10, 15, 20, or 30 min can more easily justify spending her time with a game. Quite likely it is useful to be able to know and control exactly when the play session will end, to facilitate time management and to permit temporary concentration on
the gaming experience without the worry of being sure to stop on time. More time in a play session is not better, for the typical adult female player.
If we want to design instruction like we design games, it might do us good to keep thinking about how to ensure that instruction, fits into the lives of students. Women are taking advantge of distance education because it affords them flexibility. This seems to be the same reason why casual games are successful for this demographic.
In the end, this study reminds me that we should really think about how long any given learning task should take and we should try to ensure that those tasks are able to fit into the time slots that are available for our “typical” student. We certainly should no longer think that there are professional students out there who can dedicate 8-12h/day on a single course as being the norm.