Sexism in Videogames

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 figure1experiment 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:

Study on violence:

3 thoughts on “Sexism in Videogames

  1. Zachariah Watkins

    Sexism has been a very hot topic debate in the video game industry. Sexism can be seen in the many different aspects of the games such as what the armor looks like, comparatively woman tend to have bikini looking armor such as breastplates, the pants, etc. whereas the males are decked out in complete full plate armor just like medieval knights used to wear. It is nice to hear that sexism represented in games does not influence the people who play these games, however I do not think video game developers are inherently sexist and I do not think they are trying to say men are better than woman there just seems to be a lot of misunderstanding and misconstrue among the developers and the people who critique the games. An interesting read I found was about the recently announced Red Dead Redemption 2 game regarding if Rock Star was sexist about every single one of their games.

  2. David Ross

    Whenever I see ads for certain games there is almost always some provocative image of a woman on the cover. I never quite understood why this was but I am assuming it is because the market for the game is males in their early teens. I am also surprised that the sexist advertisements and characters in these games do not influence the attitudes of the gamers. On the topic of sexism though, I wonder if females are continuing to be portrayed as sex objects rather than heroic figures in modern video games. Does every female in a video game have to be almost nude in order to be a good character? Heres an example of a VERY misogynistic video game Do you think games like this will cease to exist in the future? Or will the fact that primarily males play these games continue to allow for the objectifying of women in games?

  3. Meaghan Elizabeth Simone

    I never thought to see a study done on something like this, but I’m really happy I did. There’s always been such distinct sexism between female and male characters, and I feel like until very recently it has just been completely blown over. I love how in depth the study got, defining the variables like education and age. It’s not completely related, but this made me think of sexism in the video game industry itself, so here is a link to a documentary made exactly about that:

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