Study shows that video games improve literacy

“Kaka-computer mo ‘yan (It’s because you’re on the computer),” is something we hear a lot. It’s even a meme here in the Philippines, with mothers blaming everything on their kids’ habit of spending too much time on the computer.

If you’ve heard this one too many times—we at Variable certainly have—a growing body of work has shown that video games do provide beneficial effects. The latest of these is a study from the U.K.’s National Literacy Trust that has linked video games to improved literacy.

It gets better: The study found that video games also improved creativity, positive communication, empathy and mental wellbeing in young people.

Video games improve reading and creativity

The U.K. National Literacy Trust’s survey found that 79% of young people who play video games also read material related to the medium. These include reviews and articles (31% of respondents), books (20%), in-game communication (40%) and fan fiction (19%).

In addition, 35% of the respondents also said that playing video games made them better readers. The study also found that the link between improved literacy and gaming was particularly strong for boys and “reluctant readers.”

It turns out that video games are a good way to engage reluctant readers with stories. Seventy-three percent of the respondents who said that they didn’t like to read said that playing games helped them to feel “more part of a story” than reading a book.

In addition to promoting literacy, the research found that video games also improve young people’s creativity through writing. The survey found that 63% of young people who played games also wrote about them. Common topics for writing included reviews (8%), fan fiction (11%), advice to help others (22%) and video game scripts (28%).

On the last bit, 58% of the respondents said that they wanted to write or design games. Meanwhile, 31% also expressed interest in reading and writing more about games in school.

Video games support empathy and even mental wellbeing during COVID-19 lockdown

In a surprising discovery that goes against the stereotype of gamers being antisocial, the survey found that video games also led to increased empathy. Sixty-three percent of respondents stated that playing games actually helped them imagine being in someone else’s shoes.

In addition, the study also highlighted a link between playing games and the ability to build social connections both online and offline. According to the survey, more young people talk about and bond with their peers by talking about the games they play more than the books they read. (Read: 5 Top anime adaptations of video games)

This penchant for talking and bonding over games also seems to have helped video games support young people’s mental wellbeing during lockdowns due to COVID-19. Over half of the parents surveyed said that their children talked about games during that period, and 60% believed that this communication was helpful in supporting their child’s mental wellbeing.

Video games as a positive force

While they continue to get a bad rap from some sectors, science has shown time and again that video games do provide benefits to those who play them.

In 2014, a similar study also identified video games to be just as good as books for helping develop a child’s cognition and academic performance.

However, even that study concluded that video games were “mainly recreational activities.”

The U.K. study is unique, especially since it emphasizes video games’ positive effects on improving literacy, creativity, empathy and mental wellbeing.

This new study, in particular, goes further in this direction, showing that there’s much more to be learned about how they can benefit kids. Hopefully, more studies can be done to explore the positive benefits of the medium.

Maybe, one day, “kaka-computer mo yan” won’t be seen as just part of a meme on how parents don’t understand video games, but as an actual reason for positive things happening.


Franz Co

managing editor | addicted to RGB | plays too many fighting games

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