Video Gamer Stereotypes

In one of my other classes, a guest speaker lectured us about some of the stereotypes behind video gamers – they are mostly nerdy, overweight, violent, socially awkward, and almost certainly male. I’m sure each of us has heard at least one of these stereotypes, but none of them are true. In fact, roughly 40% of the gaming population consists of female players.

These characteristics attributed to video game players have started to drop off as the industry exploded in the past decade. More people are playing games and they’ve been incorporated into other types of media including television. For instance, South Park intertwined World of Warcraft within its cartoon in a show called, “Make Love, Not Warcraft”. The way games have been incorporated into mainstream society may have caused the decline in stereotyping video game players. However, a question popped into my mind: “How and why did these stereotypes ever get attributed to video gamers”?

Perhaps for the “violence” stereotype, our society was just searching for reasons why certain people committed violent acts, and after realizing they played violent video games, automatically associated the two without any real evidence. Maybe the casual gamer in the past played much more in comparison to the present leading to stereotypes of being socially awkward or nerdy. And as for the male stereotype, perhaps there was a much smaller female gaming population a couple decades ago and it was actually true in the past.

A recent study by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that many male players have a higher body mass index and more female players reported greater levels of depression. Many gamers were angered by this study as researchers admitted it wasn’t conclusive. Perhaps these types of studies also lead to various stereotyping of gamers despite the lack of conclusive evidence.

I’m not too sure about how these stereotypes came to be associated with video gamers, but I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.

Girlfriends of Gamers

Recently I was shown a very hilarious YouTube video thanks to my boyfriend titled Sh** Gamers Say to Their Girlfriends. (http://youtu.be/v83nyCuiMIE)

This video piqued my curiosity as to what pops up on a Google search of ‘being a girlfriend of a gamer’. To my surprise a good amount of interesting pages and videos popped up. I came across two wikiHow pages one being How to Get Your Girlfriend to Play Video Games and How to Juggle a Girlfriend and Video Gaming: 5 Steps.

When reading the first of the two sites, I found the approach of this website to relate more so to the motivational aspect of learning for both the male and female in these scenarios. One key motivational feature I noticed was an extrinsic motivator that the boyfriend would give to his girlfriend. The “make a trade” point is practically convincing the boyfriend that to get her to play video games with you, you can just trade off by giving her a “reward” for playing with you. Honestly, it’s a good idea because it gives the girlfriend motivation to play games with her boyfriend as well as allowing her more time to spend with the boyfriend altogether. It’s a win-win for the girlfriend and the boyfriend, boyfriend plays games, girlfriend gets rewards. Technically both receive rewards.

Another key point that is raised is to have fun when playing with your girlfriend. Girls don’t want to be yelled at when playing with you, especially since they know they aren’t an expert at this game. Thus, making it fun and engaging for the both of you makes it an overall better experience and a good bonding time for everyone involved.

The next wikiHow article takes a different approach. It contains two points focusing on things your girlfriend could be doing while you’re playing video games. Pointing out things that may “distract” your girlfriend while playing a video game. Although these ideas could work, i.e. getting her to develop a new hobby or read/knit while you’re playing games, in my opinion a better approach is to involve your girlfriend rather than excluding her from a hobby that you enjoy so much.

Both of these articles are very interesting and are attached at the bottom. Next time you’re with your girlfriend or boyfriend, include them in your gaming experience and I promise it will be fun.

http://www.wikihow.com/Juggle-a-Girlfriend-and-Video-Gaming
http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Your-Girlfriend-to-Play-Video-Games

Females in Video Games (And a Random Rant!)

As I was writing my Game Selection Paper, I was thinking about the tripartite identity mentioned by Gee and by Professor Fishman in lecture, about the identity of the player in the real world, the character in the virtual world, and the blending of the character and the player into an integrated identity. I chose a role-playing game for my video game for class, and one of the things that I am most interested to learn this semester is how developing the blended identity between the player and the character in the game facilitates learning and motivates the player to try new challenges in the game and encourages the player to play the game differently. However, I realized that this is going to be a slight challenge in the game that I chose for class. Although I have played other characters in similar games with the same challenge and have still formed a connection with the character, the main character in the game that I chose, Final Fantasy Tactics, is male. I am female, and I wonder how this impacts my connection with the character. Would I be able to connect with the character on a different level if the character was the same gender as me? It will be interesting to consider how I may have played the game differently this semester if the main character was female.

Considering how I connected with a character in a video game who is a different gender with me made me consider gender dynamics in video games in general. Although the number of females playing video games is only slightly smaller than the number of males playing video games in general, many gamers assume that other games are mostly male. One of my favorite games currently is Minecraft. (To read more about Minecraft and consider getting it because it is awesome and will take up all of your freetime, visit: http://www.minecraft.net/). I was on a forum about Minecraft and was discussing one of my current projects with another player. At one point, I mentioned that my boyfriend was helping me to design the roof for the giant cathedral that I was building, and the player paused for a moment before typing, “Wait…you’re gay?” According to current research, only ten percent of the population is homosexual; fifty percent of the population is female. Why did he pick the less likely of the two options? One of my closest female friends is an avid World of Warcraft player and she has stopped telling other people that she is interacting with that she is female because she either gets, “Wow! You must be really good if you are a girl and play this,” “You must be pretty bad. Girls aren’t good at WOW. You shouldn’t raid with us,” or receives an offer for a date or a certain popular derogatory message (I imagine many people are aware of the phrase that I am thinking of.) Even video game designers appear to assume that most gamers are male when designing protagonists. There are few powerful, independent female protagonists in video games. The main example that I can think of is Samus Aran from Metroid. Although women do exist as main characters in other video games, such as Lara Croft from Tomb Raider and Alex Roivas from Eternal Darkness, these women are often highly sexualized and may not have well-developed, independent characters. As a female gamer, I would like to have more independent, powerful women to play as and experience games through. Does anyone see a shift in this perception of female gamers occurring? Does anyone have any recommendations of games with a strong female protagonist that I could try? Does anyone have any other feelings on this subject?

Although this is not exactly video game related, I believe that this two blog posts from Epbot (one of my favorite blogs; the woman who writes it is so spirited and funny!) is also highly appropriate to this topic:

http://www.epbot.com/2011/12/three-cheers-for-little-girl-spock.html

http://www.epbot.com/2010/11/geek-girls-activate.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+epbot%2FfOpU+%28EPBOT%29

I don’t understand why there are people who tease others for their choices in entertainment or in their interests. Whether it is as a female gamer, a girl who wishes to dress up as Spock for Halloween, a boy who decides that he wants to dance ballet, or anyone else who chooses to defy societal norms is alright. Sorry that this post started as “I want more strong female protagonists in gaming!” and ended as “Let’s accept and support everyone!” I think that this is an important message that this class will teach us, though. We are attempting to understand and potentially pioneer a new method of learning. There will be stigma associated with it, just as there is currently stigma to a certain extent against females who play video games, but we must work through the stigma and fight for what we believe works and is important. This is an important lesson in perseverance, whether in learning, in changing the world, or just in finally beating the final boss of that one horribly hard game.

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