Negative female stereotypes in video games

Video games are the fastest growing type of media that continue to flourish and expand in complexity – both in terms of graphical realism and in the scope of what was technically possible for gameplay (Consalvo 2013). Gaining popularity in the 1970s, video games have become more engaging, interactive and are realistic portrayals of holistic worlds. Both the content and the roles of gender in video games have changed profoundly over this time and have therefore received attention from scholars, mainly due to concerns regarding the underrepresentation of female characters and the amplification of negative female character stereotypes (Dill & Thill 2007). Given the rise in female video game players, the industry is still oriented towards men with female characters being shown as hyper-feminine with emphasis on submissiveness, the glorification of violence towards women, hyper-sexualising women and less frequently, the woman as a hero. The role of negative imagery of women in video games merits exploitation to further our understanding of the medium’s social and psychological impact (Ivory & Kalyanaraman 2007). While there is limited published research that analyses the role of women in video games, women are inarguably portrayed negatively, which perpetuates female stereotypes that have harmful social and psychological impacts on players and society.

Video games have evolved into a multi-billion dollar industry (Fox & Tang 2014). Historically video games have been a male dominated activity but there are a growing number of female players. The average age is between 18-40 with approximately 40% of this demographic being female (Caplan & Consalvo 2009). Despite the number of female gamers, video games since their humble beginnings in the 1940s have traditionally been perceived as a male space, an activity created by men and for men (Fox & Tang 2014). Male characters far outnumber female characters in video games and even when women are present, they are less frequently the playable character (Miller & Summers 2007). Indeed, the gaming industry itself is extremely skewed, with female designers, programmers, and producers comprising only a fragment of its workers. Thus, it is not surprising that women are underrepresented in video game content (Fox & Tang 2014).

The issue of gender and the roles they play is a relevant issue in the content of video games. Research concerning gender representation in video games often focuses on a few key points of how men and women are depicted differently such as, frequency and playability, physical abilities, role in the game, and physical representation (Beck, Boys, Rose, & Beck 2012). Whilst men are stereotypically portrayed in video games as strong, masculine, fearless and aggressive, it is the portrayal of women in the games that is the subject of academic study and controversy (Caplan & Consalvo 2009). In the early years, gender representations in video games were limited to graphically unsophisticated characters such as Ms. Pac-Man; the hungry yellow orb whose only indication of gender was her pixilated hair bow. Ms. Pac-Man was a variation of the original Pac-Man game and was designed to attract female players to what was already a male-dominated market (Dill & Thill 2007). Although there is little presence of female characters in video game, recurring themes continue to view women negatively giving rise to potential social and psychological issues.

Video games have changed dramatically over the years but the portrayal of women has remained oriented to a male audience. Women are stereotypically presented in a hyper-sexual way and are either nude or wearing scantily clad clothing and have an unrealistic body shape. Beasley and Standley (2002) particularly focused on the appearance of female characters, using clothing as an indicator of sexuality. It was found that the majority of female characters are dressed in such as way as to bring attention to their bodies, particularly their breasts, which carry strong sexual meaning for the young boys who predominantly play these games. As social learning theory and gender schema theory explain, children exposed to gender role stereotyping may develop those attitudes themselves. (Beasley & Standley 2002).   Portrayals such as this can be incredibly degrading to women, for instance the character Ivy, from Soul Calibur is a strong female but is best known as being ‘one of the sexiest female video game characters’.   Ivy is known not for her strength and fighting skill, but for her extremely large breasts and incredibly minimal attire. Viewing images of women in this way is related to the endorsement of negative gender stereotypes and encourages men to perceive women as subordinate sex objects (Behm-Morawitx & Mastro 2009).

A rising concern is the use of violence towards women in video games.   Provenzo (1991) noted that the most popular games typically depicted stereotypic views of gender-appropriate behaviour, where men were often depicted as ruthless aggressors and women as victims of violence. There is increasing concern over the potential negative effects of advanced violent video games as the repeated depiction of men as dominant and aggressive and females as subordinate and demeaned is arguably perpetuating violence against women (Gutierreza 2014). In 2006, a Japanese company named Illusion Software marketed an Anime game called RapeLay. In this game the main character is a rapist who has recently escaped from prison and returns to wreak his revenge by raping as many women as possible. This is an interactive role-playing game where the gamer assumes the role of the main character, the rapist (Gutierreza, D 2014).   There are various options in the game that propagates an extreme level of sexual violence and a hostile attitude towards women. Another example is the game Grand Theft Auto, which has repeatedly broken video game sales records, shows women depicted as prostitutes and men as violent thugs. A male character can have sex with a prostitute, then kill her and take his money back (Dill & Thill 2007). The exposure to these negative images of women as sexual playthings and being treated violently is damaging for society as the more that is it viewed the normalized it will become.

The character structure of a video game is generally male dominated. The vast majority of female characters have been found to be non-playable, meaning that they cannot be played by the gamer thus underscoring their secondary and exiguous status (Miller and Summers 2007). When playable female characters do appear in video games, they are typically overtly sexualized and portrayed wearing promiscuous dress and engaging in seductive acts, such as Lara Croft (Dietz 1998).   Lara Croft from Tomb Raider is one of the most publicized female characters in a video game.   Croft is a female hero who explores distant lands in order to find treasures as well as fend off the competition and hostile locals. Whilst Croft is a tough and competent female character in a dominant position, her character is portrayed in a stereotypical way, exaggerated by sexy attire and large breasts (Consalvo 2013). Although it could be the case that exposure to images of strong, powerful female heroines in video games may empower girls and women through these characters’ embodiment of female success, strength, and intelligence, the overwhelming presence of female sexualization is likely to diminish positive effects that may emerge (Caplan & Consalvo 2009). In contrast, there is a reoccurring structure of male heroes rescuing helpless females or a damsel in distress (Dietz 1998). The popular adventure video game Mario Brothers shows Mario continuously rescuing the beautiful helpless princess. Therefore proving that female characters have little significant presence in video games, further exemplifying negative female stereotypes.

Video games are a unique type of media that are a powerful source of information and evidence suggests that the gender stereotypes formed as a basis of the negative representation of women in video games, perpetuates harmful social and psychological impacts on players and society. The hyper-sexualistion of women in video games creates an unrealistic stereotype. Findings from Funk and Buchanan (1996) lend support from a social cognitive perspective, that this exposure has the potential to diminish self-esteem and self-confidence, along with body image issues (Behm-Morawitz & Mastro 2009).   Studies have shown that this stereotype will influence how adolescents form their own identity and attitudes toward the opposite gender. It is evident that boys may then expect women to be unnaturally thin and sexy to be attractive (Caplan, Consalvo, Williams & Yee 2009). Similarly there is a moderate relationship between exposure to video game violence and aggression in adolescents. Studies have shown that those children who had played a violent video game were more likely to exhibit violent behavior in subsequent free play (Dietz 1998).

The weak, supporting role of females also instills the message that women are weaker and need help from men. This portrayal exhibits that females lack the ability to be a hero or take care of themselves. Thus, video games provide children with images that may influence their sense of self and serve as role models for their behavior and identities (Miller & Summers 2007). The pervasiveness and unique role of media in both reflecting and creating culture suggests that media is an important source of learning about gender norms and values (Miller & Summers 2007).

With the rapid growth in video game technology and popularity it has become alarmingly apparent that negative female stereotypes exist within them. Whilst there are a rise in the amount of female players, female characters are still vastly underrepresented and are often hyper sexualized, are victims of violence and are rarely depicted as a hero or at all.   This negative imagery of women has harmful social and psychological impacts on players and society and is an area that should be addressed to better represent women.

References

Beasley, B & Standley, T 2002, ‘Shirts vs. Skins: Clothing as an Indicator of Gender Role Stereotyping in Video Games’, Mass Communication & Society, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 279-293.

Beck, E. Beck, V. Boys, S. & Rose, C 2012, ‘Violence Against Women in Video Games: A Prequel or Sequel to Rape Myth Acceptance?’ Journal of Interpersonal Violence, vol. 27, no. 15, pp. 3016–3031.

Behm-Morawitz, E & Mastro, D 2009, ‘ The Effects of the Sexualisation of Female Video Game Characters on Gender Stereotyping and Female Self-Concept’, Sex Roles, vol. 10, pp. 99-109.

Bowman, N, Eden, A & Maloney, E 2010, ‘Gender Attribution in Online Video Games’, Journal of Media Psychology, vol. 22, no. 3, pp. 114-124.

Buchanan, D & Funk, J 1996, ‘Video and computer games in the 90s: children’s time commitment and game preference’, Children Today, vol. 24, pp. 12–15.

Caplan, S. Consalvo, M. & Yee, N. 2009, ‘Looking for Gender: Gender Roles and Behaviours Among Online Gamers’, Journal of Communication, vol. 59, pp. 700-725.

Consalvo, M. 2013, ‘Videogame Content: Game, text, or something else?’ in Angharad N. Valdivia & Erica Scharrer, The International Encyclopedia of Media Studies: Media Effects/Media Psychology, Wiley-Blackwell, Hoboken, pp.406-25.

Dietz, T 1998, ‘, An Examination of Violence and Gender Role Portrayals in Video Games: Implications for Gender Socialization and Aggressive Behavior’, Sex Roles, vol. 38, no. 5/6.

Dill, K & Thill, K 2007, ‘Video Game Characters and the Socialization of Gender Roles: Young People’s Perceptions Mirror Sexist Media Depictions’, Sex Roles, vol. 57, pp. 851-864.

Drake, R & Ogletree, S 2007, ‘College Students’ Video Game Participation and Perceptions: Gender Differences 
and Implications’, Sex Roles, vol. 56, pp. 537–542.

Fox, J & Tang W, 2014, ‘Sexism in online video games: The role of conformity to masculine norms and social dominance orientation’, Computers in Human Behaviour, vol. 33, pp. 314-320.

Gutierreza, D 2014, ‘Video games and gender-based violence’, Procedia Social and Behavioural Sciences, vol. 132, pp. 58-64.

Ivory, J & Kalyanaraman, S 2007, ‘The Effects of Technological Advancement and Violent Games on Players’ Feelings of Presence, Involvement Physiological Arousal, and Aggression’, Journal of Communication, vol. 57, pp. 532-555.

Miller, M & Summers, A 2007, ‘Gender Differences in Video Game Characters’ Roles, Appearances, and Attire as Portrayed in Video Game Magazines’, Sex Roles, vol. 57, pp. 733–742.

Provenzo, E 1991, ‘Video kids: Making sense of Nintendo’, Cambridge, Massachusetts, Harvard University Press.

Week 7 – Essay ‘Female stereotypes in video games’

Introduction-

Video games are the fastest growing type of media that continue to flourish and expand in complexity – both in terms of graphical realism and in the scope of what was technically possible for gameplay (Consalvo 2013). Gaining popularity in the 1970s, video games have become more engaging, interactive and are realistic portrayals of holistic worlds. Both the content and the roles of gender in video games have changed profoundly over this time and have therefore received attention from scholars, mainly due to concerns regarding the underrepresentation of female characters and the amplification of negative female character stereotypes (Dill & Thill 2007). Given the rise in female video game players, the industry is still oriented towards men with female characters being shown as hyper-feminine with emphasis on submissiveness, the glorification of violence towards women, hyper-sexualising women and less frequently, the woman as a hero. The role of negative imagery of women in video games merits exploitation to further our understanding of the medium’s social and psychological impact (Ivory & Kalyanaraman 2007). While there is limited published research that analyses the role of women in video games, women are inarguably portrayed negatively, which perpetuates female stereotypes that have harmful social and psychological impacts on players and society.

Week 6 – Politics and the Internet

It truly is incredible how active you can be on the internet this day and age.  Before I watched the documentary of Aaron Swartz I wasn’t particularly aware of the term ‘Hacktivism’ and since seeing the movie I have not stopped researching about it.  Hacktivism is the way people are making things that should be democratically available to people, available for free.  This falls under cyberpolitics which is the politics of the internet that exists predominately on the internet.  Obviously Hacktivism is a derivative of hacking which is usually used in reference to a negative action. In the compressed shorthand language of newspapers and TV headlines, hacker has become synonymous with computer criminal (Joshua Nichols lecture notes, 2014).   In the reading this week Dorothy Denning (1999) argues a view of information warfare based in the available countermeasures to economic threats such as computer break-ins, sabotage, espionage, piracy, identity theft and invasions of privacy (Muir & Stockwell, 2003).  An example of a group who label themselves Hactivists is the Anonymous.  The Anonymous are a loose collective that originated in 2003 and became well known for wearing masks and performing a series of well-publicized stunts and attacks on government, religious and corporate websites.  An example of this was their well know series of protests, pranks and hacks targeting the Church of Scientology.  

Wikileaks

Another example of a Hacktivism group is Wikileaks.  WikiLeaks is a not-for-profit media organisation that relies on volunteers to bring important news and information to the public (Wikileaks.org 2014).   Wikileaks is scrutinised and often involved with legal debate due to the issues of freedom of speech.  They believe that publishing improves transparency, and this transparency creates a better society for all people. Better scrutiny leads to reduced corruption and stronger democracies in all society’s institutions, including government, corporations and other organisations (Wikileaks.org 2014).  Jennifer Robson (2011) wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Without question, WikiLeaks has made a remarkable contribution to free speech, human rights and the operation of democracy, by offering better protection to journalistic sources and by holding governments to account by revealing abuse and empowering the public to make better-informed democratic choices’.

News Blog – The Guardian

In recent news, Jennifer Lawrence, a female celebrity had her iCloud account hacked and nude photographs of her leaked onto the internet.  I commented on a blog written by Nick Evershed for The Guardian:

‘How easy is it to crack into an Apple iCloud account? ‘

http://www.theguardian.com/world/blog/2014/sep/03/after-nude-celebrity-photos-i-tried-to-hack-my-colleagues-apple-icloud-account?commentpage=1

Censorship in Australia

The issue of free speech and censorship definitely comes into play for in Australia we do not have the right to free speech.

The Australian Government has been trying to implement effective censorship laws for some time.  In 2009 ‘The Clean feed’ was proposed to filter the internet and protect users against identity theft, sex offenders and cyber-bullying. The costs of this were extremely high and the program was fundamentally flawed.  In 2012 the Coalitions “Enhancing Online Safety for Children” was announced that filters adult content.

e-petition

I would consider myself a passionate person and definitely do sign the odd petition, donate money and volunteer with various children and animal charities.  I have signed the e-petition to stop the export of live trade.  I am disgusted with the conditions in which the poor animals are subjected to.  Australia has a large export trade for frozen meat so there are no significant downfalls to ban the live export of trade.  There is a scant amount of animal welfare legislation in place. However, there is no government agency enforcing that legislation (Stop live exports.org, 2014).

http://www.animalsaustralia.org/take_action/petitions/ban-live-export/

The Australian Government have had plans to censor the internet to help protect the public from internet material that is not acceptable in any civilised society.

The National Broadband Network (NBN)

I looked into this to see if it was available to me in Mermaid Waters – The NBN rollout has not started in your area.
According to their website the NBN is essential for Australia’s digital evolution and is designed to provide access to a minimum level of broadband services across the nation. It presents opportunity in education, business, entertainment, health care and sociability giving everyone the potential to be more productive, more creative, more efficient and more connected for decades to come (NBNco, 2014).
Government
Local Representative: Gold Coast – Tom Tate
State Representative: Queensland – Campbell Newman
Federal Representative: Australia – Tony Abbott
I tried for a significant amount of time to search on the Queensland Hansard to locate the last time Tom Tate, my local representative spoke in Parliament.  I can only conclude that perhaps Tom Tate has not spoken in Parliament as I was not able to find anything at all!

Muir, A & Stockwell, S, 2003, ‘The Military-Entertainment Complex: A New Facet of Information Warfare’, Fibreculture Journal, vol.1, no. 1.

Nichols, J 2014, Politics Now, Griffith University Lecture Notes, week 6.

NBNco, 2014, viewed 3 September 2014, <http://www.nbnco.com.au&gt;.

Robinson, J 2011, ‘Is Wikileaks a force for good?’, Sydney Morning Herald, June 11.

Wikileaks, 2014, viewed 4 September 2014, <https://wikileaks.org/html&gt;.

Week 5 – Social Media and Web 3.0

I encourage you to watch this video on youtube before reading my post for this week.  It directly links to what we have been discussing and that is the generations of the web.

The Web 1.0 began as shopping carts and static pages which were Read-Only and progressed into Web 2.0 which is the writing and participating web.  Folksonomy was introduced where information could be organised, an example of this is Wikipedia.  Users can generate content and put it on the internet as well as share files.  Thus the birth of social media.  Now that people can use social media to connect and interact, blogs, content sharing communities such as youtube, and social networks such as Facebook have been created.

Generation 3.0 which is yet to be created would be a read-write-execute web with a web service software system designed to support computer-to-computer interaction over the internet.  There is talk that we will actually skip this generation and go straight to Web 4.0 which is the Next Web or the Symbiotic Web.  This will be about a linked web which communicates with us like we communicate with each other.  This means that Web 4.0 will be the read-write-executution-concurrency web whereby we don’t actually have to use our hands, we will be able to communicate with our interface and essentially it will be all mobile (Lecture notes, 2014).

As in this weeks reading and the youtube clip above, given the popularity of social media, it is questionable as to whether for example Facebook, will be able to progress with the new generations of the web.  In the reading Jackson ( states ‘So no matter how dominant they are in one generation, something new is going to come along that we haven’t seen yet.  It probably doesn’t exist.  Yet people are going to be fascinated by it and not Facebook’ (Sheehan, P. 2012).  The youtube video discusses that like Google had difficulty moving from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 the social side, Facebook will face the same difficulties creating a mobile presence.

My view on this is that judging on how incredibly far we have come with new communication technologies and more recently the introduction of the internet, social media and world wide web, there is always going to be new innovations to supersede those before them and those that adapt will survive.

 

References –

Sheehan, P. 2012, ‘Internet giants can earn with ease, it is the churn they must fear’, Sydney Morning Herald, 7 June, p.15.

 

Week 4 – Cyberspace is real!

 

I guess you could say my mind was sufficiently blown this week.  Cyberspace is real?  Cyberpunk is an actual genre?  Let me back track a little….

Cyberspace is the collective imagination of internet users.  It becomes real as the digital devices used in everyday life increase, so do our lives and connections in cyberspace.  In this weeks reading Michael Heim (1993) said, ‘cyberspace is platonism as a working concept, and the cybernaut seated before us, strapped into sensory input devices appears to be, and is indeed, lost to this world.  Suspended in computer space, the cybernaut leaves the prison of the body and emerges in a world of digital sensation’.  I can conclude from this that we as internet users become cybernauts, navigating our way around cyberspace, to which the term Cybernetics was born.  This is the study of communications, command and control in living organisms, machines and organisations.  It is to think about the operations of the machine from the machine’s point of view and the relations between nature and technology.  Mind blown yet?

Utilising all of these ideas, a new genre of science fiction was formed, Cyberpunk.  American author Bruce Bethke first coined the term “Cyberpunk” in his 1980 short story of the same name, proposing it as a label for a new generation of punk teenagers inspired by the perceptions inherent to the information age (Butler, A. 2001).

Cyberpunk plots were usually set in the near future that focussed on computers, artificial intelligence, cyberspace, virtual reality, hackers or mega-corporations.  The characters, often alienated loners who lived on the edge of society in generally dystopic futures where daily life was impacted by rapid technological change, an ubiquitous datasphere of computerized information, and invasive modification of the human body (Parson, L. 1999)

I put together a timeline of popular Cyberpunk movies which can be accessed via the link below.

https://www.timetoast.com/timelines/910264

Ridley Scott’s (1982) Bladerunner is an example of a popular piece of cyberpunk cinema that has gained a cult status due to its depiction of a postmodern dystopian future.  The movie is set in 2019 and features Harrison Ford, a retired cop who is hired as a ‘blade runner’ to track down and kill a group of genetically engineered replicants which have escaped from the off-world colonies and are living on earth illegally. The replicants are manufactured by the mega corporation Tyrell, and The movie is set in urban Los Angeles where it is always dark and raining with the cityscape reflecting the anxieties of an affluent, suburban, white middle class people who view the city environment as dangerous, chaotic, unstable, lawless and is dominated but ‘the other’.

This quintessential cyberpunk movie evokes a sense of fear in us of what we think may happen in the future and the fear of invasion and how this might affect our lives and culture.

 

Butler, A. 2001, ‘Cyberpunk’, Pocket Essentials.

“Cyberpunk.” 2014 Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 25 Aug. <http://www.britannica.com.libraryproxy.griffith.edu.au/EBchecked/topic/147816/cyberpunk>.

Lister, M. et al, 2009, ‘New Media: a critical introduction’, London: Routledge, vol 281, no. 3 pp 237-42.

Parson, L. 1999, ‘Notes towards a Postcyberpunk Manifesto’, Slashdot, Saturday October 09, http://news.slashdot.org/story/99/10/08/2123255/notes-toward-a-postcyberpunk-manifesto