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Play to Pay?: Adolescent Video Game Play & STEM Choice

Communication and Information Technologies Annual

ISBN: 978-1-78350-629-3, eISBN: 978-1-78350-582-1

Publication date: 27 November 2014



This study provides empirical support for a link between video game play and likelihood to major in a STEM field.


Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), this study investigates whether adolescents who play video games are more likely than those who do not to choose a STEM field major in college, and if other characteristics explain this relationship.


Results from a nested series of logistic regression models show that – compared to those who do not play video games in adolescence – teens who play video games are 70% more likely to major in a STEM field when they attend college.

Research limitations/implications

The Add Health dataset allows for empirical verification of the link between video game play and STEM major choice, but it is dated. Future research should use more recent data. Factors such as gaming platform and game genre are likely to be key variables in future research.

Practical implications

This finding lends support for including video game play as a potential factor in future studies on college major choice, and offers further empirical support for utilizing video games as a potential gateway into STEM.


Going beyond previous research, this study finds that playing commercial video games may be one entry point to STEM fields, and implies that it is important to understand the impact of games that millions of young people play.




This research uses data from Add Health, a program project directed by Kathleen Mullan Harris and designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and funded by grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 23 other federal agencies and foundations. Special acknowledgment is due Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Information on how to obtain the Add Health data files is available on the Add Health website ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis.


Turner, A.J. (2014), "Play to Pay?: Adolescent Video Game Play & STEM Choice", Communication and Information Technologies Annual (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 8), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 55-71.



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