Research

Video game playing and literacy: a survey of young people aged 11 to 16

Added 12 Aug 2020

This report outlines findings from our survey exploring young people’s literacy-related interactions both within, and in relation to, video games. 4,626 young people aged 11 to 16 from across the UK took part in our survey through BounceTogether between November and December 2019.

We have also published a separate summary of findings from our surveys of young people and parents during the COVID-19 lockdown to capture any changes to young people’s behaviours around video game playing and literacy. Between May and early June 2020, we conducted a survey of 3,817 young people aged 11 to 18 and a survey of 826 parents of young people in this age group.

This research was conducted independently by the National Literacy Trust to support a new campaign from the charity, the Association of UK Interactive Entertainment (Ukie) and Penguin Random House Children’s to explore the relationship between video games and literacy engagement amongst school children.

Key findings

Video games can provide young people with a route into reading and improve confidence in reading skills

  • 4 in 5 (79.4%) young people who play video games read materials relating to video games once a month, including in-game communications (39.9%), reviews and blogs (30.5%), books (21.8%) and fan fiction (19.4%)
  • 1 in 3 (35.3%) young people who play video games believe playing video games makes them a better reader

Video games can encourage young people’s creativity through writing

  • 3 in 5 (62.5%) young people who play video games write something relating to video games once a month, including video game scripts (27.5%), advice to help other players (22.1%), fan fiction (10.8%) and blogs or reviews (8.0%)

The shared cultural experience of playing video games was found to support positive communication with friends and family

  • 3 in 4 (76.3%) young people talk to their friends about video games compared with only 3 in 10 (29.4%) who discuss books
  • Young people said that playing video games helps them to build social connections both ‘in real life’ and online

Video games can have potential benefits for increasing empathy

  • 2 in 3 (65.0%) young people say playing video games helps them imagine being someone else

Video games can play a role in supporting young people’s mental wellbeing

  • Many young people said that playing video games helps them either deal with, or escape from, stress and difficult emotions
  • More than half (55.6%) of parents said their child had chatted with family and friends as part of playing a video game during lockdown
  • 3 in 5 (59.6%) parents felt that communicating with family and friends as part of playing a video game during lockdown had been helpful for their child’s mental wellbeing during this time

The benefits of playing video games for young people’s literacy were found to be strongest for boys and reluctant readers

  • Boys are much more likely to play video games than girls (95.6% vs 65.2%)
  • Nearly twice as many boys than girls said they chatted with family and friends as part of playing a video game during lockdown (70.5% vs 39.7%)
  • Almost 3 in 4 (73.1%) young people who don’t enjoy reading say playing video games helps them feel more part of a story than reading a book-based text