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games research

Research 1: A Quantitative Study of Female Characters in Video Games

Through a search in the UB Article+ Databases, I found the article “The Lara Phenomenon: Powerful Female Character in Video Games” by Jeroen Jansz and Raynel G. Martis.  In this article, the authors seek to understand if the prevalence (or lack thereof) of leading female characters or a change in the dominance of the white race in video games has changed since earlier research.  They go into detail describing research done by others and their quantitative analysis of video games and then move into recounting their research process.  Jansz and Martis studied race, gender, and roles in 12 hand-chosen video games.  They begin the abstract stating that “Previous research on game content has revealed that stereotypical masculine characters dominate video games and that those characters are generally White”, and conclude their article stating that “Men are still represented as hypermuscular characters and women as hypersexualized characters.  In other words, quite a few women became leaders in the games, but they continue to be presented in a sexualized way.  As a result, these powerful women are depicted as sex objects as much as their powerless predecessors were” (Jansz and Martis, 141 and 147).  It seems that over the years more non-submissive and powerless female characters were depicted in games but they remained subjected to the male gaze in which they become sexual objects, rather than strong, autonomous individuals.

I believe this article will be very useful for my research in that it gives a detailed quantitative account of the prevalence of male and female characters in video games.  While this is not a theoretical piece, like a literary critique, it provides a lot of statistics which I can use to better understand masculinity and femininity in games.  I am not that interested in the fact that more males play games than women and this article does not dwell on that point too much.

Although I am not anticipating discussing race in my paper, I found it highly interested that the dominant figures in the video games studied were exclusively white.  As female characters are more accepted in gaming culture, why has diversity of race been cast aside?  This makes me further wonder about the depiction of sexual orientation in games.  From this article alone it is clear that most games that call on the protagonist to save their lover from a terrifying danger are strictly heterosexual relationships. I wonder, what other social stereotypes and norms are not being questioned by the video game industry?  Why does it seem that a media which is so based in the present, rather than by conservative society, not push the boundaries of social norms?  It seems to me that video games would be a wonderful ground for banishing old notions of relationships and social roles.

Jansz, Jeroen and Martis, Raynl G. “The Lara Phenomenon: Powerful Female Characters in Video Games.” Sex Roles 56 (2007): 141-148. Web. 18 June 2013.

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