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Computers & Education 125 (2018) 39–52

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An empirical study on gender, video game play, academic success

and complex problem solving skills
Muhterem Dindar
Learning and Educational Technology Research Unit, Faculty of Education, University of Oulu, FI-90014, Oulu, Finland


Keywords: This study investigated the video gaming behaviors of 479 high school students with respect to
Video games gender-based differences, as well as the relationship between video gaming, academic success
Gender and Complex Problem Solving skills (CPS). Video gaming was measured under the gaming ex-
Academic success perience, gaming time, gaming frequency, perceived gaming skills, playing alone vs. playing with
Complex problem solving
a team, and game genre dimensions. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)
2012 Creative Problem Solving test was utilized to measure CPS. Findings showed that the
sampled males had more experience and skills in video gaming and spent more time on video
games than their female counterparts. On the other hand, it emerged that the females actually
played video games more often than the males. No relationship of practical significance was
found between any of the video gaming variables investigated in the study and CPS or academic
success. The current findings contribute to the limited empirical evidence on the relationship
between video gaming and CPS, and demonstrate that the transferal of video gaming skills to
real-life problem solving might not be as obvious as is claimed in the literature.

1. Introduction

Video games have become an ubiquitous leisure activity in the last few decades and findings show that the time allocated for
video gaming has increased steadily among young people in particular (Duggan, 2015; Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts, 2010). Moreover,
studies also reveal that video gaming behaviors vary between males and females. For example, frequency of video gaming and video
gaming time is higher among males than females (Desai, Krishnan-Sarin, Cavallo, & Potenza, 2010; Gentile, 2009; Lenhart, 2015;
Rehbein, Staudt, Hanslmaier, & Kliem, 2016), and females report having less skills in video gaming than males (Liu, 2016; Terlecki
et al., 2011). Furthermore, males seem to be more prone to specific game genres such as shooter, strategy and role playing, while
females prefer brain-oriented genres such as board, puzzle, and skill games (Elliott, Ream, McGinsky, & Dunlap, 2012; Rehbein et al.,
The rise of video gaming in society has engendered both concern and optimism about the effects of these games on individuals.
The former includes excessive time spent on games (e.g. Rehbein, Psych, Kleimann, Mediasci, & Mößle, 2010), poor academic records
(Burgess, Stermer, & Burgess, 2012), less interest in socializing (Jackson, Von Eye, Fitzgerald, Witt, & Zhao, 2011), and increased
aggression (Ferguson, 2011).
While there is some validity in these concerns, a growing body of research has focused on the possible constructive outcomes of
video gaming. For example, a plethora of studies have found a positive relationship between video gaming and perceptual and
cognitive skills (Chisholm, Hickey, Theeuwes, & Kingstone, 2010), prosocial behaviors (Ferguson & Garza, 2011), domain knowledge
development (Carr & Bossomaier, 2011; Coller & Scott, 2009; Kebritchi, Hirumi, & Bai, 2010), critical thinking (Squire, 2004), and

E-mail address:
Received 4 December 2017; Received in revised form 25 May 2018; Accepted 27 May 2018
Available online 29 May 2018
0360-1315/ © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
M. Dindar Computers & Education 125 (2018) 39–52

problem solving (Liu, Cheng, & Huang, 2011; Wilson et al., 2009). Several researchers have written of the potential for video games
to help develop learning skills that go beyond rote memorization (Becker, 2007; Michael & Chen, 2006). Specifically, video games
have often been praised for being perfect venues for the development of higher order thinking skills, such as problem solving
(Annetta, 2008; Dondlinger, 2007; Gee, 2008, pp. 21–40). Despite these claims, studies investigating the effectiveness of video games
for learning have mostly focused on knowledge acquisition and content understanding (Boyle et al., 2016; Connolly, Boyle, Hainey,
McArthur, & Boyle, 2012), meaning that there is a scarcity of empirical evidence on the relationship between video gaming and
problem solving skills. In consideration of this fact, the current study investigated gender-based differences in video gaming, and the
association between video gaming, academic success and complex problem solving (CPS) skills.

1.1. Video gaming and academic success

A significant area of interest in gaming studies has been the relationship between video gaming and academic success. Several
scholars have noted a negative relationship between time spent on video games and academic achievement (Anand, 2007; Choo et al.,
2010; Gentile, Lynch, Linder, & Walsh, 2004; Weaver, Kim, & Metzer, 2013), while others have found that playing video games
decreases the time spent upon educational activities after school (Burgess et al., 2012; Weis & Cerankosky, 2010). On the other hand,
there is a body of work that seems to point towards the idea that poor academic records stem from video game addiction rather than
time spent playing the games (Brunborg, Mentzoni, & Frøyland, 2014; Sahin, Gumus, & Dincel, 2016). Finally, it should be made clear
that there are also studies which indicate that there is no relationship between video gaming and academic success (Drummond &
Sauer, 2014; Ferguson, 2011), while some even hint at a positive relationship (Hamlen, 2013; Ku, Kwak, Yurov, & Yurova, 2014).
Thus, it can be stated that the current literature on the topic is both inconclusive and contradictory.

1.2. Complex problem solving as a 21st century skill and PISA problem solving framework

Rapid automation and computerization in modern societies has been sweeping jobs related to handling routine tasks (Autor, Levy,
& Murnane, 2003). There is an increasing demand in 21st century business for individuals who are capable of handling non-routine
tasks, coping with multiple goals, dealing with unambiguous relationships, and adapting to unexpected changes (Csapó & Funke,
2017). In other words, today's work requires individuals to have CPS skills (Care, Scoular, & Griffin, 2016).
Complex problems differ from other types of problems due to several features. A complex problem has a large number of variables
that are highly inter-connected to each other (Funke, 2012). The connections between the variables are not directly observable by the
individual. Thus, the intransparency of the problem situation requires a continuous acquisition and update of the system knowledge
(Funke, 2010). Moreover, the relationships between the variables of complex problems are dynamic. That is, the problem state
changes over time even without interference from the individual. When solving complex problems, individuals are often asked to
achieve multiple goals that sometimes conflict with each other. Therefore, the polytely of goals in complex problems necessitates a
certain amount of compromise between the conflicting goals in order to achieve an optimal solution (Funke, 2012).
A complex problem solving process is comprised of two fundamental phases. In the knowledge acquisition phase, individuals
observe the dynamics and variables of a previously unknown complex system, and develop a representation of the problem state
(Greiff, Holt, & Funke, 2013; OECD, 2013a). In the knowledge application phase, individuals utilize and continuously update their
system knowledge in order to control and transform the complex system to a desired state (Fischer, Holt, & Funke, 2015). The main
cognitive processes in CPS involve goal setting, establishing connections, and hypothesis testing (Care et al., 2016). The interactive
nature of the CPS process impels researchers to utilize complex problem scenarios that can change temporally depending on time and
the input of the problem solver. Therefore, computerized complex problem simulations have been regarded as useful means for both
assessing and enhancing the CPS skills of 21st century learners (Funke & Greiff, 2017).
The importance of CPS skills is also reflected in their inclusion into the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA)
framework. PISA is an international survey that aims to assess education systems worlwide (OECD, 2017). Since 2000, PISA has been
testing the competencies of 15-year-old students in the domains of reading, science and mathematics. In 2003, a creative problem
solving test was also included in the PISA survey to measure CPS skills as a general domain of knowledge (Greiff et al., 2014; OECD,
2013b). The PISA Creative Problem Solving test has been designed as a computer-based assessment in which students are presented
with real-life problems, such as operating a previously unknown device or finding the shortest path between different locations
(OECD, 2014). The question items in the PISA Creative Problem Solving Test can be either static or interactive. In the latter, students
explore a simulated environment on their computers, send input to the simulation and receive immediate feedback on the effects of
that input. In this respect, the PISA Creative Problem Solving Test carries some basic similarities with video game mechanics.

1.3. Video games and problem solving skills

Problem solving has been considered a pervasive activity in video games (Gee, 2005). When playing video games, individuals
explore scenarios in which they have to collect, analyze and organize diverse information, identify causal links between the game
components, and develop strategies to advance in the game (Ebner & Holzinger, 2007). The immediate feedback provided in the
video game environment allows players to test their hypotheses, update their prior knowledge and modify their actions (Sung, Chang,
& Lee, 2008). Moreover, the advanced mechanics in many games (i.e. role-playing games) allow players to solve problems in unique
ways (Shute, Ventura, Bauer, & Zapata-Rivera, 2009). In this respect, it can be argued that playing video games facilitates the
development of problem solving skills (Annetta, 2008; Triantafyllakos, Palaigeorgiou, & Tsoukalas, 2011). However, a lack of

M. Dindar Computers & Education 125 (2018) 39–52

empirical evidence regarding the effectivenes of video games for the development of problem solving skills is evident in the literature
(Boyle et al., 2016; Connolly et al., 2012; Yang, 2012). This is mostly because a vast amount of the works on the topic have been built
on expectations and theoretical discussions rather than empirical evidence (Bardon & Josserand, 2009; Connolly et al., 2012;
Vandercruysse, Vandewaetere, & Clarebout, 2012).
The limited number of empirical studies investigating the effects of video games on problem solving (or similar higher order
thinking skills) have mostly found a positive relationship between video gaming and skill development. For example, Yang (2012)
compared the effectiveness of traditional instruction and digital game-based learning in advancing the problem solving skills of ninth
graders. In their study, one group of students completed a Civics and Society course through teacher-led instruction and the other
group was given a commercial video game on city planning and management. At the end of the course, students who played the video
game showed greater performance in problem solving skills. In another study, Shute, Ventura, and Ke (2015) compared the effects of
a cognitive training game and a puzzle game on the problem solving skills of players and found that the former improved problem
solving skills more than the latter. Sánchez and Olivares (2011) investigated the effects of a mobile serious game on the perceived
collaboration and problem solving skills of 8th grade students. Their findings revealed that students who played the game had higher
perceived competency in the planning and execution dimensions of problem solving. Steinkuehler and Duncan (2008) examined the
higher order scientific reasoning activities of video game players in a massively multiplayer online role-playing game. Their results
showed that discussions among the players in the game included a significant amount of higher order scientific reasoning episodes
(e.g. argumentation and system-based reasoning). In their longitudinal study, Adachi and Willoughby (2013) investigated the re-
lationship between strategic game play and perceived problem solving skills of high school students for four years. Their findings
demonstrated that strategic game play had a stronger influence on perceived problem solving skills over time compared to less
strategic games. Gerber and Scott (2011) compared the critical thinking skills of students who played video games and those who did
not, and found no difference between the former and the latter. However, the study indicated that students who played specific game
genres (i.e. strategy games) were more open-minded compared to students who did not play those games. Finally, Chuang and Chen
(2009) designed an experimental study to compare the cognitive skills of students who learned through traditional instruction and
those who learned via computer-based games. Their results indicated that the comprehension, problem solving and strategy skills of
the latter compared favourably with those of the former.
Studies on the association between video games and problem solving skills have been mostly limited to a specific video game
activity (Chuang & Chen, 2009; Shute et al., 2015; Sánchez & Olivares, 2011; Yang, 2012). In addition, such studies mainly in-
vestigate the effects of video gaming for a short period of time (e.g. a few sessions to few months). While it is well-established that
problem solving skills develop over an extended period of time (Kinney, 1952; Sánchez & Olivares, 2011), little is known as to
whether playing video games has any long-term effects on problem solving skills. Moreover, empirical evidence supporting the
assumption that video gaming improves problem solving skills is scarce (Boyle et al., 2016).

2. Methods

2.1. Participants

The participants in this study were 479 high school students in a city located in western Turkey. The mean age of the participants
was 16.1 (SD:1.29; Min: 14; Max: 20). 56% of the participants were males (f = 270) and 44% were females (f = 209). The majority of
the participants were 9th grade students (f = 227), followed by 10th(f = 101), 11th (f = 87) and 12th graders (f = 64).

2.2. Procedure

Prior to the data collection process, permission was granted from the ethical committee of the city educational management
board. Participation was on a voluntary basis and no reward was offered to the participants. After gaining ethical approval, the author
visited several high schools in the city center and gave briefings to the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) teachers
about the research project. The ICT teachers who volunteered to support the project were given a second detailed briefing on the data
collection process. After this briefing, the volunteer ICT teachers were given a web link and passwords to access the online data
collection environment. The teachers informed their students about the research project when the students came to the ICT classroom
for a course. The students who volunteered to participate in the study were given the access link to the online data collection
environment and completed the data collection in the ICT classroom under the supervision of an ICT teacher.
The online data collection environment was designed by an expert web developer and sheltered all the research instruments of the
study. The environment consisted of three sections. In the first section, participants were presented with a consent form that ex-
plained the aims of the project and the procedure for data collection. Students were directed to the further screens only if they clicked
the “Accept and Proceed” button under the consent from. In the second section, the demographics, gaming time, gaming frequency,
gaming experience, game genre, gaming level, playing alone vs. playing with a team preference, and video game play self-concept
questionnaires were presented to the participants. The third section included the PISA 2012 Creative Problem Solving Test (PISA
2012 CPST). Access to the second and the third sections was password protected, and the teacher announced the password for the
next section after all the participating students in the ICT classroom had completed the previous section. In accordance with the PISA
guidelines, participants were able to see both the stimulus and the question without scrolling up or down (OECD, 2014). Additionally,
participants were only allowed to answer a question once, and were not able to see their previous answers (OECD, 2014). Finally,
participants were given the PISA 2012 CPST items in a random order to minimize the possibility of cheating.

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2.3. Data collection tools

2.3.1. Demographics
In the demographics questionnaire, participants were asked about their gender, age, grade, and national exam for high school
attendance score (Min: 0; Max:500; see Table 1).

2.3.2. Gaming time

Two open-ended items were used to measure the daily time spent on video gaming during weekdays and weekends, respectively
(“How much time to you spend playing video games during the weekdays/weekends?”). The average daily gaming time was cal-
culated with a weighed formula ((DailytimeForWeekdays*5 + DailyTimeForWeekends*2)/7) (Rehbein et al., 2016).

2.3.3. Gaming frequency

Gaming frequency was measured with a single-item Likert scale: “In the last twelve months, how often have you played personal
computer (PC)/mobile/console games?” Answers to the scale ranged between “Never” (1), “Less than once a month” (2), “Once a
month” (3), “A few times per month” (4), “3–4 times a week” (5), “5–6 times a week” (6), and “At least once a day ” (7) (Lemmens,
Valkenburg, & Gentile, 2015). Participants reported on their gaming frequencies for PC, mobile and console platforms seperately. The
average gaming frequency was calculated through taking the mean frequency of play for the PC, mobile and console platforms.

2.3.4. Gaming experience

Gaming experience was measured for PC, mobile, and console platforms seperately. For each platform, participants were asked
how many years they had been playing video games on that particular platform. Average gaming experience was calculated through
taking the average gaming experience for the PC, mobile and console platforms.

2.3.5. Game genre

Game genre was measured with an open-ended question: “What is the name of the video game you have played most in the last
twelve months?”

2.3.6. Playing alone vs. playing with a team

In order to measure playing alone vs. playing with a team preference, participants were asked: “Do you play video games alone or
with a team?” Participants were allowed to choose only one of the two options.

2.3.7. Gaming level

Gaming level was measured with a one-item Likert-type question: “In general, what levels do you reach in video games?”.
Answers to the question ranged between “ Lowest levels” (1), “Low levels”(2), “Medium levels”(3), “High levels”(4), “Highest le-

2.3.8. Video game play self-concept scale

Video game play self-concept was measured through a five item-Likert type scale that was modified from the PISA Maths self-
concept scale. The PISA Math self-concept scale measures students' belief in their Math abilities (OECD, 2013c). In the current study,
the scale was tailored to measure participants’ beliefs about their video gaming abilities. For example, an original item in the PISA
Maths self-concept scale asks students to rate “I am just not good at Maths.” The same item in the current study was presented as “I
am just not good at video games.” Answers to the scale varied between “Strongly disagree” (1) and “Strongly agree” (4). In the
current study, the cronbach alpha of the video game play self-concept scale was calculated as 0.85. A confirmatory factor analysis was
conducted to see if the scale fit into the research sample. In general, the scale showed acceptable scores across most of the fit indices
(NFI:.97; NNFI:.95; CFI..98; SRMR = 0.035; GFI = 0.97; AGFI = 0.91) (Browne & Cudeck, 1993). However, the chi-square/df ratio
(39.07/5), and RMSEA (0.12) was above the suggested thresholds (Kline, 2005). After adding an error covariance between the first
and second items of the scale, all CFA indices showed a good fit (Chi-square = 7.69; df = 4; p = .1; RMSEA = 0.044; NFI:.99;
NNFI:.99; CFI:1; SRMR = 0.014; GFI = 0.99; AGFI = 0.98). Based on these results, it can be concluded that the video game self-
concept scale displayed sufficient reliability and validity in the current sample. The scale can be found in the Appendix.

2.3.9. Academic success

Academic success was measured with an open ended item in which participants reported their grade point average (GPA) for the
previous school term (Min: 0; Max: 100; see Table 1).

2.3.10. PISA2012 CPST

The PISA 2012 CPST is comprised of 42 items clustered around sixteen units. In each unit students were presented with a stimulus
(i.e. an interactive simulation or a static graphic) and multiple questions related to the stimulus (OECD, 2014). Five units (a total of
fifteen questions) of the PISA 2012 CPST were released to the public, and can be accessed through the OECD website (OECD, 2017).
In this study, the released units and items were used to measure CPS skills. These units were the Mp3 Player (three items), Ticket
Machine (three items), Climate Control (two items), Robot Cleaner (three items), Traffic (three items) and Birthday Party (one item).
The cronbach alpha of the PISA 2012 CPST items in the existing study was calculated as 0.66.

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Table 1
Descriptive statistics about video game play behaviors and preferences.
Gaming experience (years) Females (n = 209) Males (n = 269) Overall (n = 478)


PC games 4.83 3.58 7.04 3.38 6.08 3.64

Mobile games 3.79 2.48 4.30 2.75 4.08 2.65
Console Games 1.53 2.36 3.49 3.19 2.63 3.02
Average 3.38 2.22 4.95 2.47 4.27 2.49

Gaming frequency (1–7) Females (n = 209) Males (n = 270) Overall (n = 479)


PC games 4.99 1.86 2.85 1.84 3.80 2.10

Mobile games 3.25 2.09 2.20 1.73 2.70 1.90
Console Games 6.31 1.23 4.63 1.96 5.40 1.80
Average 4.85 1.28 3.22 1.31 3.90 1.50

Gaming time (hour) Females (n = 208) Males (n = 263) Overall (n = 465)


Weekdays 0.93 1.79 2.64 2.69 1.88 2.48

Weekends 1.04 1.73 4.50 4.36 2.97 3.85
Average 0.93 1.57 3.05 2.76 2.11 2.53

Gaming level Females (n = 209) Males (n = 270) Overall (n = 479)

f % f % f %

Lowest level 36 17.2 13 4.8 49 10

Low level 31 14.8 6 2.2 37 8
Medium level 88 42.1 72 26.7 160 33
High level 37 17.7 101 37.4 138 29
Highest level 17 8.1 78 28.9 95 20

Play alone vs. play with a team Females (n = 209) Males (n = 270) Overall (n = 479)
f % f % f %

Play alone 138 66 94 34.8 232 48.4

Play with a team 71 34 176 65.2 247 51.6

Game genre Females (n = 88) Males (n = 240) Overall (n = 328)

f % f % f %

Brain and skill games 21 10 3 1.3 24 5

Sports, racing and simulation 25 12 43 17.9 68 14.2
Action and adventure 15 7.2 28 11.7 43 9
Shooter 14 6.7 76 31.7 90 18.8
Strategy 5 2.4 20 8.3 25 5.2
Role-playing 8 3.8 70 29.2 78 16.3

Gaming time accross the genres (h) Females (n = 87) Males (n = 228) Overall (n = 315)

Brain and skill games 1.37 0.98 1.19 1.05 1.35 0.96
Sports, racing and simulation 1.50 0.96 2.24 2.10 1.97 1.80
Action and adventure 0.80 0.87 2.45 1.90 1.86 1.78
Shooter 2.03 2.26 3.42 2.79 3.19 2.75
Strategy 0.86 1.32 2.64 2.36 2.28 2.28
Role-playing 1.10 1.90 4.60 3.21 4.25 3.27

Video game play self-concept (1–4) Females (n = 209) Males (n = 270) Overall (n = 479)

2.58 0.66 3.31 0.61 2.99 0.72

(continued on next page)

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Table 1 (continued)

Gaming experience (years) Females (n = 209) Males (n = 269) Overall (n = 478)


National exam for high school attendance score Females (n = 207) Males (n = 257) Overall (n = 464)

406.26 82.41 371.51 88.74 387.01 87.61

GPA Females (n = 206) Males (n = 269) Overall (n = 475)


82.07 15.56 75.42 16.55 78.307 16.45

PISA 2012 CPST Females (n = 209) Males (n = 270) Overall (n = 479)


8.34 4.42 7.14 4.33 7.67 4.40

2.4. Data analysis

Prior to the statistical tests, the distribution of the variables was checked. Except for mobile gaming experience (Skewness:1.14;
Kurtosis:2.31), console gaming experience (Skewness:1.39; Kurtosis:2.3) and average gaming time (Skewness:1.78; Kurtosis:3.05), all
variables in the study displayed normal distribution. After logarithmic transformation, mobile gaming experience (Skewness: 0.66;
Kurtosis:.66), console gaming experience (Skewness: 0.23; Kurtosis: 1.3) and average gaming time (Skewness: 0.393; Kurtosis: 0.713)
also showed normal distribution.
The scoring of the PISA 2012 CPST was done according to the official grading guidelines announced by the PISA committee
(OECD, 2014). Two items in the test were open-ended questions. These items were scored seperately by two indendent researchers.
For the open-ended robot cleaner question item, the Cohen's kappa (κ) interrater reliability value was 0.86, and for the MP3 player
item it was 0.83. The disputed scorings were recalculated with the mutual agreement of the researchers.
Based on the scheme developed by Rehbein et al. (2016), two independent coders classified the video games that participants had
played most in the previous twelve months into a) Brain and Skills (κ = 0.85), b) Sports, Racing and Simulation (κ = 0.96), c) Action
and Adventure (κ = 0.87), d) Shooter (κ = 0.98), e) Strategy (0.93), f) Role-playing (κ = 0.97) categories. The coders visited the web
pages of reported video games to gather relevant information for coding. In instances of disagreements in coding, the decision of the
researcher who had extensive experience in video gaming was accepted.

3. Results

3.1. Preliminary analyses

Descriptive statistics (see Table 1) revealed that participants had more years of experience in PC games (Myears = 6.1;
SDyears = 3.6), compared to mobile (Myears = 4.1; SDyears = 2.6) and console games (Myears = 2.6; SDyears = 3.0). A one-way within-
subjects ANOVA revealed that this difference was significant (Wilk's Lambda = 0.53; F(2,476) = 215.17; p < .0001; partial eta-
squared = 0.46). In terms of gaming frequency, participants played console games most frequently during the previous twelve
months (M = 5.4; SD = 1.8), followed by PC (M = 3.8; SD = 2.1), followed by mobile games (M = 2.7; SD = 1.9). According to the
one-way within-subjects ANOVA results, the difference in gaming frequency between the platforms was noteworthy (Wilk's
Lambda = 0.39; F(2,476) = 366.16; p < .0001; partial eta-squared = 0.60). The descriptive statistics further revealed that 20% of the
participants reached the highest level in video games (f = 95), 29% reached high levels (f = 29%), 33% reached medium levels
(f = 160), 8% reached low levels (f = 37), and 10% reached the lowest levels (f = 49). Approximately half the participants prefered
playing video games alone, whereas the other half prefered team play. The most popular game genre amongst participants was
shooter games (18.8%), followed by role-playing (16.3%), sports, racing and simulation (14.2%), action and adventure (9%), strategy
(5,2%) and brain and skill games (5%). The one-way within-subjects ANOVA results revealed significant differences between the times
allocated for different game genres (F(5,309) = 8.838; p < .001; partial eta-squared = 0.125). Pairwise comparisons with Bonferroni
adjustment (0.05/6 = 0.008) showed that participants spent significantly more time on role-playing games compared to brain and skill
games (p < .001), sports, racing and simulation games (p < .001), and action and adventure games (p < .001) (see Table 1 for means
and standard deviations for each genre). Although participants spent more time on shooter games compared to brain and skill games
(p = .02) and action and adventure games (p = .038), the difference was not significant after Bonferroni adjustment.

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Fig. 1. Game genre preferences of males and females.

3.2. Gender-based comparisons in video gaming behaviors, academic success and PISA 2012 CPST

A chi-square test of independence was conducted to see whether males and females differed from each other according to the
game genre they played. Test results revealed significant differences between the game genre preferences of the former and the latter
(X2 (2, N=328) = 67.175; p < .001; Cramer's V = 0.453). Brain and skill, sports, racing and simulation, and action and adventure were the
most popular games among females, whereas shooter, role-playing, and sports, racing and simulation were the most popular games
among males (See Table 1 and Fig. 1).
Independent samples t-tests were conducted to see whether males and females differed from each other according to their gaming
time. t-test results revealed that females had significantly lower gaming time during weekdays (Mfemales = 0.93; SDfemales = 1.79;
Mmales = 2.64; SDmales = 2.69; t(469) = -7.855; p < .001; partial eta-squared = 0.12) and weekends than males (Mfemales = 1.04;
SDfemales = 1.73; Mmales = 4.50; SDmales = 4.36; t(468) = -10.787; p < .001; partial eta-squared = 0.20). The average gaming time
for the whole week was also lower among females (Mfemales = 0.93; SDfemales = 1.57; Mmales = 3.04; SDmales = 2.76; t(463) = -12.432;
p < .001; partial eta-squared = 0.25). One way within-subjects ANOVA tests revealed that both male (Wilk's Lambda = 0.53;
F(2,267) = 119.020; p < .0001; partial eta-squared = 0.471) and female (Wilk's Lambda = 0.42; F(2,207) = 141.531; p < .0001;
partial eta-squared = 0.58) participants had the greatest amount of experience in PC games, followed by mobile and console games
(see Table 1 for the descriptive statistics).
In terms of gaming frequency, significant differences were observed between males and females. That is, females had been the
more frequent players of PC (Mfemales = 4.99; SDfemales = 1.86; Mmales = 2.85; SDmales = 1.84; t(477) = 12.567; p < .001; partial eta-
squared = 0.25), mobile (Mfemales = 3.25; SDfemales = 2.09; Mmales = 2.20; SDmales = 1.73; t(477) = 6.045; p < .001; partial eta-
squared = 0.07) and console games (Mfemales = 6.31; SDfemales = 1.23; Mmales = 4.63; SDmales = 1.96; t(477) = 10.836; p < .001;
partial eta-squared = 0.20) in the previous twelve months. The average gaming frequency for all platforms was also higher among
females (Mfemales = 4.85; SDfemales = 1.28; Mmales = 3.22; SDmales = 1.31; t(477) = 13.583; p < .001; partial eta-squared = 0.28).
A chi-square test of independence was conducted to see whether there was any divergence between the preference of males and
females – respectively – in terms of playing video games alone or with a team. The test results showed that there was a definite
difference in this instance (X2 (4, N=479) = 45.958; p < .001; Cramer's V = 0.310). The proportion of males who preferred to play
with a team was higher than expected; as was the proportion of females who prefered to play alone (see Table 2).
The perceived video gaming skills of males and females were compared under two dimensions. In the first dimension, gaming
levels were compared with a chi-square test of independence. Chi-square tests revealed a significant difference between males and
females (X2 (4, N=479) = 91.859; p < .001; Cramer's V = 0.438). As displayed in Table 3, 66,3% of males reported reaching high or

Table 2
Chi-square results for gender * Playing alone vs. playing with a team preference.
Playing alone Playing with a team Total

Gender Male f 94 176 270

Expected f 130.8 139.2 270.0
% of Total 19.6% 36.7% 56.4%
Female F 138 71 209
Expected f 101.2 107.8 209.0
% of Total 28.8% 14.8% 43.6%

M. Dindar Computers & Education 125 (2018) 39–52

Table 3
Chi-square results for levels reached at video games and gender.
Lowest level Low level Medium level High level Highest level Total

Gender Male f 13 6 72 101 78 270

Expected f 27.6 20.9 90.2 77.8 53.5 270.0
% of Total 2.7% 1.3% 15.0% 21.1% 16.3% 56.4%
Female f 36 31 88 37 17 209
Expected f 21.4 16.1 69.8 60.2 41.5 209.0
% of Total 7.5% 6.5% 18.4% 7.7% 3.5% 43.6%

the highest levels in video games, compared to only 25,8% of females. In the second dimension, the video game play self-concepts of
males and females were compared with an independent samples t-test. T-test results demonstrated that the females' self-conceptions
of their video gaming skills were significantly lower than the males' (Mfemales = 2.58; SDfemales = 0.66; Mmales = 3.31;
SDmales = 0.61 t(477) = -12.476; p < .001; partial eta-squared = . 25).
Male and femaleacademic success was compared in terms of their GPA in the previous school term. The independent samples-test
showed that females had higher GPA in the previous school term than males (t(473) = 4.453; p < .001; partial eta-squared = 0.040;
Mfemale = 82.07; SDfemale = 15.56; Mmale = 75.42; SDmale = 16.55).
Finally, an independent samples t-test was conducted to compare the PISA 2012 CPST scores of males and females. Results showed
that females had significantly higher scores than males (Mfemale = 8.34; SDfemale = 4.42; Mmale = 7.14; SDmale = 4.33; t(477) = 2.81;
p = .003; partial eta-squared = 0.018).

3.3. Bivariate correlations on video gaming behaviors, academic success and PISA 2012 CPST

A Pearson's correlation was conducted to observe the bivariate relationships between PISA 2012 CPST and a) national exam for
high school attendance score, b) GPA, c) gaming experience in PC, mobile, and console platforms respectively, d) average gaming
experience in all platforms e) gaming time during weekdays and weekends, f) average gaming time for the whole week, g) gaming
frequency for PC, mobile, and console platforms respectively, h) average gaming frequency for all platforms, i) gaming level, and j)
video game play self-concept. These results are displayed in Table 4.
As seen in Table 4, the PISA 2012 CPST scores correlate significantly with national exam for high school attendance scores and the
GPA. The magnitude of the correlation can be considered small to medium. Additionally, small but significant and positive corre-
lations were observed between the PISA 2012 CPST and PC gaming experience, and console gaming frequency. While the magnitude
was small, a negative but significant correlation was observed between the PISA 2012 CPST and console gaming experience. No
significant correlation was noted between the PISA 2012 CPST and mobile gaming experience, average gaming experience, PC
gaming frequency, mobile gaming frequency, average gaming frequency, gaming level, gaming time (i.e. weekdays, weekends or the
whole week), or video game play self-concept.

3.4. Regressional analyses

3.4.1. Demographics, video game gaming behaviors and GPA

In order to see which demographic and video gaming variables predict GPA, a Stepwise linear regression was conducted. The
independent variables of the analysis were age, gender, national exam for high school attendance score, console gaming experience,
PC gaming frequency, console gaming frequency, average gaming frequency, gaming time during weekdays, gaming time during
weekends, average gaming time, playing alone vs. playing with a team, game genre, and video game self-concept. The dependent
variable was the GPA in the previous term. The variables that were not correlated with the GPA in Table 4 were not included in the
analysis. Regression results showed that national exam for the high school attendance score was the only significant predictor of GPA
scores. F(1,313) = 329.16; CINationalExamScore[0.120 - 0.149]; p < .001; betaNationalExamScore = 0.716). National exam for high school
attendance score accounted for 51% of variance in GPA scores. Table 5 presents the beta coefficients of the independent variables that
did not predict GPA.

3.4.2. Demographics, video gaming behaviors and CPS

A stepwise multiple linear regression was conducted to see whether certain demographics and video game play variables pre-
dicted the PISA 2012 CPST scores. The independent variables included in the regression model were age, gender, national exam for
high school attendance score, GPA, console gaming experience, console gaming frequency, game genre, and preference for playing
alone vs. playing with a team. The variables that did not show significant correlation with the PISA 2012 CPST in Table 4 were not
included in the model. The regression results showed that the only significant predictor of the PISA 2012 CPST were the national
exam for high school attendance score and the GPA in the previous term (F(2,313) = 42.432; p < .001; (betanational exam for high school
attendance score = 0.307; CINationalExamScore[0.023-0.088]; pNationalExamscore < .001; AdjustedR national exam for high school attendance
score = 19.6%; beta GPA in the previous school term = 0.189; CIGPA[0.013-0.088]; paverage grade in the previous term = .009; AdjustedR average
grade in the previous school term = 1.7%). The two variables accounted for 21% variance in the PISA 2012 CPST scores. Table 6 presents the
beta coefficients of the variables that did not predict the PISA 2012 CPST.

M. Dindar

Table 4
Correlation matrix.
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

∗∗ ∗∗ ∗ ∗ ∗
PISA Creative Problem Solving Test score (1) .443 .409 .108 -.066 -.093 .003 .026 .039 .109 .073 -.015 -.069 .058 -.017 -.015
National exam for high school attendance score (2) .716∗∗ .038 -.040 -.095∗ -.049 .150∗∗ .001 .102∗ .112∗ -.044 -.233∗∗ -.149∗∗ -.226∗∗ -.142∗∗
GPA (3) .037 -.087 -.121∗∗ -.047 .143∗∗ .079 .110∗ .146∗∗ -.047 -.163∗∗ -.102∗ -.169∗∗ -.140∗∗
PC gaming experience (4) .491∗∗ .477∗∗ .841∗∗ -.441∗∗ -.302∗∗ -.324∗∗ -.468∗∗ .440∗∗ .290∗∗ .380∗∗ .410∗∗ .426∗∗
Mobile gaming experience (5) .465∗∗ .742∗∗ -.198∗∗ -.364∗∗ -.333∗∗ -.385∗∗ .188∗∗ .113∗ .095∗ .165∗∗ .182∗∗
Console gaming experience (6) .766∗∗ -.375∗∗ -.269∗∗ -.608∗∗ -.539∗∗ .384∗∗ .279∗∗ .332∗∗ .423∗∗ .375∗∗
Average gaming experience (7) -.417∗∗ -.329∗∗ -.493∗∗ -.537∗∗ .403∗∗ .297∗∗ .362∗∗ .410∗∗ .417∗∗

PC gaming frequency (8) .391∗∗ .418∗∗ .804∗∗ -.408∗∗ -.515∗∗ -.564∗∗ -.655∗∗ -.514∗∗
Mobile gaming frequency (9) .336∗∗ .748∗∗ -.277∗∗ -.188∗∗ -.252∗∗ -.351∗∗ -.358∗∗
Console gaming frequency (10) .748∗∗ -.330∗∗ -.341∗∗ -.385∗∗ -.467∗∗ -.406∗∗
Average gaming frequency (11) -.443∗∗ -.461∗∗ -.528∗∗ -.648∗∗ -.558∗∗
Gaming level (12) .373∗∗ .408∗∗ .487∗∗ .621∗∗
Gaming time during the weekdays (13) .701∗∗ .875∗∗ .405∗∗
Gaming time during the weekends (14) .835∗∗ .488∗∗
Average gaming time (15) .557∗∗
Video game play self-concept (16) 1

**. Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed).

*. Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed).
Computers & Education 125 (2018) 39–52
M. Dindar Computers & Education 125 (2018) 39–52

Table 5
The independent variables that did not predict GPA scores.
Beta t p

Age −0.063 −1.185 0.237

Gender 0.062 1.534 0.126
Console gaming experience −0.053 −1.341 0.181
Averaga gaming frequenct 0.066 1.671 0.096
PC gaming frequency 0.036 0.914 0.361
Console gaming frequency 0.038 0.948 0.344
Gaming time during the weekdays 0.004 0.099 0.921
Gaming time during the weekends 0.005 0.124 0.901
Average daily gaming time −0.008 −0.194 0.847
Video game play self-concept −0.039 −0.973 0.331
Game genre 0.003 0.087 0.931
Play alone vs. play with a team −0.047 −1.187 0.236

Table 6
The independent variables that did not predict PISA 2012 CPST.
Beta t p

Age 0.045 .668 .505

Gender 0.038 .749 .455
Console gaming experience −0.042 -.827 .409
Console gaming frequency 0.058 1.144 .254
Game genre 0.031 .617 .537
Play alone vs. Play with a team 0.087 1.729 .085

4. Discussion

4.1. Gender and video gaming

Previous studies showed that males spent more time on video gaming than females (Desai et al., 2010; Hartmann & Klimmt, 2006;
Lenhart, 2015; Rehbein et al., 2016; Terlecki et al., 2011). Confirming this, the current study found that males spent more time on
video game play both during weekdays and weekends. The findings further demonstrated that males had more years of experience in
PC, mobile and console games, something that is also in line with previous studies (Terlecki et al., 2011). The divide between males
and females in terms of gaming experience and gaming time has been evident in perceived video gaming skills in the prior studies.
That is, males displayed higher self-efficacy in video gaming than females (Hartmann & Klimmt, 2006; Terlecki et al., 2011). Sup-
porting these findings, the proportion of females who reached high or the highest levels in video games was lower than males in this
study. Moreover, females reported lower perceived skills in video games than males in terms of video game-self concept. Overall,
these findings showed that the decades-old gender gap between males and females in video gaming time and skills still persists.
Some scholars argue that the difference between males and females in terms of gaming time might be mediated by genre (Rehbein
et al., 2016). As previously discussed, findings have shown that males like playing role-playing, strategy and shooter games more than
the females (Elliott et al., 2012; Hamlen, 2011; Liu, 2016; Rehbein et al., 2016). Studies have revealed that time spent on role-
playing, shooter and strategy games was higher than for the other genres (Rehbein et al., 2016), meaning that the longer gaming time
of males might be a result of their genre preferences. Supporting past research, the genres prefered by males in this study were role-
play and shooter games. On the other hand, females were more into brain and skills, action and adventure, and sports, racing and
simulation games. Moreover, the time spent on shooter, role-play and strategy games in this study was higher than the time spent on
brain and skills, action and adventure, sports, racing and simulation games. However, the only significant differences were observed
for the role-playing genre. It is also worth noting that role-playing, shooter and strategy games are mostly multiplayer in nature, and
it has been posited that socializing through teamplay is related to increased gaming time (Billieux et al., 2013). Therefore, preference
for single player or multiplayer games might influence the gaming time. Confirming this, the findings of this study showed that the
majority of sampled males prefered to play within a team, whereas the majority of sampled females prefered to play alone. A
surprising finding was that females reported playing PC, mobile and console games more frequently than males. This is contrary to
the results of previous research (Desai et al., 2010; Gentile, 2009; Terlecki et al., 2011). Based on these findings, it can be concluded
that although females had less experience and skills in video games, they were more frequenly involved in these activities than the
males in the current sample. However, the game genres they prefer do not require extensive time investment or team play. Thus, they
spend less time on video game play than the males.

4.2. Video gaming, academic success and CPS

The current study investigated the relationship between video game play, academic success and CPS skills in multiple dimensions.

M. Dindar Computers & Education 125 (2018) 39–52

These dimensions were gaming time, gaming frequency, gaming experience, perceived gaming skills, playing alone vs. playing with a
team, and game genre. No practically significant relationship was observed with any of these dimensions and the academic success or
the CPS skills. Further, the current study showed that although females had less experience and less skills in video gaming, they
played video games more frequently, had higher GPA, and higher CPS skills than males. However, the difference between males and
females in terms of GPA and CPS disappeared after controlling the various demographic and video gaming variables in regression
The current literature involves contradictory findings about the relationship between video gaming and academic success. Some
scholars have posited that time spent on video games might decrease the amount of the time spent upon educational activities after
school and thereby affect school performance in a negative manner (Schmidt & Vandewater, 2008; Weis & Cerankosky, 2010).
Supporting this, several studies have reported a negative relationship between video game play and academic success (Anand, 2007;
Choo et al., 2010; Gentile et al., 2004; Weaver, Kim, Metzer, & Szendrey, 2013). On the other hand, there are also studies that found
no relationship between video gaming time and academic success (Brunborg et al., 2014; Drummond & Sauer, 2014; Ferguson, 2011;
Sahin et al., 2016). The current findings are in favor of the latter. Gaming time during the weekdays and weekends was negatively
correlated with GPA on a minimal levels. However, after controlling the other variables in the regression analysis, there seemed to be
no effect on GPA owing to gaming time. It can be concluded that students are able to regulate the balance between their academic
studies and video gaming time or frequency, meaning that these factors do not have markedly negative effects on their GPA. In their
study, Adachi and Willoughby (2013) found a positive but indirect relationship between playing specific game genres (i.e. strategy
and role-playing) and academic success. Contrary to Adachi and Willoughby (2013), the current study showed that game genre,
perceived skills in video gaming (i.e. video game self-concept) or success (i.e. levels reached) in video games was not related with
GPA. These findings question the efficiency of commercial video games on the development of academic skills. It is known that young
people spend hours of their daily time in advancing their skills and success in commercial video games. However, the contribution of
commercial video gaming to academic achievement seems to be dubious. Therefore, playing educational games that target specific
domain knowledge areas would be a better approach to improving academic success than playing commercial video games with no
clear focus. Instead of adapting what is available in the video game market, educational stakeholders should put more effort into the
development of video games that help students to build a strong knowledge base in core domains (e.g. maths, science, and lan-
The existing study does not support the previous empirical research that reported a positive association between video gaming
and problem solving skills (Adachi & Willoughby, 2013; Shute et al., 2015; Steinkuehler & Duncan, 2008; Sánchez & Olivares, 2011;
Yang, 2012). However, direct comparison between the current and past findings is not easy due to the diversity of how problem
solving skills are measured. Some studies measure problem solving through self-reporting instruments (Adachi & Willoughby, 2013;
Sánchez & Olivares, 2011) or coding player actions during video gaming (Steinkuehler & Duncan, 2008). Others utilize performance-
based measures of problem solving but only investigate the effects of specific games (Shute et al., 2015; Yang, 2012). On the other
hand, the current study followed an ecological approach and measured CPS with real-life problem situations. Furthermore, its
findings are not limited to a specific game or genre, and thus provide a broader perspective upon the link between video gaming and
problem solving skills.
The non-existent relationship between video gaming and CPS in the current study contributes to the emerging empirical dis-
cussions claiming that the transfer of video gaming skills to real-life contexts might not occur (Boot, Kramer, Simons, Fabiani, &
Gratton, 2008; Boot, Blakely, & Simons, 2011; Gnambs; Appel, 2017; Simons et al., 2016; Unsworth et al., 2015). In general, other
studies have reported a positive relationship between video gaming and various cognitive skills (Powers, Brooks, Aldrich, Palladino,
& Alfieri, 2013). However, past studies on video gaming and cognitive skills have been criticized in terms of small sample sizes
(Gnambs & Appel, 2017; Unsworth et al., 2015), recruitment of extreme groups (e.g. expert gamers vs. non-gamers) (Boot et al.,
2011; Redick & Webster, 2014; Unsworth et al., 2015), failed replications (Boot et al., 2008; Gnambs & Appel, 2017; Irons,
Remington, & McLean, 2011; Unsworth et al., 2015), and small effect sizes (Powers et al., 2013). In addition, “the curse of specifity”
is a well-known phenomena in psychology (Green & Bavelier, 2012). That is, improved performance and skills in a task have very
little or no benefit in the performance of new tasks, even if they are similar to each other (Green, Strobach, & Schubert, 2014;
Tremblay, Houle, & Ostry, 2008). In line with this, the current findings imply that the skills derived from video gaming experiences
do not make individuals better problem solvers in real-life contexts.
In the literature, some game genres were found to be better at developing cognitive skills. For example, role-playing games were
considered to improve the real-world competency of individuals (Twining, 2010). Strategic games were shown to improve perceived
problem solving skills better than non-strategic games (Adachi & Willoughby, 2013). Furthermore, several studies demonstrated the
benefits of shooter games on perceptual and visuospatial skill development (Chisholm et al., 2010). On the other hand, some scholars
suggested that while playing video games (i.e. puzzle, shooter or strategic games) can improve some basic cognitive skills (e.g. visual
tracking, mental rotation) to a certain extent, the influence of video games on most cognitive skills was not obvious (Boot et al.,
2008). Confirming this, no difference was found between video game genres in terms of CPS skills. Boot et al. (2008) concluded that
the difference in cognitive skills between experts and non-experts in video gaming could either be a function of extensive game play,
or pre-existing differences between the participants that influenced the selection of specific video games. However, the current
findings showed that neither game genres nor gaming time was not related to CPS performance. Thus, it is questionable whether
spending more time in specific improves CPS skills.
Several scholars have discussed the affordances of multiplayer games for collaborative learning (Yang, 2012). Specifically, role-
playing games have been praised as valuable venues for the development of problem solving skills (Steinkuehler, 2006). It has been
stated that articulating knowledge through interactions and group support in online games contributes to the development of

M. Dindar Computers & Education 125 (2018) 39–52

problem solving skills (Barab et al., 2009; Eseryel, Guo, & Law, 2012; Gee, 2008, pp. 21–40; Kong, Kwok, & Fang, 2012; Steinkuehler,
2006; van der Meij, Albers, & Leemkuil, 2011). Contrary to these assertions, the current study found no difference between the CPS
scores of individuals who prefered to play alone or play with a team. Therefore, further studies are necessary to understand the
specific mechanisms that might lead to improved CPS skills in collaborative or single player games.
The current findings showed that beliefs of self-efficacy and perceived success in video games do not transform themselves into
increased CPS skills. This is surprising because many scholars have asserted that players spend a great deal of time on problem solving
activities in video games (Shute et al., 2009). In order to advance in the game, players have to develop and modify strategies to solve
problems in the game context (Ebner & Holzinger, 2007). It was also asserted that the ability to transfer knowledge into different
encounters in video games empowers individuals to handle real-life challenges (Gee, 2007). Therefore, it could be expected that
players who reach high levels in games or have high perceived video game self-concept would have superior problem solving skills.
However, this was not the case in the current study in which no relationship was observed between perceived video gaming skills and
CPS in real-life contexts. The current findings indicate that it might be premature to conclude that video game play has a noteworthy
effects on the development of CPS skills and their transferability to real-life.

5. Conclusion

The current study investigated the video gaming experiences and preferences of high school students in a variety of dimensions
and found significant differences between males and females in terms of their gaming behaviors, preferences and skills. The findings
showed that males spent more time on video games and reported highers skills in video game play than the females. However, the
frequency of video game play was higher among the females. These results revealed that the differences between males and females
in terms of video game play time and video game play frequency might due to their game preferences. That is, video games popular
among the males require more time investment compared with the video games popular among the females. The study also in-
vestigated the relationship between academic success and CPS skills of high school students and their relationship with gaming
experience, gaming frequency, gaming time, perceived gaming skills, playing alove vs. playing with a team, and game genre. Neither
academic success nor CPS skills were related to any of these video gaming behaviors. Overall, these findings suggest that the high
expectations regarding the transferability of video game play skills to academic or daily-life could be ungrounded. Further studies
with robust measurement approaches are necessarry to assess the short- and long-term effects of video games on learning.
This study extends the current literature from several perspectives. Firstly, problem solving skills were measured with an es-
tablished performance-based framework (i.e. PISA 2012 CPST) rather than self-reports. Secondly, the study investigated the video
gaming behaviors of participants for different platforms (i.e. PC, mobile and console). Thus, it provides a fine-grained view of the
relationship between academic success, CPS and video game play across these platforms. Moreover, rather than focusing on a specific
game type, this study provides an overview of the relationship between different game genres, academic success and CPS skills.

6. Limitations

A significant limitation of the study is that its sample is not representative of the high school population in Turkey. Thus, its
findings are restricted to the current sample. In addition, video gaming variables were measured with self-reports that might not
reflect the actual gaming behaviors of the participants. Furthermore, these self-reports provide an overall view about video gaming
behaviors, but lack depth. Therefore, future studies should adapt experience sampling methods to provide a fine-grained and in-depth
view of video gaming experiences. This study took only the most played game into consideration when deciding upon the game
genre. However, it is possible that the participants had been playing several games from different genres, in addition to their most
played game. Thus, the relationship between a specific game genre and academic success or CPS skills might be moderated by
multiple genre play. Another notable limitation of the study is that the participants either chose playing alone or playing with a team
in the demographics questionnaire, meaning that the study does not provide information on how playing both single and teamplay
games relates to academic success or CPS. Considering these limitations, future research should focus on developing better metrics
that accommodate the variability and complexity in video gaming behaviors.


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