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games research

Research # 8 – Main body 1 and 2

Gender stereotyping begins with this question: How have you been socially taught to view the world. Women, historically, have always been seen as the weaker sex, this ideology was reflected in how women were treated socially: not allowed to work, no vote, less educated. This transformed after the women retaliated and demanded their rights. If one looks at women now, they are still seen as the weaker sex and in media especially, as sex symbols. Women are portrayed as sexual objects, but this is not to say that the media does not have strong, independent women, it just so happens that a sexually attractive women is socially accepted and any woman not falling in that category is not seen favorably.  This norm is reflected in the gaming world- female characters are portrayed as sexual objects. In an essay entitled: ‘ Shirts vs. Skins’ by Beasley and Standley This essay looks at the ways in which a certain character is shown, to be more specific, how they are dressed and how much skin they show. They used the games from Play station console gaming systems and Nintendo 64. Their research showed that out of the total number of characters in these games ( 597) only 82 were women (13.74%). The research also shows that female characters showed more skin than male characters. One might look at this and say its unimportant, since adult men and women play these games, which is actually not true. In a Ted Talk given by Stirling Little ‘ Excuse me Princess,’ states that video games sell more than movie or music. This means that there is a huge market and audience for games. This being said, the authors of the essay ‘Shirts vs. Skins state: “Children form schemata of what behaviors, attitudes, and clothing are appropriately masculine or feminine through accumulated experiences (Wroblewski & Huston, 1987). Video games are just one source of many for information about what is masculine or feminine.”  They also state that this theory is unknown at the time but I suggest that like any other media, video games do project and reflect what society thinks men and women should be like. Of course this applies to how female characters behave but also how they look. I know that there are female characters, which are portrayed as strong and brave, but most are either portrayed as sex objects or meek damsels in distress.

Talking about damsels in distress, children’s games generally have female characters in need of rescuing. The Mario series are one such popular game where the princess needs rescuing by the male protagonists. An essay exploring this idea ‘ level up – A case for female gamers’ by Kuljit Brar uses the game Mario to explore the point that females are either portrayed as sexual objects or meek submissives. He states that the gaming world has changed since the 80s and the 90s, with more female characters in games, yet the characters are shown as either to “placate the male gaze or are seen as fairy tale characters” (the more traditional approach). Lara Croft serves as an example of sexualized female character, whose main audience are young teenage boys. In another essay written by Sharon R. Sherman explores a similar issue where games such as Mario show women as damsels in need of rescuing. She states “The games are captivating to males primarily because players compete with each other and with the machine to “save the princess.” This essay is interestingly different as Sherman argues that we look at Mario through a Jungian viewpoint, there are fixed archetypes, which fall into place, and the story line is similar to an epic. In any epic story, the hero goes through many risks and adventures to rescue something- along the way he does rescue a princess or two. This traditional approach can be seen in adventure videogames such as in Mario. The interesting thing is players tend to choose the character of their own gender. This phenomenon can be seen in Bonnie Nardi’s ‘ My life as a night elf priest,’ where she states that most female player would choose female characters. This is an important issue to address because gaming seems to enforce gender rules. Male players will not choose to be the princess because she is the damsel and social norms state that men should be the stronger sex. In Sherman’s survey, male players stated that choosing to be the female character would be “weird.”

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