From the over sexualized characters in fighting games, such as Dead or Alive or Ninja Gaiden, to the overuse of the damsel in distress trope in popular titles, such as the Super Mario series, the under- and misrepresentation of females in video games has been well documented in several content analyses. Cultivation theory suggests that long-term exposure to media content can affect perceptions of social realities in a way that they become more similar to the representations in the media and, in turn, impact one’s beliefs and attitudes. Previous studies on video games and cultivation have often been cross-sectional or experimental, and the limited longitudinal work in this area has only considered time intervals of up to 1 month. Additionally, previous work in this area has focused on the effects of violent content and relied on self-selected or convenience samples composed mostly of adolescents or college students.
My recent article, entitled “Sexist Games=Sexist Gamers? A Longitudinal Study on the Relationship Between Video Game Use and Sexist Attitudes,” published with Johannes Breuer, Ruth Festl, and Thorsten Quandt, evaluated these questions by assessing the relationship between video game use and sexist attitudes over a 3-year period (N = 825).
After controlling for age and education, it was found that sexist attitudes-measured with a brief scale assessing beliefs about gender roles in society-were not related to the amount of daily video game use or preference for specific genres for both female and male players. Implications for research on sexism in video games and cultivation effects of video games in general are discussed.
This article has received quite a bit of buzz from the press and Twitter, as some believe that this study is evidence that sexism is not a problem within the gaming culture. This could not be further from the point. As described by succinctly by Wai Yen Tang of the VG researcher blog:
“this study is analogous of taking photographs from a tall skyscraper down into the streets at three different time periods. You get a beautiful view of a lot of things, but not very clear if you try to focus on a single thing. This means we need a high resolution camera focusing on the most relevant aspects for sexist attitudes.”
Kotaku posted a review of this article alongside a short interview with myself and Johannes Breuer discussing the key findings of this research as well gaming and sexism more generally. Reviews of this article can also be found on TechRaptor and Psychology Today.