Research Claims There’s A Connection Between Sexist Video Games and Rape

Research Claims There’s A Connection Between Sexist Video Games and Rape

A recent study coming out of Stanford is claiming that there’s a scientific connection between sexist video games and rape. Honestly, the study is more about a connection between video games and self-objectification, but we’ll go with that they’re claiming for right now.

A sample of the sexualized avatars used in the study

The study evaluates shifts in perspectives on rape culture and physical embodiment after playing with sexualized in-game avatars. The research group went about examining these shifts by having groups of female gamers play with highly sexualized avatars and then having them answer questions regarding views on rape and sexism. A control group of female gamers playing with non-sexualized avatars were used in comparrison to those with the sexualized avatars. The study found two things: The first, that gamers who were playing with sexualized avatars were more likely to give into myths about victim-base rape culture and that, two,  when the groups were playing with characters that mirrored themselves (including having their real life faces posted on the characters bodies) the proponents were  even more likely to give into victim-blamed myths about rape.  What the research contends is that gamers embody characteristics of their avatars, which alter their real-world perspectives as players with more sexualized avatars were reported as having much more body related thoughts than those without sexualized avatars. This would contend that sexualized avatars create more self-objectification than non-sexualized avatars.

What’s this mean? It would suggest that sexist female avatars and characters have negative effect on female gamers. Beyond the consequences of being more susceptible to myth about rape, which is what the study focuses on, the research seems to suggest that inaccurate representation of females in games have harmful effects on how female gamers are viewing themselves and females in general. While the study doesn’t go into the effects that sexist video game characters have on men, it does provide evidence that sexism in video games has effects on how gamers view women, which is certainly a great issue.  With a lack of accurate a fair female representations in the gaming world, the surplus of sexist and inaccurate video game females is showing to have more and more effect on female and male gamers alike.

 

I’m not really doing the research justice, so please go check out the link to the research study’s paper that was published in Computers in Human Behavior

Tropes vs Women in Video Games – Part 3:Damsel in Distress

The third installment in the Tropes vs Women in Video Games series has been released today. I’m not going to say anything about it,  but here’s a brief description:

This is the third installment in our three part mini-series exploring the Damsel in Distress trope in video games. In this episode we examine the rare Dude in Distress role reversal and then take a look at the use of “ironic sexism” in retro inspired indie and mobile games. We conclude with an investigation of some titles that attempt to subvert or deconstruct the traditional damsel narrative.

Tropes vs. Women in Games Ep. 2

This is just a quick one: A few days ago Anita Sarkeesian released her second Tropes Vs. Women in Games episode, focusing on the trope of the damsel in distress in recent video games.

There’s is nothing I can say that will be more eloquent, accurate, or more thought out than what Sarkeesian says in this episode. It’s a great video that’s very informative. If you haven’t seen the original, go watch that now.

That’s all. No failed attempts at wit today.

Female Employee Calls out Game Developer Boss’ Sexism with Awesome Prank

Female Employee Calls out Game Developer Boss’ Sexism with Awesome Prank

This is just a bit of great and funny news. A post that originated on “The Hawkeye Initiative”(which if you haven’t already gone and checked out you should do immediately) from a anonymous female employee of a gaming developer that was unhappy with a prominently displayed poster in their office shows how bringing to light issues of sexism can both be positive and fun (YEAH  TALKING ABOUT SEXISM IS GREAT!).

The poster in question:

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Our CEO loves this picture. It is to all appearances his favorite piece of comic art for the game. He had it blown up poster-sized, framed, and displayed on the out-facing wall of his office. There, it looms over the front room like a ship’s figurehead. It is the first thing workers and visitors see when they enter the building and the last thing they see when they leave. This little lady’s undermeats have been the open- and close- parens to my work world for the last six months.

To give a little background, the “Hawkeye Initiative” is a an internet movement to replace female comic book characters in impossible or provocative  poses with the very masculine and alluring Hawkeye to comment on the depiction and representation of females in comic books. Essentially, they’re taking Powergirl’s skimpy poses and replacing them with bulging Hawkeye (Oh my!)

Thus, in keeping with the Hawkeye Initiative’s message, the employee got together with one of the developer’s artists and made this poster:

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After replacing the posters, the CEO of the company had this to say to the employee:

“That was a brilliant prank. You called me on exactly the bullshit I need to be called on. I put up pictures of half-naked girls around the office all the time and I never think about it. I’m taking you and Sam to lunch. And after that, we’re going to hang both prints, side by side.”

Hey, that worked out. That was nice. The mastermind of this all also shared some insightful things that she learned from this experience:

This wonderful experience has taught me two things that I hope to carry with me for the rest of my career in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and in gaming. It taught me this:

  1. Lots of men (like Sam) are already sympathetic to the stupid, constant crap women put up with in gaming/STEM, and they are ready and willing to call that crap onto the carpet.
  2. And, most importantly, many of the guys who are behind that stupid, constant crap are totally decent, open-minded human beings who just don’t realize they’re doing it. You know how sometimes you don’t realize how much you and your girlfriend are talking about shoes or menstruation until some dude walks into the room? Well sometimes guys don’t realize how much they’re talking about titties.

We just haven’t been around enough for them to notice.

So what does this teach us? Nothing? That we should replace pictures of things we dislike with things we like? It just goes to show that Sexism doesn’t have to be a silently fought issue. While no one is suggesting that all bosses/ceos/ people in charge are going to react like this great boss, one has avenues to breach these matters. And it’s true, the gaming industry is filled with more progressive minded individuals than you would think, so perhaps it’s time for men in the gaming industry to wise up a little more to the junk that their female co-workers have to deal with.

Should we have a Hawkeye initiative for the video game industry? Nathan Drake taking on the poses of Lara Croft per chance? Ryu striking the same poses of his female counterparts? As I type this, I wish I had the drawing ability to make these so.

How Objectificiation Hurts Video Games

How Objectificiation Hurts Video Games

(Caution, main picture on the article is a little on the NSFW side)

Here’s an article that was posted on the NYTimes Live site. To be honest, it’s not the greatest article, but it brings about a good point and is worth questioning. The author’s main argument is that objectification in video games is hurting games and the industry. I this true? Is he wrong? Should we care? Are there any horse socks? Is anyone even listening?

The author contends that female characters are typically objectified to the point of them being nothing more than objects to save; the quest isn’t about saving an individual, it’s about retrieving an object.The article uses the example of Princess Peach to exemplify this objectification, not as a object of of sex appeal, but as a character who represents the nothingness of many created female characters. It’s true, what do we know about Peach besides the fact that she gets kidnapped a lot, likes to bake cakes, and is occasionally not in the castle she’s supposed to be in? Then again, Mario Characters (Or even Nintendo characters in general) probably aren’t the best example of fleshed out characters. But it’s true, a lot of female characters in video games tend to be fairly one dimensional (NOT 2D EVEN. HARDY HAR HAR) and stereotype based. You needn’t look further than most Japanese RPGs to prove this. Without  a doubt, these one-sided characters are hurting the representation of females in gaming, and not providing accurate role models and representations to gamers, but that’s not really the point the author is making.

The author is making the argument that this objectification of females in gaming is hurting developers where they care the most: the wallet.

We see a cover with a woman dressed in something that would give a stripper doubts, we automatically think “well that’s probably crap” and don’t buy it. This is a fairly big chunk of how women are portrayed on game covers, so publishers look at it and think the problem is women, not the portrayal of women.

HEY, THANKS FOR THAT QUOTE. Is this true of most gamers? I don’t I think it is. If we’ve learned anything from the media, it’s that sex sells. Would Dead Or Alive be as popular of a franchise without the complete objectification of women? Probably not. Hell, there’s even complete MMOs out there that were created on the idea “LET’S MAKE AN GAME WITH A BUNCH OF NAKED CHICKS”. Likewise, with a good portion of the gaming populace being teenage boys, it’s hard not to say that this gaming philosophy is working.

Speaking for myself, I agree with the author: games with large amount of “boob exposure” on the cover typically sway me away from looking further into them. Take Lollipop Chainsaw for example- a over the top, over-sexualized, ridiculous hack-in-slash that supposed to be decent

I will happily buy a game with such bad box art. I mean, sexiness aside, it’s still really ugly. Needless to say, not all games have women sexualized to this degree, and the game itself is a tad bit of a parody. However most gamers won’t know that, but will that sway them not buying the game? That wasn’t really the issue with this particular game, but it’s debatable.

So what should be done? Should sex appeal be removed from games all together? No. I wouldn’t say that. It has it’s place. Done correctly, a game that deals with themes of sexuality and objectification can actually be great.

Take for example Catherine on the PS3/360, a game where the cheating main character must make a decision between choosing his long term, less exciting girlfriend, or a very sexualized younger girl he has a one night stand with. Amongst many other themes, the game deals with subjects of infidelity, relationships, and objectification.It does it with great storytelling, consequences for your action, and interesting perspectives.

 

Unfortunately most games aren’t Catherine, and most developers are content with merely painting one dimensional characters with little remorse for the consequences. This isn’t an issue with female characters only, we should be asking more from our developers out of characters in general. Deeper characters = deeper experiences. That said, we should also be weary of games that are simply using sex to sell us a product.

So whether you agree with the author or not about whether objectification is hurting gaming developers, it certainly remains an issue in gaming and media in general.

 

Misogynism in Video Games: Struggles and Solutions

Misogynism in Video Games: Struggles and Solutions

This interesting article hit the web last week. It chronicles one female’s gamers struggle towards acceptance in both her online communities and her real world gaming community.

“A lot of ‘gamer’ guys just never respected my opinions,” she said. “I’ll be talking about games with my friends, and there would be this one guy who always thought my taste in games were too girly and childish […] He said I wasn’t a ‘real gamer.’” Even so close to home, female gamers are met with hostility for expressing their interest in video games.

This unfortunate story tells a truth about the gaming industry: it’s kinda sexist. Well, maybe not kinda, maybe REALLY sexist. Female gamers, whom make up a healthy population of the gaming world (coming in at 47%) are often still disregarded as casual on non-gamers. That’s not to mention that the majority of video game being developed are specifically aimed at young males, rather than their female counterparts.

Cooking Mama’s not part of the problem, right? OH NO!

Where’s this hostility coming from? Well, I don’t know if I need to say this, but: YOUNG MEN ARE STUPID, HORMONE DRIVEN, ASSHOLES. That is to say, place a young male gamer on the internet and let them loose with pure anonymity as their dark side comes out. You needn’t look further than a message board flame war for this (OH GOD, THE WARS I’VE SEEN!). With the veil of the internet, young male oppress and harass female gamers in ways they’d never do in person. However, as this article contends, the harassment and oppression doesn’t end online- female gamers are often disregarded and marginalized by their peers, dismissed as non-gamers or casual gamers. The picture of a “hardcore gamer” in the eyes of many males game is only one gender.

So what can we do? This isn’t a karate movie in which Hilary Swank is going to train and prove her worth to boys (No one makes The Next Karate Kid references, and for good reason..). We as gamers need to realize that we have to play nicely. Gaming is no longer the introverted activity it once was, and that your gaming world is all of our gaming world. We also need to examine what makes a gamer; is it the type of games we play, or the people we are? Likewise, developers need to keep in check the messages and images they conveying, and putting forth. Through acknowledgement and acceptance, marginalization in the gaming world will one day disappear.

Girl Scouts Giving out Game Design Badges

Girl Scouts Giving out Game Design Badges

Last week the Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles introduced a game design merit badge for scouts to promote women in the field of game design and programming.

“Our ultimate goal is to create a STEM-aligned video game badge for the Girl Scouts of the United States of America,” Amy Allison, vice president of WIGI, told GirlGamer.com. “Creating this badge will get young girls excited in technology and science and let them know that they, too, can have a career in the video game industry.”

“If the girl scouts had a game design badge when I was a kid, I would have joined!” said me, on he street, to no one.

But why should we care about this cookie dealing militia getting game design badges (Especially when there’s no cookies involved)? Well, females are incredibly underrepresented in game design- the majority of programers and engineers are still men. Why is that? Well, we could go into a whole thing about the genderification of careers, but no one will read that. Long story short: Somewhere along the line in the education process, women are pushed out of the math of sciences. Such  programs, like this, that focus on early education in math and sciences for young girls will help to alleviate this problem. If we can get girls excited at a young age about math and science, then they’re much more likely to be excited later on in their educational career  for these fields

So Bravo girl scouts. Thanks for doing something, unlike those good for nothing boy scouts. “Oh, that’s a swell knot you tied. Can I eat it? Then I don’t give a damn”