Gender Roles in Video Games - Presubmission Report

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1) Thesis paragraph:
Video games are a great source of fun because they include simulations, character relationships, and role-playing scenarios. The popular “Tomb Raider” video game uses Lara Croft as the main character and shows how females are equal to males. The video game industry has used male figures as the prominent characters for many years. When studying gender differences in video games it is important to consider stereotypes because of how society demotes one gender over another. For instance, most people consider the video game “Barbie” to be played by girls and “Need for Speed” to be played by guys. By allowing females to be involved within the video game industry it will promote new ideas and games that may not have been thought of before. As a result, video games need to be equal in there representation of gender roles and show that females can make a game just as fun as males.

2) Several direct quotations from the literary source(s) you plan to study:
• “The present study was designed to examine potential differences in the cognitive strategies that girls and boys report they use when they learn to play an unfamiliar video game” (Blumberg 152).
• “As Cassell and Jenkins point out in their introduction to the book, males have tended to control the computer games industry, create games for themselves, and market exclusively to boys” (Jackson 125).
• “A second problem is that explanations for gendered play patterns tend to be linked to broad theories about biologically or psychologically based gender differences” (Hayes 24).
• “I did find considerable gender differences in the kinds of games preferred by girls and boys, as well as class differences in the kinds of games played. The girls and boys in my sample showed similar patterns of interest and involvement in the fantasy-adventure games and the spatial relations games. However, only boys played the sports games with any regularity, and only the two working class boys played urban-violence and paramilitary games (Gailey 86).
• “Theories about gender differences in digital gaming tend to be based on inferences drawn from the types of games that women and men already play, or what they say they would prefer” (Hayes 23).
• This research has demonstrated that female game characters are routinely represented in a narrowly stereotypical manner; for example, as princesses or wise old women in fantasy games, as objects waiting on male rescue or as fetishised subjects of male gaze in first person shooters” (Bryce 246).
• “This investigation works at odds with stereotypical game images of women and against larger assumptions about the body” (Flanagan 368).

2A) Quotations that support your thesis...
• “I did find considerable gender differences in the kinds of games preferred by girls and boys, as well as class differences in the kinds of games played. The girls and boys in my sample showed similar patterns of interest and involvement in the fantasy-adventure games and the spatial relations games. However, only boys played the sports games with any regularity, and only the two working class boys played urban-violence and paramilitary games (Gailey 86).
• “As Cassell and Jenkins point out in their introduction to the book, males have tended to control the computer games industry, create games for themselves, and market exclusively to boys” (Jackson 125).
• “If we want to have [game] titles that reach a diverse audience, our workforce has to reflect that diversity” (Pratt 34).
• This research has demonstrated that female game characters are routinely represented in a narrowly stereotypical manner; for example, as princesses or wise old women in fantasy games, as objects waiting on male rescue or as fetishised subjects of male gaze in first person shooters” (Bryce 246).
• “This investigation works at odds with stereotypical game images of women and against larger assumptions about the body” (Flanagan 368).

2B) Quotations that refute your thesis:
• “Some “female” gaming practices can be attributed to women’s lack of experience with gaming rather than to innate gender-specific preferences” (Hayes 24).
• “The gender difference in time dedicated to game play can be attributed to the fact that boys find digital games much more attractive and conductive to their natural cognitive processing” (Bonanno 16).
• “While we may question the methodologies of commercial research and its market agenda such figures point towards a growing representation of women in computer gaming activities” (Bryce 244).

3) Direct quotations from outside sources:
• “The worst thing about today's games is that they're developed almost exclusively by men” (Kasavin 1).
• “There is no doubt that Tomb Raider marked a significant departure from the typical role of women within popular computer games” (Kennedy 1).
• “The absence of any romantic or sexual intrigue within the game narrative potentially leaves her sexuality open to conjectural appropriation on the part of the players” (Kennedy 2).
• “It could be argued that Lara's femininity, and thus her castratedness, are disavowed through the heavy layering of fetishistic signifiers such as her glasses, her guns, the holster/garter belts, her long swinging hair” (Kennedy 3).

3A) Quotations that support your thesis:
• “There is no doubt that Tomb Raider marked a significant departure from the typical role of women within popular computer games” (Kennedy 1).
• “The worst thing about today's games is that they're developed almost exclusively by men” (Kasavin 1).

3B) Quotations that refute your thesis:
• “It could be argued that Lara's femininity, and thus her castratedness, are disavowed through the heavy layering of fetishistic signifiers such as her glasses, her guns, the holster/garter belts, her long swinging hair” (Kennedy 3).
• “The absence of any romantic or sexual intrigue within the game narrative potentially leaves her sexuality open to conjectural appropriation on the part of the players” (Kennedy 2).

4) A Preliminary conclusion:
As demonstrated through academic articles the use of female characters is limited in video games and shows how racial the industry can be. After analyzing several academic articles including psychology journals and books one can see that video games are focused more towards the male culture. The gaming industry then developed a video game called, “Tomb Raider” that showed how women can be strong and active just like men can be. Gender roles in video games begin to develop when a child is young because of culture stereotypes and can be seen as they grow older. This gender separation is very prevalent with modern video games compared to the beginning of video games which were text-based adventure games.

5) An example of the efficient integration of a brief quotation from an outside source:
• Human psychology is a major factor when playing video games because of how the brain works. Blumberg conducted a research study that, “…was designed to examine potential differences in the cognitive strategies that girls and boys report they use when they learn to play an unfamiliar video game” (Blumberg 152). The study consisted of 104 elementary grade level students and the video game called, Sonic the Hedgehog 2.

6) MLA-style Works Cited list:
Blumberg, Fran C., and Lori M. Sokol.. “Boys' and Girls' Use of Cognitive Strategy When Learning to Play Video Games.” Journal of General Psychology 131.2 (Apr. 2004): 151-158. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Seton Hill University, Greensburg, PA. 13 January 2008.
Bonanno, Philip, and P. A. M. Kommers.. “Gender Differences and Styles in the Use of Digital Games.” Educational Psychology 25.1 (Feb. 2005): 13-41. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Seton Hill University, Greensburg, PA. 13 January 2008.
Bryce, J. & Rutter, J. “Killing Like a Girl: Gendered Gaming and Girl Gamers’ Visibility”, DigiPlay 3: Leisure Constraints, Entitlement and Access to Technologies of Leisure, University of Central Lancashire, 15th Sept.
Flanagan, Mary. “Next Level, Women’s Digital Activism through Gaming.” Digital Media Revisted. England: London, 2003.
Gailey, Christine Ward. “Mediated Messages: Gender, Class, and Cosmos in Home Video Games.” Journal of Popular Culture 27.1 (Summer 1993): 81-97. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Seton Hill University, Greensburg, PA. 14 January 2008.
Hayes, Elisabeth. “Women, Video Gaming & Learning: Beyond Stereotypes.” TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning 49.5 (Sep. 2005): 23-28. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Seton Hill University, Greensburg, PA. 13 January 2008.
Jackson, Kathy Merlock. “From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games (Book).” Journal of American & Comparative Cultures 23.3 (Fall 2000): 125. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Seton Hill University, Greensburg, PA. 13 January 2008
Kasavin, Greg. “Samus' Suit Was Made by Men.” GameSpot. 16 Jan. 2008. .
Kennedy, Helen. “Lara Croft: Feminist or Cyberbimbo.” Game Studies. 16 Jan. 2008. .
Pratt, Mary K. “She Got Game.” Computerworld 41.23 04 June 2007: 32-36. Academic Search Elite. EBSCO. Seton Hill University, Greensburg, PA. 13 January 2008.

1 Comment

You've found some great sources, Derek, and your topic sounds like it will work out. Your thesis paragraph makes a few isolated claims that don't necessarily seem to fit with your thesis... I have a few questions... you certainly shouldn't insert answers into your paper, because I think if you start trying to answer them all, you'll see that some of the points you make aren't necessary for you to support the main idea you raise.

Do we need to support a claim on why video games are fun, if your paper is really about gender equality as depicted in Tomb Raider?

Sentence 2 mostly exists in order to introduce the Tomb Raider game series. Technically, saying the game "shows how equal" could apply even if you are arguing that Lara Croft is a sexist stereotype. (You could answer the question "how equal?" with "Not very!")

Your claim about what the game industry should do is very like a common thesis that I see in freshman comp papers all the time... "Advertisers should stop damaging women's self-esteem by using idealized and unattainable images of women." That's an example of a normative statement -- it simply argues that something should be this way.

But an academic paper needs to do more than express a wish that things were a certain way.

You might argue that Congress should pass a law to fine advertisers who use underage models in unhealthy ways (but who will decide what counts as unhealthy? advertising executives? teenage girls? their parents? Congress?). In a similar way, the statement that the games industry should change doesn't really have any bite... remember from EL150 that in a lit class, I ask you to defend a thesis about the representation of reality in the work of literature, not a thesis about the outside world. Since we're talking about gaming culture, and not just the games themselves, I'm open to a much broader set of claims, but "video games need to be equal" is just an opinion. Who says they need to be equal? Who's going to enforce this vision of equality on them?

Laurel tried to point out what the industry and society at large stand to game from the production of games ("stories") that speak to girls. But her thesis is not "other people need to change." Rather, she argued, "These are the concrete benefits that I saw in the lives of the thousands of girls that played my games. This is what the girls lost when my company went under. You, too, can make such a difference if you commit to being a culture worker."

That's very different from saying "the industry needs to appeal to girls."

Note that we're talking about a single character from a single game. I think it's stretching things to say that the depiction of Lara Croft shows that women (plural) are equal to men. Rather let's slip the "equality" statement into the subordinate clause of a sentence that makes a different claim.

"Because the Lara Croft's world is artificially constructed to require her particular skill set -- the ability to combine traditionally female agility with traditionally masculine firepower -- any claim that Tomb Raider depicts a role model for the real world is wishful thinking. Lara Croft excels at the kind of actions performed by [compare her to some other video game characters, since we're talking about "equality" here], so that her gender has absolutely no bearing on the jumping and shooting portions of the game. But her identity as a woman -- both as a symbol of strength and as an object of desire -- is central to the fiction that defines the Tomb Raider series for its fans. While the male player is enticed by the prospect of controlling an idealized, attractive female body, the game's fiction requires the player to share Lara's motivations and act out the steps she takes to reach her goals. While the Tomb Raider series is designed to appeal to men who wish to possess Lara, the game itself persuades players to take on Lara's own values and goals, and is therefore a useful tool for combating sexism."

I don't know if I actually believe what I just wrote, but as you can see I'm trying to make a statement about what the Tomb Raider games actually do, not a statement about what I wish the video game industry would do.

There is still room for me to say that X is bad because it leads to undesirable results P an Q, and Y is a better alternative because it minimizes P and Q, but also offers desirable results R and S. But instead of saying "Everyone should do Y instead of X," the academic argument shoudl focus on the results and let the reader decide. (Bogost is very good at that -- note how he often supplies both a liberal and a conservative argument... he's not trying to focus on games that argue a liberal perspective or games that argue a conservative POV... he's focusing on games that are effective at making arguments, period.)

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This page contains a single entry by Derek Tickle published on January 16, 2008 10:00 AM.

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