Study Contradicts Media, Culture Critics’ Propaganda About Sexism In Gaming

Ars Technica, The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor and Wikipedia all have one thing in common: formulating outrage propaganda to push an agenda by culture-critics who are making bank on the outrage. How have they done this? Well, by running with a false narrative concocted around baseless claims that the gaming industry is nearly irredeemably sexist and that it’s an inherently dangerous place for women. Except, that’s not what the actual research – what little is available – actually says.

Multiple reports from various media outlets have surfaced around a recent long-study on the effects of sexism in gaming featured in the Psychology of Popular Media Culture. What did the study find? Well, according to the Department of Psychology at the University of Cologne in Cologne, Germany, researchers Rachel Kowert, Johannes Breuer, Ruth Festl and Thorsten Quandt discovered the following after a three year longitude study about sexism in gaming with kids aged 14 and older…

“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.”

This follows up shortly thereafter on another research study conducted by Oxford University that measured the effects of video games and violent or aggressive behavior between 200 kids aged 10 and 11. According to the Telegraph

Research involving British primary schoolchildren found that the length of time young people spend playing games, rather than their content, could have an effect on their behaviour or school performance – and even then only slightly so.

 

“But it concluded that fears that a generation of young people are growing up with their development impaired by exposure to violent video games are no more likely to be borne out than previous “moral panics” over television and other media.“

In short, video games, on their own, don’t readily cause kids to become sexist or violent, despite some critics claiming otherwise, as linked in this thread on the sub-Reddit Kotaku in Action by user Generaallucas.

Over the past eight months various media outlets have been strongly parroting the poorly researched sophistry from Jonathan McIntosh and Anita Sarkeesian about the harms and dangers of sexism in gaming. In one of the Feminist Frequency videos, part 1 of Tropes vs Women in Games, Sarkeesian makes it known that research indicates that the images and content she covers in relation to video games can distort perception and cause harm to the way people view real world women.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZPSrwedvsg&feature=youtu.be&t=28m30s

For the hearing impaired, Sarkeesian says the following…

“While the negative impacts of sexual objectification have been studied extensively over the years, and the effects on people of all genders are quite clear and very serious. Research has consistently found that exposure to these types of images negatively impact perceptions and beliefs about real world women; and reinforces harmful myths about sexual violence.”

The citation for this claim – listed over on the Feminist Frequency website – comes from a study conducted by Karen E. Dill, Brian P. Brown and Michael A. Collins called Effects of exposure to sex-stereotyped video game characters on tolerance of sexual harassment. A comprehensive breakdown of the study was carried out by VG Researcher, where they note that…

“I find this study loosely connected to video games in part because the methodology is rooted from previous studies. The main reason is that participants were only shown photos of sexual stereotypes from video games; the same effect can be achieved in other media. This study adds some amounts of what is already known in sexual attitudes research. What remains to be seen are the long-term effects, how often teenagers are exposed to sexual portrayals in video game”

Dead or Alive 5

What photos were used? 32 screenshots – 16 for the male and 16 for the female – from games such as Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball 2, BMX XXX, Saint’s Row, Resident Evil and Gears of War. These were measured against 32 photos of American politicians, 16 for the male and 16 for the females.

The actual results of the study? As noted in the VG Research article…

“[…] looking at the raw scores of which the score ranged from 0 to 61 where a lower score means a higher tolerance. So men who saw the video game images had an average score of 41, followed by a 47.64 average score for men in control group, then a 48.47 average score for women in control, finally a 49.80 average score for women in video game condition.”

This is the basis for exclaiming video games cause sexism in real life. A 6 point difference from a study where no actual games were even played, and images from only a very specific subset of games were used, specifically games catered toward the male audience between 14 and 32. No female centric games like Nancy Drew or The Longest Journey were used.

Another one of McIntosh and Sarkeesian’s citations include a study from the European Journal of Social Psychology called Objectification leads to depersonalization: The denial of mind and moral concern to objectified others. This study has nothing to do with video games and is being conflated with the issue of interactive entertainment.

They also cite the Standford study by Jeremy Bailenson, the director of the Virtual Human Interaction Lab at Stanford, where they tested “rape myths” based on how provocative in-game avatars dressed. The conclusion from the study was as follows…

“The participants who had worn the sexualized avatars tended to agree with rape myths more than the women who had worn the non-sexualized avatars. Women in sexualized avatars whose faces resembled their own agreed with the myths more than anyone else in the study.”

Ultimately, the citations are present but faulty. None of the referenced sources by Feminist Frequency actually involve playing video games. These studies could very well apply to music labels, movie posters or comic book covers.

What’s more is that McIntosh and crew fail to look at real world statistics in comparison to their claims that are being touted around by various media outlets. The stats don’t align with their claims.

Hotline Miami

Keep in mind that Australia recently refused to classify Hotline Miami 2 due to an optional scene that implied sexual assault. The country is notorious for its harsh ratings and censorship against video games, yet according to the NationMaster the rape rate for Australia was 28.6 per every 100,000 people in 2010.

It should be noted that Japan, even with very hardcore games, including the rape simulator RapeLay, actually has a rape rate of 1.2 people per every 100,000, according to the statistics. So even though Japan allows for far more deviant media content, including movies like the infamous Urotsukidōji: Legend of the Overfiend, and is notorious for their own hentai, their rape rates are barely a fraction of Australia’s statistics. Moreover, even with a lot of games and movies being heavily censored in Australia for sexual or violent content, the country actually has more real-life sexual violence.

Even Germany ranks higher on the rape rate than Japan, sitting at 9.4 per every 100,000 people and that’s another country notorious for censoring games.

Funnily enough, one thing many of the developed countries have in common when it comes to the rape stats is that they’re on the decline… even Australia. So despite the claims that gaming is dangerous and sexist, actual sexual violence reports are dwindling.

The idea that there’s a correlation of video games perpetuating rape myths for a real world effect has no veritable data to back it up. The studies conducted so far have tenuous connections at best, and at worst invalidated by a lack of involving actual video game play into the studies.

For now, the real research that actually includes gamers playing games and testing the results from those studies seem to completely dismiss the current propaganda campaign by a very agenda-driven media, and the critics profiting from that agenda.

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27 thoughts on “Study Contradicts Media, Culture Critics’ Propaganda About Sexism In Gaming

    1. For the most part.

      It wasn’t really something that people concerned themselves with all that much before, but I imagine there will be plenty more studies conducted due to all the recent media outrage over the subject.

      1. If there are grants to be had, there will be studies done. That much is an absolute certainty.

  1. The study actually has a number of issues with it. The first being that it was looking at German teenagers. Germany has a completely different culture than in the US, so it isn’t comparable at all.

    Second, the study only looked at surveyed responses to liking of genres and hours played. This has little to do with issues of whether specific instances of sexism in specific games contribute to sexist attitudes on the part of the players.

    In short, the study was far too broad to have any real results and the study even says that multiple times.

    1. The first being that it was looking at German teenagers. Germany has a completely different culture than in the US, so it isn’t comparable at all.

      I don’t know if I would say it isn’t comparable at all. Germany has closer censorship institutions to Australia than America, but Australia still has a higher rape rate than America. Germany’s rape rate is also higher than Japan even though Japan allows for more sexually charged video game material than Germany.

      You would have to provide some basis of research data to show why the cultures can’t be compared and why Australia, with all its censorship, still fits more into the “rape culture” category than the countries that are more libertarian with their media.

      Second, the study only looked at surveyed responses to liking of genres and hours played. This has little to do with issues of whether specific instances of sexism in specific games contribute to sexist attitudes on the part of the players.

      Technically this could go even further: how do certain sexual references with certain races in certain economic conditions in various games affect the idea of sexism in gamers? Is the sex scene involving a somewhat unattractive Mexican prostitute in Red Dead Redemption more or less likely to contribute to sexist attitudes compared to a white female prostitute in a game like Gun?

      And do women of color portrayed as strippers in games like Saints Row and GTA affect various races differently compared to how they view them when measuring the average economic status of these individuals in countries, counties or societies where they are largely more impoverished than another race?

      Realistically, there are infinite variables to determine “sexism in gaming” and “sexist attitudes” toward women in real life.

      In short, the study was far too broad to have any real results and the study even says that multiple times.

      Right, this kind of applies to any study. However, the study, in general terms, debunks the general accusation that just by anyone playing games with stereotypical tropes makes you a sexist misogynist.

      1. Except it didn’t look at “games with stereotypical tropes”. It didn’t look at any games at all. All it did was survey how many hours of video games in general are played and what genres they preferred. It didn’t look at any actual games or what was being played.

      2. All it did was survey how many hours of video games in general are played and what genres they preferred. It didn’t look at any actual games or what was being played.

        Right, because that’s what McIntosh and crew have been purporting: That the more people play games with any of the tropes she mentions (and it seems only Sword & Sworcercy and Twine games seem to escape the tropes label) influence sexism in gamers.

        The quote above from the University of Cologne doesn’t mention anything about stereotypes or tropes because they were focused on the general claim that by playing games across multiple genres you become sexist, which, as a general claim, isn’t true.

      3. As a general claim, I wouldn’t expect it to be true. It’s specific games and specific things done in those games that are an issue. Other studies have looked at specific tropes such as that and what their effects are and have indeed found that they contribute to sexist attitudes in the players. In addition, studies have looked at things like racism and the portrayal of race in games and how that can contribute to racist attitudes.

      4. As a general claim, I wouldn’t expect it to be true.

        I agree.

        It’s specific games and specific things done in those games that are an issue.

        I can see this as being the case.

        Other studies have looked at specific tropes such as that and what their effects are and have indeed found that they contribute to sexist attitudes in the players.

        Do you have any links to these studies? I would like to look them over. Most of the ones I found were attributing game-related sexism to general studies of sexism without actually involving video games (like the ones cited in the article above).

        I don’t doubt that some forms of media can have an effect on people, but I think a lot of it boils down to context. Like, is a 10-year-old playing GTA V in first-person and getting a blowjob from a prostitute? If so, I can expect that it would have an adverse effect on how they view women. Or is a young child playing Manhunt and cutting people down in gruesome and violent ways? Then yeah, I can imagine that can have an adverse effect on how they interact with people.

        Then again, adult content for underage people across any medium can have an adverse effect on them, hence the necessity of labels and ratings.

      5. Just from a quick lookup on Google Scholar, I found a couple. I remember from doing a deep dive on the subject a while back, I found a number more, but I don’t have the list at the moment.

        Anyways, here’s one very similar to the Germany study above, but for Americans, and it found the opposite result.

        https://jiv.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/02/12/0886260515570747.abstract

        This following study is somewhat more in depth, by looking at perceived sexism of played games by the players and subsequent values of sexist attitudes. So at least it is looking at whether they perceive themselves as playing games involving sexism.

        https://psycnet.apa.org/journals/ppm/4/1/47/

        Here’s a slightly older one that specifically had participants play games with certain content and then measured the effects on their opinions from it.

        https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11199-009-9695-4

        A good method of finding more studies, since Google Scholar isn’t necessarily reliable on pulling them up, is to use what these studies reference and then look up those studies. Basically, use backtracking to find various other studies on the subjects.

      6. Hmm, in that first study, they seem already have a conclusion based on an assertion before even getting the results.

        Given that video games typically feature even less diverse and more objectified representations of women than traditional mainstream media, we predicted that there would be relationships between video game consumption and negative beliefs and attitudes about women.

        “Less diverse and more objectified representations” based on what? AAA games? Niche titles? Are they including mobile games played more by females than males? Or are they specifically picking out games designed for male gamers?

        I’m always suspect when people start studies based on preconceived objectives, just like the one study where they used BMX XXX, Dead or Alive or GTA, as opposed to games like The Getaway, Tony Hawk or Tekken.

        There are male centric games, female centric games and gender neutral games. A proper study would take a look at all three category of games instead of only focusing on a particular set of games for a particular demographic.

      7. Previous studies already looked at distributions of gender and race in video games in comparison to other media and found video games to be much worse in regards to having diversity. The study you’re talking about references those previous studies when it makes that statement in the body.

      8. Previous studies already looked at distributions of gender and race in
        video games in comparison to other media and found video games to be
        much worse in regards to having diversity.

        Do you have links to these studies? And were they including indie games or just retail games? Because there are various companies out there who only make games for females but they almost get no media coverage whatsoever, much in the same way that many recent games released starring female characters were either not included or ignored in studies and opinion pieces when attacking the gaming industry about female portrayals in video games.

      9. Also first study even has in it’s title “A Cultivation Perspective”, adding more preconceived notions onto their study. Cultivation isn’t out to prove whether or not media has an affect on people, they already assume it does.

      10. Right. They jumped from the conclusion that games aren’t diverse and went downhill from there. It’s kind of a stupid study if they’re going to ignore or remove games that fit the “diverse” equation just because media doesn’t cover them often. It’s literally reinforcing a narrative they’ve already built. The “citogenesis” problem.

        If the media doesn’t report on these games and studies assume that since the media doesn’t report on them they must not exist and then the media reports on studies based on media prejudice then it just perpetuates a problem that was already manufactured by the media and the biased researchers.

      11. Best place to look if you have access or know someone that does, would be ebscohost or psychinfo, google scholar is limited in what it has access to.

      12. Bullshit. You can not say “It’s generally not true” and “specific instances make it true”. These specific instances should have been visible on a general overview.
        You are just saying that these “specific instances” are so rare, they are irrelevant.
        Sorry, you are arguing against yourself here.

      13. So what?
        Doesn’t matter. If you claim games make someone more sexist, you would find data to support that, even without knowing specific titles. Do you really think these people didn’t play games that are considered “problematic” ?

    2. I call bullshit on that, 1. German people are not different to Americans, the mechanics of how the brain works are the same. We just have different solutions.
      2. Irrelevant. If you claim games make you sexist, than you should have the data for that. You don’t need specific instances.
      3. If someone states that games don’t make you more violent, then games can’t make you more “sexist”, because of the same mechanisms.

  2. Studies contradict mainstream media claims of basically everything in life, and yet that still that doesn’t stop the media from spouting the same lies whilst cherry picking tiny portions of those studies. Agenda much?

    If I recall correctly, there was a Pew online harassment study that proved men are harassed far more than women in general, and the mainstream media continues to link to that while reporting that women are harassed more.

    Anyway, if there’s anything I’ve learned in life, it’s that humans will happily fund and perpetuate blatant lies that they want to believe, whilst denying, avoiding and suppressing basic factual truths.

    1. The way they skewed the results for the Newsweek statistics for GG and the Pew study about dudes being harassed more make it very apparent where the media’s bias is situated.

      At this point, the main thing to do is to find the proper facts and just try hard to red-pill neutrals so they understand just how screwed up the current media landscape really is.

      1. I think part of the problem is most people don’t even want to entertain the possibility that their media or governing parties intentionally deceive them. It leads them to question and doubt many things that they previously felt secure about, and that’s a big no-no for fragile modern adults who desperately cling to the illusion of being perfect, all-knowing and infallible. It’s so much easier to go into denial.

        I’m sure the media knows this and takes full advantage of it.

  3. This is mildly off-topic, but it’s so silly that I wanted to post about it somewhere.

    I’m considering getting a new video card, and while browsing websites for information, I found this on a benchmark page for Tomb Raider:
    “Lara Croft is back and has the distinction of being one of the true breakout stars of gaming, an icon every bit as important as Mario or Sonic. But in many ways, she has always taken second place to the titular Tombs of the games she inhabits, with attempts to flesh out her character some of the weakest moments in a venerable series of games.”

    Why is that on a benchmark page? And are they implying by comparison that Mario and Sonic have had their characters fleshed out better than the games they inhabit? Because I don’t recall ever feeling like Mario or Sonic were fleshed out in their games. It’s only magically an issue with Lara Croft. Interesting, eh?

    1. Here’s the thing that I’ve found, when these topics come out it has nothing to do with equality or fair representation. It has everything to do with special treatment and privilege.

      I was in a debate once where someone stated that women aren’t treated fairly in games, and then it was later mentioned that violence against women in games was out of hand (a lot of arguments parroted from Sarkeesian, of course).

      The thing is — and this is something none of them have been able to properly answer — why is it that it’s okay for women to have fair treatment when it comes to heroics but not fair treatment for women to encounter torture, failure and pain?

      I’ve still never received an answer to that.

      It’s the same thing that you just brought up about Mario and Sonic — they don’t have much depth to them other than moving to the right most of the time. They’re mostly both defined by beating bosses obsessed with capturing things. That’s it. But somehow Lara requires some in-depth character development and a bibliography of backstory to make her relevant.

      Personally? I think all the pandering to making her more “real” has thoroughly put me off from her character. She’s no longer in the same league as other characters such as Mario, Sonic, Crash or Batman because now she has a life-span and a mortal clock above her head, as opposed to just being a near-invincible raider of tombs. Then again, Master Chief is also rubbing dangerously close to that mortal clock, too. I don’t know why Microsoft really wants to go that route with the character.

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