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Impact Of Video Game Stereotypes On Society Media Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Media
Wordcount: 5552 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The purpose of this study focuses on gender stereotypes in video games and how they affect the viewer’s self-concept, self-esteem and body image. Video games have become one of the top industries that have affected our society today. For this qualitative study, interviews were conducted to understand gender stereotypes in video games. The researcher used convenience sampling to recruit participants for the interview. Three female participants were involved in this study. Each participants were asked ten questions regarding how much time was spent playing video games, how they feel about gender stereotypes in video games and also how it affects them in general. Two participants showed that video game stereotypes affect them in some way. However the third participant was not affected by its influences because she only played with non human characters. Results showed that, gender stereotypes in video games may affect the participant’s self-concept, self-esteem and body image.

Impact of Video game Stereotypes on Society


The purpose of this study focuses on gender stereotypes in video games and how they affect the viewer’s self-concept, self-esteem and body image. Since video games have integrated in the American society, the player(s) begins to learn certain norms and values from video game character(s). This research seeks to understand how individuals compare their selves to a video game character much like a child to an adult.

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Overview and Justification

Throughout the years the world has seen how complex and structural video games have become, from the simple two dimensional eight-bit forms to three dimensional characters that now dominate today’s video game market. Nearly 68% of Americans today play on either a gaming console or personal computer; on average an individual plays about 18 hours a week (Entertainment Software Association, 2009). With access to different types of consoles and the amount of time spent playing, an individual becomes immersed in a world of characters that influence their norms and beliefs.

Article seven of The Universal Declaration of Human Right states, “All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination… All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation…” However, American society, video games stereotype their characters by creating the “ideal” female model. This in turn, causes players to use these female characters as a base model for reality. It is important to understand how an individual sees these characters as role models to compare themselves with throughout both childhood and adulthood. In addition, these video game characters greatly influence a person’s perspective on the female role in society. With video games becoming more interactive, an individual would believe that actions allowed to a female character in a virtual world would be allowed in reality. It is important to investigate how the female character stereotypes influence an individual.

The video game industry is growing fast. Miller and Summers (2007) conducted a study on gender differences portrayed in magazines. The authors ask a series of questions on how characters are depicted in video games. What skills does each character have? What roles does he or she play? Are characters portrayed as eye-catching or powerfully built? The researchers developed two hypotheses and each hypothesis has two parts. Hypothesis one wanted to determine if there are any gender role differences in the characters as they are depicted in the magazines. Part A stated male characters would have specific roles whereas women characters would have ambiguous roles. Part B stated male characters have more skills and arsenals than the female counterparts. Hypothesis two states that there are differences in attire and appearance between genders. Part A predicted that male characters are more “muscular, evil, and powerful” than female characters. Part B predicted that attire for females are more revealing than for males.

Methods were used to conduct this study were the collection of samples in popular gaming magazines from marketers of Playstation, Xbox, and Nintendo, respectfully, between the years of 2003 to 2005. Magazines articles were selected by their ability to give information on certain characters in a game. Six individuals, called “Coders,” were chosen for the study to rate video game characters in the selected magazine articles. The “Coders” were asked to determine if a character has a main role in the game. Then they were asked to recognize the role of the character. “Coders” were to choose all abilities and weapons that the character was to have. Then “Coders” rated the character’s attractiveness using an “eight point scale” (0 = not at all to 7 = very). Their scores were based on how a person in the American society would view these video game characters.

The subjects chosen for the study were one professor (age 32), three undergraduate students (ages 19-22), and two graduate students (ages 24 and 27). Four “Coders” were female, and two males. Five “Coders” were Caucasian and one was a minority.

The experiment results for hypothesis one Part A were partially supported. Fifty-one percent of the video games being surveyed allow players to only choose male characters. Only 26.5% allow players to only choose a female character. Ten point two percent of the games allowed both genders to be played. Majority of the male characters are playable as the key character and prone to be the hero. Part B was partially supported, 83.9% of the male characters use more weapons than female characters. Evidence has supported Hypothesis 2 Part A, in that; male characters are well-built and powerful than their female counterparts. Hypothesis 2, Part B is also supported, female characters have revealing attire than their male counterparts. Video game magazines strongly portray gender differences and may affect how children view male and female roles.

Burgess, Stermer and Burgess (2007) examined the images of males and females on video game covers to explore eight hypotheses. Hypothesis one stated that male and female are represented equally on a cover. Hypothesis two stated that either character would have an active role in the game. Hypothesis three stated male and female characters were portrayed as role objectifying. Hypothesis four stated males and females were similarly expected to be represented as a whole body or part of a body. Hypothesis five stated, male and female characters are equally predicted to be bodily objectified. Hypothesis six stated, male and female physical appearances represented an exaggerated glorified form. Hypothesis seven stated that male and female characters are likely to be portrayed as a secondary character in a video game. Hypothesis eight stated, aggressive characters have distinct attributes in their physical features.

Burgess et al. (2007) used 225 video game covers from three popular video game consoles (Playstation 2, Xbox, and Nintendo GameCube). The covers were retrieved from a website during the summer of 2005. These games were divided by ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board) ratings. Seventy-two video game covers were rated E for everyone, 95 covers were rated T for teens, and 58 covers were rated M for mature. To better compare video game covers, the top 50 were chosen to be used for this study.

Three participants were chosen to review 225 covers. Two participants served as analyzers; the third participant was used to resolve disagreements. Each participant reviewed the covers and at the same time completed a checklist. Out of the 225 covers, only 173 covers were used because they contained humanoid characters. The remaining 52 nonhuman characters were not analyzed.

The experiment proved hypotheses one through seven. The male characters are displayed in front of video game covers and are less likely to be in a supportive role. Female characters were likely to be portrayed in a sexual manner than their male counterparts. In addition, they are more likely to be in physical objectifying roles Hypothesis eight: 65% of the sample covers portrayed male characters more violently than females. With male characters being the dominant image portrayed on a cover and female characters represented as a physical object, a video game cover can influence a person’s thoughts on how men and women roles are valued.

Bailenson and Fox (2009) sought to evaluate the sexuality of a female character and to determine whether the character entices sexist and “rape myths” (which purport that the victim is to be blamed for her own rape). Also, the study sought to see if eye contact on a virtual female character affected behaviors in the viewer.

The method used for this experiment was an Immersive Virtual Environment Technology (IVET). This type of technology replaces natural sensory with digital sensory. A head monitor was placed on the participant’s head to simulate the nature environment. The participants were randomly assigned to four different types of female images: “Suggestively dress and high gaze agent; suggestively dress low gaze; conservatively dress high gaze; and conservatively low dress” (p. 151). After the exposure with the virtual female, the participant were removed from the testing area and asked to fill out a questionnaire. Research assistants began recording the time after instructions were given. Participants were asked to determine how “sexy” the virtual female attire is dressed with a five point scale (1 not-at-all to 5 extremely).

The sample was chosen from a medium size university from the west coast and participants were given $10 or course credit for participation. There were 43 men and 40 women ages 18 to 34. The sample group was racially diverse 38.6% Caucasian, 24.1 % Asian American, 13.3% African American, 10.8% Latino, and 13.3% multiracial.

This study concluded that the virtual female “sexy” attire was alluring compared to the female who was dressed conservatively. The participants who were assigned the suggestively dress and high gaze virtual female stated that “reveal that participants in the high gaze condition indicated that the agent saw them more than the participant in the low gaze condition” (p. 154).

The researchers demonstrate that their findings supported the research topic. Both appearance and actions can be considered as a reason why the participants reacted to the virtual female character. The “conservatively dressed low gaze” virtual female led to greater acceptance of the “rape myth.” The participants categorized this type of character as “weak, submissive [in] the need [of] protection.” The “suggestively dressed high gaze” virtual female also led the viewer to articulate certain “rape myth.” Participants would state that they were compelled to “place the female in her place” suggesting that the state of dress of the “suggestively dressed” female developed a negative reaction in which the participants would state that “She does not deserve respect by a male.” Testing the participants in a virtual setting can give insight to how the virtual character can impact an individual view in reality.

Ogletree and Drake (2007) were interested in studying college student’s behavior towards video game play and difference in gender roles with game play. The authors foreseen that women would rate themselves higher on the “20 Bem Sex Role inventory” than women who rate themselves lower. Finally, the researchers predicted that male participants would state that game play interfered with relationship and academic preparation more than women.

There were 79 men and 127 women involved in the study ages of 18 to 25. The participants’ ethnicities were 68% Caucasian, 20% Hispanic, and 5% African American. Eighty-seven percent of the participants stated that their socioeconomic status was of middle or upper-middle class. To perform the study, two different versions of the questionnaires were distributed on April 27, 2007. The first questionnaire was for people who played an hour a week. The second questionnaire was for people who played less than an hour a week. The first 73 questions were similar on both questionnaires; 60 of those questions include a five point scale from the “Bem sex role inventory” (BSRI) which was modified for this study. The 60 questions that were asked are tailored to describe the person adjectively (e.g. reliant or athletic). On a five point scale (not-at-all to very frequently) participants were asked to rate how much video games interfered with the sleeping pattern, relationships and with preparation for college courses.

Results showed that 61% of the participants played for 0-1 hr, 29% played 2 to 5 hr, 6% played 6 to 10 hr, 2% played 11-15 hr and another 2% played over 15 hr a week. Results showed that women generally played less than men. More men specify that video game playing interfered with their sleeping and preparation for college courses. More women complained that their partners spend longer periods of time playing video games. More men complained about their own game playing than women.

Fifty-one percent of participants stated that the main character in the game was male; 28% of the students predicted that the main character were male. Comparing male and female characters, participants rated that female characters are more sexual stimulating than male characters. The female characters are likely to assist the main character, less likely to be physically powerful, violent and in need of rescuing. Participants that played less than an hour a week gave reasons not to play: 23% stated lack of time, 10% lack of money, and 61% stated they were not interested and 7% said that he or she is not very good at it.

Behm-Morawitz and Mastro (2009) explored the influences of video game characters on young adults. “Hypothesis one A” stated that playing a sexual female character can reduce a woman’s self-esteem. “Hypothesis one B” stated that playing with sexual female characters also reduced self-efficacy. Hypothesis two A, B, C, and D predicted the player’s beliefs and attitudes about gender roles among the participants.

Three hundred twenty-eight students from a large U.S university participated in the study. All participants volunteered and were given anonymity. Sixty-three percent of the sample was women and 37% were men. From all of the participants 66% played 0-1hr per week, 11% played 2-3hr, 4% played 4-5hr per week, 9% played 6-7hr per week, 3% spend 8-9hr and, 7% played 10hr or more per week. Each participant was randomly assigned to three different games: the sexual video game, non-sexual video game and the control video game. After they were assigned, the participants were briefed on how to play the game and were given an instruction sheet for farther use. After 30 minutes, the participants fill out an online questionnaire.

Results for “Hypothesis One A” showed that there are no relationship between playing a sexualized female character and the self-esteem of women participants. “Hypothesis one B” was supported, and that sexualized female characters does reduce a woman’s self-efficacy. Hypothesis two A, B, C, and D was partially supported. Game play does affect the views on gender capabilities. Participants that played the sexualized game reported less favorable attitudes compared to participants who have not played a sexualized game. Playing sexualized female character can result in less favorable beliefs and attitudes towards their abilities. There was also no support between playing sexualized character and self-esteem and self-efficacy.

Playing sexualized characters can influence the individual with the belief that a woman can be viewed with lower capabilities. Although playing a sexualized female character did not decrease a woman’s self-esteem, research stated that self-efficacy did decrease when a woman played a sexualized female character. Women find themselves compared to female characters that perform certain roles in the video games while in reality, they would not.

Leisure was recognized as the main influences for males because they view large amount of media. According to Kivel and Johnson (2009) the main purpose of their study is to “explore media consumption of young men and to understand how they create and maintain masculinity” (p.110). Connell (as cited in Kivel and Johnson, 2009) stated that “masculinity” is defined by culture. Males preformed certain gender roles that communicate their society.

In the summer of 2001, a trained facilitator (male) conducted focus groups which consist of two African American and 11 Caucasian men between the ages of 19 to 24. To recruit participants for the study, researchers distributed fliers in and around the campus and pass information orally. Eight participants were full time students, two were high school teachers, one was a computer system manager, one was a caterer, and one was a business owner. The 13 men were separated into three groups; two included four members and one of five. All male participants were required to attend the two sessions, two hours long each, in their respective group.

The trained facilitator asked participants to write a brief story about their childhood experience with media. The paper was to be one page, double spaced and anonymous. Due to the time constraint two stories were pulled for each group to be analyzed. The facilitator was instructed to use a theoretical guide to direct the group in each discussion. The Facilitator then requested the participants agree on the meaning of the stories then the participants would analyze how media influenced their lives. The facilitator would document what was said during the discussion.

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Several types media were chosen to be analyzed: two popular films; “Willow” and “Top Gun,” a GI Joe cartoon, a Television sitcom “Tour of Duty,” WWF (World Wrestling Federation) and two types of magazines: Playboy and Penthouse. It was concluded that men were the heroes. Aggression is excused for a noble cause. Men protect their country. They want to be acknowledged within a gang (e.g. team). Adolescent’s transition to adult hood is through sex; men fight each other for women thus being taught through media how to become men.

In conclusion the study has shown that men are greatly influence by media and that during the time of leisure it is enhanced with more clarity. The consumption of media by young men does help explain how they create and maintain masculinity. Men identify that they are the likely heroes and that women are obtained through just cause.

Bosacki, Elliott, Bajovic, and Akseer (2009) were exploring preadolescent (10 to 13 years-old) habits and preferences with certain medias (e.g. popular magazines). Research has shown that preadolescents are more sensitive towards gender stereotypical images. Therefore, this may influence preadolescent’s self-concept.

Data was drawn from a longitudinal project that explored children’s (ages 5 through 13) popular media preferences and habits (as cited in Elliott, Bosacki, Woloshyn and Richards, 2002). There were 223 (113 boy and 110 girls) children from the first year of middle school participated in the study. In the second year 196 children (95 boys and 101 girls) participated in this study. The third year contained 182 children (87 boys and 95 girls) who participated in this study. The participants were drawn from 14 schools from Canada and those children were examined for a two year period. The researchers received ethical clearance from both the school board and university and written a consent form the parents. The Researchers gave out a 22 page questionnaire to the students in the classroom and stayed to answer any other questions that the children might have.

Results showed that all grades and gender participants used common descriptive terms such as “funny, smart, and nice.” Analyzing deeper, boys described themselves as “funny, smart, athletic, nice, kind, cool and friendly.” The girls described themselves as “funny, smart, nice, and friendly.” Young males are more prone to depict themselves with unique characteristics and the girls portray themselves with interpersonal characteristics. For magazine preferences, girls prefer magazines that contain fashion or pop culture while boys favored sports or video game magazines. Findings showed that self descriptions did not interfere with values and norms. Magazines might not play a role in how preadolescents define themselves.

The Yao, Manhood and Linz (2010) study focused on the inclination for sexual thoughts which increased upon playing overly sexualized video games. As a result, the individual are more prone to sexual harass a woman. The authors constructed three hypotheses. Hypothesis one stated male players who played “sexually-explicit video games” would have a faster reaction to the awareness of sexualized thoughts compared to other players. Hypothesis two stated male players who played “sexually-explicit video games” are more likely to have access to thoughts of women as a sex object. Lastly, hypothesis three stated that male players who played these games are more likely to sexual harass a woman compared to males who played non-sexualized video games.

Seventy-four male participants (ages 18 to 43) were chosen from a university in California. In this experiment, participants were randomly selected to play one of the three video games (Leisure suit Larry, The Sims 2, and Pac Man 2) on Sony PlayStation 2 for 25 minutes. After playing the game, Yao et. al. (2010) used a “lexical decision task” created by Meyer and Schvaneveldt (1971) to examine the cognitive abilities of participants. Meyer and Schvaneveldt (as cited in Yao et. al. 2010) states lexical decision task “…is widely used in cognitive psychology experimentations as a measure of semantic memory structure or the organization of general world knowledge.” (p.83). In addition, the participant would have to complete the “likelihood to sexually harass scale” (LSH): Which depicts ten scenarios that contained sexually exploitive opportunities from a scale ranging (one being strongly disagreed and seven being strongly agreed).

The participants would first complete a questionnaire containing general information. They would be led to a small office set up with a TV, Playstation 2, and computer, with brief instructions on game play. After the intended time, participants were directed to stop playing and begin answering the “lexical decision task” on the computer hard drive. After completing the scale, the participant was directed to complete the LSH questionnaire.

Results showed that hypothesis one and two were supported. Participants who played “Leisure Suit Larry” reacted faster to sexual words than participants who played Pac-man 2 or Sims 2, and responded faster to sexual language. The results displayed no significant differences for participants who do not view women as sex object. Hypothesis three results showed that participants who played Leisure suit Larry demonstrated a significant increase in sexually harassing a female compared to participants who played the Sims and Pac man 2.

In conclusion playing a “sexually-explicit game” for a certain amount of time can increase the likelihood in engaging inappropriate sexual advances. If participants were to play for longer periods of time the results would have showed that they would hold negative thoughts of the feminine role.


Research Design

For this Qualitative study, interviews will be conducted to understand gender stereotypes in video games. Each interview will last 30 minutes to an hour. Questions will tailor to the amount of time spent with video games when the participant was a child. Questions will tailor to ask how the length of time spent playing video game affects the participants’ self-esteem, body image and self-concept. Lastly, participants will be asked if they have compared themselves to video game characters in their childhood and if it has affected them in adulthood.


Three female participants will be interviewed for this study. The researcher will use convenience sampling to recruit participants for the interview. The sample age group is 18 to 24. The demographic of the participants are African American, Korean, and Hispanic.

Ethical Considerations

The participant will be given a signed inform consent (see Appendix). They will be informed that they can skip any questions that make them uncomfortable. Names will be changed and kept completely anonymous for the purpose if this study. Furthermore, participants will be informed that any notes that will be taken during the interview will be destroyed at the end of the course.


Growing up, Wanda has immersed herself in the world of video games. Ever since her sister has first gotten the Atari system for Christmas, she has fallen in love with the diversity of video game characters. Through her childhood there were many role models but the ones that had some affect on her were Xiaou from Tekken and Riano from Final Fantasy 8. These characters as she stated, “…could make the individual fulfill a fantasy role of themselves for a few hours.” She felt compelled to become an avatar, so to speak, of these sexy characters.

Now as an adult, she felt guilty about comparing herself to her favorite characters. In her youth she thought that it was cool to become a paladin or a fighter that could “kick ass and take names.” But as she aged into adulthood and played for longer periods of time, she wished to become like the characters in her favorite video games. “I have to take a step back…” stepping back makes her realize that these characters are just characters in a game and not real life.

Playing games with a group of friends is fun but it depends on that set of friends. Wanda believes that when playing with the female players she finds that she doesn’t compare herself to video game characters. Because no one is there to criticize her looks or compare her to the female character. But when she plays with a group of male friends there is an added pressure to become attractive. “I feel very insulted… I definitely feel its added pressure to be a sexy Jane of all trades.” She believes that the female characters are set to do everything in a video game and that in tow men set a higher standard on women. This also leads to how she believes how men view women’s role and female characters’ roles, “As an adult, video games only reinforce the belief that women have very little wiggle room for the range of appearance that will define them as attractive or sexy.” She feels that men are fond of the way they imagine women in the video games. In the end, the male character becomes the hero and has his choice of any female characters. While women only have one option and that is to settle for the trophy girlfriend statues.

Ash is a 24 years old Asian American female. She began playing video games at the age of seven. She stated “Super Mario Yoshi’s World was the first game that I ever played…” Then she began to explore other games such as, Sonic, Street Fighter, and Dragonball Z. Ash would spend hours perfecting her game play. She only favors characters like Chun-li from Street Fighter. Ash used to fantasize that she is Chun-li, who is all powerful and beautiful. In the Street Fighter game she would mainly pick Chun-li because, “…of her powerful legs and her pretty face.”

As an adult, Ash finds that her tastes in video games changed. Now she only plays simulation games such as SIM 1, 2 and 3. Currently she doesn’t spend as much time playing these games because of the work load at school. But when she has time, she makes videos from her simulation games by editing the captured videos from the SIMS. She stated that she no longer favor 2D characters, instead she favor 3D characters.

Unlike in her childhood, now she views this character as something that she cannot live up to, and she feels low self-esteem, because “today’s characters have more idealistic forms.” It upsets her because the characters are now perfect and she cannot fulfill what is portrayed with today’s characters. She wishes for the perfect body, such as the perfect legs, smaller waist and large breasts. As a result, she continuously goes on diets to achieve that goal. It does not frustrate her that she cannot achieve the perfect body but there is a constant reminder to achieve it.

Emma is a 21 year old African American female. Emma explains that her first exposure to video games was at the age of four. Her brother has gotten the Sega Genesis for Christmas and they would have matches to see who got the highest score on the games. They would play for hours at a time. During those long hours of game play she began to favor one particular video game character. And that character was Sonic the Hedgehog. To her Sonic the Hedgehog, “…was very smart, swift and he had all of these powers.”

Now in college she finds that she has less time to play video games. “I play once every blue moon” She finds that her job and family obligation cause her to decrease her playing time. On occasions she would play Michael Jackson: The Experience, Mario Bros., Wii Recreation, Wii Fit, and Guitar Hero. Emma feels that the characters that she plays with do not affect her point of view. “Since I do not really play as much now, I’m really indifferent to comparing myself to a video game character.” She does not feel that need to enhance her appearance because she only plays with non human characters.

As a woman in today’s society, Emma feels that female roles are exaggerated within the context of the video games. “…female characters are oversexed and do not represent the average American woman.” People expect women to fulfill gender roles that are exposed in video games. However, in reality women cannot fulfill these roles because they are not achievable. Lastly she stated, “…there is a thin line between fun and plain ole’ addiction.” She believes that people should evaluate how much game play has affected them.


Video games have become one of the fastest growing industries in the United States. Hence, there is significance influences on the individual’s self-esteem, self-concept and body image. Moreover, the individual would develop his or her norms and values from video games. Because the individual would expect that these gender roles in video games can be fulfill in reality.

Results showed that stereotypes within video games may affect the individual self-esteem, self-concept and body image. Findings from a previous study (Behm-Morawitz & Mastro, 2009) discovered that playing sexualized female characters have no affect on women’s self-esteem. However, this study confirmed that the majority if the participants displayed a decrease in their self-esteem, self-concept and body image. An earlier study (Ogletree & Drake, 2007) also supported current findings. For instance, participants who played with female characters have less favorable beliefs and attitudes towards their capability to perform skills. Two thirds of the participants stated that female roles are indeed impacted by video game play.

The content analysis showed no correlation to an earlier study (Yao, Manhood, & Linz, 2010) that studied the knowledge of sexual thoughts among participants.

Research Limitation

Upon reviewing the data there were certain limitations that appeared within the study. One, gender bias, only women were interviewed for this study. There would have been a deeper understanding of the topic if the research included men and children. Two, age, the researcher only interviewed participants who ages 18 to 24. If the researcher had interviewed a wider age range the study would be more complete. The sample size was also a concern for this study. Interviewing three participants resulted in a restriction with


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