In this day and age, the internet has grown to be a very strange place; You click on a Facebook link and are directed to sites full of bizarre ads and weird articles that you’d never willingly look at. One of those strange ads that I always see is one for World of Warcraft, an online videogame. The advertisement shows a hyper sexualized woman, wearing “armor” that covers less than a bikini. This is not an uncommon sight to see for videogames; Take Grand Theft Auto for example, most of the women portrayed are again, hyper sexualized and often have the role of being prostitutes, while the men are extremely muscular and do all of the action in the game. In the media, the discussion of whether or not violent video games cause aggression in children is one that is always being debated, but after seeing this ad, I wanted to see how this type of sexualization in videogames affects player attitudes of women.
The first study I found was a German experiment called Sexist Games=Sexist Gamers? A Longitudinal Study on the Relationship Between Video Game Use and Sexist Attitudes. In this study, the null hypothesis was that sexist video games don’t cause sexism in players while the alternative hypothesis was that sexist video games do cause sexism in players. The study also tested the reverse causation of the alternative hypothesis by testing if having a sexist attitude makes a player more inclined to play sexist video games.
The observational experiment gave two phases of surveys to 4,500 videogamers to measure their third variables, such as their level of education, how many hours they spend playing videogames a day, and their beliefs on gender roles. I found the results to be interesting because each third variable was measured against the reported attitudes, so researchers were able to see that younger males had more sexist attitudes as compared to older males, but also that educated members of both genders were less sexist than those with less education. The results also showed that females held less sexist attitudes across the board. But, when it came to see how the genre of the videogame (if it were sexist or not) was tested, there seemed to be no significant rise in sexist attitudes among the players, therefore following the null hypothesis and showing no mechanism between sexist videogames and sexist players.
While I appreciated the fact that despite the genre of the game, the player’s attitudes didn’t change, I admit was slightly surprised. Just to double check with my initial thought process, I Googled the hypothesis on videogames and violence. The study I found was called Videogames, Television Violence, and Aggression in Teenagers and ran through a set of surveys given to 250 teenagers. The results came back being that violent videogames did not increase aggression in teenagers, which made my negative thoughts on the previous study subside. Even though some of the violence and sex portrayed in videogames may be extremely unappealing to some and could be hypothesized to affect player’s attitudes, it seems that what happens in those videogames stays in those videogames.
In my opinion, the study on sexism did a great job identifying third variables that would also affect the attitudes of players. Clearly, age and level of education had more of an effect on the attitudes of players than time spent playing did. I do believe, though, that in terms of self-assessed sexism, people may downplay the feelings they have and change their answers if they know they’d be seen as sexist. Such as with memory, self assessments can often be faulty since humans are not reliable, but in cases like these, self assessments are the only way to tell a person’s thoughts. While impossible, it would be interesting to see how a person’s true thoughts correlated to the types of videogames they played. Overall, I think that this study was very well done and interesting. While I don’t believe that this is a topic where more studies will be conducted, it is slightly comforting to know that sexist content doesn’t affect the attitudes of its players.
Study on sexism and photo source: http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/cyber.2014.0492
Study on violence: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1460-2466.1984.tb02165.x/epdf