Use of Video Games among the Youth
The exercise of video games has been on the rise with the increased use of computers and the internet. Video games have grown to form one of the most popular entertainment industries in North America. The sale of entertainment software in North America grew by 3.4%. There is a growing concern of the use of video games amongst the youth. Majority of the video game enthusiasts are aged between 6-17 years. The growing use of video games raised concern amongst researchers. There is the concern of the content that video games have on teenagers. Also there is a growing issue of stereotypes that is portrayed with the use of video games. Traditional media has been known to portray racial and gender stereotypes. In mass media, males are seen to be more aggressive than females. Male teenagers tend to appear frequently, and are seen to get engaged in significant behaviors. There is a misguided and distorted representation of women in video games, where they are portrayed to be weak and dependent on men. Video games have been critiqued to be biased towards stereotyping, identity and gender-bias. Video games are male dominant; whereas, females have been ignored in the development of video games. Through the influence of stereotyping and gender-bias in video games, identities of teenagers are building.
The issue of gender is seen to dominant most video games where female characters are seen to have diminishing roles. There is also the aspect of stereotyping where female character is seen to be portraying bias roles. This paper will focus on the themes of stereotyping, gender bias, and identity in video games. These themes have an effect on the youth who are found to be the main players of video games. With the progress teens are undergoing, these effects are likely to be ingrained in their development.
In most of the video games, gender was portrayed in a manner which shows that there is inequality. Male characters are seen to be the leading characters in video games. This is evident, especially, with the use of white male characters that are seen to portray leading roles in most video games. The only part that female characters are seen to have leading roles is in sport games. Video games have been known to portray bias towards one gender. Even though it is observed that female characters are increasing icons, their roles are still stereotypical. Female roles are seen to be supporting the characters of males, or they are seen to be in need of help in the game. Moreover, females are not viewed as opposing characters since in video games they are rather given the villain role.
Violence and stereotyping have been analyzed and researched in video games. The research that was undertaken was grouped into four groups. In these groups women are portrayed as: sex objects, victims, action heroes and roles that are feminine. In the research most of the video games, 41%, were devoid of female characters. Only 5% of video games portrayed females as heroes. In the same note, 28% of games portrayed women as sex objects with the use of clothing and appearance. The image that was portrayed by video games regarding women was based on the cleavage image of the breasts, the neckline and the lower clothing. With the representation of women in these images, it is common to see more women exposing their bodies than men. They are represented in hypersexual manner. Women were seen to be wearing nude clothing and portraying their bodies in sexually revealing manner. In most videos that are watched by teenagers, women are more likely to be portrayed to have nude clothing than men.
The results in the research show that female characters have been portrayed to be weaker and have roles that are deemed to portray weakness in the society. From the research, video creators have managed to create some form of gender bias. The teenagers playing video games will take the message that one gender is weaker than the other gender.
Stereotyping in video games
Video games have been known to portray a lot of stereotypical messages. This has been an issue for many youth playing video games. Research on stereotypical portrays is evident in video games. Racial stereotyping is portrayed in games that are played by youth. There is the creation of vague and ambiguous characters that have ethnic implications. In these circumstances, it is hard to get the real ethnic group that the characters belong to.
The limited research that has been undertaken regarding racial stereotyping is according to the minimal representation of minority groups in video games, which serves to show racial stereotyping. To be specific, the minority characters of Black and Hispanic are rarely seen in video games. A research analyzed the content of computer and video games in five platforms of PlayStation2, GameCube, Game Boy Advance, PC, and Xbox. The research also demonstrated that the main characters on watching the first part of the games show that the majority of characters were either white or too vague to tell their real ethnicity. The analysis of most computer games shows that the leading characters are white males. In these games that were analyzed, only 10% were seen to be female characters. Hence it is evident that most computer games bring out the issue of stereotyping. Minority characters are rare in most computer games and their roles are diminished. In the research, the percentages of minority groups show that 21% of the characters were Black, the percentage of the Asian were 7, and that of Hispanic were shown to be 3%. The roles that the minority groups represented were that of violence and criminal activities.
Video games and identity creation
The representation of characters in video games contributes to the identity shaping of the teenagers watching and playing these games. Teenagers are in the stage of development, and eventually they are going to create an image that they can identify with. Adolescents will have a different perception of the role and capacity of the opposite gender with the use of video games. During the stages of adolescence, most boys and girls are known to explore their identities either in a direct manner or in a vicarious manner. The identity formation of most teenagers can be seen in fashion, and activities. Media figures form a significant role and reflect an identity to many teenagers. Hence, media figures are regarded and portrayed to be role models for teenagers. Game characters form a special type of media figures and the characters that are portrayed in these games. It has been found out that stereotypical characters have been portrayed in many video games. Many teenagers playing these games will develop their own identities with the people of the opposite gender. Boys will have the notion that women are thin and weak.
Video games have been part of our society for a while now. Today games as compared to the 1970’s video games have exhibited increased graphics and violent scenes. The ever evolving technology has made it possible to equip players with better graphics that present a more realistic virtual playing experience. Video games have immense impacts on the lives of many teenagers. However, exposure to aggressive content as studies show increases the player’s probability of developing aggressive behavior.
With the emphasis by many educators of using video games as a learning tool, this will have immense effect on the teenagers. Even though the educators are aware of the dangers of the effects that these games will have, they have not taken stereotyping to be a major problem.
Traditionally most of the research studies focusing on video games and the youths have been looking for the negative effects. However, there are researchers who are coming up with a different opinion that violent video games do not negatively affect the gamers. Much emphasis has been on the negative impacts hence many have scholars have criticized this line of research. Video games have raised concerns among researchers on issues of gender and racial stereotypes in the contents of the video games.
Gender stereotypes in video games
Dietz’s (1998) was among the earliest study to establish the level of stereotype portrayed in video games. In his study he analyzed how video games have portrayed both women and violence in the popular Nintendo and Sega Genesis video games. Based on these games the researcher came up with four possible stereotypes in the video games. The first one is that women were viewed as object prizes that gamers had to win, female as victims of street fighting and other violence, females in feminine roles and females as heroes o action character. Dietz (1998) established that 41 per cent of the games under study were devoid of female characters. This means that gender was not factored into the video games. There were only 15 per cent of the games that portrayed women as heroes or the action character while most of the games with over 21% of the 33 games reviewed showed that women are victims. Women were also portrayed as sex objects in most of the games reviewed. This is based on the physical appearance or sexually oriented actions in the video games.
Beasley and Standaley (2002) also evaluated the role of women in video games and their main focus was on the appearance of female characters using cloths as the indicator of sexuality. Their study looked at three kind of clothing; sleeve length, neckline and lower body clothing. Body coverage and the breast size of the female characters were also used to study this concept. Beasley and Standley (2002) established that significant sex bias in female characters is portrayed in video games. Out of the 597 video game characters that were examined, only 13.7 per cent were women. This means that female characters are a minority in video games with male characters taking the major role. This is because female characters are found not suitable to play the roles like street fighting, car racing since they are viewed as weak and ‘fragile’. From the study of Beasley and Standley, most of the female characters were found to expose more skin tan male characters. More female characters were likely to be in low cut and arm exposed cloths compared to male characters.
Downs and Smith (2005) also came up with similar findings in their study. They concluded that female characters were more likely to be represented in hypersexual way than male characters. They are represented partially nude with unrealistic body shape. They are also found wearing sexually revealing clothing and inappropriate cloths. On the same note, Haninger and Thompson (2004) used a sample of 81 youth related video games. They established that more women are significantly more likely to be represented partially nude than male characters. They further asserted that there was more playable male character than female playable characters. They showed that out of 81 games they evaluated 72 of them had male playable characters compared to 42 playable female characters. Looking at the early researchers, they established that there were no female heroes or action character in video games.
There are many online video games that are violent that many researchers have constantly pointed (Buchman & Funk, 1996; Provenzo, 1991; Dill, Gentile, Richter & Dill, 2005) and they cause a great harm to the children and youth. Many of the research work have focused on the negative influence of violent video games to the youth. Stereotyping is another aspect that has been focused by many researchers. Most of the youths spend time in playing violent video games. Most of the games have graphics that show weapons, armed conflict, fighting on the street and death. There are games such as Grand Theft Auto in which youths take the role of criminals who violently steal in banks, carry out assassinations, street fighting among other violent actions. There are advanced games that children and the youth access with have sexual content, nudity and drug usage is very intense. The advance in graphical technology has resulted into depicting real life scenes into computer games.
There research by Dill et al. (2007) established that exposure of youths to sexiest images of the video game characters have a negative impact on them. Female youths end up believing that women enjoy forceful sex, and they are more likely to accept rape. They also gain an attitude and mindset that men are to be dominant over women and women should be totally submissive to men. The study by Burgess et al., in press found out that women are objectified in video games. They do not play a major role in any game hence the youth will always look at women as people at the second level.
The wider social contexts have been ignored by the news reports that focus heavily on video games. There are those who have reported that violence among the youth is not necessarily as a result of video games but other factors such as availability of guns, families, poverty and school organization. Many of the mass media reports cite video games as the origin of violence among youths.
(Brand, Knight, & Majewski, 2003) did a comprehensive study on the content of the games where 130 computer games were sampled. Some of the sampled video games are the popular PlayStation 2, Xbox, GameBoy Advanced and the PC. They examined the manuals and the introductory play of each game especially the first 10 minutes. After the examination of the contents, they concluded that most of the stereotype experience in mainstream traditional media are being used in most the games. They further said that most of the characters were white with 71% per cent representation while other lead character was too vague to identify. They also pointed out that most of the lead characters were male. This means that female characters are given supporting roles in video games. (Brand, Knight, & Majewski, 2003) also came up with similar conclusions after examining 10-minutes first play of the top 20 selling video games. They state that most of the top 20 presented white male characters as the main actors in the games and only 10 per cent of the led characters were female. Downs and Smith (2005) found that 21 per cent were black, 7 per cent were Asian and 3 per cent were Hispanic characters. The researchers have shown how video games have portrayed characters based on their gender, race and ethnicity.
Impact of stereotype in video games
Youths take up the behaviors and roles as displayed in the video games. Young boys will always know that females or girls do not take a leading role. This means that the boys in the community will look down on female. There will be no respect for female because they are displayed as sex objects. Both male and female would want to see the real life people having the unrealistic shapes of female characters in the video games. Youth female in the society will want to wear like those seen in the video games in order to attract ‘heroes’ in their schools. They believe that to have the attention of men one must wear clothes that are too revealing. Gender stereotyping has taken effects even in our job place and in politics. When people grew up knowing that female characters take up supporting roles, it becomes difficult to vote or support female who want to take up leading characters.
Video games and forming identity
The influence of video games on youths when it comes to formulation of identity is clear. The game player identifies with the video characters in various levels where they rename the characters to their own names. For instance, when a player in a video game ‘dies’, the person playing the game says ‘I died’ instead of ‘my character died’. There are new experiences that are created by video games. Within the virtual worlds gamers can explore new scenes, take on new identities and meet new people. Through video games youths undergo a critical learning experience that involves literacy, socialization and identity. Many youths at adolescence stage are having problems with identify. They would like to be associated with particular individuals. In video gaming they are able to take up characters of their heroes. They would want to be identified by the attributes exhibited by the virtual game player I real world.
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