The Job Market Needs More Women Gamers

Study with all-female players shows video games improve important cognitive skills


Who wants to be the next Starbuck?
Starcraft 2 screenshot

It may be an unusual take-away from the latest study that shows how playing video games improve cognitive skills, but the difficulties researchers had putting this one together send an unexpected message: More women should be playing video games. Their career trajectories may thank them for it.

Where am I getting this crazy theory? The Wall Street Journal has the basics:

Playing StarCraft can boost problem solving and creative thinking, according to a new study by researchers at Queen Mary University of London and University College London. Researchers found that those who engaged in the real-time military strategy game improved their "cognitive flexibility," or the ability to adjust their thinking to meet different situations.

The participant pool was composed entirely of 72 female students at the University of Texas at Austin, because researchers were unable to find male participants who played computer games for less than two hours a day.

Yes, that's right. They could not find any college-aged men who barely played video games. [Update: Eugene Volokh politely informed me that the Wall Street Journal misread the initial study (which I stupidly didn't check). It's actually guys who played less than two hours of video games per week, not per day.] They split the women into groups, having some play StarCraft, a very complex, challenging, real-time strategy, sci-fi, combat game, and others play The Sims, which is a game about playing house (I'm not judging; I have both games):

Researchers found that in subsequent psychological tests, volunteers who played the most complex version of StarCraft were the quickest and most accurate in their responses. ….

In testing, participants were evaluated on a number of tasks including memory tests, visual search, and information filtering. The research team concluded that cognitive flexibility can be learned through games that emphasize quick and concurrent management of different types of information.

Authors say the research is the first to link real-time strategy games with cognitive flexibility, which measures a person's ability to switch between tasks and use multiple concepts and ideas to solve problems.

Such skills translate into the workplace, undoubtedly in leadership positions in jobs where quick decision-making is necessary.

Women are playing video games more than ever. They make up about 47 percent of the game market, according to recent industry statistics (pdf).  But given the incredibly lop-sided pool the colleges brought together for the StarCraft study, clearly many women aren't as involved in the same type of video-gaming as men. More should give these strategy games a try.

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  1. Yeah, sure we do. Just like we need more women drivers.

    Why do you hate the gamers, Reason? You want us all to play games where fuzzy little rainbow colored talking bears make all nicey with each other and the children?

    /why there are no Libertarian women.

    1. Assuming not sarcastic, then you've never heard of Ashly Burch

      1. Yes he has, since he plays Borderlands and Burch does the voice of Tiny Tina.

        1. I didn't see that post when I made my reply. I was reasonably sure he was sarcastic.

          Though it is Borderlands 2 she's in...

          1. I own Borderlands 2, but I've never played it, yet. I bought it for like $13 when Steam was having that big sale.

        2. Epi, for $15, you should buy Gunslinger, I am telling you that is one of the most bad ass FPS ever. My only disappointment is the lack of weaponry and loot, it's not much in that regards, but the atmosphere makes up for it. I still think of it as a western Borderlands, without all the weapon variations. But, you will love it.

          And to Brendan, yes, I was being sarcastic.

          1. Yeah, but the weapon variations are what I like the most.

            With another DLC coming out in October, I will still be all B2 for now, seeing as I only get a few hours a week to play, and I haven't even quite finished the Tiny Tina DLC and certainly not my second playthrough.

            I did roll right through Dragon Keep itself yesterday, though. Just kept switching to my corrosive plasma caster for the knights and my incendiary plasma caster for the orcs. Combined with my Bee it was a total massacre.

            1. I visited it when I was a 31 or 32 and they matched me and I kept getting my ass handed to me. After getting to 42, I went back.

              I was a 32 when I bit the warrior and I found him to be way too easy with an adapative shield and 2200 damage sniper rifle.

              I lost the conference call shotgun he dropped due to a glitch - I was farming the warrior and went to that hidden chest in the lava. While moving weapons around, the game froze and when I got back the slot where the CC had been was empty.

              I had already finished the Captain Scarlett DLC for the most part and found that the Sand Hawk combined with the Bee literally made the end bosses in Dragon Keep like shooting fish in a barrel. One reload for each of the end guys and they were toast. The warrior at level 36 can be had in a single volley if I get the timing right.

              I finished the Torgue campaign and many of the side missions. He may be my favorite character - the out-of-place rage and cussing always gets a laugh.

  2. I've been switching back and forth between Fallout NV, Call of Juarez Gunslinger, and Borderlands.

    I find that when I do this, I never get bored, and I think the switching back and forth while having to remember all the different keyboard/mouse configurations is improving my cognitive skills, and my shooting also seems to be improving in all 3 games.

    1. I've been switching back and forth between Fallout NV, Call of Juarez Gunslinger, and Borderlands.

      So next year it will be Destiny and The Division for you.

      1. I'd never heard of it until just now...

        1. PHILISTINE!!!!

          You must watch E3 coverage or you will be uninformed about games that come out a year from now!!!!

          1. I'm not too worried, Corning. I have so many damn games now that I'll never be able to play them all.

            And no chance I'll be uninformed. My younger brother buys and plays everything that comes out. If I want gaming news, I just call him.

            I never buy new games anyway, unless they're under $30 when they're released. I just wait until they are on sale.

            1. Yeah i was being sarcastic.

              It is probably better you don't even hear about games until 6 months after they are released...that way you pay a lot less for them.

      2. Sophisticated gamers go for subtle strategy games when they are not overseeing monocle production.

        Faster Than Light, biatches.

        1. Meh. I spent countless hours on the HMM series.

          First Person or nothing. Skyrim, Fallout 3 and NV, Borderlands, Two Worlds 2, Divinity 2, now that is gaming.

          Oculus Rift is the next gaming toy I am looking forward to.

        2. Does Cube World count?

          I am thinking of playing cube world.

          1. Wow, that looks totally geh, and stupid.

          2. My son already makes me play Minecraft with him.

            1. Lies.

              You know you like it.

        3. FTL is an awesome $8 game. Even after not playing for months I started up a new game and managed to unlock the infamous Crystal Ship. It's amazing how many different ways you can get to the Federation's mother ship.

          1. I managed, with some blind luck, to unlock that pretty early on. Crystal B is definitely the strongest ship in the game combined with the Crystal lockdown ability.

  3. At one point I was a total Civilization II addict. But it gets dull when you have thse really large maps and every move takes for-fucking-ever cause you've got so many units.

    StarCraft is probably my favorite game ever though. I've beaten the whole thing on Hard a couple of times over. Best overall game.

    Lately though I've been trying to wean myself off the video game habit, so I've been playing "My Kingdom For the Princess" in all it's various manifestations. I can beat the developer's record on every level.

    1. Alpha Centauri was my big addiction back in the day. Way better than the concurrant Civ (2 or 3?).

      1. Yeah, Alpha Centauri was great. Essentially the same as Civ II, except it's in space and it spouts philosophy at you.

        I think that's what got me interested in Neitzsche.

  4. I had an interview a couple weeks ago, and mentioned that in my free time I play video games but not before stating that I enjoy hiking, biking, and reading. One of the male interviewers asked me to repeat myself when I did the 50s ish female interview rolled her eyes.

    I probably didn't judge my audience well enough, but damn if that wasn't rude.
    The female interview proceeded to attack me the rest of the interview.

    1. Did they ask you what you do in your spare time?

      1. This. Never volunteer information.

        If anyone in an interview would ask me that, I would dance around it with the skill of a politician. After hire, that's the time for small talk.

        I typically sit in on interviews at work when we are hiring new developers. One guy a few interviews ago, happened to mention that he thought he didn't get the last job he interviewed for, because it was a financial company and his credit score sucks. We don't ask those type of questions. HR does background checks, we don't care so much, as long as the person isn't a serial killer or something. Derp!

      2. Yea the usual opening, tell us about yourself. Gave the brief ed and work history and finished with hobbies.

        1. I NEVER talk about hobbies unless asked. Then - yeah - it can be hard. "Oh, I like to read and we camp and do some gardening for fun..." But I never mention teh gunz nor teh motorcycles. Not being a Mason 🙂

          Maybe gaming is now on the "not-to-be-mentioned" list.

          OTOH, sometimes that helps select out asshole companies you don't wanna work maybe OK in the end? would you really wanna work with "Rollin' Her Eyes Bitch"? Really?

          1. Yea, I admit I derped.

            I did think on the off chance I did get a call back I might decline considering the bitch interviewer terrible economy or not.

          2. Maybe gaming is now on the "not-to-be-mentioned" list

            Well, admitting that you play violent video games is only one moment away from shooting up the workplace, and then visiting the local orphanage and doing the same, just to get experience points. So yeah, not a good idea.

    2. I had a GF that hated video games.

      I have never run into men my age or younger who take such a dim view of video games.

      There are women my age and younger who really hate it.

      47% is a lot of ladies playing video games...but i think among those that don't there is a sizable group who despise the activity.

      1. They only hate it because when their BFs or hubbies are gaming, it means ignoring them.

        1. ^This. I have the same reaction to sports. My eyes roll to the back of my skull when people start talking football, basketball, baseball......zzzzzz just don't care.

          Torture was a boss who loved the Giants and spent the first 20 minutes of Monday staff meeting talking football.

          1. My wife occasionally gets pissed at me because I get carried way with my gaming time. My best chance is when she's watching her evening soap operas. But I say, it's not fair, because her girly games are portable and she's always playing them when we're driving somewhere. It's not like I can play Skyrim on the iPad.

            1. Any hobby that takes time away from "productive" times is going to be resented. My husband does Aikido and goes to the dojo 4 times/week. This annoyed me when we first married, but now - not so much.

              1. It's the same with both sexes, the way I see it.

                One of my co-workers is a dedicated work out warrior, and she's always talking about how her husband gets annoyed with her for going to the gym 6 times a week.

            2. If you've ever seen 'The King of Kong' one of the funniest moments is when the guy is just about to win the world record on donkey kong. He's been playing for hours straight and he's supposed to leave to go to some family activity and you hear his 5-year old daughter yelling 'STOP PLAYING DONKEY KOOONG!' from the hallway.

              And then later they are in the car and the husband and wife are talking about getting into the Guiness Book of World Records, and the little kid says 'Yeah, I hear some people ruin their lives trying to get into that.'

              1. King of Kong is fantastic simply because it made me aware of the pure awesomeness that is Billy Mitchell.

          2. Except the Monday after a NYG/Pats game, right?

            1. See now, if I knew anything about football I'd make some witty comment about how the Pats suck, but since I (Yawn) don't.give.a.shit. I won't. 🙂

              1. I'll do it for you, the Pats suck. I mean do we really need to see Tom Brady sit down and pout in the middle of the field after losing yet another SB to Eli Manning?

                And I'm not a Giants fan. I just hate the Bilichickens, that's all.

      2. That 47% is mostly chicks playing farmville or phone games, not dirty unclean games like CoD or Civilization.

        1. My wife is always playing this goofy game where you breed cutesy looking dragons, on her iPad. It looks totally retarded to me.

          1. Ooh, what's it called? I have a retarded one where I breed cutesy looking frogs. And they are so cute!!!

            1. Pocket Frogs, Nikki? Way to keep your tiara safe for another day.


                1. I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. You certainly earn that tiara, nicole.

                  1. Bah, now I'm torn. You've made Epi's day a little worse, which makes you better, but you're proud of playing Pocket Frogs, which makes you terrible.

            2. I dunno, she has her iPad with her and she won't be home till Friday.

              She's always showing it to me and asking me if I think the dragons are cute...

        2. I thought ladies loved Civ...

          We'd have to take Counterstrike breaks to include girlfriends in game time by playing Civ.

          1. That's funny, my girlfriend loves Civ. She does, however, hate Hiv.

            That made for an awkward Christmas.

    3. I hate when the interviewer is rude because there's no way for you to win that. You're the one who needs the job, so you just have to grin and bear it.

      I worked for a little bit as an assistant at a state capital building for one of the representatives. I mentioned this when they were asking me about my work history and the next question from an interviewer was 'What political party did you work for?' I said something along the lines of 'I don't generally like to talk about politics during a job interview.' It probably made me sound like a bit of a dick, but isn't that question kind of like asking someone what their religion is during an interview? It seemed a bit inappropriate.

      1. If I was at an interview where the interviewer was rude, I would decline any subsequent job offer. Just imagine what it would be like after you take the job, if they are rude at the interview.

        The last interview that I had before taking my current job, I got the offer, but I turned it down, because even though no one was rude to me in the interviews, there were 3 of them, everyone seemed really stressed. That set off big red warning sirens for me.

      2. Completely inappropriate and irrelevant to ask you your political affiliation during an interview.

        If it were me - I would've answered about the same and if the interview got worse from there due to my not wishing to discuss it - I would just put a stop to it...

        Something like "It seems obvious there's tension here about me not discussing _______. Due to that, I think continuing is a waste of both our times as I'm not sure I'd be a good fit anyway. I will be emailing your HR directors to let them know as I think your questions and approach was inappropriate and likely against your company guidelines, but please know we're done here. Do not contact me again. Thank you."

        Though it would have to get worse from the question/answer - otherwise like you just say "no comment" politely and move on.

  5. Total War: Rome II is coming out next week. Just like Civ, except with awesome bloody real-time battles.

    1. I set up Rome: Total War on one of the high-end servers at work. Just to test the memory capacity of the system, mind you...

      1. Boss, if the green Romans defeat the blue Romans, our profits will go up 15% this quarter!

  6. Women are playing video games more than ever. They make up about 47 percent of the game market...

    Farmville shouldn't count though.

    1. +1 blocked app

  7. But given the incredibly lop-sided pool the colleges brought together for the StarCraft study, clearly many women aren't as involved in the same type of video-gaming as men.

    Women play Farmville.

    I have never played farmville but i imagine it takes planning.

    1. you would be wrong.

      1. So it is not like this:

        But cartoony?

    2. This really does reinforce innate gender differences rather than gender roles. Men and women have equal access to games, but more men choose to play.

      It's as if we might be different in some ways!

      1. It's as if we might be different in some ways!


      2. You'd still come back to whether those are innate or constructed differences.

        Cue sitcom: guy and girl go on date, guy finds out girl likes gaming and is excited, '80s training montage to 14 hours and 100 gallons of mountain dew later and woman is represented in a masculine way and the man is sitting on the couch prim, a loser and emasculated.

        1. I agree, the fact that there is equal access but differential use does not mean nature has trumped nurture here.

          I wonder how much the gaming industry just does not or has not found ways to appeal to girls. It seems to me if I think about most basic 'starter' games that young kids get into playing they tend to have 'boy' characters in the forefront(Mario, Kirby, etcetera). Industries can develop subcultures that can take a while for people who think outside the box within to go beyond.

          1. Bo, Jesse is making a funny.

            The gaming industry does look for ways to appeal to girls. They want the market. Some girls like the same games as boys, some like more "girly" Angry Birds stuff. The reality is that girls are just not as interested in gaming as boys. It is what it is.

            1. I was only half making a funny. I do think that there's cultural reinforcement against women getting into games that would put them in direct competition with boys. Women kicking ass at a "boys" game is seen as emasculating. The roommate loves Mario Kart because it's visually girly but she can demurely say "oh no I don't really play video games" and then mop the floor with her mostly male opponents without it generating hard feelings.

              I'm not saying that on net women and men wouldn't be interested in different things, but those lines are drawn much firmer because men get discouraged from playing certain games because they are "totally geh, and stupid." and girls get told that kicking ass at anything that isn't on the Wii has a whiff of butchness to it.

      3. I still think you'd have the hardcore gender role types saying that women only make that choice because of the Rainbow Brite they had forced upon them as children.

      4. The first episode of the excellent series Brainwashing Norway was on gender equality.

  8. The Job Market Needs More Women Gamers


    We need to get the EEOC on this STAT.

    1. Oh crap. That reminds that I forgot to mention that this study was paid for by government grants. They're already on it!

  9. There is an entire section of the games industry that gets almost completely looked over by the media - casual games, like at Big Fish Games and others.

    I don't know if it gets ignored because it isn't cool, or if because it undercuts many of the "crimes" that video games commit against feminism. For instance, protagonists in casual games tend to be women, since shockingly enough, that's who mostly buys them.

    1. many of the "crimes" that video games commit against feminism

      Well, admittedly, if I see any feminists among the trolls, mutant zombies, or whatever, in one of my games, they are getting blasted right along with the other vermins. I might even single them out for getting blasted first, except that I worry that they wouldn't have any loot except for maybe some tampon earrings.

    2. yeah the gaming news media is a den of PC nannyism.

      For about 2 years Polygon The Escapist and Kotaku ran a dirty works campaign to get everyone to stop playing CoD.

      Apparently Frat boys play it and they are evil or something.

      But yeah they seemed to have dropped that war now that CoD has a giant robots zombie mode and are now focused on making sure all video games inspire proper feminist sensibilities among pre-teen and teenage developers who do not fall in line are tools of the patriarchy.

  10. Playing StarCraft can boost problem solving and creative thinking, according to a new study by researchers at Queen Mary University of London and University College London.

    ...really? Don't want to let my game elitism show, but Starcraft is incredibly simplistic. Set up an economy and churn out rock-paper-scissors units to match your adversary. You could set up a perl script that would sum up the essence of the strategy behind the game.

    Something like EU4 (finally got around to playing it!) or even Civ 5/Total War has a much greater breadth of strategy to it than Starcraft or Age of Empires.

    1. The last strategy game that I started getting into, was Fallen Enchantress. It's a pretty cool game with it's RPG elements.

      But I can't play that stuff for very long, if it's not 1st/3rd person, I lose interest because it doesn't have that immersion/realism factor. VR is coming, I've been waiting for that my entire life, looks like it's almost here...

      1. I can't play an FPS without having someone there to play against. I can have some fun figuring out what strategy I'm going for with a TBS or EU4, and I can watch a movie or work on non-intensive projects from home at the same time -- but FPSes bore me if I'm not playing against someone. Most are too on-the-rails for my taste. (Obvious exceptions for Skyrim and ARPGs.)

        1. I guess you don't play Borderlands, then, because it is very much on the rails. But going on a nice rampage is very satisfying.

          1. I like Borderlands multiplayer.

        2. In the near future, you won't be able to tell if you are playing against someone, or a computer generated opponent. It's the immersion factor with first person games. It's the future of serious gaming.

    2. Starcraft is far from simplistic if you're playing on Watching my brothers play in diamond league for a few hours used to make my mind explode.

      I grew up on the SNES and PC games like Warcraft II and Starcraft, but quit gaming altogether when I had kids. It just takes too much time. My fingers still itch from time to time from wanting to play LoL.

      Gamer couples skeez me out a little. There was that WoW couple years ago whose baby starved to death alone in a room while they were at the LAN center.

    3. Starcraft's far from simple. There's a reason why it's the top e-sport.

      Build orders, population limit, production, resource gathering, and unit movement all play a vital role.

      You try to build more then three workers at a time? You're wasting minerals that could go to building marines/zealots/zerglings. So when your opponent techs to roaches really fast you're screwed. Unless you were smart enough to scout, determine what they were building, and modify your strategy to counter it.

      1. Like I said, it's my elitism showing.

        Starcraft is a fine game with plenty of possibilities for competitive gamers; I just think things like EU4 are "deeper" while at the same time not requiring me to become a micromanaging min-max god.

        1. Yeah, I think you can definitely argue it's a difference between right-this-second planning and a more thought out general strategy.

    4. You've obviously never played the game. It's waaaaaay more about micromanaging and exploiting geographical weaknesses.

  11. Does EU4 wok with Windows 8? Because EU3 sure as fuck doesn't.

    1. Yes

  12. I'm one of those weirdos whose online gaming is limited to Go and Scrabble.

    1. Er, that's Scrabble on a real-time server, not Words With Non-Enemies.

      I don't do Facebook shit.

  13. I've been playing a lot of EU4, I'm not doing too well right now though. Been playing as the Netherlands (if you start as Burgundy you can convert over) and I decided to flip my government over to Dutch Republic. Then a month later I get hit with the Reformation, so now my country is massively destabilized. And one of the downsides of switching to a Republican system is that stability costs are massive until the population accepts the new government (which can take up to a hundred years). So there's rebels popping up everywhere, my economy is constantly running at a deficit, and France keeps trying to push me around. Dutch humanism/tolerance helps a lot though, some of the bonuses the Netherlands get are really good (Dutch inflation reduction is also useful). Next game I'll probably try to break history with a Ming Chinese colonial empire or something.

    1. Heh, everyone sucks at EU when they start out. Ming is... interesting; Japan is fun but right now it has a bug having to do with Catholic rebels. The bug should be fixed soon; Paradox is very good about supporting its games well into release.

      If you haven't heard of it, CK2 is also a lot of fun.

      1. I'm new to EU but I did play a lot of Crusader Kings 2, the save file transfer is really cool.

        Funny enough, even with all my problems I'm still doing way better than the rest of Europe, which is getting hit by Reformation way harder, and the Ottomans seem to have a military tech advantage and are really kicking Austria's ass.

        1. I'm a little more experienced with EU3, but I'm playing as super-Netherlands as well in Ironman mode. It's 1540 and I've taken over France, the Low Countries, and most of the British Isles. The Reformation didn't hit me too hard since I was originally angling as Burgundy to become France, so I played sticking close to Catholicism (became Defender of the Faith and Papal Controller as well; had some fun excommunicating people), which was frustrating when I became Netherlands since I wanted to play it historically as Reformed -- but I couldn't do that without making my empire Rebel Central. Oh, well.

          So far I'm impressed with the game balance; it seems pretty good for a pre-patch RTS/TBS strategy game.

          1. I don't understand why Reformed comes with a tech penalty, seems unnecessary. I do have a decent trade empire going (I grabbed historical Dutch colonies like Manhattan and Cape Town). I really, really don't understand the politics in the HRE though.

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