Sections

Time study: boys think women are over-sexualised in games

Study finds that kids are sick of objectification

A study of over 1,400 children on behalf of Time has revealed that the majority of boys feel that there should be better representation of women in games, with more female characters and less sexualisation of those that exist already.

Although it's a small study, limited by resources, the survey by Rosalind Wiseman, Charlie Kuhn and Ashly Burch (Of "Hey Ash, whatcha playin?") found that significant numbers of children, from 10-18, have both recognised the overt objectification and sexualised representation of women in games, and would rather see female characters who are treated with more respect.

Writing for Time, Wiseman says that the results identified three major trends: boys want to see less sexualisation of women in games; neither gender is particularly influenced by the gender of the player character at that age, although girls care more about playing as a female as they grow up; and girls enjoy a wider variety of genres than is commonly accepted.

A video of some of the testimonials of the respondees can be seen here. It's an enlightening watch.

From the Study:

"Boys believe female characters are treated too often as sex objects

"47% of middle school boys agreed or strongly agreed, and 61% of high school boys agreed or strongly agreed. "If women are objectified like this it defeats the entire purpose of fighting," Theo, an eighth-grader who loves playing Mortal Kombat, told us. "I would respect the [female] character more for having some dignity."

"Both boys and girls aren't more likely to play a game based on the gender of the protagonist

"70% of girls said it doesn't matter and 78% of boys said it doesn't matter. Interestingly, boys care less about playing as a male character as they age and girls care more about playing as a female one.

"Girls play a variety of game genres "26% played first-person shooter games like Call of Duty and HALO, 36% played role-playing games like Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto, and 17% played sports games like FIFA and Madden. (19% did not play games, compared to 3% of boys.)

More stories

Game Workers Unite UK rebrands to IWGB Game Workers

Update: The trade union confirmed it's now a separate organisation to GWU, and changed name to prevent "unnecessary confusion"

By Marie Dealessandri

Ubisoft removing UK journalist from Watch Dogs over "controversial remarks"

The Atlantic writer Helen Lewis voiced a character on an in-game podcast

By James Batchelor

Latest comments (24)

Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios5 years ago
Well, this is encouraging.

But...
Interestingly, boys care less about playing as a male character as they age and girls care more about playing as a female one.
That's an odd phrasing - makes it sound like that preference is a function of age, which I can't see how you could control for. I should read the original study really.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Chris Payne on 10th July 2015 1:56pm

1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Emily Knox Associate Designer, CCP Games5 years ago
The information in the link doesn't elaborate on that any further, sadly, I hope they can release a more detailed account of their results. Pretty interesting as they aren't what I would've expected.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Dan Pearson Product Marketing Manager, Genvid5 years ago
I think the direct meaning was "older girls cared more about playing as females" but that doesn't necessarily equate to caring more as you grow up, I suppose.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Show all comments (24)
Paul Johnson Managing Director / Lead code monkey, Rubicon Development5 years ago
Ah there it is. I just tuned in to see what feminism issue was going to be posted, it being a Friday.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Johnson on 10th July 2015 10:51pm

17Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 5 years ago
What this survey is saying is "Teenage boys respect girls" but it tells us nothing really about games.
But it can be useful to the industry, just in a roundabout way. At a basic level, teenage boys are a source of income to publishers. So, if that source of income is turned-off by over-sexualisation/extreme-sexualisation, then one can infer a potential for loss of income. It may not be a large loss (comparative to the "tits-and-ass sell games" portion of the market), but it helps to define what a target demographic finds uncomfortable.

Or, tl;dr - knowledge about the demographics this industry caters to is always good. :)
5Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
John Bye Lead Designer, Freejam5 years ago
"Theo, an eighth-grader who loves playing Mortal Kombat"
Well, that's a good start, an eighth grader playing a Mature rated game that the ESRB descibes as containing blood, gore, intense violence and partial nudity.
21Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 5 years ago
@John Owens

True, it does lack context, so it's unfortunately not as useful as it first appears... Even something along the lines of "Do you align with a religious denomination?" would help (slightly) mitigate the unknowns about previous buying habits. But it's a start.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Chris Payne Managing Director & Founder, Quantum Soup Studios5 years ago
Wait, how old is eighth-grade?
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Andrew Goodchild Studying development, Train2Game5 years ago
I believe it's equivelent to 9th year in UK, 13-14.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Carlos Brandão Director, Game Rental5 years ago
Men gets older, women perish...just kidding!
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Robert Mac-Donald Game Designer, Lethe Games5 years ago
I would respect the [female] character more for having some dignity
Isn't that "sl*t shaming" by definition?
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Emily Rose Freelance Artist 5 years ago
I'd love to see a video of the actual interviews. The way a survey is worded makes a difference in how it's responded to.
12Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 5 years ago
I am betting the study was incredibly biased in the way they asked the questions.
I can believe that boys and girls really don't care much about the gender they play as in a game, but for boys to start talking about the females and such? The responses of the boys don't sound anything like the kind of response you would normally get.

I really would like a more in depth look into this "study." Not just some words from someone who is telling me they did a study without actually showing it.

Also .. doesn't it directly contradict the amount of people who are against Anita on this very topic? If this study was true ... then you would sort of expect similar results.

Personally, the results I would expect is that most gamers don't care about how a fictional character is dressed as long as it looks good and the game is fun. Now .. don't get me wrong, I imagine there have to be some people that it does matter too and they don't like the way the characters are dressed. At this point though, even if that is the case, it doesn't mean we need to get rid of these things. If you don't like it .. don't buy it. Vote with your wallet. I always hate how some people act like, if they don't like it, no one else should. As if others liking it some how effects them.
8Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 5 years ago
I looked into it, and it seems this study was done by using an on-line survey. So basically through tweets and social media she got these results. In other words, the study is absolute garbage.

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CJksrdNWcAAGDe_.png

We all know that getting your test subjects from your own viewer base makes studies very accurate. *Sarcasm*

Not to mention . .how do you verify the age? Anyone could have taken it lol.
16Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Sam Twidale Studying Computer Systems and Software Engineering, University of York5 years ago
@Brook Someone commented on the Time article with a link to one of those tweets that asked teens to fill out surveys: https://archive.is/asDoN ... It looks really bad. If they were seriously collecting data for this study by asking their social media followers, then it makes me wonder whether Time (or anywhere that covered this) bothered to ask questions about their method.

Hope there will be some clarity on this, since on their own those tweets reflect pretty poorly on the authors methodology and on how the survey findings are getting coverage.

EDIT: So it did just occur to be that the social media survey stuff might have been the authors gauging the views of their own audience, but this still deserves to be either confirmed or denied imo.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Sam Twidale on 13th July 2015 2:07am

2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 5 years ago
@Sam
Well until they post the more in depth study, it really isn't looking very good. I also wish they would have posted a copy of the actual survey and/or questions they asked, word for word.

It would be nice if those tweets and online surveys are not actually part of the study. For some reason though, I have a feeling we may actually never know for sure. However, this is why I am always cautious with these so called studies. Never know what is or isn't accurate these days.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Sam Twidale Studying Computer Systems and Software Engineering, University of York5 years ago
@Brook Here's what Wiseman said about that on Twitter: https://twitter.com/RosalindWiseman/status/619948221721391104

"I'll answer you so you can share; I have 20 year rel working in schools. My tweet introd the study and then we tracked with the schools and then we could verify age/grade/location. But I get that people who are sending me these tweets won't believe me."

Wiseman seems to be saying that the online survey they shared via their social media accounts was the basis for their data. I think that invalidates the results, unless they corrected for the selection bias that comes with asking their social media followers to share or take part in the survey. No reason to ignore selection bias is there?
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Alfonso Sexto Lead Tester, Ubisoft Germany5 years ago
@Paul:
I'm not sure where you see feminism in a study that focuses into kids perception. Not everything that point that there are two genders goes into that category.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 5 years ago
@Sam
Yep, it's a bit lame to do a study using your own audience. She really should have worked on just getting random schools to participate.
As of now, all we can assume is the studies results are negligible.
1Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paolo Giunti Narrative Designer 5 years ago
I agree that this study doesn't have much scientific value, but i have say that it does match some of my own personal observations when talking to friends, colleagues and other people on forums, chats and the like in the last few years (although, in my case, we're talking about a 20-30 age range).

Based on personal experience, most guys are, in fact, perfectly OK with playing a female character. Even in tabletop RPG groups, where you're actually supposed to roleplay your character as opposed to just control an avatar on screen, I've rarely encountered people showing reticence or discomfort at the idea of playing as a girl.
On the other hand, a woman playing as a male when given a female choice is also very rare, to the point that I must confess being surprised when they do.

In regards to the objectification/sexualization part, my impression is that audience in general has wisened up to how truly ridiculous a "sexy-armor" really is. So to many it starts looking too silly to be "hot", while a woman in reasonably practical gear is, instead, becoming more attractive.
So it seems to be more of a shift in what is generally considered good looking than an actual stand against objectification. In fact, i know quite a few artists who're taking on the challenge of designing women in combat gear that looks both very practical and sexy at the same time.

Then again, these are my own personal experience observations, not exactly a scientific study either.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Paolo Giunti on 13th July 2015 8:50pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 5 years ago
@Paolo
In regards to the objectification/sexualization part, my impression is that audience in general has wisened up to how truly ridiculous a "sexy-armor" really is
I don't think so, I think this is a case by case thing. It's going to highly depend on how impractical the armour is, the type of game, and the person playing it. It's all personal preference. The sexualisation of characters should honestly not even be a debate. If you don't like it .. you simply don't buy it. Also . .each person if going to have a different view of what is and isn't over sexualised. For me games like TERA Online is what I consider over sexualised. Even then, I think it suits the game.
0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Paolo Giunti Narrative Designer 5 years ago
Yeah, of course context matters and I'm sure that there's many who lust after armor designs like the ones from TERA. I guess i could have worded my point above better.

I was making a comparison with earlier days and pointing out how, recently, an unpractical wardrobe is more commonly (than before) made fun of and ridiculed. Even people who admit to like those designs seem to appreciate them for their absurdity (crazy over the top can be fun after all) rather than the sex appeal factor.
I'm sure this can affect some people's perception of "sexy" and turn it towards what is deemed less silly. In fact, the real point i wanted to make there is actually what follows:
Based on what i hear from people who claim to dislike skimpy armors a la TERA, their reason seem to be that they're turned off by how unpractical the outfit is. Like a subtle "uncanny valley" type of rejection.
The bottom line is: the shift (if there actually is any) is not really dictated by some sense of social awareness about over sexualized female character, it's more simply a change in tastes.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Paolo Giunti on 13th July 2015 7:17pm

0Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Sam Twidale Studying Computer Systems and Software Engineering, University of York5 years ago
@Brook
There's a press release on Wiseman's site now: https://archive.is/RkVMD#selection-345.0-345.495

What strikes me is that the authors say they are clear on how their research was exploratory and open on how they used their own social networks to get data, but are spreading their conclusions in the media anyway. To quote their Time video: "Our kids deserve better, and it's what they want!" - right.

The way that several news sites have ran this story and echoed the conclusions of the authors without comment is pretty bad.
2Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply
Brook Davidson Artist / 3D design 5 years ago
@Sam
We were and are not pushing an agenda beyond giving young people a voice
We did this survey because we were curious about how boys and girls perceived female characters in games and we wanted to know what kinds of games girls were playing.
The other things that really gets me is why the focus on female characters? If they really want to do a legitimate decent study and not push some sort of agenda, wouldn't it make sense to see how kids react toward some of the over masculine characters as well? The fact they are focusing on female characters tells me .. it most certainly is trying to push some form of agenda. Even more so, as you said because they are spreading the data and treating the results as if it's conclusive, yet it's far from it.

If I had the resources myself to go out and do this. I would do a real study, that takes a look at every aspect of games. Focusing on too few questions can give us a very incomplete picture of what is really going on.

Maybe depending on the type of games each person plays, they would have different views on the characters .. and I feel that is a very important distinction to make. I imagine some kids may play the characters as themselves, and some may treat the character as an entirely different person that is separate from themselves. Do these sorts of things also have an effect on how the character is viewed?

I really want a real decent study, non of this crap.
3Sign inorRegisterto rate and reply

Sign in to contribute

Need an account? Register now.