Gender representation in video games

This week’s topic is gender representation in video games and virtual worlds.

I doubt that anyone is going to argue that the representations of women are either hyper-sexualized or non-existent in most video games. But, I argue that that while the representations of the men are indeed more frequent, they are equally hyper-sexualized.

We had to do an observation report this week for class, and I went to an arcade. I analyzed the themes and graphics of 10 games, and overall, it seemed to me that all of the people that were depicted were hyper-sexualized. Yes, there was a definite lack of females compared to the number of males. And, yes, almost all of the women images had huge breasts, small waists, and were wearing very revealing outfits. But, almost all the male images were very, very muscular, some to the point of being grotesque.

I left the arcade with the impression that the images of humans–all humans, men and women–were idealized images that the game makers had. The lack of women in the games, and the fact that most of the women who were represented were the “damsels in distress who need to be rescued” or prostitutes do point to a real problem with gender representation in games. But, I’m not so sure that the hyper-sexualized depiction of women’s images is an issue, since men’s images are depicted the same way.

But, it seems that researchers who wrote the papers we read this week think so. In The U. S. Video Game Industry: Analyzing Representation of Gender and Race, the author reported on a content analysis of the cover art and context of some video games that are popular in the U.S. For the most part, her study is well-rounded because it looked at different aspects of how women are represented, not just their physical appearances.

But, she seems to gloss over the fact that the images of men are hyper-sexualized as well. On page 104 she states:

Of the male characters represented in the games, a significant majority was mesomorphic. Likewise, of the female characters, a clear majority was hyper-sexualized, and much fewer had normal body types, supporting an initial impression that the most purchased video games perpetuate amplified, unrealistic, and potentially damaging ideas about body image for young players.[1]

So far so good. I can’t argue with that. But, in her conclusion on page 106, she writes:

This study illustrates that the portrayal of women and people of color continues to be overwhelmingly stereotypical when they are represented at all.[1]

Nowhere in the conclusion does she mention that the images of the men are also stereotypical. It’s almost as if she glossed over that fact to pursue her own agenda. And, that was not necessary, because she did present some valid data and interpretations of that data that could be used to support her argument that “gender roles and ideas about ethnicity may be negatively impacted by visual and textual messages that some of these games illustrate.” In fact, acknowledging that BOTH genders are stereotyped in video games would, in my opinion, would bolster that particular argument even more so.

REFERENCE:
[1] Dunlop, J. (2007). The U.S. video game industry: Analyzing representation of gender and race. International Journal of Technology and Human Interaction, 3(2), 99-109.

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3 responses to this post.

  1. This post reminds me so much of this episode of Penny Arcade:

    http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/12/3/

    Most of the stuff that you see women wearing in video games is anything but practical. I mean they would be more protected wearing street clothes. What is the point of wearing metal if it doesn’t cover any vital organs.

    Reply

  2. Posted by Rukus on April 14, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Images of men in video games are not depicted in the same way. Sure, they are idealized as being heruculean-type muscular, however, they are still properly covered, properly equiped and generally less presented in a hyper-sexualized manner. Since the focus is on their strength and skill, not “sexiness.”

    Reply

  3. Posted by Johne164 on April 28, 2014 at 8:15 pm

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