June 28, 2013
In order to know whether games serve a purpose beyond entertainment, one needs to understand the psychological components of them. Psychology determines an individual’s behavior; an individual’s behavior determines psychology. An individual spends a large majority of their time and resources on entertainment mediums, like video games; therefore, understanding the psychological factors driving video game appeal helps to explain the socio-cultural role something like a game may play—while being played. What is gaming’s effect on an individual’s psychology, or, psychology’s effect on game development and design? A game’s reliance on the principles of engagement, motivation, reinforcement, and attention makes it an ideal topic of exploration for psychologists, and game designers have begun to utilize their expertise to take game’s beyond entertainment into something more engaging than ever—especially in light of the new digital age. Games can only achieve purpose beyond entertainment when application of psychological principles determines their design.
Tom Nichols, one of the growing numbers of psychologists in the video game industry explains that more and more video game designers ‘turn to psychologists to analyze product effectiveness.’ (qtd in Clay). With the ever expanding variety of gaming platforms, mobile gaming and social network gaming especially, more opportunities present themselves to psychologists to work in the gaming industry. Mike Ambinder, experimental psychologist states: ‘The application of psychological principles to game design is still in its infancy, so the opportunity is present to be at the forefront of a new discipline’ (qtd in Clay). Currently, the most common role for psychologists in the field is in user research—testing whether players “experience games the way companies intended [by understanding the game’s goals, and translating those goals into a testable question]” (Clay); measuring level of excitement or anxiety is a common focus. Game designers and experimental, cognitive, developmental, and educational psychologists want to harness the power of gaming more than ever now though, and rather than just measure an effect, they want to produce one.
If a game designer understands the psychologist’s perspective, they can then produce the player experience they want. Nicholas Yee, Social Scientist, applies psychological theories to online gaming environments specifically, by attempting to understand what users derive from the interactive and collaborative relationships they form within these virtual worlds.
MMORPGs (Massively Multi-player Online Role-Playing Games), for example, provide a solid basis for analysis, specifically through avatar interactions. Yee discusses the “relationship formation, role exploration, and skill transfer” elements integrated into MMORPGs, and explains how each component has its own psychological application. These components are necessary in promoting active player engagement and emotional investment in a virtual world. In MMORPGs, “users view the world in real time 3-D graphics,” using a “humanoid graphical representation of the user or player in the game to interact with the environment and each other…. Communication between users occurs through typed chat and animated gestures and expressions” (10). But why do we feel more comfortable interacting with strangers using these guises as vehicles for self-expression or social aid? The customization of avatars appeals to psychologists and sociologists everywhere. Avatars are fully customizable by skin tone, age, weight, height, musculature, cheek, jaw, and brow prominence, mouth and nose shape, eye color, hair color and style, lip fullness, facial hair, etc… – All things that we perceive psychologically to form stereotypes sociologically. Therefore, do avatars in MMORPGs reinforce psychologically and socially driven stereotypes– role related stereotypes specifically? Do they mirror or shape them?
What is it about role stereotypes specifically in these environments? MMORPGs offer “diverse professional alternatives” for avatars (21). Yee provides the example of Star-Wars Galaxies to explain: in the Star Wars game, a player can make their avatar a skilled musician, chef, hairstylist, pharmaceutical manufacturer, or politician. Social networking sites like Facebook now offer hundreds of this type of simulation game with role play as the format— Chefville, Farmville, Coasterville, Petville, Pet Society, Mall World, Cafe World—the names are self-explanatory, and the list goes on and on.
Role Exploration and Skill Transfer, as well as relationship formation and emotional investment in MMORPGs and social networking games allow users to explore new roles and identities. They can also shape an individual’s identity. MMORPGs are “highly social and structured environments [which] allow players to explore whether certain valuable skills learned in these virtual environments can transfer to the material world” (22). These games offer strategy skills like: motivating group members, dealing with negative attitudes and group conflicts, encouraging group loyalty and cooperation, which ultimately provides leadership experience (22). These games allow individuals to learn and interact with the world given to them by essentially developing, reinforcing, or enhancing, or altering real life skills. This is where the traditional use of video games extends beyond entertainment into sociocultural uses.
But what motivates our emotional investment in these MMORPG and social networking games? According to Yee, there are 5 factors that motivate a player’s emotional investment in these virtual environments: Relationship, Immersion, Escapism, and Achievement factors, as well as hyper-personal interactions (12). Relationship components drive social gaming—hence the term “social;” Human interaction is as strong a need as hunger or thirst. Sometimes we feel socially deprived because of our busy schedules and work-loads. Social gaming may satisfy that shortage in between our real life interactions. “Immersion” means that players “enjoy being in a fantasy world as much as they enjoy being somewhere else in the real world… they enjoy the story telling aspect, and enjoy creating avatars with histories that correspond with stories and lore of the world” (10-13). Escapism describes how players use virtual worlds to “temporarily avoid, forget about, and escape from real life stress and problems” (12). The achievement factor measures the player’s desire “to become powerful in the context of virtual environments” through playing to complete goals and accumulate power, status, skills, and virtual other resources.
The reason gaming socially online satisfies our social shortages, is because of what Yee describes as “Hyper-personal interactions: more intimate, more intense, more salient relationships;” Yee believes online virtual environments foster these relationships because of what the communication channel creates. “[Online communication] allows senders to optimize their self-presentation because interactants don’t have to respond in real time… [The receiver] forms an impression of the information the sender has optimized”(16). Participants can also “reallocate cognitive resources typically used to maintain socially acceptable non-verbal gestures used in face to face communications and focus on the structure and content of the message itself— which comes across as more personal and articulate…. Interactants respond to personal messages with equally personal and intimate messages; the idealized impressions and more personal interaction intensifies through reciprocity” (16)—the result: “hyper-personal relationships.”
Yee ultimately demonstrates that “our virtual identities and experiences are not separate from our identities and experiences in the material world. They co-evolve as they shape each other” (25); that the phenomenon of role-playing or simulation game popularity can only be understood through analysis of an individual’s psychological components, not necessarily the game’s theme or story line. When this happens, games move beyond entertainment to become new communication mediums, rich with social identities, interactions.
According to Science Daily, the desire to play video games or interact in MMORPG worlds “lies somewhere beyond mere role playing; it’s an actual desire to find our ideal selves” (Gayomali). Gayomali states that “observing thousands of gamers playing everything from The Sims to World of Warcraft,” researchers from the University of Essex determined that this “role-playing attraction” extends “back to childhood, when we used our imaginations to project ourselves as all sorts of things: an athlete, a rock star, a superhero– the list goes on.” Video games allow players to “adopt pieces of their protagonist’s identity, giving [them] a glimpse of a life [they] would secretly like to lead” (Gayomali). Gaming research essentially shows, according to Dr. Przybylski, leading researcher at University of Essex, that “people were not running away from themselves” while engaging in role-playing games, “but running toward their ideals.”
Writer John M. Grohol investigates the following question related to gaming and psychology—like Yee, focusing specifically on avatar interaction. He asks: “Do people represent themselves for who they are; do they take on different personality characteristics with their online persona?” A person’s choice of avatar—the “pictorial representation of themselves in an online environment— can be examined to find answers. Grohol references and summarizes a study done by Yee and Bailenson, in which “the effect of an altered self-representation on behavior” was observed (Grohol). “Participants who had more attractive avatars exhibited increased self-disclosure and were more willing to approach opposite gendered strangers after less than one minute of exposure to their altered avatar” (Grohol). Ultimately, the attractiveness of an avatar determined how intimate participants were willing to be with strangers (much like in real life). Height, for example, was a defining physical trait that impacted confidence level of players who used their avatar’s to interact with others. “Both the height and the attractiveness of an avatar in an online game were significant predictors of the player’s performance” (Grohol). These laboratory online settings were also extended to face-to-face interactions, and the same concepts apply. The major point here: “our virtual bodies can change how we interact with others”—in an avatar based online communication, as well as a face to face interaction (Grohol).
Emotional Investment and Social presence were also measured in Yee and Bailenson’s study. “Social Presence” measures how connected a player feels to their online environment. When visual and behavioral realism matched, (attractiveness matched expectations of attractiveness” [Grohol]) a participant’s sense of social presence increased. The study also found that attractiveness in avatars is naturally accompanied by height—not unlike the real world. The bottom line: Avatars can impact how a player behaves and interacts online, just like their physical body can determine the same in real life. Clearly psychology is at work here.
The label “Mirror Games” is used to describe the way “individuals shape their own minds through looking into the mirror of others”—also known as Social Mirroring. Social Mirroring occurs through various modes of communication, and two basic requirements must be filled for it to take place: the functional and the social (165).
The functional element refers to the “operation of representational devices with mirror like properties,” or, the mirrors inside of an individual. The social element refers to “discourses and practices for using and exploiting inside mirrors within social interaction.” Social Mirroring is “how individuals come to understand and appraise their own conduct” (166). By mirroring themselves in others, an individual comes to “perceive and understand him or herself by understanding how their conduct is perceived, received, and understood by others” (166). A social mirror and an actual mirror’s common ground is this: “both help the individual to perceive themselves in the same way others perceive them.” This “notion of social mirroring is widespread in the social sciences,” especially in the fields of Cognitive, Developmental, and Social psychology (168). Considering “the possible role of mirror like devices for self-recognition and social interaction;” in this context, a “mirror” metaphorically represents “close functional relationships between action perception and production” (168). Social mirroring contributes to self-formation and reformation; for this to occur, social mirrors within an individual’s environment must match “mirror-like representational devices operating inside their minds” (169).
These affirmations confirm the idea that video games mirror and shape our psychologies. Video games maintain all the qualities of “mirror games.” If social mirroring occurs through various modes of communication, and we consider an MMORPG, for example, as the mode of communication, then the two basic requirements for socially mirroring to take place are fulfilled by one thing: video games. Simulation games and virtual environments demonstrate the functional element, or the “operations of representational devices with mirror-like properties” (170). These games reflect certain socially realities, even though they distort it through computer generated graphics that are designed to enhance and extend beyond reality’s limits. They are “representational devices.” Any interactive component to gameplay: PvP zones, Avatars, simulation games, etc… fulfill the social requirement. These all provide he “possible role of mirror-like devices for self-recognition and social interaction” (171). The mirror, in this context, refers to the “close functional relation between action-perception and production” (175)” which works on the principles of Operant Conditioning. These “mirror games” contribute to self-formation like Operant Conditioning does in a social context.
Zynga—Facebook’s highest grossing gaming application developer— combines the fun of MMORPGs and social networking with simulation while utilizing the psychological principles of Operant Conditioning. Operant Conditioning is the learning process in which an action’s consequences or rewards determine the likelihood that the action will be repeated in the future. It is based on reinforcement and punishment as well as repetition. Positive stimuli equals reinforcement, and reinforcement increases the likelihood that the behavior will be repeated; negative stimuli equal punishment, and increases the likelihood that the behavior will not be repeated. Both learning outcomes are based on repetition of the negative or positive stimuli in response to an action (Gazzaniga, et al). When users are playing a game, like Coasterville, for example, virtual stars, coins, fireworks, and confetti overload the screen when the player accomplishes a goal or clicks an interactive item. This is positive reinforcement. These starts, coins, fireworks, and confetti are the positive stimuli. It triggers the player’s pleasure centers, provides reinforcement, and encourages them to keep clicking for more. Games work on punishment as well. In traditional console games, like Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. and Donkey Kong Country for example, when a player’s character ran off the edge of a cliff, they fell off into nothingness and died. The turn was over. The player had to restart the entire board. They were so disappointed. Yet it also encouraged the fact, because they wanted to keep playing, that they wouldn’t ever run off a cliff again—that next time they played that part of a level, they remembered not to go that way. Falling off the cliff—the negative stimuli— and ending a turn—the punishment— ultimately with repetition, encourages the player to play better, stronger, faster, smarter.
Zynga’s games, based on Operant Conditioning, are designed to provide players with early and immediate rewards which encourage longevity of play. With every new action, something more is unlocked, and the player’s progression is displayed in the form of virtual currency of various kinds, prompting additional action. The immediacy of feedback plays a major role in the success of a Zynga game’s playability. Rather than the game stopping and waiting for the player to activate it, like on traditional PC and console games, Facebook applications continue working while the player is away. For example, on Coasterville, players can still receive items and requests from friends while away, and they can see that a certain ride will take “14 hours” to build; once they’ve started to build it, they know that in that actual time frame, they can go back on to see the completed virtual results of their gaming progress overnight without doing anything at all. Also, once player’s parks have been established, expansion of it depends on the player returning to play. Of course by this point, they’re hooked. If players want to expand their park’s boundaries to fit another coaster now, they need x amount of supplies, but to get those supplies, they need to “order them” from the park’s vendors, and the “order” takes “2 hours” to arrive. It takes more and more. The initial, immediate rewards are highly stimulating, but it takes playing and doing more and more to achieve that same level of stimulation as game-play progresses.
Writer Dennis Scimeca reinforces what McGonigal discusses in our first reading, “Reality is Broken,” regarding Dr. Martin Seligman and his principles of Positive Psychology. During an interview at the “Games Beyond Entertainment” conference in Boston, Dr. Seligman confirms that video games can indeed “play a part in promoting human ‘flourishing’”(Scimeca). He breaks this flourishing down into five components: positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and achievement (PERMA). Each component has one thing in common: an individual does them for their own benefit. Each element is also “measurable, teachable, and game-able” (Scimeca). Now Seligman’s theories of positive psychology apply not only to video game design, but to socio-cultural uses as well.
The U.S Army now uses these principles in their training and therapy for example. “Three years ago the Chief of Staff of the Army, George Casey, called Seligman to ask what positive psychology could do to alleviate post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, drug abuse, and divorce, all of which are common issues for soldiers” (Scimeca). These soldiers were trained in PERMA principles to teach “resilience and positive psychology” (Scimeca). This training allowed soldiers to focus on the strategy of developing and practicing coping skills for the extreme and emotionally overwhelming challenges assigned to them. McGonigal, although she did mention that games could go beyond entertainment to be utilized in this fashion, I would have liked to see a more in depth explanation of how exactly major U.S institutions and government branches, and this article more clearly confirmed her major claims. Although no current games actually teach PERMA principles, Seligman hopes to change that very soon.
“The Left digit Effect” demonstrates another one of the ways psychological manipulation may be used in video game design. Madigan explains the “left digit effect” in pricing, noting how $2.99 for example seems like less than $3.00: “The left digit disproportionately affects our perception of price.” In a 2005 study, subjects were asked to estimate how many items they could buy from a catalog with $73.00. They were first presented with prices ending in .00, then with prices ending with .99—“Across all conditions, subjects estimated they could afford to buy more when prices ended in .99” (Madigan). The left-to-right reading process makes the first number the most significant.”$59.99 is seemingly less than $60.00 because the leftmost 5 is coded as meaningfully less than the 6. The relatively slow moving, rational part of one’s brain catches up an instant later and recognizes that a penny’s difference means nothing; but the snap judgment has already been made and perceptions of price are now subtly biased”(Madigan). Madigan goes on to say that “as with most cognitive biases, we’re especially susceptible to the left digit effect when the rational part of our minds is busy or tired.” The left digit effect can be applied to more than just prices, however, and can happen regarding any number or measurement—including elements in video game worlds (“average scores, weapon stats, gigabytes of space,”—anything represented numerically.) For game designers trying to maximize player’s reward-satisfaction, without compromising the balance of ease and fun, the left digit effect can be a highly effective technique to adopt. It is also likely to be most effective “when player’s mental [or virtual] resources are depleted or directed elsewhere (combat, challenge, character creation process, or player and item stats).
If you’re designing an axe for your RPG that does 3.02 damage per second, it’s going to be seen as disproportionately better than a sword with a 2.99 DPs. Adding a skill point to reduce the cool-down timer on an ability from 5 seconds to 4.5 seconds is going to seem like a better use of the skill point than the previous time it was reduced from 5.5 to 5. And 3,000 experience points for a quest reward is going to be a lot better than 2,950 –more so than math alone would lead you to believe (Madigan).
The use of psychology in video game design is highly underestimated and underutilized. There are so many psychological facets, like the left brain effect, that can be applied to game play. It’s all about learning and reinforcement. It’s all about perception.
“Deep Learning and emotion in Serious Games” further validates Psychology’s role in game design and game play. The authors present the concept of “serious games,” or educational and therapy-related games. These oxymoronically worded games, they say, are “designed with the explicit goal of helping students learn about important subject matter, problem-solving strategies, and cognitive and social skills” (83). These games successfully integrate gameplay with curriculum, and “the learning of difficult content” via these game platforms becomes “enjoyable and engaging” for the student; strenuous mental activity becomes transformed into play (83). In order to understand how this is achieved, however, game designers must investigate the principles of psychology to fuse those principles with those inherent to game design.
The art or science of teaching, education, and instructional methods with games must undergo further analysis and far more utilization however; as of now, very few games exist with this integration in mind. Those that do exist, however, incorporate “behavioral, cognitive, and social task analysis between game features and the desired learning objectives” (84). To support their belief in the power of “serious games,” the authors introduce several psychological principles that are crucial for understanding how games play on the user’s mind, for example: Principles of instructional design are mapped onto particular features of games; the mapping of game features can be linked to the four levels of evaluating training (student reaction, leaning, behavioral transfer, and systematic results); these features are also linkable to a specific learning model that has five major branches of cognitive demand—these branches are: content understanding, problem solving, self-regulation, communication, and collaborative teamwork (83). Ideally, Graesser, and his co-authors believe that these games would increase enjoyment, interest in the topic at work, and the “Flow” experience McGonigal made familiar to us—“Such engagement in the game would be expected to facilitate learning by virtue of time spent on task, motivation, and self-regulated activities, so long as the focus is on instructional curriculum rather than exogenous game components” (83).
Several taxonomies of games exist: 1st person shooter, action-adventure, strategy, puzzle, trivia, simulation, role-playing, and MMORPGs. Each genre corresponds to “specific behavioral, cognitive, or social skills acquired as a function of increasing playing time, practice, tests, and challenges. These skills span perception-attention-motor skills, working memory management, memory for content, reasoning, planning, problem-solving, and social interaction” (84). Deeper levels of learning involve the following: analysis of causal mechanisms, logical explanations, creation and defense of arguments, management of limited resources, tradeoffs of processes in complex system, and a way to resolve conflicts (84). More shallow levels include: perceptual learning, motor skills, definitions of words, properties of objects, and memorization of facts.
What makes games successful psychologically? What is their psychological impact? How can game designers more effectively utilize psychological responses in their execution? What aspects of psychology specifically correspond to the components of games? Is all media and entertainment simply a crafted manipulation of our psyches? Do we care if it is? Does understanding our own psychologies serve as a handy defense against unfair or unwanted manipulation? These thoughts apply not only to gamers and game designers, but to students, parents, teenagers, doctors, lawyers, everyone. Name one person that hasn’t played a game. We’ve all been psychologically manipulated somehow, but most of the time, we love it!
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Madigan, Jaime. “The Left Digit Effect: Why Game Prices end in .99.” The Psychology of Video Games:
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Gamasutra. Gamasutra.com. 18 May 2011. Web. 25 June 2013. <http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/124918/Games_Beyond_Entertainment_Applying_Positive_Psychology_To_Games.php>
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28 June 2013
The Hypergendered World of Gaming
Games, Gamers and Sexism
Over the many decades of its existence, the gaming community has become increasingly diverse. Though our stereotype of the gamer often remains the young, white and male socially awkward nerd, women currently make up forty-five percent of gamers and adult women gamers outnumber young boy gamers (“Industry Facts”). Yet the stereotype of gaming being a boys’ club persists, both within the gaming community and amongst game designers and publishers. Like most popular media, video games are typically designed for and marketed towards men despite the diversity within the community consuming such media. Professors Jesse Fox and Jeremy N. Bailenson and Facebook Media Solutions Managers Liz Tricase note in the journal Computers in Human Behavior that in video games “men outnumber women and that female representations are overwhelmingly stereotypical (e.g., kidnapped princesses in need of rescue) and often sexualized” (Bailenson, Fox & Tricase, 930). The question of how gender functions in games and within the gaming community is a salient one. The question is unique due to the nature of video games; not only is the format’s interactivity important to consider, but so is the fact that its representations are frequently embellished and hypermasculine on a level that rivals superhero comics and action movies. By utilizing Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity, video gaming can be understood as an important locus for the repetition of gender. When critically examined, the functioning of gender in and around video games can be used to understand the implications of video game representation and community behavior. If video games are to continue to maintain a place in mainstream media, or even grow in importance, it is vital that sexist undercurrents in games and the gaming community be examined and deconstructed.
To situate gender within gaming, we first must situate gender. Judith Butler’s theory of gender as performed “drag” is useful for the analysis at hand. As Butler writes in “Imitation and Gender Insubordination,”
Drag is not the putting on of a gender that belongs properly to some other group, i.e. an act of expropriation or appropriation that assumes that gender is the rightful property of sex, that “masculine” belongs to “male” and “feminine” belongs to “female.” There is no “proper” gender, a gender proper to one sex rather than another, which is in some sense that sex’s cultural property (Butler 312).
Butler continues, noting that “gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original; in fact, it is a kind of imitation that produces the very notion of the original as an effect and consequence of the imitation itself.” “Heterosexualized genders” are produced by the repetition and imitation of a “phantasmatic ideal of heterosexual identity” (Butler 313). Hashed out, Butler is claiming that there is no kernel of gendered truth within the ‘I’, but rather that all gender is functionally an imitation of an ideal heterosexualized gender. Gender is performed, and as such is constantly in a state of being repeated, futilely attempting to attain the heterosexualized ideal but only succeeding at repeating an unstable imitation of the phantasmatic ideal.
It is easy to map Butler’s logic on to the functioning of gender in games and gaming. Gaming is a literal performance, especially in games such as role playing games (RPGs), massively multiplayer online games (MMOs) and open world games which typically afford greater flexibility in characterization and action. In video games, roles are typically highly gendered in a way that could easily be described as embellished. Common tropes such as the grizzled soldier or damsel in distress reinforce gendered demarcations and stereotypes. The literal performance of these roles opens space for a greater reification of gendered stereotypes than might be offered by media that is simply watched or read. By looking at gendered game play in video games as a locus of gender performativity, we can understand the ways in which video games can both reinforce gender or provide a point of resistance which can be used to disrupt sexism operative in gaming. To do this I will look at sociological examinations of video games which critique both games and the gaming community. This will lay out both the abstract and concrete ways in which gender functions in gaming and open the door for possibilities about what can be done in regards to such functioning.
To first examine games themselves, the popular multiplayer computer game League of Legends is a good point of departure. League has been reported to attract around 12 million players per day (“League of Legends the World’s ‘most Played Video Game’”), making it one of the world’s most popular video games. As such it provides a useful case subject for an examination of typical portrayals of men and women. League of Legends‘ game play centers around controlling a single character as part of a team of three or five players on one of four different maps. The roster of 100+ unique champions contains a large amount of both men and women (and a few monsters, though they are universally coded as male), and the difference in their characterization is striking. As previously mentioned, games typically have sexist portrayals of women, and they exist in spades in League. Women are generally thin, well endowed and wear skimpy clothing. Examples include Nidalee, a busty woman who wears nothing but a top that resembles a cut-off bustier, a loin cloth, gauntlets and boots and Katarina, whose skin tight outfit displays gratuitous cleavage. It is particularly egregious when compared to male characters who, while sometimes scantly clad (the topless Tryndamere comes to mind), are often fully clothed or armored and are portrayed as robust and powerful. They are granted a Subject position by virtue of their strength, while the women’s frailer, more sexualized bodies are ready made for objectification.
Concern over this is not simply a nitpick, as it has cultural and personal implications. On a cultural level, it encourages sexism in the gaming community, as will be elaborated upon later. On the level of the subject, however, these sorts of images can negatively influence the thinking and behavior of individuals. As Bailenson, Fox and Tricase note, “users may embody characters in virtual worlds and experience the virtual body as their own, which has been shown to have stronger effects than passively watching them” (Bailenson, Fox & Tricase 931). In a game with minimal story line and characterization such as League of Legends this is less of a concern. However, many games carry the same problematic representations as League, but with stronger feelings of embodiment. These can have pernicious effects as Bailenson, Fox and Tricase explore. Drawing on a variety of sources, they note that “Sexually explicit and objectifying depictions of women have been linked to self-objectification, rape myth acceptance (i.e., false beliefs about rape that blame the victim), acceptance of interpersonal violence and violence against women, and aggression.” (931) The Proteus effect is operative when people embody sexualized avatars. Bailenson et al. define it as such:
The Proteus effect occurs when a user’s self-representation is modified in a meaningful way that is often dissimilar to the physical self. The user then embodies the self-representation, observes him or herself behaving in this virtual form, and draws inferences regarding his or her internal beliefs or attitudes based on these observations. After embodiment occurs, the user’s behavior then conforms to the modified self-representation regardless of the true physical self (932).
This can lead to self-objectification in women, and in turn “disordered eating, depression, body preoccupation and decreased cognitive performance,” and both men and women can display increased acceptance of rape myths when exposed to media that sexualizes women (932). Ultimately they conclude that “it appears that users of sexualized avatars may be at risk for developing negative attitudes towards women and the self outside of the virtual environment” (935) and “that women can be affected negatively by the avatars they wear” (936). With Butler in mind, this makes perfect sense. People do gender as they do gaming, and given that games display hypermasculine and hyperfeminine ideals as typified by League of Legends, it sensibly follows that people will be influenced by the extreme doing of gender that video games permit.
It is also important to consider the inner workings of the gaming community. We have seen that games are frequently sexist and can negatively affect gamers. How do the people comprising the game community position themselves in relation to games and each other, however? It is important to observe both men and women who game, and how they experience the games and the gaming community.
The gaming community does not traditionally have the most feminist of images, as has been described. Though “the technologies of the new gaming public put on an air of openness and inclusiveness” (Salter & Blodgett, 401) Penny Arcade’s “Dickwolves” incident displays the way in which this is not quite true. In “Hypermasculinity & Dickwolves: The Contentious Role of Women in the New Gaming Public”, professors Anastasia Salter and Bridget Blodgett examine this incident. Penny Arcade, a popular web comic centering around gaming, had a controversial comic spoofing MMORPGs that made light of rape. A number of people were offended by the banal treatment of a serious topic and instead of acknowledging the problem, the creators of Penny Arcade responded with a sardonic follow up “apology” comic, making “explicitly hostile mockery of the readers’ right to be offended” (406). The conflict was further stoked by the creation of Dickwolves t-shirts for sale at the Penny Arcade Expo (PAX). As Salter and Blodgett describe, “Penny Arcade’s creation of Dickwolves merchandise shifted the conflict from cyberspace to branded physical space” (407), making the hostility even more palpable. In response, blogger and video game project manager Courtney Stanton made a protest shirt design, emblazoned with a phoenix, the proceeds of which went to charities which support rape survivors. Analyzing the situation, Salter and Blodgett note that “women within the hardcore gaming public are given tightly bound roles to play and punished for stepping outside of them” (411). Salter and Blodgett identify a border war over who is or is not a true gamer has erupted in gaming, with women and femininity often ending up casualties as “boundaries act to alienate, separate , and redefine in groups and out groups within gaming” (412).
It is thus clear that not only is there sexism within games, but also within the gaming community itself. This presumably has a recursive effect, with sexist gamers encouraging sexist games with foster sexism. It is clear that women are capable of resistance and speaking out, despite efforts to silence. How though do women gamers experience gaming itself, though? And what other opportunities are there for resistance? Academics Dmitri Williams, Mia Consalvo, Scott Caplan and Nick Yee examine the behavior of gamers, both women and men, in “Looking for Gender: Gender Roles and Behaviors Among Online Gamers.” They address the problem by utilizing gender role theory. The hypothesis is, to put it simply, that “at young girls look to their mothers as role models, and are socialized to behave like them when the mothers encourage this imitation. They thus become nurturing and social. In contrast, young males are discouraged from cleaving to their mothers and pushed away” (Williams, Consalvo, Caplan & Yee, 702). In other words, same sex identification in childhood leads to the fostering of gender roles. Young girls, identifying with the mother, become inculcated in feminine gender roles, while boys push away from the mother and end up identifying with masculine gender roles. This can explain the origin of the entrenched gendered “drag” which we all contain.
Unsurprisingly, women and men’s experiences of gaming are slightly different. Williams et al.‘s study of the popular MMORPG Everquest II found that “males were much more motivated by achievement than female players… In addition, the analysis revealed that females were slightly more socially motivated than male players” (710-711). Surprisingly, however, women had more hardcore players than men. As they concluded, “adult women do indeed play online games, including casual and persistent games, and for large numbers of hours weekly. And although women are the minority of players, they are more committed to the game and play for more hours than their male counterparts” (717). However, “females underreported their time [playing] at a rate nearly three times that of the males” (717), so just as women proved themselves to be frequent and competent gamers, they quite possibly often felt compelled to disassociate themselves with a pass time that is largely considered masculine.
This is where the possibility for resistance lies. In her essay, Butler quotes philosopher Michel Foucault, noting along with him that “discourse can be both an instrument and an effect of power, but also a hindrance, a stumbling-block, a point of resistance and a starting point for an opposing strategy” (quoted in Butler, 308). Gaming can likewise be utilized as a stumbling-block against the discourses within it that enforce heterosexist gender roles. By playing in a way that values women, such as playing for social reasons rather than for achievement, the meaning created through gaming can in a way be hacked so as to value transgressions of the typical gaming order. Finding or creating spaces for femininity, or for other marginalized positions, can be used as a political tool to reform gaming.
This is what Bonnie A. Nardi notes when she discusses the experience of finding space for herself and others, as a women, in World of Warcraft (or WoW), another popular MMO. In My Life as a Night Elf Priest: An Anthropological Account of World of Warcraft, Nardi calls WoW a “Boys’ Tree House” and identifies the social space as one that “was maintained as one in which males set the rhetorical tone” (Nardi 152-153). However, she also found a feminine elements in the game, both created by players and embedded in the game itself. One example of the former is the way in which a fellow player, Mrs. Pain, “accommodated to ‘rudeness’ [sexist and homophobic profanity and language] by cultivating an in-game social network and through the resource of her maturity” (155). By creating alternate spaces, Mrs. Pain was able to cope with the patriarchal rhetoric in the game. Nardi also found aspects of femininity directly in game play. She explains, “Rather than being expressive of stereotypical masculinist sensibilities, WoW was more nuanced, introducing elements appealing to women (and many men) in both game activities and the presentation of the game space” (167). Through things such as the counter-protests in the “Dickwolf” debacle, the creation of alternate spaces within games, and the encouragement by consumers of game designers to make games more egalitarian, gaming can advance to a more nuanced and equal level.
Gaming is a relatively new media form, so it is unsurprising that it still has a ways to go before it manages to carve out the same potential for alternate, egalitarian spaces present in other media such as film or literature. As shown, gaming’s hypergendered nature provides a unique location for both the reification of gendered roles and their resistance. Just as sexualized avatars can reinforce sexism, so can pro-rape survivor protests, the pro-woman management of game spaces and the woman friendly games provide the opportunity for just the opposite. Because, as Salter and Blodgett identified, negotiations over gamer identity are entrenched in negotiations over women’s place in gaming, it will be a complicated mess to untangle. There is, however, always room for Foucauldian stumbling-blocks. As games and gaming evolve as a form, their content and the behavior of the community have the potential to evolve with them. In the mean time, we can only do our best to help gaming level up and reach its full potential as a media form.
Violence has always been a hot topic, no matter the relevance. But violence with regards to video games has been a sore spot in society for as long as they have existed. There are countless positive uses for video games, many happen to be violent, but many people tend to focus on the negatives. These negative seem to have an awfully large impact on society though. The impact I am speaking of is the effects of video games on young minds today. Ever since I was little I was told to not to play any video games with violence in it, but what my parents don’t know won’t hurt them. This moral dilemma of whether to restrict children from playing adult games had been rooted in our culture for years. But is there any scientific proof to back up the fact that violent video games leads to a more violent society? Most recent results point to no.
But before we get to actual statistics, I feel it is important to talk about some recent history within the topic. Recently, on June 27, 2011, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision on the Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association ruling that established that video games were covered under the First Amendment and established that video game content could not be regulated by governments. This ruling created enormous freedom for the creators of video games because of this protection under the First Amendment. Just like any book or movie, video games can contain any information the creators want without fear of prosecution from the government, with the exception of libel, slander, etc. But this doesn’t exclude violent video games from everything. Just because we have the right to create and play these games doesn’t mean we can do so without any restrictions if the society feels it is necessary. The Educational Software Rating Board, or ESRB, was created “as a voluntary system where video games could be rated according to violence or other inappropriate material. Rating video games according to age-appropriate categories was intended to prevent underage children from playing games considered too intense for them” (Vitelli). Anyone who has played video games in the past has come into contact with these ratings, whether you have realized it or not. These ratings are usually located on the back of your game, on the bottom right hand side. There are several ratings that vary depending on the game you are playing. C is a game intended for early childhood. An E rating means the game is generally suitable for all ages. This includes most of your sports video games. E 10+ is to signify content suitable for everyone above the age of 10. A T rating generally means the game is for players 13 years old and up. M stands for mature and generally is targeted for players 17 and up. This section is usually where most of your shooters are located because of intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language. The last rating category is A, which stands for adults only, ages 18 and up. This is the highest rating and usually includes the worst content. While this isn’t a restriction on inappropriate material in video games, it is an attempt to limit the amount of violence children are exposed to. It helps buy giving parents the necessary information needed to decide if a particular game is inappropriate for their child.
Now you may ask why is all of this debate necessary? To some these reasons may seem like common sense, but none the less they must be evaluated. Karen Dill states in her article “I think the reason is that children are vulnerable and, by definition, immature. They haven’t fully learned to make decisions that are healthy for them. And, by extension, we’ve decided as a culture on a group of things that are unhealthy for children. These include alcohol, tobacco and X-rated movies” (Dill). While many people may say that she is just stating the obvious by defining what a child is, she makes a valid point. Children are immature, and therefore don’t understand the consequences of their actions. It is also proven that at young ages children tend to have a hard time distinguishing reality from fantasy, of the world within a video game. This problem seems to be relevant up until the brain is done developing. The problem this poses is that they see what is acceptable inside the game, and can potentially allow it to cross over into reality, where it would be obviously unacceptable for the child to carry a gun or drive a car. The second part to her statement made even more sense to me. There are already so many restrictions to what children under the age of 21 can do, why is there so much opposition about keeping them from doing the same things they aren’t allowed to watch in movies? If certain movies require parental consent, shouldn’t similar video games? I feel the main problem here is that game developers and marketers know that children account for a major part of the demographic who buy their games and they don’t want to lose money. This poses an enormous problem because not many people can successfully beat large companies in court.
Aside from the position taken above, there seem to be many supporters of violent video games. Now don’t misunderstand what they are trying to say, they are not lobbying to allow children to play violent video games, but what they do want to prove is that violent video games don’t have the same affect most people believe they do on the general public. Patrick Markey made several good points in his article. He points out that often times horrible events happen, and they drastically change lives forever. As a result of these events people what to know everything they can. Why did this happen? How can we prevent this from happening again? And so on. People need a reason, they need something or someone to blame. Patrick believes that video games tend to get a bad rap because of this, and unrightfully so.
He also goes into detail and sheds a little light on some of the studied done on people who play violent video games. “The average experimental study in this area involves having one group of people play a violent video game while another group plays a non-violent video game. After a short game play session (usually around 15 minutes) participants’ aggressive thoughts or behaviors are assessed. Using such a methodology, researchers have found that individuals who play violent video games are more likely to expose others to loud irritating noises, report feeling more hostile on a questionnaire, give longer prison sentences to hypothetical criminals and even give hot sauce to people who do not like spicy food” (Markey). These experiments do prove that violent video games do lead to a more hostile and aggressive, temperament but even Patrick states himself that “Although these various outcomes are related to unfriendly thoughts and behaviors, it is quite a leap to imply that the desire to expose others to loud noises or hot sauce is similar to the violent events which occurred at Sandy Hook” (Markey). I agree, that after playing violent video games you may be more prone to aggressive behavior, but it would be quite a stretch to say that it would lead someone to use violence in pubic. This raises a question though, what are the long term effects? The study depicts your immediate behavior after playing a violent game, but what about down the road? And what about if you play more than fifteen minutes? What if you play everyday for multiple hours? Does that affect your long term health?
Along with the benefits that come from this testing, many people are calling for different types of testing because flaws in how the tests actually work. The biggest complaint is that people claim that this test does not directly measure real world violence. From what I understand, this complaint is based more within the violent acts within the games themselves. How can you correlate the idea that playing games like Call of Duty will lead kids to grow up and think it’s ok to shoot up their neighborhood? While the game does depict you using guns and aiming at people, shooting in a war where you have to in order t survive is a bit of a stretch from randomly shooting up a residential area for no particular reason. My only problem with this assessment is that how can you get any study to accurately correlate the effects of violent video games to real world violence. You can ask someone after they have been playing a game if they want to go commit a random act of violence. my overall opinion is that being introduced to violence at a young age is only one factor that leads to violent behavior if the child isn’t taught that such behavior is unacceptable. While video games probably aren’t the best things for a young and developing mind, there are many other factors that attribute to violence.
Lets look at one last statistic. The five biggest video game markets in the world are the US, Japan, China, South Korea, and the United Kingdoms in that order. They bring in $13.3 billion, $7 billion, $6.8 billion, $5 billion, and $3 billion respectively. Now lets look at the deaths per 100,000 by firearms. The US has 10.2, Japan has 0.07, China has 0.19, South Korea has 0.13, and the UK has 0.25. Several things thing can be taken away from this statistic, but one of the first ones that should be looked at is how easy it is for someone to obtain a gun in this country. This should be extremely evident after we learned that the Sandy Hook shooter was denied a gun but still managed to find one. Now I know my topic is about video games and violence and not about gun control, but my point is that while violent video games may not be the best thing for children, its shouldn’t be looked at as anything more than one possible factor in a long list. More definitive research must be done before we can say if violent video games are a major source of violence.
Carey, Benedict. “Shooting in the Dark.” The New York Times. N.p., 11 Feb. 2013. Web. 28 June 2013.
Dill, Karen, PhD. “How Fantasy Becomes Reality.” Sex Is Too Obscene for Kids, but Violence Isn’t? Brown v. Entertainment Merchants. Psychology Today, 27 June 2011. Web. 28 June 2013.
Markey, Patrick. “In Defense of Violent Video Games.” US News. U.S.News & World Report, 29 Apr. 2013. Web. 28 June 2013.
Tassi, Paul. “The Numbers Behind Video Games and Gun Deaths in America.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 24 Dec. 2012. Web. 28 June 2013.
Vitelli, Romeo, Phd. “Media Spotlight.” Can Video Games Cause Violence? Psychology Today, 1 Apr. 2013. Web. 28 June 2013.
Doctor Alex Reid
28 June 2013
Video Games: Worlds of Limitless Environments and Limited Humans
Video games exist in the realm of the impossible: from the immense world of the Halo games, to the undead attacks of zombies in Call of Duty, to the God-stance of Spore. Players are immersed in heavily designed worlds that emphasize the boundaries of reality, such as the limited interaction one can have with one’s environment – we are barred from entering “Authorized Only” areas or intruding into other people’s homes. Within the diverse worlds of video games a major limitation of the dominant cultural ideology is emphasized through the depiction of hypersexual and passive females and hypermasculine, dominant males. It is troubling that while video games challenge the limitations of reality through playful and imaginative environments, they rigidly repeat traditional gender stereotypes and roles. More largely this suggests mass cultural ideology is inescapable because even when creating unlimited and fantastic environments, video games are limited to singular types of gender representation.
The reinforcement of the traditional ideals of female beauty occurs regularly in mass media and video games are no exception. Many studies of such portrayals of women in video games re-iterate the point that video games have “disproportionately thin characters with exaggerated female characteristics” (Jansz and Martis 147). Another article states that “Females were more often supplemental characters, more attractive, sexy, and innocent, and also wore more revealing clothing” (Miller and Summers 733). Finally, in “Big Breasts and Bad Guys: Depictions of Gender and Race in Video Games” the authors more explicitly state that “The physical representation of gender in the vast majority of video games is a close adherent to societal expectations of beauty. Women are most commonly depicted as having very large breasts, tiny waists, and full, pouting lips” (Dickerman, Christensen, and Kerl-McClain 23). If female characters are present and important in a game they are regularly shown as the ‘ideal’ woman – large breasts and little clothing. Jansz and Martis found when studying the portrayal of race and gender in video games that “Most female characters had large breasts (seven of nine; 77%) […] Buttocks also were difficult to ignore. They were particularly emphasized among female characters (seven of nine; 77%)” (Jansz and Martis 146). With all studies finding these depictions of women common, it seems that video games adhere to a single standard of beauty.
The repeated exposures to particular ideals of feminine beauty are internalized by players and are then manifested through increased negative feelings about oneself. Monica K. Miller and Alicia Summers write:
Video game characters have the potential to shape players’ perceptions of gender roles. Through social comparison processes, players learn societal expectations of appearances, behaviors and roles. […] other forms of media have been shown to influence self-esteem and body perception (Miller and Summers 733).
Unlike other forms of media however, video games are inherently more interactive. Players not only see female beauty as created by the media but play at it. Jeroen Jansz and Raynel G. Martis state that “Many video games enable their players to enact identities in the most literal sense of the word. Gamers can actually ‘be’ their characters in a playful virtual reality” (Jansz and Martis 142). Video games compound the problem of limiting depictions of female beauty as players both interact with and visualize ideals of beauty. When one views ideals of beauty in media, they internalize such representations and these become naturalized as the ideal body. Such naturalization creates, in the player, a specific set of standards by which one can judge oneself and others. Christopher P. Bartlett and Richard J. Harris conducted a study to determine how video games which “emphasized the body would increase negative body image” (Bartlett and Harris 586). They define negative body image as “a way of thinking and feeling about one’s body that negatively influences the person’s self-esteem, body esteem, and body satisfaction” (Bartlett and Harris 587). As ideology is internalized and manifested in negative body image, negative body image is then manifested in “psychological disorders, such as feelings of depression […] and anxiety […] excessively exercising […] dieting […] and having a higher probability of using steroids” (Bartlett and Harris 587). It may seem that simply playing a game cannot have such a negative impact, but because of the repeated exposure to cultural ideals, one cannot avoid internalizing them. Very few people fit the ideal, hypersexual female body insisted upon in video games and more largely in all of mass media, but nearly all desire it – albeit unknowingly. Indicative of this, Bartlett and Harris found, rather simply put, “that women participants, after playing a video game that emphasized the female body, felt significantly worse about their bodies” (Bartlett and Harris 597). Such pervasive and consistent representation negatively influences the gaming population by reinforcing rigid traditional gender stereotypes, rather than embracing the incredible diversity of human beings that exist and play video games.
Popular video games not only represent women as hypersexual beings but perpetuate traditional gender roles by the significant imbalance of male and female characters. Video games suggest that women are less important and less powerful than men simply by not showing an equal amount of characters of each sex. Williams et al. argue that “groups who appear more often in the media are more ‘vital’ and enjoy more status and power in daily life […] Therefore, measuring the imbalances that exist on the screen can tell us what imbalances exist in social identity formation, social power and policy formation in daily life” (Williams et al. 819). Williams et al. reference social identity theory, and although they do so regarding the underrepresentation of Latinos in video games, the theory applies directly to the underrepresentation of women: “According to social identity theory (Tajfel, 1978), this lack of appearance is a direct signal to Latinos that they are relatively unimportant and powerless compared to more heavily present groups” (Williams et al. 828). By not giving female characters an equal amount of appearance as male characters, video games are directly signaling to players that females are not equal to or as important as men – a stereotypical gender role. So, just how extreme are these imbalances? A study by Braun and Giroux in 1989 found that male characters were featured in 60% of arcade games, compared to only 2% for female characters. In 1991 Provenzo studied Nintendo games and found that 97% of the characters on the covers of 47 games were male, with only 8% being female. Dietz found in 1998 that out of 33 Nintendo and Genesis games, 30% did not have a female in a lead or secondary role, and if the game did have a female character, 21% of the time she was “in a submissive, stereotypical position”. Furthermore, Dietz found that “The other female characters were princesses or wise old women, typically in a position to be released by the leading male character” (Jansz and Martis 143). 67% of females identify themselves as game users but out of 49 games analyzed by Miller and Summers there were 282 male human characters and only 53 female human characters (Miller and Summers 737). Through both underrepresentation and submissiveness, female characters are outweighed by their male counterparts thereby perpetuating traditional gender stereotypes of the woman as weak and unimportant.
However, there are female characters with power. Jansz and Martis found that “Women and men were distributed equally in the class of leading characters (six women and six men) and women occupied a dominant position as often as men did” (Jansz and Martis 147). This is a much more optimistic finding than most research which confirms the trends of older studies. Although Jansz and Martis were able to find equality in video games it is not all positive. They state that “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 147). This push and pull between sexiness and power seems to replicate the modern confusion about women, following the feminist movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s. There is a tension between the traditional views of women as sex objects and the modern notion of the working woman. Video games seem unable to surrender to the state of the modern woman as a powerful bread winner. Certainly powerful women should not be denied their sexuality because of their power, but by portraying all powerful women as hypersexualized, video games suggest that all women and all powerful women are hypersexual.
Perhaps one of the most surprising and disturbing effects of the prevalence of female stereotypes in video games is the increased negative views of women male gamers have. It has already been shown that body emphasizing video games negatively impact women’s body image, just as other forms of media do, but such games also affect how male players view women in the real world. The first troubling finding of Stermer and Burkley was that video games often use sexualized content as a reward, such as Metroid which rewards players with a chance to see the female character (recall Jansz and Martis’ findings) in a bikini or Resident Evil 5 in which players can earn points to unlock a special, sexy outfit for a female character (Stermer and Burkley 527). Basically, this sexualized reward structure tells players that the male gaze is a reward for work done well. The objectified woman is given to any player who ‘earns’ it. Secondly, Stermer and Burkley found that when men played sexualized games, they reacted more quickly to sexual words and “were more likely to perceive women as sex objects” (Stermer and Burkley 528). They also found that men who played sexist games were more likely to believe that women are weaker, “were more likely to judge a woman’s cognitive abilities […] as inferior, and were more likely to evaluate a “rape victim more harshly” (Stermer and Burkley 528-530). Interestingly, like men, women who played a sexualized female character were more likely to judge a woman’s cognitive abilities as inferior (Stermer and Burkley 529). Finally, Beck et al. found that “sexual objectification of women and violence against women in video games do increase rape myths in male participants” (Beck et al. 3025). Rape myths are “prejudicial, stereotyped, or false beliefs about rape, rape victims, or rapists” (Beck et al. 3018). All of these findings epitomize what it means to perpetuate gender stereotypes – men see women as sex objects, as inferior, and as less sympathetic victims. Women are also inundated with these ideas, manifested in their beliefs about women and increased negative body image. The combination of the sexualization and underrepresentation of female characters perpetuate gender stereotypes as shown through the negative influence video games have on both male and female players.
Although the ‘real world’ seems left behind as one turns on their Xbox console, upon beginning a game, one is thrust into stereotypical depictions of men and women. Even in games in which cultural expectations are abandoned or perverted through situational violence or fully-developed imaginative environments, players are instructed that there are particular ways men and women are through character appearance and actions. Like female gamers are to female characters, male gamers are affected by the exposure to the depiction of males in video games. Just as all studies found female characters to be hypersexualized in appearance, male characters were depicted as hypermasculine. Similarly to the findings which showed women to have increased negative body image after watching body emphasizing video games, “male players may feel inferior after comparing themselves to unrealistically muscular and powerful male characters” (Miller and Summers 740). Barlett and Harris state that “Research has shown that media which emphasizes large muscles negatively affects males […] males and females of all ages are impacted by body-emphasizing mass media” (Barlett and Harris 586). Furthermore, “positive attitudes toward muscularity and drive for muscularity are both related to pressure from the mass media to change one’s body” (Barlett and Harris 587). Women are not isolated in the stereotypical depictions of gender in video games as males are just as stereotyped. Video games regularly depict males as violent, muscular heroes. Male players then internalize this ideal and if they do not fit that in the real world, they feel worse about themselves – just as women do about their own gender stereotype. Perpetuating gender stereotypes may not seem to be a ‘real world’ problem but because of the number of affects such stereotypes have on players, video games are quite literally pushing players into psychological disorders.
Whereas female gender roles are reinforced by non-action, male gender roles are reinforced through narrative structure. Sharon Sherman argues that “The games are captivating to males primarily because players compete with each other and with the machine to ‘save the princess’. They know this narrative well from multiple sources and are eager to actually become the hero in the tale” (Sherman 245). When video games call on players to save a female character, “traditional attitudes are reinforced” (Sherman 255). Sherman argues that the narrative structure of a journey to save a princess, kingdom, etc. recalls ‘narrating sessions’ which, through “traditional content elements and structures”, reinforce the idea that this perilous journey leads one into adulthood (Sherman 256). This recalls the sexual reward structure Stermer and Burkley described since upon ‘getting’ the woman, by saving her, the male character is rewarded with becoming an adult. In either case, such reward is disturbing. In the sexuality reward structure, the woman is his reward and in the latter, the woman is more of a stepping stone to a large reward. Either way, such narrative reward structures indicate to male players that their ‘journey’ is one of reward and female subjugation.
Interestingly, World of Warcraft seems to depart the most significantly from traditional gender roles and representations through the variety of humanlike avatars to choose from and the flexibility of gendered actions one can undertake while playing. What differentiates World of Warcraft from other video games may be the reason for this flexibility of gender: WoW is an enormous, seemingly infinite, world. No other game, whether it is a first-person shooter game, a PC game, or a puzzle game, allows players such freedom of action and identity. WoW is a massively multi-player online role playing game, or MMORPG, allowing players to immerse themselves in this literal world of war craft as any gender, appearance, or job they choose. Bonnie A. Nardi writes that:
Through the design of certain of the female characteristics, WoW provided a resource to reproduce a standard gender dynamic, the male gaze […] However, visually things were pretty tame. While the male gaze was sustained in WoW, in particular through the design of the Human, Night Elf, and Blood Elf racials, as well as some of the NPCs, and a few items of “kombat lingerie” […] for the most part, female characters were relatively modest. Other video games contain far more egregious body and costume designs […] And though males tended to like Blood Elves and Night Elves, WoW offered a range of female character types of varying attractiveness, again unlike many games (Nardi 159).
In terms of appearance, WoW creates an environment where representations of females depart from stereotypical depictions of women as having tiny waists, large breasts, and very little clothing. Furthermore, WoW allows for flexibility of traditional gendered actions. Nardi writes:
In ordinary life, many of these activities are associated primarily with one gender, such as cooking (female) or blacksmithing (male). In WoW, both genders engaged in them […] WoW offered players the chance to play at these gendered activities, allowing them to move back and forth across boundaries of male and female. Players chose activities because they made sense for the development of their characters […] This motivation obscured and downplayed, but did not remove, gender attributions (Nardi 171).
WoW is not perfect in breaking down the gender wall as there is, according to Nardi, a large presence of sexually degrading comments made between male players to female players and guilds which maintain strict anti-female player rules (Nardi 152-175). What makes WoW interesting is that, while players suggest the dominance of traditional gender roles in chatting, gender flexibility and a variety of human representation is present. Players of WoW are not limited to the rigid definitions of human being other games are invested in but are free, not only to interact with their fantastic environment, but engage in activities and roles not normally accepted. The male gaze may still be present in WoW but far less so than most other popular video games as both players and characters are able to exhibit their abilities in gameplay, almost genderless.
Upon reading such studies, one must ask why these representations of gender are present in video games. One article argues that “Although the majority of both males and females play games […], game manufacturers target a dominantly male audience […] Thus, games often emphasize violence and the attractiveness and sexuality of females” (Miller and Summers 736). Is this player-driven reason the true reason for gender depictions? Williams et al. suggest that “games feature more males and so attract more young males to play. Those males grow up and are more likely to become gamemakers than women, perpetuating the role of males in game creation” (Williams et al. 829). Perhaps these player-driven and developer-driven reasons are the reasons behind gender representation in video games. It is possible that male developers make what they think male players want to see. However, I am more inclined to agree with Christine Ward Gailey’s argument that:
Games played in a society embody the values of the dominant culture; they are ways of reinforcing through play the behaviors and models of order rewarded or punished in the society […] Play may invert the social order, or challenge the rules within a game format without fundamentally endangering the status quo (Gailey 81).
Such inversion of the social order occurs in the play environment of games as they depart from what is possible in the real world, for example through rapid transit, revival after death, extra-human abilities, and fantastic landscapes. However, the narrative structure of ‘hero’ games and gender stereotypes are modeled after the ‘status quo’.
Male and female characters are subjected to traditional gender stereotypes in video games through character appearance and representation. Female characters are regularly depicted as hypersexual beings with little power, especially because of their underrepresentation. Male characters are hypermasculine and often abide by a traditional narrative structure which rewards them with women and adulthood. It is easy to disregard such representations as unimportant in the ‘real world’ but they have real world implications. Both men and women, upon seeing these representations have increased negative body image and troubling views towards women. What is especially perplexing about the prevalence of such depictions in video games is that these depictions take place in other-worldly environments. The worlds in video games are imaginative and real-world-impossible environments. One level of Techno Kitty Adventure is called “Meat Pack” and allows the player to control his kitty through a world of meat while in Castle Crashers, gameplay takes place in a medieval setting. Despite having such a large variety of environments, massively popular video games rely on traditional gender stereotypes. Ultimately these representations of female beauty, male muscularity, feminine weakness, and male dominance affect players and suggest that abandoning cultural ideology of old, once internalized by game developers and players, is impossible.
Barlett, Christopher P. and Harris, Richard J. “The Impact of Body Emphasizing Video Games
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Representations of Gender, Race and Age in Video Games.” New Media & Society 11.5 (2009): 815-834. Web. 19 June 2013.
Gailey, Christine Ward. “Mediated Messages: Gender, Class, and Cosmos in Home Video
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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.
Miller, Monica K. and Summers, Alicia. “Gender Differences in Video Game Characters’ Roles,
Appearances, and Attire as Portrayed in Video Game Magazines.” Sex Roles 57.3 (2007): 733-742. 18 June 2013.
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Content in Video Games.” Social and Personality Psychology Compass 6/7 (2012): 525-535. Web. 19 June 2013.
After much research and having to slightly change my topic I have arrived at a final product that makes a strong argument connecting games to technology in our culture. The answer was simple, our culture is based on the tech. we use every day shaping our ability to perform tasks at home and work. With technology getting more advanced each year we would be struggling to keep up if it wasn’t for game designer’s ability to bring a powerful and intuitive user interface to the people. This focus on simplicity and artificial intelligence touches us each day from our phones to the programs we use which let us know when we make mistakes and fix spelling errors without provocation. We are surrounded by technology that we have no idea how it works but anyone can walk up to an ATM or gas pump and use it without thinking twice, thank you user friendly user interface.
Although I have high hopes for further game innovations being used in our everyday lives I think that there will always be a place for manual controls and switches. There is just something very satisfying about flipping a switch or pressing a button that gesture controls and touch screens can’t provide.
In our modern, fast-paced, technologically driven society, it has been increasingly difficult to not only set aside time, but to also find suitable means of pursuing regular physical activity as a part of a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Video games have generally been stereotyped as a static activity that encourages and leads to unhealthy lifestyle habits, with the youth of America spending hours sitting in front of a television screen. However, over the past decade, exercise video games or “exergames”, that track physical movement in some manner, have presented an effective option for those seeking alternate forms of physical exercise, as well as rehabilitation exercise. Widely accepted across most all platforms of today’s video game market, exergames that are available today capitalize on the successful features that drive the appeal of video games, and present an option for not just gamers, but people of all generations to participate in physically demanding activity.
While most people today relate exergames with the popular releases of such games like Nintendo’s Wii Fit, exercise video game have been around for almost three decades. One of the first systems to dive into the exercise gaming market was Atari back in 1982, with the release of their Atari Joyboard for the Atari 2600 gaming system (Jonhson). Other notable advances in motion based tracking in video games were releases made by Nintendo in the late eighties which included the ’88 Power Pad, featuring a sensor based foot mat with games such as World Class Track Meet, and the ’89 Power Glove which has been characterized as “too sophisticated” for Nintendo’s target consumers (Johnson). While most of these early exercise gaming platforms and games were limited to their market successes, these systems advances acted as the building blocks to the exercise gaming platforms and games e have available to us today.
As the major gaming industry unveiled its next generation consoles during the years of 2005 and 2006, which included the Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3, and the Xbox 360, exercise video games also began to evolve in tune with their consoles. One of the principle releases in the realm of exercise video games the Nintendo Wii Fit device, which features a balance board with such game mode selections as strength training, aerobics, yoga and balance(Wii Fit Facts). The emergence of the Wii Fit system and exercise games of similar natures sought to combat the commonplace stereotype of the static gamer, in a modern society plagued by rising obesity rates and the struggle to keep not only today’s youth, but people of all generations physically active.
With the development of these exercise video games, it has been a common assumption that exercise via an exercise video game could not be as affective or produce the same results as more traditional forms of exercise such as running on a treadmill or cycling. This has spurned a countless number of studies in this field; comparing and analyzing data and information that may better quantify the potential benefits of exercise video games. One such study, taking place in a laboratory type setting, compared three forms of physical activity, one of which was through the use of Nintendo’s Wii Fit system, while the other two were the more traditional forms of exercise, running via treadmill and a stationary cycling machine.
Through the conduction of this study, one of the benefits witnessed through the use of the Nintendo Wii Fit system was a consistent lower perceived rate of exertion values, while the calculated heart rate of the participants of this physical exercise study remained the same as the previously mentioned forms of exercise (treadmill and stationary cycle). This is an important result, as this shows the potential of exercise video games, such as the Nintendo Wii Fit, to achieve the same if not better results during physical activity, while providing a better sense of enjoyment through the video game interface, as evident in the participants reported exertion while performing physical activity via the Wii Fit system (Devereaux, pg139). Exercise video games, like the Wii Fit, capitalize on many on the successful attributes of static video game play in order to encourage an effective session of physical activity.
As the use of the Wii Fit system caused the users to participate in physical activity at lower apparent exertion rates, it is important to consider the effects of “game flow” in these exercise video games have on the gamers. Integral to the success and prolonged use of a video game, game flow is the ability for the user to become fully immersed in the aesthetics of the game, allowing for a rewarding and gratifying experience. In another form of exercise based gaming, various dance themed games have been developed and make up a significant portion of the realm of exercise video games. While some of these dance themed games enjoy varying successes in terms of yielding effective exercise results, it is apparent that in game flow plays a quintessential role in the vary success and rate of effective exercise experienced by the user. Such dance based video games as the cross-platform, open source game StepMania have been seen to allow users to experience a state of game flow, and thus attaining higher levels of energy expenditure and more effective physical activity (Bronner).
However not all exercise games have been show to produce the same levels of success as StepMania, such as the exercise game Dance Central developed for the Xbox Kinect, where such in game aesthetics as load time and difficulty navigating through menus resulted in the diminished ability to obtain a sense of in game flow (Bronner). In order to attain more effective and prolonged use of these exercise games, there are many facets and aspects that developers may need to take into account when creating games and technologies for these motion tracking based video games.
While certain aspects like loading screens and menu navigation certainly impact the users experience when utilizing these types of games for physical activity purposes, studies have shown the stress placed on how these games track motion, and the correlation between how motion is tracked versus the perception of enjoyment or game flow value. When comparing the way motion is tracked, studies have shown that full body tracking motion gave gamers a higher level of enjoyment versus games that utilized single limb motion tracking, while simultaneously producing similar heart rate levels during physical activity (Thin). Such data must be taken into account while developing and designing games, as this stresses the need for balance between the skill level of the gamer and the perceived challenge of the exercise game (Thin).
Another area of concern when considering the potential of physical activity through exercise video games is the appeal to users for continued use of these devices over a long period of time. In a study conducted over the span of six weeks comparing traditional cycling on a standard bicycle with exercise on a GameBike via Playstation2, a television monitor, and a game compatible with the GameBike controller system such as Gran Turismo or Need for Speed, the outcome showed that the participants in the exercise video game group attended more than 71 percent of the scheduled session while only 42 percent of the sessions were attended by the traditional cycle group (Rhodes, 633). This information is prevalent in demonstrating that exercise video games can effectively present an appeal that allow individuals to continue to pursue exercise in a manner that more traditional forms of exercise have lacked over the years.
Continuing on the video game twist on traditional cycling, many gyms across the country have incorporated a new technology with the standard stationary cycling machine seen in the gym. Known as the Expresso Bike, this technology adheres a computer monitor that not only allows the user to navigate and cycle through over thirty potential virtual environments, but also is one of the most successful examples of incorporating a sense of competition in its users. The Expresso Bike allows you to compete against others in the gym at the same time, or you can compete against your friends through the integration with social media sites like Facebook and Twitter (Saenz). Also incorporated in this device are different mini-games that continue to encourage competition, such as a mode that allows users to cycle after moving targets (Saenz). This device designed by Interactive Fitness Holdings is an advancement in gym technology that capitalizes and incorporates concepts of exercise video games that encourage users to not only participate in physical activity, but continually push their efforts in a positive direction.
Not only do the aesthetics, appeal, and attributes previously discussed of video games in general affect a positive alternative option to achieve exercise activity, but the cost effectiveness of these systems as compared to more traditional gym and fitness equipment. While equipment like treadmills and stationary cycle machines can run into the thousands of dollars, exercise video game systems like the Nintendo Wii Fit can be purchased for roughly a couple hundred dollars. Cost effectiveness is defiantly one of the attributes attached to exercise conducted with these systems, as they present a lower cost to start up and maintain than more traditional gym equipment.
Aside from utilizing exercise video games to achieve daily physical activity as part of a healthy lifestyle, these types of games may also be of importance when presenting alternate methods of performing rehabilitation type exercises for certain types of injuries. In studies regarding patients who suffer from brain injuries that have affected their ability to balance, as well as ability to walk, and issues with falling, video games utilizing pressure based balance boards have been show to positively enhance the rehabilitation process of these afflicted patients (Betker). Not only do the physical benefits of rehabilitation exercises via video games demonstrate the potential of these systems, but the ability to easily transport these exergames and program them for the specific needs of a given participant make exergaming a potentially revolutionary concept for the health and medical field (Betker).
In such specific cases as a 41-year-old patient who suffered from a closed traumatic brain injury and was unable to do more than twenty to thirty seconds of standing balance exercise, the ability to pursue rehabilitation via an exercise based video gaming altered completed. Upon completion of this program, this particular patient was able to increase not only the duration of his rehabilitation sessions from ten minutes to forty minutes, but also maintain a standing balance position of up to ten minutes (Betker). This drastic improvement through the use of video game based exercise methods demonstrates the great potential for the implementation of systems like these in the health field.
Another area in the medical field has been the implementation of exercise video games in the rehabilitation process of ACL tears, a common injury among many sports athletes. Such athletes as the National Football League linebacker Kenny Pettway have taken advantage of these exergames and have gone on to be a spokesman for the benefits of rehabilitation through exercise video games stating, “It’s more challenging. It’s a little bit more fun because you’re playing a game and trying to beat your score. At the end, it gives you a graph and matches your scores up from the previous weeks.” (Lemus). Progress with the continued use of these games has seen impressive improvements with the rehabilitation process of theses kinds of ACL tears, with participants such as Pettway being able to move without crutches after a couple of months of participation in these programs (Lemus).
In conclusion, it is apparent that exercise video games not only have played an impactful role in the pursuit of regular physical activity as well as rehabilitation with injuries, but also will continued to alter and present alternative methods of physical exercise in the near future. In a society plagued by rising obesity rates and constant challenges to attain recommended levels of physical activity, it is important to consider all types of exercise video games as potential outlets to the more traditional methods of exercising. With the coming of the next generation of consoles into the market place, so to will exercise video games continue to develop and present an option to promote a healthy lifestyle.
Betker, A., T. Szturm, Z. Moussavi, and C. Nett. “Video Game–Based Exercises for Balance Rehabilitation: A Single-Subject Design.” Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation 87.8 (2006): 1141-149. Print.
Bronner, Shaw, Russell Pinsker, and J. Adam Noah. “Energy Cost and Game Flow of 5 Exer-games in Trained Players.” American Journal of Health Behavior (2013): 369-80. Print.
Devereaux, Julie. “Comparison of Rates of Perceived Exertion between Active Video Games and Traditional Exercise.” International SportMed Journal (2012): 133-40. Comparison between Nintendo Wii Fit Aerobics and Traditional Aerobic Exercise in Sedentary Young Adults. Web. 24 June 2013.
Johnson, Joel. “From Atari Joyboard to Wii Fit: 25 Years of “exergaming”.” – Boing Boing Gadgets. N.p., 2008. Web. 27 June 2013.
Lemus, Richard. “Medical Reports: Video Game For ACL Tears.” Medical Reports. Janna Owen, 2009. Web. 27 June 2013.
Rhodes, Ryan E. “Interactive.” Health Games Research. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2013.
Saenz, Aaron. “Video Game Exercise Bikes Ride onto the Social Network | Singularity Hub.” Singularity Hub. N.p., 2010. Web. 28 June 2013.
Thin, Alasdair. “User Experiences While Playing Dance-Based Exergames and the Influence of Different Body Motion Sensing Technologies.” User Experiences While Playing Dance-Based Exergames and the Influence of Different Body Motion Sensing Technologies. N.p., 2013. Web. 27 June 2013.
“Wii Fit Facts.” GamerFitNationcom Wii Fit Facts Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2013.
ENG 380 New Media
Professor Alex Reid
June 14, 2013
Gaming and the Healthcare Profession
Gaming has many different effects on people in many different ways. From the beginning of video games there have been beneficial and adverse consequences of their influence on the entire world. People use games for many different reasons and games are created for many different reasons. There are medical studies showing how games are produced for the sole benefit of healing a person physically and or mentally. There are studies on how gaming has become an addiction that destroys people’s lives. There are also studies on how a game can be used for the healing of people. We can all agree that gaming has become a huge part of our world for the good or bad. Video games have an ever growing set of applications for how they impact so many. From our youth to our elders, games are playing a larger role in a person’s everyday existence, the length of their lives, and the quality of their lives. To be able to further understand how games can be used for good you must take a look at what some of the healthcare related applications are for them.
Much of the medical research associated with the benefits of gaming on patients is revolved around child patient care. This does not mean that all the treatments are geared toward a younger age group but most of it has begun there. This may be because the idea of gaming is a concept that traditionally is present in a younger crowd and that they can more easily bond with the concept. Treatments that have been used are focused on so many different things such as nausea in pediatric cancer, anxiety management, physical therapy and physical fitness, burn pain, diabetes, asthma, bladder and bowel dysfunction, and pediatric cancer. These are just some of the area’s that are discussed in a study done by Pamela M. Kato at the University Medical Center Utrecht. (Kato, 113-121)
The practices that are associated with these treatments are delivered in different ways and for different aspects of the ailments. Games are described in being used to do everything from help progress the healing of a patient to educating a person on how to perform daily jobs associated with a disease. In some instances the games that are being used are gotten from off the shelves at any ordinary store that sells them. Other games are designed specifically for the treatment of a certain disease.
Let’s start with a patient that may have nausea due to the treatment associated with pediatric cancer. Like I have previously stated most studies have begun with children as patients. When a person is on chemotherapy they experience extreme nausea associated with the radiation that they are be subjected to. Children are obviously going to react more adversely to the pain from this so why not first try to help a child who is suffering more. With that said, the results were positive. The game distracted the children to the point of helping them feel better. “Commercially available video games have been shown to have therapeutic effects on side effects associated with the treatment of cancer. These side effects include nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and pain associated with chemotherapy or radiation treatments. The therapeutic effects of games are attributed to the distraction that games provide that focus attention away from these aversive side effects”. (Kato, 114) In two studies that were discussed the result was the same, the patients were less affected by the drug do to the mental distraction that it created. The same type of result occurred for children that would get anxious in the hospital before the induction of anesthesia. The anxiety levels were not as high with the patients that were given a Gameboy. Both these scenarios did not require a specific game, just a game to distract them from what was going on in the real world.
When you get into the world of physical therapy and physical fitness then a person must choose a game that is meant for what they want to accomplish. In the everyday world of a person that simply wants to be more physically fit then they can run to the store and pick out a game that suits the goals they want to accomplish. Say I wanted to loose ten pounds and I simply wanted to increase my activity level, I could purchase a game like WII Fit and select specific workout programs to fit my needs. “Control on-screen action with your movements on the balance board as you work your way through a variety of challenges aimed at getting you off the couch and into the action. Check your Body Mass Index (BMI), see your Wii Fit Age and keep tabs on your daily progress towards a more fit for you”. (Nintendo Webpage)I will get a great workout that focuses on what I want. Although these are wonderful tools for people they are not the only way games can be used in the world of physical fitness.
A person with an injury can be rehabilitated by choosing different options of how they wish to regain their mobility and put them back into a normal life. This is not simply geared towards the younger generations that have received injuries. Some of the patients that undergo this treatment have become older and slowly lost the ability to exercise because of a spill or a fall. People’s body’s become frailer with age but rehabilitation can still be effective. With the technology of medical Virtual Reality games lives can be improved. “Virtual reality (VR) environments have attracted considerable interest as assistive technologies for rehabilitation. With VR, a player can interact with the computer via a user-friendly interface. The movements made in the virtual environment mimic those made in the physical environment. Compared with classical rehabilitation, the benefits of virtual rehabilitation include economy of scale, stored patient data, remote data access, low health care costs, interactivity, and patient motivation”. (Chang) This is a therapeutic way of healing people that is primarily based in medical facilities but the technology is slowly becoming more accessible in the home.
There are games that can be used with special made equipment that is meant to be used by specific patients with particular physical handicaps. “…a commercially available video game Need for Speed was used in conjunction with an add-on exercise hand crank device (ergometer) called the Game Cycle to control movements in the games (Widman, McDonald, & Abresch, 2006). Patients were adolescents with spina bifida, a congenital malformation of the spinal cord. These patients had mobility impairments associated with their disease that did not allow them to participate in most mainstream sports. The game intervention focused on an area of physical activity for the patient population that they could engage in and combined it with the video game play to improve their motivation to engage in physical activity”. (Kato, 115) In this way the medical profession has linked equipment that is used in therapy to a game so that activity levels can go up in people that need it. The motivation is increased because there is a competitive drive to keep playing. It is a truly ingenious way to get patients to take care of themselves.
There is another style of game that is used in patient care and those are the ones that are made for the sole purpose of a patient’s pain management. One example is the game Snow World. It was made to help the pain that is associated with burn victims. “In this game, players are immersed in a virtual reality world where they fly through an icy landscape of a canyon, cold river, and waterfall through gently falling snow… Although it is not clear from the design of the evaluative studies of the game if the ‘cool’ (temperature-wise) imagery of the game induced an extra level of pain tolerance, it does seem clear patients who felt themselves “present” in the cool world of the game reported feeling less pain. Furthermore, it was surmised that the increased reports of the virtual reality intervention as being ‘fun’ also contributed to greater compliance with the painful procedures involved with treating burns such as burn debridement”. (Kato, 116) This is very similar to the way the Game Boy was used to distract children that are undergoing medical treatment with one difference. SnowWorld was created with the intent to reduce pain through soothing and cooling adventures. It was not any old game that helped in the pain management like previously mentioned. This game was actually used on soldiers that have been burned in combat and the results were amazing. “…soldiers reported significant drops in pain while immersed in SnowWorld. Time spent thinking about pain, which is an inextricable contributor to actual pain, dropped from 76 percent without SnowWorld to 22 percent with SnowWorld”. (Bosch, 1) It is great that type of gaming can give back to the people that are fighting in the name of America; if you agree with the war or not.
The games that are used to educate are just as important as the ones that directly treat people. The ones that educate the patient how to treat and manage their disease are probably even more abundant than any other health related game within the medical field. Asthma and diabetes are just a few of the daily management diseases people have to deal with. There are educational based games that provide the needed information to make living easier. If a young adult is diagnosed with diabetes he/she may play the game Packy and Marlon. “The game is aimed at children with diabetes. The characters in the game are two elephants that are at a diabetes summer camp. They have to get rid of a gang of marauding rats that are keeping the campers from healthy food and diabetic supplies. To win, players have to successfully manage their insulin levels and food intake while keeping their characters’ glucose levels within an acceptable range”. (Kato, 116) There is a similar game for asthma patients called Bronkie the Bronchiasaurus that does the same thing. They introduce information about what they have to deal with and make it fun to perform the daily treatments. Once you have the ability to treat yourself it becomes second nature to do it and as the saying goes ‘knowledge is power’.
These types of games are becoming so popular in the Healthcare world that they are becoming more affordable for people to acquire. “Video and computer games that teach children how to live with asthma or diabetes are becoming so popular that some health care providers are now covering their purchase price, and the United States Health Department is seeking to expand their use’. (Times, 1) It is wonderful that the government has deemed the health of these patients important enough to consider these games to be treatments that can be covered with a health care insurance provider. The studies must really be proving games to be helpful in patient care.
Gaming has made its way into the Healthcare industry in more than one way. As many people already know virtual training has been around for years. The military is probably the most well-known entity to use this form of training. There are simulators that are used for pilots of jets and drivers of tanks. Because of this safe environment that has been created for them they are able to make mistakes and learn from them without hurting themselves or others. Less commonly known is the fact that medical students and doctors are using similar training techniques. They may not all be using a huge simulated rig to train but they are being submerged more and more into a virtual world of training. With the ability to perform a surgery over and over again in a simulated world the doctor is honing his/her skills. This sort of gaming is helpful in the learning phase of medicine but you can never replace real life experiences.
In medical circles simulations have continually been progressed through the years and are many medical simulations in the way of preparing for laparoscopic surgery. In the games, that are really training aids, the doctors look at a screen that emulates the surgery they are performing. In a box there are pieces that act as the body parts they are operating on. It is similar to the nineteen eighties board-game Operation but more complex.
“Computer based training has been on the agenda for nearly a decade. The potential is great, and the requirements of efficient training outside of the operating room mentioned above are fulfilled. It is especially appropriate for practicing minimally invasive techniques, especially since the surgeon receives information from the operation area via a two-dimensional picture on a monitor. The operating fields can be recreated in the computer as well as the instruments needed for the procedure. The surgeon uses replicas of authentic instruments and their movements are shown on the computer monitor. Movements are calculated several thousand times per second to ensure a realistic situation. This technology even ensures the feeling of contact, with tissue or instruments, is transmitted to the operators hand; this is called force feedback. The simulations can even be used for training in open surgery, although certain problems in visualization must be solved; mainly with respect to three dimensional vision which is possible using computer screens with semipermeable mirrors in combination with 3D glasses”. (Anders Hyltander )
This was an article from 2003 so you can just imagine how the technology has increased in the past ten years. In the world of computers and more specifically the world of gaming you can see many things. Games are not only the obsession of the lazy socially maladjusted people that are commonly associated with them. Games have entered people’s lives as medical treatments and educational platforms for people to learn and hone their skills. Games are used in training for many different jobs from construction workers to food and beverage workers. Medicine is not the only environment that gaming has become useful but it is a very important one in training, education, and treatment.
Anders Hyltander, . n. page. .
Bosch, T. N.p., n. d. 28 Jun 2013. .
Chang, CM, YC Chang, HY Chang, and LW Chou. “An interactive game-based shoulder wheel system for rehabilitation .” 2012.6 821-828. Web. 25 Jun. 2013.
Kato, P. M. n. page. .
.N.p.. Web. 28 Jun 2013. .
Squire, Kurt. N.p.. Web. 25 Jun 2013. .
Times, N. Y.. N.p.. Web. 28 Jun 2013. .
The gender gap in STEM (stem is Science, Technology, Education, and Math) fields is note worthy. In grades four through seven, when a majority of kids first start to think about what career path they would like to follow, only 14 percent of girls express an interest in science, technology, education, and math. Some would suggest this is from a lack of interest or encouragement. The challenge is to inspire more young women into major fields that have been male dominated. What do you think the issue is? How should we as a society inspire young women?
Sorry Mario, but our princess is in another castle- Video games, gender and identity.
The role of a character, whether played in movies, music video, books or video games, is one, which has a power to shape and affect the personality of the receiver. A video game takes human to character interaction a step further by having the player live through the character being shown on screen. Video games, more than any other media has had its share of criticism, being labelled as dangerous and addictive. This essay will not explore the ‘video game is harmful’ debate, but will look at a more social problem occurring in the gaming world- gender stereotyping and how video games affect the way we look and treat female gamers. Many studies have been conducted to see how female characters are portrayed in gaming what percentage of female gamers play video games. The studies show that most female characters are stereotypical shown as damsels in distress or sexual objects and those female gamers are underrepresented. It is socially accepted that gaming is a ‘man thing’ and female gamers are rare. The gaming industry has not done much to solve this problem; in fact they seem to have enhanced it by creating stereotypical female characters, which create social and cognitive issues. This essay will, therefore, explore the relationship between gaming and gender identity and asking: How do game affect gender and promote gender stereotyping?
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- ‘Perils of the Princess’ 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.”
The other way in which a female character is portrayed in games is as a sexual object. As Brar states in his essay ‘Level – up’ “female characters in gaming are portrayed as either meek submissives or sexual objects.” In many video games female characters reveal a lot of skin or have a very dysmorphic body- with big busts and tiny waists. One such essay which explores this issue: ‘ Gender and racial stereotypes in popular video games’ by Yi Mou and Wei Peng, borrows from another study stating : ““Compared to male characters, females were more likely to be represented in a hypersexual way: being partially nude, featured with an unrealistic body image and shown wearing sexually revealing clothing and inappropriate attire.” ( Downs and Smith) One of my favorite games ‘ Soul Caliber’ has female characters in barely any clothing. Instead of playing female characters, I choose to play male ones. This game is rate Teen, and I know a few teenagers who play this game quite a lot of times. An essay entitled : “ The Effects of the Sexualization of Female VideoGame- Characters on Gender Stereotypingand Female Self-Concept” Elizabeth Behm-Morawitz and
Dana Mastro, states that because of the scarcity of female characters in games and the fact that the few female character present are portrayed in a gender biased manner, gamers may adopt beliefs and standards that are in line with these sexualized portrayals, resulting in the desire to be like the characters (among women) and to judge self and others based upon the character (among both women and men). One might state that not all female are shown as weak or like secondary sexual objects. This is true there are heroines which are not weak and are shown as the main protagonists, in charger and independent, but these heroines are also highly sexualized- for example Lara Croft. The problem with Lara Croft is that the powerful independent role of the female is diminished and reduced to the characters sexual attibutes. The Lara Phenomenon occurs, where ” female characters in a leading role appeared as often as male do. However, these female characters were portrayed in a stereotypical way: female features were exaggerated by sexy attire and thin body.” (Beasley and Standley). Another study states : “Although clearly strong and fit to evade and defeat her enemies, she was most notable for her enormous, balloon-like breasts emphasized under a form fitting tank top and her extremely short shorts. It was her physical representation that made some question whether this game was really designed for female gamers or whether it was simply designed as a male fantasy.” (Kennedy 2002). This is a major problem, as female characters are grossly misrepresented. This is an issue mainly because part of the audience being young boys and girls are learning from video games and other medias that this is how a woman or a man should be like- in other words these gender stereotypes have a great role in building the receptor’s own identity and self. Female characters, as I had earlier stated, are under represented mostly because these games are made to attract the male audience. Another way to see how females are under represented is when they are portrayed as androgynous characters. In the essay by Sharon R. Sherman ‘ Perils of the princess,’ she states “ girl heroines seem to be the mere twins of males in adventure games.” She also describes a situation where she asked her female participants about the heroine in the game ‘Metroid,’ to which they said that they had thought the character was male. The male participants stated that the it was okay to play the character since she is an alien, “Thus, the same game is discerned differently-the female becomes a green-haired monster for boys and a male action figure for girls.” This form of psychology can be seen in young players who tend to choose a character most similar to their own self, but if female characters are so under represented and stereotyped, then it become difficult for female players to find a character which represents them correctly.
Stereotyping goes both ways. One can argue that there is a certain amount of gender bias toward men. Yet this stereotyping is not necessarily seen as harmful to the male gamer, it has an opposite effect. Male players would choose character, which appears stronger and more muscular. Game makers wish to entice the male audience by creating characters, which appear unrealistic, but still fall into the ideal image of masculinity. When looking at video games at a glance, the cover shows more males than female characters. In a study carried out by Melinda C. R. Burgess and Steven Paul Stermer and Stephen R. Burgess: ‘Sex, Lies, and Video Games: The Portrayal of Male and Female Characters on Video Game Covers’ showed that even though women have increased in frequency and appear more in games male characters were almost four times more likely to appear than their female counterparts. Over that, females portrayed in theses games were shown negatively. This ranged from their lack of action, role in games and the way they were dressed. In a blog called ‘Fat, Ugly, or Slutty voices’ gives examples of online threats and lewd comments such as rape threats, sandwich making 101 and X rated comments are put into separate categories to show how females are not welcome in online gaming. The researchers go on to state that most of the females are placed in the ‘ groupie status’ as they are not given any action and are not part of the game at all. As violence in games connotes power, having male characters taking control and fighting adversaries, makes male characters more powerful. In most battle games female characters lose energy and die more quickly than male characters, again making them weaker and less powerful. In a blog called In both cases, male and female characters in games are portrayed in idealistic extremes. The men are either muscular or very muscular and the women are busty or very busty this makes hyper sexuality a common or a must have trait in video games
As explored earlier in this essay, video game creators try to entice male audience into buying their product. As most adventure and shooting games are aimed at males, female players are left behind. The characters portrayed in games serve this very purpose. A quick Google search on female characters in gaming will show one with various sites ranking female game characters and their sex appeal. One such list called ‘ The top 10 sexiest female nude mods,’ ranks Extreme beach volleyball as number 1. This game has female secondary characters or groupies in no clothing showcasing particularly graphic dysmorphic bodies. Sharon R. Sherman mentions that because of the violent tendencies of video games, many female will be left behind. This is not particularly true, as many women like playing the same video games men play. What is true, however, is that men play to finish a goal, whilst female players try to show their worth. In a Ted Talk previously mentioned in the essay, Stirling Little states that many women play video games (almost 50 % of games are women) but 68% change their sex online in order to avoid harassment. He goes on to discuss the kind of harassment female players are facing when they are playing a very male dominated game. Rape threats and sexually lewd comments are commonplace on online gaming chat rooms. Many women therefore change their sex in order to ‘fit in’ and play the game without harassment. Even though there are women playing video games, the dominating audience is male mainly because many video games are presented in a idealistically masculine manner. Character is shown, as extremely masculine doing things which men ‘should’ be doing in real life. When one does not show such masculine traits they are victimized . Kuljit Brar’s essay ‘ Level up’ gives examples of victimization presented in games: “An example of such victimization is seen in the gameHalo and its online play, and the advent of “Halo teabagging.” Players also demonstrate homophobic comments in a derogatory manner.
The gaming world is constantly changing. More and more games are trying to invite female audiences by incorporating more female characters. Online gaming is changing as well where some games are trying to create safe and gender friendly worlds. Stirling Little gives on such example: League Of Legends. League Of Legends or LOL is one if the few virtual games which have incorporated a system which forcer player to behave in a friendly manner. The tribunal is a system which attacks sexual harassment, allows players to report problems. It also allows chat blocks and reporting and rewarding. If a player complains of a problem such as sexual harassment, the problem is posted on the tribunal so that other players can see it and decide whether it is a problem or not. If it is, players are banned from the game. Players who have good qualities such as leadership or are nice to new players by teaching them are also mentioned. Upon collecting 100 such mentions the players receives a badge making them special players in the community. This system has reduced 40 percent of harassment online and continues to be beneficial and profitable. Female gamers are increasing in numbers and if they are ‘true gamers’ are seen favorably by men. Of course this can be argued- Why should women have to prove their worth as ‘gamers’ to be accepted by the community? But one forgets that men have to prove to be masculine by spewing lewd comments and stating derogatory comments online. As Stirling himself states, male gamers believe that sexual harassment and homophobic comments are a part of the culture that is called gaming. There is however a great deal more to be done so that video games are not gender biased.
In order to be gender friendly, video games should incorporate more female characters. I am not stating that there should be more female characters and less male characters, but that female and male characters should be equal in numbers. Female characters should be equally as powerful as their male counter parts. Some video games have female characters be weaker and less powerful so that they fit the gender stereotype- females are the weaker sex. Everything in gaming is an experience far from reality but gender stereotypes bring real social problems into virtual space. A lot of games go under the radar and are not called out for being not only gender biased and stereotypical, but also homophobic and racist. One of the main problems addressed in this essay was the fact that video game characters are not relatable. Female characters fall under two limited categories, sexual objects or damsels in distress. If a main female character is shown as a hero or is the main protagonist, the extremely sexualized skin over – shadows her abilities.
Gaming like any other media has the power to change the way we look at issues. Gender is one of the issues looked at in this essay and it is an important one. Historically, we have been solving the problem of gender equality and bring women at the front so that they can step hand in had with men. It may seem that this might be a bit of an over use since we are not talking about a social platform, but about video games. But aren’t video games made from the very minds cultured by social norms and stereotypes? Why is it all right to have female characters dressed in scanty clothing or shown as nude, but in reality it would be called upon as morally wrong? This is because many people do not consider video games an important gender-defining platform. Video games are just as important in the formation of self and other as movies and books. As stated earlier in the essay, gaming forces the player to merge two worlds, where the character becomes the self as the characters actions are controlled. In other words it is a reflection of the player’s own identity.