Luring Women Into Computer Science Through Gaming

Computer science needs more women, and video game development could be the key to making that dream come true. A recent study finds that teenage girls take to game creation just as readily as teenage boys.

The impetus behind the study recently jointly conducted by the University of Alberta's Faculty of Education and the Department of Computing Science is getting more women involved in the sweet science of computing. There's a male dominance in the field that doesn't seem fair, especially in light of the study's findings.

Or maybe they just want to increase the female to male ratio at university computer science parties. Either way the goal is noble.

Computer science professor Duane Szafron and researchers Mike Carbonaro, Jonathan Schaeffer and Maria Cutumisu believe they've found a new way to lure impressionable young women into the computer science lab: Video games.

The group's research involved giving a group of grade 10 students a program called ScriptEase that would allow them to easily create their own video games. The group consisted of teenage boys that were quite familiar with video games, and girls that were not.

Szafron explains the reasoning behind this little experiment.

"We thought we should have female students create games and see if they are just as excited about making games as male students and see whether it's an attractor to computing science that is independent of gender."

To make a long story short, girls took to creating their own games just as readily as the boys did. The female students preferred the actual act of constructing games to less technology intensive tasks like writing stories, and while they were creating these games they were also learning key components of computer science, which was the whole point of the experiment in the first place.

"The female students built games that were every bit as good as the male students made, even though the male students had more experience with playing games," said Szafron. "In terms of the quality of the games developed and the abstraction skills that the students learned, which could translate to knowledge of competing science — and in terms of the amount of fun that they had — there was no difference between the two groups."

What can we take away from this study, other than the fact that scientists believe they are video game reviewers now? Women are just as keen on programming and computer science as men are. They just need to be shown the way.

"If you want more females in computing science, you need to radically change the curriculum. You need to provide activities that are more gender neutral so that they'll be attracted to the discipline."

Girls' Interest in Computing Science Piqued by Making Video Games [ScienceDaily]
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