Barlett, Christopher P. and Harris, Richard J. “The Impact of Body Emphasizing Video Games on Body Image Concerns in Men and Women.” Sex Roles 59 (2008): 586-601. Web. 20 June 2013.
It should not be surprising that media affects self-image, often negatively. Upon viewing ‘ideal’ bodies (for men, that means muscularity and for women, thinness) people feel less impressed with themselves and with long-term exposure their self-assessments are negative and can even lead to dangerous disorders such as anorexia or excessive exercise. These results have been shown across all media outlets but the arena of video games has been left somewhat untouched. In this article the researchers sought to find out if “playing a video game that emphasized the body would increase negative body-image” (Barlett and Harris 586). While other media has shown to do this, video games seem to be more problematic as “video games (unlike television or magazines) offer an active role for players to become and control their video game characters. This allows players to become more immersed, or become a part of, the virtual world” (Barlett and Harris 586). Not surprisingly, both genders felt more negative about their body-image after playing video games, for only 15 minutes, which emphasized the ‘ideal’ body (a WWE wrestling game for men and a volleyball game for women). Body image is comprised of self-esteem, body esteem, and body satisfaction. All three of these are affected by the other two and can be affected easily by mass media. People internalize notions of the ideal they are exposed to and then project their knowledge of their difference from that onto themselves through, often, harmful manners. Like all other media, video games can have a negative impact on how people view themselves.
I am not entirely sure if this article will fit into my research. But once again, I am still not exactly sure what my hypothesis is. I am trying to limit it but it seems that the wealth of quantitative data is mixing me up. It has been well hashed out that white men dominate the game industry in every way, from developers, to gamers, to characters. Games tend to emphasize particular notions of masculinity (muscularity, heroism, and whiteness) and femininity (beautiful, weak, ‘bodacious’, hypersexual, and white). Were I encountering a book that held such rigid standards of beauty and social identity I would probably be very perturbed – it would almost be like entering 1950’s pop culture again. Why does it seem that those who play video games are not that concerned about this? Could this perhaps be an attempt (unconscious of course) to enter video games into the mainstream? It takes a hell of a long time for media to infiltrate conservative culture with ‘subversive’ messages (homosexuality and racial diversity to name a few). Video games are a relatively new media so perhaps upon getting ground as a legitimate, meaningful media they can change their very traditional depictions of masculinity and femininity.