Gaming & Career Selection

What Video Game Preferences Can Tell Us About Career Selection and Interests

Is there a relationship between video game preferences and career selection? Recently, members of SIGMA’s R&D team have become interested in examining whether individuals’ interest in video games is associated with their interest in various types of careers. Our hope is that if we can show that interest in specific games is correlated with interest in specific careers, we can use this information to help develop future career interest assessments that are interactive, dynamic, and perhaps most importantly, appealing to young people just starting out on their career paths.

This past year we conducted an online research study using a North American sample of 264 adults. We administered the Jackson Career Explorer (JCE), which asks participants to rate their interest in a number of career-related tasks. Then, we were able to compute each individual’s level of interest on 34 basic interest scales that reflect either work roles (i.e., business, life science ) or work styles (i.e., independence, job security). We also administered the Video Game Uses and Gratifications Instrument (VGUGI1), which measures different motivations underlying the desire to play video games.

These motivations include:

  • Arousal – play because the game is emotionally stimulating
  • Challenge – play to get to the next level or reach some stage of personal accomplishment
  • Social Interaction – play games to interact with friends
  • Competition – desire to play to be the best and beat your friends
  • Diversion – play to relax or alleviate boredom
  • Fantasy – play games because they allow you to do things that are not possible in real life

Gaming Motivations & Career Interest

We found a number of significant relationships between gaming motivations and career interests:

  • Arousal motivation was associated with higher interest in adventurous careers
  • Challenge motivation was associated with a preference for scholarly activities and an independent work style
  • Social Interaction motivation was associated with greater interpersonal confidence and greater interest in authoritarian leadership and consulting careers
  • Competition motivation was related to greater interest in engineering, physical science, mathematics, and medical service

In addition to these intriguing results, we also found gender differences. Our data revealed that in many cases, the relationship between gaming motivations and career interests was stronger for women than for men.

Although we were able to provide some initial insights into the relation between video game preferences and career interests, we would like to explore this topic further by examining how interests in specific video game genres (i.e., first-person shooter, role-playing, strategy, puzzle, rhythm) are related to career interests. There is a growing literature to suggest that certain types of video games (first-person shooter) but not others (word puzzles) are able to train spatial abilities relevant to various science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) careers2. As such, we are interested in determining if interest in these types of games is also associated with interest in these careers, and if so, how these games could be used to increase women’s interest in STEM fields – an area where they continue to be underrepresented.


“Gamification” is a concept that has recently received a great deal of attention in business. It is a term that refers to the inclusion of gaming components in a non-gaming context (e.g., posting a leader board of employees with top sales within a company)3. Studies have suggested that gamification may have a significant impact on employee engagement by increasing intrinsic motivation, goal setting, and competition4,5. More specifically, content gamification has been proposed for use in selection/hiring contexts, and refers to altering assessment content to be more game-like6. Although little is currently known about the impact of content gamification, we hope to continue to explore this exciting new area of research and its application to career interest assessments.

Erica Sutherland

1Sherry, J. L., Greenberg, B. S., Lucas, K., & Lachlan, K. (2006). Video game uses and gratifications and predictors of use and game preferences. In P. Vorderer, & J. Bryant (Eds.), Playing video games: Motives, responses, and consequences (pp. 213-240). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

2Sanchez, C. A. (2012). Enhancing visuospatial performance through video game training to increase learning in visuospatial science domains. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 19, 58-65.

3DuVernet, A. M., & Popp, E. (2014). Gamification and workplace practices.The Industrial-Organizational Psychologist, 52, 39-43.

4Huckabee, I., & Bissette, T. (2014, Spring). Learning made fun. Training Industry Magazine, 32-35.

5Muntean, C. I. (2011, June). Raising engagement in e-learning through gamification. Paper presented at the 6th annual International Conference on Virtual Learning, Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Retrieved from

6Kapp, K. M. (2014, Spring). What L&D professionals need to know about gamification. Training Industry Magazine, 16-19.

About the Author

Sharon Van Duynhoven

Office Manager

Sharon brings our tests and assessments from the development stage to marketable product. She ensures quality control at every step of a project, edits technical documents and manuals, and artistically enhances reports and resources. She also manages contracts with clients across the globe and answers technical questions.