Can Video Games Help to Develop Graduate Attributes

To be a highly sought-after employee, a graduate is required to not only have a good academic record but also a range of desirable skills and competencies. These skills and competencies are also known as graduate attributes. In order to be highly employable in a competitive job market, the ability to work well with others, seek help from others when needed, and to solve a problem in a systematic manner are important skills to have. Therefore, the development of graduate attributes should not be neglected.

Barr (2017) conducted a randomized trial to examine whether commercial video games can be used to develop desirable graduate attributes such as communication, resourcefulness, and adaptability. Although some commercial video games have taken a slightly negative reputation because of their inappropriate content, some commercial video games that are developed for entertainment purposes have components such as multiplayer and role-play that can help develop communication and adaptability skills. For example, in the commercial video game, Minecraft, players can choose to play with others in a “shared world” and collect different materials such as wood and stone to build tools. In the study, students in the intervention group were asked to log 14 hours of game play across eight different games over eight weeks. Results showed that students in the intervention group scored higher than the control group in all three self-reported measures (i.e., Communicative Adaptability Scale, I-ADAPT-M, and Resourcefulness Scale). The positive change from Week 1 to Week 8 in self-reported scores was also higher in the intervention group. However, one major limitation of the study was the high attrition rate as almost half of the participants did not complete the 8-week intervention. The authors explained that the hardware and software problems experienced by the students could have contributed to the dropout.

This study suggests that despite the alleged negative effects of commercial video games, they can be used to increase certain graduate attributes. However, more studies are needed to validate this finding. In addition, eight different commercial video games were used in this study. Therefore, it is not clear whether the commercial videos are equally effective. Similarly, each commercial video game consists of multiple components (e.g., collaborating with other players and finding novel solutions to reach a game level). Therefore, it is not clear which component in the commercial video games helped to develop the skills. Besides, the control group did not experience any other learning activities that could have been equally effective in developing the same graduate attributes. Therefore, the findings of this study should be interpreted with caution and more studies should be conducted to examine the effects of playing commercial video games on desirable graduate attributes.

Barr, M. (2017). Video games can develop graduate skills in higher education students: A randomised trial. Computers & Education, 113, 86-97

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