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Mac129 Video Games And Representation


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Lecture slides used in MAC129 Intro to Cyberculture

Lecture slides used in MAC129 Intro to Cyberculture

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  • 1. Video games &Representation
    MAC129 - Cyberculture
  • 2. Economic success: GTA IV
    Released April 2008
    Day 1 sales: 3.6 million ($310m)
    Week 1 sales: 6 million (£500m)
    August 2008
    Sales: 10 million
    June 2009
    Sales: 13.2 million
  • 3.
  • 4. Historical business
    A struggle to define a place for early games
    (see Marvin, 1988; Poole, 2004)
    Historical accounts tend to be lists of names and dates
  • 5. First game?
    Tennis For Two 1958 (William Higginbotham)
    Spacewar! 1962
    (Steven Russell)
  • 6. Cold War kids1950s….
    Emerged during a period of intense socio-economic and geo-political changes:
    Space Race (USSR)
    Cold War paranoia (nuclear anxiety)
    Decline of heavy industry
    Major changes in life style
    Advent of domestic mass communication
    Consumer confidence
  • 7. Game development…
    Largely due to
    “university computing departments, the military, the interest of the first game developers, the first games and the subsequent development of game playing as an activity embraced largely by young males”
    (Kerr, 2006: 14; see also Haddon, 1988; 1993)
  • 8. The console wars
  • 9. The console wars today
  • 10. Popular claims about video games
    Negative associations – health and violence
    Columbine shooting: Doom
    Car-jacking: Grand Theft Auto
    Stabbings: Manhunt
  • 11. (Un)popular claims about video games
    Positive claims?
    Surgeons who played games for at least 3 hours a week made ‘37% fewer errors, were 27% faster’ than surgeons who did not play games. (Hall, 2007)
    Safe environment to enact fantasy
    Creativity of ‘modders’
  • 12. Games emerge from a cultural context
    US military funding?
  • 13. Always a ‘politics’ in every representation
    Representations are never innocent.
    Representations are always a ‘construction’ in accordance with the producer’s politics.
  • 14. Representation and race
    Black culture as animalistic, subservient, sexual, violent and dangerous
  • 15. Resident Evil 5 Race Row
  • 16.
  • 17. Representations of gender
    Women as domestic, maternal, naïve, consumers, etc
  • 18.
  • 19.
  • 20. Representation of gender
    Feminist critics have argued that many media texts represent women as:
    Sex objects
    Dutiful housewives / virginal daughters
    Mad, bad, dangerous women who need punishment
    Are video games any different?
    Jiggle physics?
    See also:
    ‘Top 10 Boobies in Video Games’
    ‘Sexy Video Game Babes’
  • 21. Game design
    Studies of digital games have noted a ‘consistent pattern of male technocratic privilege’
    Williams, cited in Kerr, 2006: 19
    Game development & design, production, marketing & construction, dominated by heterosexual masculine fantasies
    Gansmoet al, 2003
  • 22. Gender in games
    Traditional stereotype of femininity evoked
    Gansmo (2003): little understanding within the industry about how game design might be linked to gender socialisation
  • 23. Consequences of stereotypes…
    Games are a ‘prime example of the social construction of gender’ (Cassell and Jenkins, 1998: 37) and they may significantly influence people’s attitudes towards the use of computers in school or later career choices
  • 24. Women do play games!?
    Funk (1993):
    75% of females play games at home (90% males)
    Colwell and Payne (2000):
    88% of females aged 12-14 play games regularly
    ESA (2004):
    39% of US gamers are female and females account for 40% of online players.
    Krotoski (2004):
    approx 25% of gamers are female in Europe, compared to 70% in Korea
    Crawford & Gosling (2005):
    Women much less likely to play the older they get
    Alexanda (2009):
    Female console gamers grew from 23 to 28 percent in 2009
  • 25. Krotoski, 2004: 10
  • 26. The Wii and women?
    ‘Nintendo's Wii console captures new game market’
    John Sterlicchi, Oct 2007
  • 27. Domestic access
    Access to gadgets in home is not gender neutral
    Highly masculine and potentially hostile to females
    Is this changing?
  • 28.
  • 29. Domestic context
    a greater percentage of girls’ play has been centred in or around the home
    females still spend more time engaged in domestic labour than males (typically 1.5 hours per day more than males in the UK)
  • 30. Gaming spaces outside the home
    Predominantly masculine environments
    arcades, pubs, motorway service stations
    Women at LAN parties tend to be in a supportive role
    When they do compete the media portrays them as:
  • 31. Game content
    Relatively low number of playable female characters
    Abundance of stereotypes
    Masculine themes
    The damsel in distress?
  • 32. Positive moves?
    1991: Nintendo release Barbie Game Girl for Game Boy
    1996: Mattel release Barbie Fashion Designer
    2000: The Sims
    2003: Linden Research launches Second Life
    2004: The Sims 2
    2004: SCEEurope release karaoke title SingStar on PS2
    2006: Sony launches pink PS2 and PSP
    2006: Cooking Mama released
    2008: Wii Fit released
  • 33. Children Now study (2000)
    92% games have a male lead (54% female)
    50% women portrayed in a stereotypical way.
    38% displayed women with significant body exposure (23% breasts; 31% thighs; 15% backsides; 31% stomachs/midriffs)
    Female characters defined by ‘disproportionately large’ breasts (38%) and ‘excessively tiny’ waists (46%)
  • 34. See:
  • 35.
  • 36. Positive figures?
  • 37. Conclusion
    History of games has been male dominated
    Industry can be conservative and not welcome change (can be risky)
    Women increasingly more important to the industry
    Positive changes ahead?
  • 38. Sources and further reading
    Leigh Alexander, 2009, ‘NPD: Female Gamer Population Increasing On Consoles’, Gamasutra,
    Jo Bryce & Jason Rutter, 2003, ‘Gender dynamics and the social and spatial organisation of computer gaming’, Leisure Studies, 22: 1-15
    Jo Bryce, Jason Rutter and Cath Sullivan, 2006, ‘Digital games and gender’, in Jason Rutter & Jo Bryce (eds.), Understanding Digital Games, London: Sage.
    Judith Butler, 1990, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London: Routledge.
    Children Now, 2000, Girls and Gaming: A Console Video Game Content Analysis, Oakland, CA: Children Now
    J. Colwell & J. Payne, 2000, ‘Negative correlates of computer game play in adolescents’, British Journal of Psychology, 91: 295-310.
    G. Crawford & V. Gosling, 2005, ‘Toys for boys? Women’s marginalization and participation as digital gamers’, Sociological Research Online, 10, (1),
    T.L. Dietz, 1998, ‘An Examination of violence and gender role portrayals in video games’, Sex Roles, 38 (5-6): 425-42
    J. B. Funk, 1993, ‘Re-evaluating the impact of computer games’, Clinical Paediatrics, 32: 86-90
    AleksKrotoski, 2004, ‘Chicks and joysticks: an exploration of women and gaming’, ELSPA white paper,
    Carolyn Marvin, 1988, When Old Technologies Were New. Thinking about Electric Communication in the Late Nineteenth Century, New York: Oxford University Press
    Steven Poole, 2000, Trigger Happy: the inner life of videogames, London: Fourth Estate
    Steven Poole, 2004, Trigger Happy: videogames and the entertainment revolution, New York: Arcade Publishing
    G. R. Schott & K.R. Horrell, 2000, ‘Girl gamers and their relationship with the gaming culture’ Convergence, 6: 36-53