Video Games: Do They Affect Class Performance?


Fabricio Maldonado and Daniel Resendiz

With the start of 2019, and the holiday season coming to an end, big corporations in the gaming industry are still looking to raise sales for their featured 2018 games. Major labels such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, Red Dead Redemption 2, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Fortnite, and 2018 game of the year God of War all made a name for themselves in the past year among the gaming community, which include San Rafael High School students. And with even more anticipated games to come in 2019, many are questioning if class performance is at risk to drop.

“I plan on buying Super Smash Bros. Ultimate once I get my Nintendo Switch for Christmas,” said Ryan Cardenas, a senior at San Rafael High School.

Cardenas also stated that video games “… does affect the thought process of people and their grades. It also depends on the type of games you play, but any game you play on the weekdays is bad because it’s a good time killer. It can become 10 or 11 pm without you realizing it.” Cardenas also openly said that he plays for around 3 hours a day during the weekday, but that “video games haven’t really affected my grades.”

Another senior at SRHS, who wishes to remain anonymous, has purposely skipped classes in school to play video games. “If I’m not in the mood to go to class, games help bring it up.” When asked to give an estimate on how many hours he spends playing video games during the school week, he said “I spent around 23 hours a week, when I didn’t work, but now it’s less.” As well as, “I don’t think gaming has impacted my grades, just me. I decide to play video games instead of doing homework because it gives me joy, and homework doesn’t. There’s nothing fun about it”.

Surprisingly these student responses almost accurately represent new research done by Timo Gnambs, professor of psychology at Austria’s Johannes Kepler University Linz, on how video games impacted kids’ grades. A sample of 3,554 adolescents were tracked and followed for over 2 years on how game use correlated with performance in subjects such as English and Mathematics. After the two years, Gnambs and his team reported that, “We found only very small effects on grades and none on actual competencies,” and “Mathematical and reading competences were not affected by gaming times. Thus, playing video games can result in a noticeably, albeit small, loss of educational returns, but it does not affect basic competences.”

Bobbi Brett, an economics and government teacher who’s worked at San Rafael High School for 20 years shared her personal thoughts with students who may become addicted to games. “I’m not anti-gaming, I just think that my experience raising a son who’s a gamer and having student’s who are gamers; some cross the line and they’re not having a full functioning whole life.” However, she does not know the amount of students it is applies to. In addition, Ms. Brett also stated, “gaming is prevalent enough that it deserves our attention as a community.”

This may be more true then what many people would like to admit.

On its opening weekend launch, Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 made over $500 million, releasing in the middle of October. Black Ops 4 easily became October’s 2018 best selling game, outclassing the likes of Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and NBA 2K19, who clocked in at number 2, 3, and 4 respectively. Red Dead Redemption 2 made $750 million within its first 3 days. Overall, sales in the gaming industry surpassed $1.55 billion in just the month of October, breaking the previous record of $1.36 billion in 2008 according to the NPD Group.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is a first person shooter in which the player can wage war against the undead in the Zombies game mode, play against others in Multiplayer, or try to be the sole survivor in a battle royale game mode called Blackout. Red Dead Redemption 2 is an open world MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) game set in 1899 Southwest America, which follows the story of outlaw Arthur Morgan, member of the Van Der Linde gang.

The content these and every other game offer can affect the productivity of students, but in most cases does not affect the way knowledge is consumed in classes. It is proven that playing games for multiple hours every night can affect how late a student may go to sleep, or work on homework. However, this habit will most likely result in a grade difference, rather than a significant drop in class performance. Video games are merely another distraction in a world of thousands, but if let unsupervised could become a much larger problem than most would like to admit. The creation of games such as Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 or Red Dead Redemption 2 were made to act as a commodity people’s lives, not a necessity.