On Campus

Can video games lower your grades?

Maybe. Especially if they're your roommate's

As a dedicated video gamer, I found this article (warning: math) extremely interesting. Now, the real point of the article is to to establish causation between time spent studying and educational achievement, so let me explain that before I get to the games.

The authors find the effect of an additional hour of studying a day is equivalent to, on average, an increase in first-semester GPA of 0.38. That’s equivalent to bumping two C’s to B’s, or two B’s to A’s – about an increase of 6% for one’s overall average on a percentage scale.

This result also indicates that how well someone does in university depends heavily on how much work is put in, since assuming study effort is subject to diminishing returns would imply that the difference between no studying and putting in the average amount of work improves 4-point GPA by in excess of 1.33 points, or 20% on the percentage scale (likely somewhat more) – enough to turn someone who typically earns C’s into an honour student, maybe more. Again, not a surprise, unless you believe that university performace is determined predominately by intelligence, which is hard to defend via common sense, but it’s a result that often pops up in these kind of papers, which the authors claim are statistically flawed for reasons I won’t go into.

More interesting to my eyes is the effect of being placed in shared housing with a roomate who owns a video game system. This lowers a student’s first-semester grades by about 4% – their GPA drops by 0.24, or one B turns into a C. (This is statistically significant at the 5% level, if that question was on your lips.) Peculiarly enough, bringing your own video games to university appears to have a smaller effect than if your roommate brings them.

So, students (and their parents) be warned: the roomate’s Xbox can cause slight collateral damage to your (or your kid’s) transcript. Had your fill of common sense yet?

Full disclosure: Author’s calculations, and the data comes from a Berea College, which may not be representative of all Canadian undergraduates.

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