Back view of young gamer at home in the dark

Gaming shown to improve literacy in adolescents

Image credit: Dan Grytsku |

Video games can support young people’s literacy, creativity and empathy and boost their mental health with boys particularly benefitting, a new study has shown.

According to the National Literacy Trust, gaming can also be an avenue to provide young people with a route into reading.

In a survey of more than 4,600 young people aged 11 to 16, 79 per cent said they read materials relating to video games regularly, including in-game communications (40 per cent), reviews and blogs (31 per cent), books (22 per cent) and fan fiction (19 per cent).

A third (35 per cent) also believe that playing video games makes them better readers. As one young person said: “Books help grow your imagination and so do games, because of all the things you can do.”

Furthermore, 63 per cent of young gamers said they wrote something relating to video games regularly, including video game scripts (28 per cent), advice to help other players (22 per cent), fan fiction (11 per cent) and blogs or reviews (8 per cent).

Two-thirds (65 per cent) of young people said that playing video games helped them imagine being someone else, indicating potential benefits for increasing empathy. As one young person explained: “Playing games can help you create your own imaginary world and understand other people’s view of life.”

The shared cultural experience of playing video games was also shown to support positive communication with friends and family, with 76 per cent admitting to having conversations with their friends about gaming compared with only 29 per cent who discuss books.

In addition, young people said that playing video games helps them to build social connections both ‘in real life’ and online, and maintain relationships with friends and family.

Boys were much more likely to play video games than girls (96 per cent vs 65 per cent) and nearly twice as many boys as girls said they chatted with family and friends as part of playing a video game during lockdown (71 per cent vs 40 per cent).

“We know that video games are a part of everyday life for so many children, young people and families across the UK,” said Jonathan Douglas, chief executive of the National Literary Trust.

“Covid-19 has significantly disrupted young people’s literacy and learning in recent months and we want to ensure that no stone is left unturned when it comes to identifying new and innovative ways to support their literacy when they return to school in September.”

Rhianna Pratchett, an author and video games writer who has worked on 'Tomb Raider', 'Heavenly Sword' and 'Mirror’s Edge', said: “Video games transport us into new worlds, new experiences, and make us feel part of the story like no other medium.

“It’s no surprise to see that young people’s engagement with video games is at an all-time high, and it’s great to see the important work the National Literacy Trust are doing to better understand how games can help improve literary, emotional engagement and understanding in their audience.”

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