ArticlePDF Available

Women, video gaming and learning: Beyond stereotypes

Authors:

Abstract

Abstract This paper critically assesses current beliefs about women and video gaming, and provides an alternative perspective on gender issues in gameplay. Implications are drawn for the design of games for learning. Gender and Gaming While video gaming has grown immensely as an industry over the last decade, with growing numbers of gamers around the globe, including women, gaming continues to be a very gendered practice. The apparentgender,divide in video gaming has caught the attention of both the gaming industry as well as educators, generating considerable and conflicting perspectives on its causes and consequences,as well as strategies to address it. The gaming industry obviously has a vested interest (profit) in attracting more gamers, and women have seemed a likely market for quite someti me. Women already are gaming in growing numbers but they tend not to play the more complex, revenue- generating “hard-core” games such as first-person shooters and fantasy games in as many numbers as men. Women tend to playm ore “casual” games such as Tetris and Solitaire, or games like The Sims(Angelo, 2004, May 14; Krotoski, 2004).
WOMEN, VIDEO GAMING, & LEARNING: BEYOND STEREOTYPES
Elisabeth Hayes
University of Wisconsin-Madison
erhayes@education.wisc.edu
(608) 263-0774
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
225 N. Mills St.
Madison, WI 53719
Article to appear in TechTrends, forthcoming
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
WOMEN, VIDEO GAMING, & LEARNING: BEYOND STEREOTYPES
Abstract
This paper critically assesses current beliefs about women and video gaming, and
provides an alternative perspective on gender issues in game play. Implications are drawn
for the design of games for learning.
Gender and Gaming
While video gaming has grown immensely as an industry over the last decade,
with growing numbers of gamers around the globe, including women, gaming continues
to be a very gendered practice. The apparent gender divide in video gaming has caught
the attention of both the gaming industry as well as educators, generating considerable
and conflicting perspectives on its causes and consequences, as well as strategies to
address it. The gaming industry obviously has a vested interest (profit) in attracting more
gamers, and women have seemed a likely market for quite some time. Women already
are gaming in growing numbers but they tend not to play the more complex, revenue-
generating “hard-core” games such as first-person shooters and fantasy games in as many
numbers as men. Women tend to play more “casual” games such as Tetris and Solitaire,
or games like The Sims (Angelo, 2004, May 14; Krotoski, 2004).
For educators, there are reasons other than profit for giving attention to gender
issues in gaming. Video gaming is now often children’s first and most compelling
introduction to digital technologies, and is presumed to be a door to a broader range of
digital tools and applications. Gaming might help develop confidence and skills in using
1
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
digital technologies, leading to an increased interest and aptitude for careers in computer
science and other fields that rely heavily on such technologies(AAUW Educational
Commission on Teaching, 2000). Playing casual games might not offer as many
opportunities for developing more advanced skills such as modding. Women and men’s
preferences and aptitudes for different kinds of games might also have implications for
the design and use of instructional technologies that appeal to both sexes (see Squire &
Jenkins, 2004, for examples of computer and video games used for education).
These possibilities have led to a flurry of research and speculation on girls’ and
women’s attitudes towards games, self-identified preferences, and gaming strategies. The
result has been the development of “girl games,” a host of rather broad assertions about
differences between women and men as gamers, and a considerable amount of ongoing
disagreement about the value of both (see, for example, Cassell & Jenkins, 1998; Wright,
n.d.). My goal in this paper is to point out some problems with popular assumptions about
women as gamers, and to suggest an alternative way of understanding their orientations
towards gaming. I will suggest some implications of this perspective for educators who
are interested in designing games for learning.
The Problem with Mars and Venus
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. This type of evidence is problematic in a number of ways.
First, interpretations of women and men’s current gaming practices and preferences often
give little attention to how these are dependent on the relative accessibility of different
2
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
games, past experience (or lack of experience) with gaming, and knowledge of different
game genres. For example, the number of middle aged women who play puzzle-type
games has been interpreted as an innate female preference for “problem-solving,” when it
could be just as likely that women play such games because they can be played in short
periods of time and that they are readily available on internet, both factors important for
incorporating games into adult responsibilities. Similarly, girls and women often tell
stories of how, as children, computers and game consoles were purchased for their
brothers or placed in their brothers’ rooms, giving girls fewer opportunities to play games
as well as further reinforcing the idea that gaming is a masculine practice (Margolis &
Fisher, 2002).
A second problem is that explanations for gendered play patterns tend to be linked
to broad theories about biologically or psychologically based gender differences. These
theories often have rather tenuous connections to the specific practices of game play, and
do not take into account the effects of personal history or social context. For example,
the belief that women prefer indirect competition to direct competition has been widely
touted as a explanation for why women seem to dislike violent games (Graner Ray,
2004). This preference is assumed to have evolved from women’s historical role in
childbearing and caring for young offspring, making the threat of physical injury more
significant for them than for men (Campbell, 2002; Graner Ray, 2004). Among other
weaknesses, this notion seems to ignore evidence that, from very early ages, men are
given much more encouragement and opportunity to derive pleasure from aggressive,
competitive play, while women are encouraged to engage in more sedate, nuturing types
of activities (Valian, 1998).
3
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
A third problem with current beliefs about gender and gaming is that diversity
among women as well as among men is typically ignored in favor of making global
distinctions between the sexes. Men do not all like the same kinds of games, as is readily
apparent in how some men favor sports games, others play only first person shooters,
some prefer real time strategy games, while still others gravitate towards role-playing
games; furthermore, many men play across genres. Already we know that some women
enjoy and are successful at playing “hard-core” games, as can be seen from their
comments on various sites devoted to women gamers (e.g., GameGal.com;
gamegirladvance.com; GameGirlz.com; WomenGamers.com). Related to this point,
assertions about gender attributes are often drawn from particular groups of women, such
as adolescent girls or middle aged women, and generalized to women of all ages. In fact,
beliefs about the preferences of male gamers still are based on the adolescent hard-core
gamer, a profile that does not represent, for example, the gaming practices of many adult
men who do not have a luxury of endless hours of gaming, want more depth of game play
or who are just as turned off by bimbo female avatars as many women.
Given this complexity, some authors (e.g., Reynolds, 2005) have argued that
continued attention to gender as a factor influencing gaming simply reifies difference,
contributing to a continued marginalization and misunderstanding of women gamers.
While delineating dichotomous differences between the sexes is not helpful, ignoring
gender is also problematic. Gender, like it or not, has huge impact on our identities and
participation in social practices, including gaming. Obviously, games still tend to be
marketed more to men, game magazines cater to males (often celebrating hard core
gamer practices and ethos), and the content of many games appears to be designed to
4
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
appeal to adolescent male fantasies. In fact, the continued stereotyping of female gamers
may reinforce the appeal of gaming for men as a means of asserting and displaying
masculinity, similar to certain sports (see, for example, the discussion of gender
dynamics and snowboarding in Anderson, 1999).
In the remainder of this article, I wish to offer an alternative to the “pink and blue”
conceptualization of men and women as gamers. I argue that:
(a) Some “female” gaming practices can be attributed to women’s lack of experience
with gaming rather than to innate gender-specific preferences, Past experience is
one factor that has not been taken into consideration in much past research on
women and men’s preferences in gaming. However, this may figure strongly in,
for example, women’s reported motivations and preferred learning styles.
(b) Women’s reactions to overtly gendered practices within games, such as fighting,
will vary according to other aspects of their past experience, identities, and
motivations.
(c) Women’s gaming preferences may change over time and experience; in other
words, some gaming practices are “acquired” tastes that are enhanced with
practice, success, and a supportive social context.
I will use examples from interviews with and observations of two adult women, Joanna
and Deirdre, who played The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind as part of a university course on
video gaming and learning. Both women were in their late 20s and their prior experience
with gaming was limited mostly to some console gaming as children. They took the
course for similar reasons, primarily because they felt that understanding video gaming
would be helpful in their current and future work as educators with adolescents and
5
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
young adults. Joanna, who was pursuing an advanced degree in Rhetoric and
Composition Studies, was a writing instructor and consultant. She described herself as a
somewhat poorly motivated student in the past, and was excited by the potential of
understanding new, cutting edge technologies. Deirdre was earning a graduate degree in
Curriculum and Instruction, to support her work in Christian youth education. She had
excelled in science as a high school student, but switched career plans from premed to
education as an undergraduate, despite what she felt were expectations of her as a “girl
good in science.”
Joanna and Deidre chose to play Morrowind to fulfill the course requirement of
playing a video game for 50 hours. Morrowind is the third in the series of The Elder
Scrolls role-playing games. Role-playing games allow players to develop one or more
characters by selecting attributes at the beginning and throughout the game, through
making choices about strategies and skills. Players’ actions define their characters, and
game play changes and evolves in response to these actions. The storyline is more or less
structured by a set of challenges or quests that allow players to improve their skills,
explore the world of the game, and achieve goals more or less related to the storyline. The
Elder Scrolls series, particularly Morrrowind, is distinctive in its open-endedness,
offering players a vast number of choices about how to develop their character, what
types of goals and activities to pursue. Because of its open-endedness and
accommodation of a wide variety of potential gaming styles, Morrowind offered a
particularly useful context for exploring how gender might have influenced the women’s
orientations and practices within game (for more information about the game, see
http://www.morrowind.com).
6
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
Playing Like a Newbie? Confounding Gender and Experience
Some widely circulated assertions about gender differences in gaming include: (1)
men are motivated simply by winning, women want to accomplish something socially
significant and beneficial; (2) men want to start over and accept punishment for errors;
women want errors forgiven and to continue on in the game; and (3) men prefer to learn
through expository explanation, while women want to observe model game play (Graner
Ray, 2004). Upon closer examination, these so-called female preferences could readily be
attributed to women’s lower likelihood for status among peers or identity reinforcement
simply from “beating” the game (desire to achieve other goals), greater uncertainty about
their odds of success in the game (desire for forgiveness of errors), and lack of concrete
images of game play (desire for modeling). Even these preferences can be mediated by
women’s past learning experiences and their self-perceptions as learners.
Joanna and Deirdre as “newbies” demonstrated quite different orientations to
learning how to play the game, providing good examples of the diverse ways that new
women gamers might orient to game play. While Morrowind is quite open-ended, it does
have a series of quests that move the player through the central storyline, that of finding
her “real” identity as the next leader and legendary figure of Morrowind. Joanna was
quite motivated by “winning” or mastering the game through completing the main quests
and “making it to the end of the game.” For her, the opportunity to succeed in the game
reflected a chance to change a past pattern of what she characterized as rather limited
effort and mixed success with difficult tasks, particularly with stereotypically masculine
school subjects such as chemistry. In contrast, Deirdre’s approach to game play was
7
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
motivated by a desire to do what she wanted, reflecting her present desire to find her own
life path rather than conforming to what she felt was expected of her. The women were
more motivated by the significance of their own personal goals rather than by any
particular goals offered by the game itself.
Morrowind is a relatively forgiving game; the player can save at any point and
death results only in starting again at the last save. After many hours of game play,
Joanna chose to start over the game when she decided she didn’t like her avatar’s
constellation of skills and that she wasn’t “doing it right.” She viewed this not as
punishment but as a chance to start with a clean slate and perfect her game play. Deidre
opted out of playing the game the “right way” and did what she found most pleasurable;
errors, such as dying or taking the wrong path, were simply part of figuring out the game,
a source of learning rather than something to be punished or forgiven. Joanna relied on a
wide variety of resources for learning; while modeling was not readily available, she
readily used other people’s advice as well as expository documents, such as
walkthroughs. Deirdre preferred to figure things out on her own, referring only to guides
for making potions, which became one of her favorite activities within the game.
As these examples suggest, predicting the preferences of new female gamers is
likely to be difficult. How a new gamer will approach learning to play a game will be
reflective of her goals and self-confidence. Of course, Morrowind accommodated a
variety of learning modes, and not all games are as flexible. In addition, both women
struggled with learning to navigate the game space, and their personal goals combined
with the pressure of a course requirement contributed to their persistence.
8
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
Playing Like a Girl? The Meanings of Gendered Practices
Women have different interpretations of and responses to overtly gendered
practices within video games, just as they do in the “real world.” Take as one example
the assertion that women prefer games that allow them to develop cooperative social
relationships, rather than games that feature violence as the main form of social
‘interaction’ (Angelo, 2004, May 14; Goodale, 2004; Graner Ray, 2004; Laurel, 1998).
This assertion often is based on women’s apparent affinity for multiplayer games, or
single player games like The Sims that involve managing families and interpersonal
relationships. A common explanation for this preference is that mutuality and
relationships are a primary source of identity for women, while men’s identities are
defined more by individuality and social hierarchy(Gilligan, 1982; Jordan, Kaplan,
Miller, Stiver, & Surrey, 1991).
Morrowind offers somewhat limited opportunities for cooperative social
relationships, although it does involve a considerable amount of interaction with NPCs.
Players do have the choice of joining various factions that offer additional quests and add
to the game narrative. Joanna and Deirdre both seemed drawn to more positive social
interactions to the extent that they were possible in the game. However, these interactions
had quite different meanings and purposes for each woman. For Joanna, “talking to other
people” became a key strategy for obtaining information and resources. Her goal was to
“get them to do what she wanted” through persuasion and wearing impressive clothes.
She also joined as many factions as possible, until she reached the point that their
demands were interfering with her progress on the main quests, and she abandoned them.
9
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
Joanna’s skill at social relationships became instrumental to her progress and power in
the game.
In contrast, at the outset of the game, Deirdre chose to be a healer, reflecting her
real-life desire to “help other people.” The game did not provide many opportunities for
her to use these healing powers, which disappointed her (and reflects a bias in the game).
She did enjoy occasional opportunities to assist characters in the game, such as freeing
slaves. However, she avoided most factions and took quests only when as long as they
met her own moral standards. She upped her skills in potion-making specifically so that
she could be independent as well as to make money; in fact, she bragged about buying
out the village salespeople.
Each woman did find pleasure in relating to characters in the game in ways that
did not involve violence. However, these interactions were not necessarily helping
relationships but were sources of power and self-assertion. Indeed, for both women the
game provided opportunities to experiment with new forms of identity that they desired
beyond the game.
Playing Like a Boy? Enjoying “Masculine” Pleasures
Combat is typically used as an example of a masculine practice commonly found
in video games that women do not find appealing. One explanation for women’s dislike
of combat is that it represents a form of direct competition, while women are more likely
to be comfortable with (and have experience in) indirect competition (i.e., through
negotiation or compromise) (Graner Ray, 2004). However, there is ample evidence of
women who are avid players of the most stereotypically male-oriented games, who enjoy
10
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
fighting, competition, and independence as much as many male players (see, for example,
the interviews with female gamers in chapter 14 of Cassell & Jenkins, 1998, and in
Taylor, 2003). Such women continue to be treated as aberrations, leaving us with little
insight into how and why they find such so-called masculine practices so pleasurable.
Joanna and Deirdre (and indeed, all of the women in their graduate course) were
not initially enthusiastic about the fighting in Morrowind. While they both expressed an
initial desire to avoid fighting, each woman construed combat differently, in relation to
their own past experience and goals. When it became apparent that fighting was
unavoidable, at least for self-defense, they both improvised identities and practices that
allowed them to engage in combat in ways that they found comfortable and rewarding.
For Joanna, her lack of prior experience with (virtual) combat, in combination
with her concerns about “doing things right” in the game, led her to figure fighting as a
potential opportunity for failure. She initially tried to avoid fighting by choosing a
character that could make potions and using magic. After discovering that she didn’t
enjoy potion-making (she compared it to cooking, which she also disliked), Joanna found
cheat codes that enabled her to fight with some assurance of success. She enjoyed
fighting, particularly to obtain new items as “drops” from her slain opponents.
At the start of the game, Deirdre figured combat as something that conflicted with
her desire to be a healer. When she discovered that she had to defend herself against
hostile creatures as she explored the territory of the game, she became adept at hand-to-
hand combat – fighting without weapons – something that ultimately became a
considerable source of pride for her since it represented a somewhat unusual skill.
11
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
The context of the game had an important influence on the women’s pleasure in
combat. Fighting, when figured within the game world as a valued practice that required
skill and that was crucial to accomplishing goals, became a source of power and mastery.
Taylor (2003)suggests that women’s enjoyment of violence in video gaming results not
from the fighting per se, but from public display of proficiency in a valued practice: “the
actual fight is as much an opportunity to demonstrate the valued qualities of game
mastery as anything” (p. 34). In Taylor’s work as well as for the two women in this study,
the pleasures of fighting were connected to other goals and identities. The women in
Taylor’s study were playing Everquest, and fighting skills were essential for participating
in raids and otherwise gaining status among other players. In the single player context of
Morrowwind, these social relationships did not exist. For Joanna and Deirdre, skill in
combat was not, at this stage in their gaming, a primary source of identity as much as a
means of supporting practices more integral to these identities: a means of gathering
great clothes, potion ingredients, exploring new lands, or “doing things right.” Not only
the game context, but also the context of the university course made fighting an
acceptable and even valued practice, as the women shared experiences with other women
in class and could brag about their growing proficiency with fighting in these games.
Gender and Games for Learning
What can we draw from these examples for the design and use of games for more
overtly educational purposes? Below I list some general recommendations:
1. Avoid stereotypes. This sums up the major point of this paper, in case you missed
it. Don't base a game on the assumption that women and girls want to shop, talk,
12
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
dress up, or play nice. Yes, they may enjoy these activities, but they may also
enjoy beating up monsters, driving fast cars, saving the world, getting a lot of
gold, and winning the game. They might need some support at first, particularly if
they have never wielded a weapon or held a controller, but don’t let women miss
out on activities that might ultimately be quite motivating, just because they are
supposed to be “masculine” pleasures.
2. Don’t assume women are all alike. Joanna and Deirdre’s game play was quite
different, even in the context of the same game. We know that no one teaching
style appeals to all people, and neither does any particular game. The same thing
applies to men as well; keep in mind that while The Sims is touted for its appeal to
women, about half of Sims players are actually male. A variety of experiences are
needed to motivate different women and to sustain their interest and success in
learning. Some women like explicit guidance, some like to figure things out on
their own; some like open-ended exploration, some like a more linear sequence of
tasks. Women like variety too, just like men. In addition, women can have quite
different responses to overtly gendered practices, responses that do not readily
conform to common assumptions and that may change with time and experience.
3. Provide scaffolding for new gamers. Many commercial games require skills and
genre knowledge that males with prior gaming experience take for granted. This
includes not only in-game practices such as combat, but also knowledge of game
interfaces, spatial navigation, and strategies such as exploring all spaces to find
useful items or to discover new territory. These elements may be incorporated
into educational games, but be sure to make those things learnable in the game.
13
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
Good tutorials are essential for new gamers, but avoid making them too didactic.
The best tutorials are like a “sandbox’ (Gee, 2003); they immerse players in
scaffolded game play, so they feel like playing the real game.
4. Do consider overall game design, not just particular elements in isolation. The
interrelationship of various kinds of practices may be more important to a
successful gaming experience than any single attribute of a game. Simply taking
out violence, or adding puzzles and social interactions, is not the way to make
games that have broad appeal for women. In fact, games that combine elements
associated with both stereotypically masculine and feminine pleasures and
strengths may ultimately be the most stimulating and potentially valuable games
for learning as well as entertainment. Morrowind proved to be a pretty good
example of a game with such a mixture of elements, though even this had its
biases, such as the imperative of fighting, or the limited opportunities for healing
other characters. Incorporating familiar as well as unfamiliar practices, that both
draw on and extend players’ prior knowledge and skills, is a principle of good
instructional design in any context.
5. Do create a supportive social context for gaming-to-learn. A recent study found
that college students of both genders typically played video games with friends
and family, not in isolation (Jones, 2003). Players of commercial games are
supported by extensive networks of other gamers, who share walkthroughs,
cheats, maps, and other player-generated resources. Such networks also offer
social recognition for gaming expertise and encouragement for newbies. This kind
14
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
of support may be particularly important for women, who need to challenge
stereotypes about their skills and abilities as gamers.
Ultimately, it seems quite likely that designing games that will appeal to women – and
are good for learning - is a lot like designing good games in general. Attention to
diversity of experience, ability, knowledge, and goals will lead to more successful and
motivating designs for any kind of learning, game-based or otherwise.
References
AAUW Educational Commission on Teaching, G., and Teacher Education. (2000). Tech-
savvy: Educating girls in the new computer age.Washington, DC: American
Association of University Women Educational Foundation.
Anderson, K. L. (1999). Snowboarding: The construction of gender in an emerging sport.
Journal of Sport & Social Issues, 23(1), 55-79.
Angelo, J. (2004, May 14). New study reveals that women over 40 who play online
games spend far more time playing than male or teenage gamers. Retrieved June
1, 2005, from
http://media.aoltimewarner.com/media/cb_press_view.cfm?release_num=552537
74
Campbell, A. (2002). A mind of her own: The evolutionary psychology of women. New
York: Oxford University Press.
Cassell, J., & Jenkins, H. (1998). Chess for girls? Feminism and computer games. In J.
Cassell & H. Jenkins (Eds.), From Barbie to Mortal Kombat (pp. 4 - 46). Boston:
The MIT Press.
Gee, J. P. (2003). What videogames have to teach us about learning and literacy. New
York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Gilligan, C. (1982). In a different voice: Psychological theory and women's development.
Boston: Harvard University Press.
Goodale, G. (2004, June 11, 2004). Games women play. Christian Science Monitor.
Retrieved September 12, 2004 from
http://www.csmonitor.com/2004/0611/p13s01-stin.html
Graner Ray, S. (2004). Gender inclusive game design: Expanding the market. Hingham,
Massachusetts: Charles River Media.
Jones, S. (2003). Let the games begin: Gaming technology and entertainment among
college students. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Jordan, J. V., Kaplan, A. G., Miller, J. B., Stiver, I. P., & Surrey, J. L. (1991). Women's
growth in connection: Writings from the stone center. New York: Guilford Press.
15
Running head: Women, Video gaming, & Learning
Krotoski, A. (2004). Chicks and joysticks: An exploration of women and gaming.
London: Entertainment & Leisure Software Publishers Association.
Laurel, B. (1998). An interview with Brenda Laurel. In J. Cassell & H. Jenkins (Eds.),
From Barbie to Mortal Kombat (pp. 118-135). Boston: The MIT Press.
Margolis, J., & Fisher, A. (2002). Unlocking the clubhouse: Women in computing.
Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Reynolds, E. (2005). Women in gaming, and women's game conferences. Retrieved
August 14, 2005 from http://www.game-instructions.com/articles/women-
gaming-conferences/women-alienation/
Squire, K., & Jenkins, H. (2004). Harnessing the power of games in education. Insight,
3(1), 5-33.
Taylor, T. L. (2003). Multiple pleasures: Women and online gaming. Convergence, 9(1),
21-46.
Valian, V. (1998). Why so slow? The advancement of women. Cambridge, MA: The MIT
Press.
Wright, K. (n.d.). Girl games: Help or hindrance? Retrieved January 7, 2005 from
http://www.womengamers.com/doctork/girlgames.php
16
... To evaluate the accuracy of APG, we compare the generated personas with the baseline survey data along gender and age. Figure 6 shows that the generated personas correspond well with the gender distribution in the raw survey data. This is an important property, as it shows APG can capture the gender diversity of the players and thus help combat stereotypes such as gamers being male [9]. In terms of age correspondence, we use Kendall's tau to compare the ranks of the seven applied age groups in the raw data and in the generated personas. ...
... • Reducing stereotypical thinking: Using APG, game developers can create data-driven personas of players. This can help solve perceptual issues in the gaming community, such as gender stereotyping [9], as gender diversity in player types can be demonstrated using real data. ...
... Moreover, many games created for girls reinforce stereotypes about the kinds of things girls are interested in (E. Hayes, 2005). The boy-dominated characteristics -shooting, violent graphics, loud noises-do not appeal to girls who tend to prefer games that encourage collaboration with other players and involve storylines and character development with female characters (Gürer & Camp, 2002). ...
... Gender has been observed as influencing women's access in a variety of ways. For instance, some studies have noted that women have unique time constraints that make them less likely to play video games and, if they do play, less likely to spend as much time as their male counterparts (Hayes 2005;Lucas & Sherry 2004;Taylor 2006;Winn & Heeter 2009). These circumstances may be changing, however. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
Most aspects of life involve gender gaps in terms of entrance, experience, and outcome. Video games have largely not been an exception to this, but more recent studies are finding that factors other than gender may be more powerful as predictors for similarity or difference among players. This study uses interviews with 54 current adult video game players and analyses of online forum discussions to better understand player experiences, motivations, and preferences. Ultimately, players are much more similar than older studies would lead one to believe. The majority of players enter gaming at the same time through similar paths and they identify the same motivating factors consistently in terms of why they play. However, while players note that they are motivated by opportunities to relax, participate in a compelling story, and overcome challenges, female players do diverge from male players in that their idea of relaxation is much less social.
... Specifically, learners in complex learning environments such as educational games would need learning supports to identify relevant information (Wouters & van Oostendorp, 2013). Hayes (2005) also reported that scaffolding, including supportive social context, is an important factor moderating the learning effectiveness of educational games. Finally, Clark et al. (2011) argued that video games need to provide not only an interactive environment that engenders engagement but also learning supports to transfer qualitative understanding to formal school learning context. ...
Article
A promising method to support game-based learning is to facilitate learners' externalization of cognitive and metacognitive processes. Externalizing Problem Representation (EPR) refers to a cognitive behaviour in which a learner constructs her own representations overtly. The purpose of this study is to investigate whether learning supports promoting EPR enhance qualitative understanding and quantitative proficiency in ratios and proportional relationships in a learning game (i.e., E-Rebuild) context. Specifically, this study investigated the effects of representation format in problem representation on qualitative understanding and quantitative proficiency in a learning game context. The results of this study indicate that (a) symbolic learning supports better facilitate comprehension of math concepts and their relations than iconic learning supports in video game contexts, (b) symbolic learning supports better facilitate players' reflection for implicit understanding and promote their math problem-solving skills, (c) participants in the symbolic learning support group increased significantly in qualitative understanding but not in quantitative proficiency after gameplay, and (d) participants in the iconic learning support group experienced significant growth in quantitative proficiency but not in qualitative understanding after gameplay.
Chapter
Today’s media are vast in both form and influence; however, few cultural studies scholars address the video gaming industry’s role in domestic maintenance and global imposition of U.S. hegemonic ideologies. In this study, video games are analyzed by cover art, content, and origin of production. Whether it is earning more “powers” in games such as Star Wars, or earning points to purchase more powerful artillery in Grand Theft Auto, capitalist ideology is reinforced in a subtle, entertaining fashion. This study shows that oppressive hegemonic representations of gender and race are not only present, but permeate the majority of top-selling video games. Finally, the study traces the origins of best-selling games, to reveal a virtual U.S. monopoly in the content of this formative medium.
Chapter
The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationships between gameplay enjoyment, gaming goal orientations, and individual characteristics. A total of 301 participants were surveyed and the data were analyzed using structural equation modeling. This led to an expanded Gameplay Enjoyment Model (GEM) with 41 game design features that influence player enjoyment. Furthermore, a 3x2 Gaming Goal Orientations model was established with six dimensions that describe players' motivations for gaming. In addition, players' individual characteristics were used to predict gameplay enjoyment in the GEM-Individual Characteristics model. The six Gaming Goal Orientations dimensions were the strongest predictors, while the commonly used gender and hours played per week variables failed to predict enjoyment. The results of this study enable important work to be conducted surrounding gameplay experiences and individual characteristics. Ultimately, it is believed that the Gameplay Enjoyment Model, Gaming Goal Orientations, and the GEM-Individual Characteristics model will be useful tools for researchers and designers who seek to create effective gameplay experiences that meet the needs of players.
Chapter
We are in new times that call for new ways of thinking. Digital disruption is almost the norm, and the power of social media has shaken governments. The emergence of this new disruptive Social Era demands a new model for framing the cultural, social and structural contexts, and influences on women in IT. Such a model is presented in the “STEMcell” Model, a unique 3D Earth-style visualisation that incorporates the influence of social media in its #SocialIT layer and brings new recognition to the central role of the individual at and as its core. The rules have changed, so when viewing women in technology, it is time to adapt and adopt the new model. It is time to consider the core significance of the individual and the seismic digital disruptions and tectonic technological changes we are experiencing and move towards a new approach. The rules of the new social era are translated into new rules of encouraging women in IT in this chapter. The key is that small, fast, fluid, and distributed will prevail over large, stable, and centralised.
Chapter
This paper expands on Gee’s (2004) notion of “affinity spaces” by placing them in the context of games, media stars, and their fans and combining cultural studies and new literacies approaches. The Guild, a web series about the misadventures of MMO-players, written by and starring actor, writer, producer, and gamer Felicia Day, is examined. On WatchTheGuild.com, fans of The Guild enact literacy practices, particularly those that align with Day’s activities and star persona, such as media production and critique. These literacy practices are constrained by the limitations of projective identity in the context of star-based affinity spaces. Taking on projective identities within The Guild’s affinity space, individuals are faced with the impossibility of fully achieving the star’s – Day’s – successful identity as simultaneously gamer and media producer. The imbalance in cultural power allows the professionally manufactured star image to remain forever unattainable. This paper proposes reconsidering projective identity to move beyond the affinity space to develop one’s own sense of mastery outside the context of star-based fandom.
Article
This article explores the issue of gender and computer games by looking at the growing population of women in massive multiplayer online role-playing environments (MMORPGs). It explores what are traditionally seen as masculine spaces and seeks to understand the variety of reasons women might participate. Through ethnographic and interview data, the themes of social interaction, mastery and status, team participation, and exploration are considered as compelling activities female gamers are engaging in online. Given that these online games often include a component of fighting, the issue of violence is discussed. Rather than seeing this group of players as an anomaly, this article explores how focusing on the pleasures women derive from gaming might lend a more complex understanding of both gender and computer games. Finally, a consideration of how design is affecting this emerging genre is explored.
Article
Previous research has identified sport as a practice that creates and legitimizes notions of male dominance. However, gender is constructed and resisted differently within various sporting activities. This article addresses the diversity of masculinities in sport through an exploration of the construction of gender in an emerging sport—snowboarding. The analysis identifies four social practices used by male snowboarders to construct their sport as a masculine practice: (a) appropriation of other cultural masculinities, (b) interaction and clothing styles, (c) violence and aggression, and (d) emphasized heterosexuality. The findings indicate that the historical context of snowboarding and the social class, race-ethnicity, and age of snowboarding participants influence the social practices used to create masculinity. Although snowboarders rely on different social practices to construct masculinity than those used in organized sports, these practices also serve to support notions of male dominance and difference from women.
Conference Paper
We recount some of the most significant and colorful findings of our four-year study of gender issues in the undergraduate computer science program at Carnegie Mellon. We also discuss the subsequent dramatic increase in the number of women in the program. We conclude with recommendations for the most generally useful and effective actions departments can take to attract and retain female students.