Portrayal Of Gender In Video Games And Its Effects On Society

1739 words - 7 pages

According to the data presented by the Entertainment Software Association, roughly 58% of Americans play video games. Worth over 20 billion dollars, the video game industry is one of the fastest growing businesses for entertainment outlets in America. With growing influence on the public, more attention is being brought to the exact content of these games and whether they have any lasting effects on individuals outside their virtual walls. More specifically, gender representation of males and female in video games and their relationship to real societal gender roles has been a topic that has instigated considerable research by social scientists. Though, female gamers make-up over 45% of the gamer population, they are often underrepresented and sexually or stereotypically depicted as characters in games. (The Entertainment Software Association) These stereotypes create extremes for “what is feminine” and “what is masculine”, that as a result, present more rigid gender roles for players and their characters. (Behm-Morawitz & Mastro, 2009) Contemporary gender representations of men and women in video games have damaging effects on men’s treatment and opinion of women, women’s self-efficacy, and female gamers’ position in the gaming public.
Video games, along with other forms of social media, have created a median for gender roles to visualize the social realities that people believe in (Dill & Thill 2007). In video games, female characters have traditionally been underrepresented and misrepresented as secondary non-playable characters that serve as a purpose to pleasure men. According to USC’s 2009 “Video Game Minority Report”, only10% of female characters were playable in games. In the article, “The Effects of the Sexualization of Female Video Game Characters on Gender Stereotyping and Female Self-Concept”, Behm-Morawitz and Mastro (2009) explain that in a survey of M-rated games, 70% of female characters had abundant cleavage and 86% had low neck-lines compared. Although there have been strong female leads in games, like “Lara Croft” in the game “Tomb Raider”, their hyper-sexualized appearance causes, “the powerful role female heroine is diminished by the emphasis on physical female appearance” (Behm-Morawitz & Mastro, 2009, p.811). In the “Hegemonic Masculinity Theory” supports that “masculinity and femininity are always constructed in relation to each other, rather than independently” (Dill & Thill 2007). Due to this, depiction of females as “hyper-femininity”, or the emphasis on submissiveness and sexuality, is directly correlated to men being portrayed as “hyper-masculine” in video games. As shown in a study conducted by K.E. Dill and K.P. Thill (2007), over 60% of female characters were portrayed as sexual in video game magazines compared to 1% of males. In their study, they analyzed undergraduate student’s responses to images in video games magazines. They found that the most common characterization of female characters was having “big...

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