Some of the best jobs in the current economy lie in engineering and computer science sector where it is possible to earn a respectable income without attending college (Norris, 2004). But it is uncommon for females to hold these lucrative jobs (Cassell & Jenkins, 1998). Many individuals become interested in these jobs by being attracted to video games. And once again, females are insufficiently represented as video game players.
Financially successful video games usually portray males and females in gender stereotypical ways. In a survey of 33 popular video games, Dietz (1998) discovered that many games had female characters wearing pink or revealing clothing. 21% of games portrayed female characters as damsel in distress. Video games act as another source of stereotypical gender identities where females are taught to be a victim and maintain beauty and sexual appeal, while males are taught to defend females and be possessive of them even when it requires one to engage in violent acts.
Studies have discovered that as gender identities begin to emerge the frequency of video game play changes among males and females (Barnett et al., 1997). Boys enjoy playing video games more than girls and boys prefer playing violent games while girls like puzzle games (Griffiths, 1997). Males in a patriarchal society are allowed to display aggressive and sexual behavior while females are prohibited from such behaviors (Burt, 1983).
It is a truism that most games do not contain violent content. But it is also true that most commercially successful video games depict violence with increasing levels of realism (Provenzo, 1991). It may be possible that females are underrepresented as video game players because they are taught to be less aggressive than males and stereotypical roles rendered in video games discourage females from playing video games. To test this hypothesis 430 females that either played or did not played video games were asked to fill out a battery of surveys measuring their aggression, perception of online environment, and a scale measuring their attitude about how females ought to behave.
The study established that having an aggressive personality was associated with one’s gaming habit (Norris, 2004). Females who played games, played them for a longer period, or played games meant for a mature audience were more aggressive. It should also be noted that the finding of females who play games are more aggressive than those who do not serves as one more reason for why the idea of catharsis is not true.
The study also discovered that females who play games experience less sexual harassment online than those who do not. This may be because those who did experience sexual harassment stopped playing online games. Or it may be the case that females who play online games are more familiar with different online environments and are better at avoiding situations that lead to sexual harassment.
Barnett, M.A., Vitaglione, G.D., Harper, K.K.G., et al. (1997). Late adolescents’ experiences with and attitudes toward videogames. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 27, 1316-1334.
Burt, M.R. (1983). Justifying personal violence: A comparison of rapists and the general public. Victimology, 8, 131-150.
Cassell, J., & Jenkins, H. (1998). Chess for girls? Feminism and computer games. In: Cassell, J., & Jenkins, H. (eds.), From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: gender and computer games. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, pp. 2-45.
Dietz, T.L. (1998). An examination of violence and gender role portrayals in video games: implications for gender socialization and aggressive behavior. Sex Roles, 38, 425-442.
Griffiths, M. (1997). Computer game playing in early adolescence. Youth and Society, 29, 223-237.
Provenzo, E.F., Jr. (1991). Video kids: making sense of Nintendo. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
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