A recent article came out by a collaboration force of Iowa State University, University Grenoble Alpes and Universite Savoie Mont Blanc of France talking about sexism and video game exposure in adolescents. As one may expect, based on the first sentence which reads, “Research has indicated that many video games are saturated with stereotypes of women and that these contents may cultivate sexism,” there is an immediate problem. They do not define what “saturated with stereotypes” means, or cite any sources that do so.
Also considering they say that “[W]hile the proofs of biased depictions in video games showing women as passive beings, kidnapped princess to rescue or sex objects to win or use are numerous and indisputably recorded, their effect on gamers’ stereotypes of women remains debated” (page 2), it’s clear they’ve no real knowledge of video games as one could list countless names such as Bayonetta, Samus Aran, Lara Croft, or more recently, 2B as old and new examples of women in video games that do not set any sort of stereotype. Though these female characters can be counted as sex objects, they do not fit the example of being won or used. As such, this makes it clear that the writers of this article are unfamiliar with even the most popular examples of strong women in video games.
For the record, this is just the first two pages, and already it’s clear that this article is looking for confirmation bias. They later restate the idea of women being portrayed as needing help or being used while remaining passive while also stating that over a quarter of games contained women who were shown off as sex objects (based on an article written in 1998). Again, the article fails to define their terms, and as such they can be taken as terms defined by the writers’ subjectivity. Another example of terms not being defined comes in when they say that “Other more recent content analysis showed that women are often displayed with revealing clothing or at least partially nude” (page 3-4) without determining what “often” means. Out of 1,000 games, one may say that 100 or 200 is “often” given one’s own subjectivity.
Considering that this point is now driven into the ground, I can skip all the subjective bull crap and look straight at the data. According to their data, they broke down their 13,520 French youths (age 11-19) into religious groups, to add another variable in their data. In their sample, 27.4% of them were Catholics, 25.9% were Muslims, 39.4% declaring no religion, and the remainder being religious minorities. When it came down to their Sexism measurements, it appears as if they only asked one question in their entire study (page 12).
The only question they asked their sample was: “A woman is made mainly for making and raising children,” and the answer ranged on a scale of 1-4, fully disagree to fully agree (page 12). Granted, there were other questions, which were used. However, they were there specifically to determine religious status, socioeconomic status, and other factors that had no measurement for sexist thought. The 1-4 scale is a very broken scale. On top of one question relating to sexist thought being unable to determine whether someone is sexist or not. What they found was that those in the sample whose religion was important to them, again on another 1-4 scale; higher sexism was found. The same appears for those in poorer socioeconomic status. As a matter of fact, by their own numbers, video game exposure was almost half as likely, by their own broken scale, to be associated with sexism (r = .23; p.<.001 for religion and r = .15, p.<.001 for video games). Without giving a statistical analysis as to what this means, what it tells us (based on this ONE question, mind you) that while both are positive in favor of their theory of sexist thought in both cases, religion is far more likely to be connected or more strongly correlated than video games are.
Nevertheless (despite the very weak connection) the authors insist that the link is there, and that it is an idea worth further experiments. Considering the clear majority of their sample listed as playing video games often, the numbers given to us on pages 11 and 12, the average for hours spent playing video games was 1.7 hours per day, and gave a scale of 0-10. Not only is the scale wonky and unclear (as the paragraph before the table does not include 0, but the table does), but 1.7 hours a day is extremely low for gamers. As a gamer, myself, I’ll sit at a TV and play video games for at minimum four-hour periods per day, if my schedule allows for it.
As such, I feel as though the experiment should have done elsewhere, such as the United States, where you can easily get a bigger demographic of people, but even then, the study is completely broken. Furthermore, there is a stronger correlation of people with strong ties to religion than there are people who play video games, and when you have over half (53.3% if you just count Catholics and Muslims) of your study show strong religious ties when your study suggests that people with strong religious ties are more likely to tip the scale, you are going to get extraordinarily skewed results.
I will list a few areas where this study is weak:
– Study shows religion is more likely to cause for sexist thought
– One question does not determine all thoughts within an individual, especially not on a 1-4 scale
– France is not the entire world…Gaming, on the other hand, is a worldwide hobby, and as such people of different cultures and backgrounds are required to get an idea of the rest of the gaming population
– The hours played is incredibly low and have little relevance
– The article looks for confirmation bias and lacks objectivity
– The writers show a lack of understanding of the gaming culture and its history
– The question asked of the “gamers” appears to only cover sexism towards women
– It fails to define vital terms, which are in practice very subjective
– Despite using the ESA’s statistic on percentage of male to female gamers, it does not use their statistic that shows the average age of gamers being 35, which excludes, based on the numbers they are leaning towards, the majority of gamers. While these numbers are questionable in either case, consistency with what numbers they follow would help to make their point
All in all, this is an academic study that cannot and should not be taken seriously. Originally, I was handed this article as being cited by a couple of websites such as the Huffington Post as linking video game usage and sexism, and ultimately decided to pull the misinformation from its roots. There have been countless studies done that are far better done than this study with much better numbers and variables that can make more accurate conclusions. Even so, the main issue is that the sample lacks a certain diversity that represents the gaming community and their methods of determining sexist thought is not satisfying enough to make a definite statement. The words they use and the lack of understanding of video games, along with making connections to video games and not more likely examples (like religion and socioeconomic status as their own numbers show), shows that they are after confirmation towards their own bias.
In conclusion, this article, based on logic, reasoning, and its own numbers, cannot be taken seriously. The numbers and methods do not match up to come up with any conclusion drawn from this study, or what other websites such as the Huffington Post attempt to draw. The American Professor involved in this study is a man named Dr. Douglas A. Gentile, who has a history of writing about the connection between violence and video games, a long debated and disproved topic. Due to this information, I would approach this article with extreme caution.
Robin Ek – Editor
Sources and resources:
Video Games Exposure and Sexism in a Representative Sample of Adolescents
This is a personal opinion of the writer, and it doesn’t necessarily represent the other writers (nor The Gaming Ground´s) opinions.
The Gaming Ground
More by Justin Easler: