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Shirts vs. Skins: Clothing as an Indicator of Gender Role Stereotyping in Video Games

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This research uses content analysis to examine the portrayal of women in 47 randomly selected games from the Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation console gaming systems. We suggest that video games, similar to other media forms, are sources of information that children and young adults may use to determine what behaviors and attitudes are considered appropriately masculine and feminine. This analysis revealed a significant sex bias in the number of male versus female characters found in the games and among the way in which the male and female characters were dressed. Of the 597 characters coded, only 82 (13.74%) were women. The Nintendo 64 games had the fewest number of female characters, and the majority of the female characters wore clothing that exposed more skin than the male characters.
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Mass Communication and Society
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Shirts vs. Skins: Clothing as an Indicator of Gender
Role Stereotyping in Video Games
Berrin Beasley & Tracy Collins Standley
To cite this article: Berrin Beasley & Tracy Collins Standley (2002) Shirts vs. Skins: Clothing as
an Indicator of Gender Role Stereotyping in Video Games, Mass Communication and Society,
5:3, 279-293, DOI: 10.1207/S15327825MCS0503_3
To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1207/S15327825MCS0503_3
Published online: 17 Nov 2009.
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MASS COMMUNICATION & SOCIETY, 2002, 5(3), 279–293
Shirts vs. Skins:
Clothing as an Indicator of Gender
Role Stereotyping in Video Games
Berrin Beasley
Department of Communications and Visual Arts
University of North Florida
Tracy Collins Standley
Department of Mass Communication
McNeese State University
This research uses content analysis to examine the portrayal of women in 47 randomly
selected games from the Nintendo 64 and Sony PlayStation console gaming systems.
We suggest that video games, similar to other media forms, are sources of informa-
tion that children and young adults may use to determine what behaviors and atti-
tudes are considered appropriately masculine and feminine. This analysis revealed
a significant sex bias in the number of male versus female characters found in the
games and among the way in which the male and female characters were dressed.
Of the 597 characters coded, only 82 (13.74%) were women. The Nintendo 64 games
had the fewest number of female characters, and the majority of the female charac-
ters wore clothing that exposed more skin than the male characters.
In the aftermath of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) September 2000
findings that the film, music, and video game industries were inappropriately target-
ing adult-oriented material to children, it became obvious that parents and scholars
alike needed to more closely inspect the content of such material. Although the
FTC’s focus was on violence, and indeed many scholars have already asserted the
connection between violent media content and increased levels of aggression, many
times as indicated by aggressive play (Anderson & Dill, 2000; Anderson & Ford,
Requests for reprints should be sent to Berrin Beasley, Department of Communications and Visual
Arts, University of North Florida, 4567 St. John’s Bluff Road South, Jacksonville, FL 32224-2645.
Downloaded by [University of North Florida] at 07:57 19 April 2016
1986; J. Cooper & Mackie, 1986; Dickinson, 2000; Graybill, Strawniak, Hunter, &
O’Leary, 1987; Irwin & Gross, 1995; Kirsh, 1998; Schutte, Malouff, Post-Gorden,
& Rodasta, 1988; Silvern & Williamson, 1987), a second area of concern needed
to be addressed. Media content cannot only affect attitudes toward violence, but
has also been demonstrated to affect attitudes toward acceptable gender role be-
havior. Decades of research in other media content categories have established a
strong correlation between consumption of media content and attitudes toward ac-
ceptable gender-related clothing and behavior (Brabant & Mooney, 1986; Cantor,
1987; V. W. Cooper, 1985; Davis, 1984; Durkin, 1985; Kolbe & LoVoie, 1982;
Milkie, 1994; Purcell & Stewart, 1990). Although much attention has been fo-
cused over the years on the potential effects of film, television, and
music, the video game industry is still in its infancy as compared with that of the
previous categories. Little research has been directed at this heavily child- and
teen-oriented media industry (Anders, 1999; Brody, 2000), particularly in regard
to how video game content may indicate appropriate and acceptable gender
behavior to users.
Just as television has gained a foothold in the household and become a major
socializing factor in a child’s life (Berry & Mitchell-Kernan, 1982), video games
and game systems are steadily becoming household fixtures. The video game
industry has already won 30% of the U.S. toy market (Van Horn, 1999). More than
50 million homes have either a Nintendo or Sega system (Jehlen, 1994). Video
gaming is a profitable industry. In 1999, Americans bought more than 215 million
computer and video games, which calculates to more than 2 games per household
(Jenkin, 2000). The video-gaming industry earned between $6 billion and $9 bil-
lion (depending on sources) in recent annual sales, more than the $5.2 billion Hol-
lywood box office gross earned in 1999 (Dickinson, 2000; Jenkin, 2000; Van Horn,
1999). Because video games are designed for repeated play (the more deluxe
games are designed for more than 100 hr of play), the games cannot be considered
a one-time experience but an ongoing experience that reinforces its social mes-
sages (Jenkin, 2000; Signorielli, 1993).
Research indicates that the majority of video game players are young men
(Griffiths, 1991; Kaplan, 1983; Wiegman & van Schie, 1998). Reasons given for this
range from the idea that video games contain more masculine than feminine players
(Dietz, 1998; Gutman, 1982; Morlock, Yando, & Nigolean, 1985) to the idea that
men tend to outperform women on tasks involving visual and spatial skills (Eagly,
1987; Kiesler, Sproull, & Eccles, 1983) to the idea that because girls spend more time
in personal care, social interaction, and chores than boys, boys then have more time
to spend playing video games (Griffiths, 1993; Huston, Wright, Marquis, & Green,
1999). Huston et al. (1999) found that weekday time spent playing video games was
very close between the 2- to 4-year-old boys and girls in their study, but from ages 5
to 7, boys spent considerably more minutes playing video games than did girls. In a
study of video game usage among 357 seventh- and eighth-graders, Funk (1993)
280 BEASLEY AND COLLINS STANDLEY
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found that roughly one third of all boys and girls in the study reported playing
video games at home for 1 to 2 hr per week. Among the boys, another 29% played
between 3 and 6 hr per week. Only 15% of the girls said they played video games
at home from 3 to 6 hr a week. More than one third of the girls said they did not
play video games at all; that number was 12% for boys. Video games are the most
popular form of entertainment for boys and men between 12 and 25 years of age
(Kotick, 2001). The core gaming audience is 8- to 14-year-old boys (Brody, 2000).
According to a national survey of more than 1,600 households in 1999 regarding
video game purchases and uses, nearly half (44%) of console players, such as
those who play Sony PlayStation and Nintendo 64, are 17 years of age or younger
(Anders, 1999). Sheff (1993) revealed that in “Q” ratings, which are designed to
indicate the popularity of public figures such as movie stars and politicians, Nin-
tendo’s mascot, Super Mario, was better recognized by American children than
Mickey Mouse.
The age of the core gaming audience, when combined with previous research
findings that indicate children can and do learn gender roles via the media, gives
rise to the question of how male and female characters are depicted in the PlaySta-
tion and Nintendo 64 console video games. Applying gender schema theory and
social learning theory to the way that children interpret what they see in video
games can help parents and researchers better understand the potential teaching
abilities of these media products.
According to gender schema theory, the process of applying learned sex con-
cepts to new information may be achieved through the use of schemata (Bem,
1981, 1983, 1993). Children form schemata of what behaviors, attitudes, and
clothing are appropriately masculine or feminine through accumulated experi-
ences (Wroblewski & Huston, 1987). Video games are just one source of many
for information about what is masculine or feminine. The contribution of video
games to the process of acquiring sex-based concepts is unknown at this time.
However, one may reason that if a child sees many female characters in typically
feminine clothing, such as the thong-bikini-clad characters in the wrestling
world, that will become part of his or her developed schema. Although gender
schema theory shows how an individual can arrive at a personal definition of gen-
der through internal processes, the question arises as to how the original
schemata form. Social learning theory is one way of explaining how children
learn about what are acceptable and unacceptable clothing and behaviors within
their society through the processes of reinforcement, observation, and imitation
(Bandura, 1965; Bandura, Ross, & Ross, 1963; Bandura & Walters, 1963;
Durkin, 1985).
Research that focuses specifically on video games and gender role acquisition
has been limited. Provenzo (1991) noted that the most popular games of the time
typically depicted stereotypic views of gender-appropriate behavior, where men
were often depicted as ruthless aggressors and women as victims of violence. His
GENDER ROLE STEREOTYPING IN VIDEO GAMES 281
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interviews with child players revealed that women are often perceived as holding
subordinate and even boring roles in electronic games. Much may have changed
in the 10 years following Provenzo’s research.
More recent findings are from Dietz (1998), who content-analyzed 33 Nintendo
and Sega Genesis video games popular in 1995 regarding the portrayal of women
and the use of violence. Dietz found that with 41% of the games, there were no
female characters. Of the games that included female characters, 28% depicted
the women as sex objects. Nearly 80% of the games included violence or aggres-
sion as part of the strategy or object of the game. Of those games, 21% depicted
violence directed at women. The weakness of Dietz’s work is that 6 years have
gone by since her analysis of the games. With Nintendo alone launching between
8 and 12 new games per year (Dorman, 1997), and with the advances in technol-
ogy, Dietz’s work is quickly outdated. Because of the rapid and unrelenting
advance of technology, video game research from as recent as 5 years ago is ques-
tionable in its application to modern game versions. PlayStation debuted at the
end of 1995 for $299 with games running $49, and Nintendo 64 debuted in the
United States at the end of 1996 for $199. These game systems have much more
advanced graphic capabilities than their predecessors, the Nintendo and Sega con-
sole systems. To accurately reflect the gaming industry, content analysis must be
frequent and thorough.
Indirectly related research by Funk and Buchman (1996) evaluated 364
fourth- and fifth-grade children’s views of gender differences in social ap-
proval for electronic game playing. The most telling findings were that the
boys tended to be more stereotyped in their attitudes about electronic games,
specifically when asked whether the fighting games were mainly for boys.
Boys were more likely to agree with the statement than the girls. Although this
study was indirectly concerned with gender role stereotyping, it did not at-
tempt to assess what specific gender behaviors users may learn from playing
video games.
Television and film are frequently thought of as being sources of behaviors to
be imitated, and although video games imitate the visual and audio elements of
films, they go a step further in allowing the media user to interact with the text
(Selnow, 1984; Wiegman & van Schie, 1998). This intense engagement with the
media product, in addition to the age of the product users and the knowledge that
children can and do learn stereotypical gender attributes from media products,
makes analyzing the gender role characteristics of video game characters an im-
portant part of understanding what children may be learning during their play
time. Clothing can be viewed as a prime indicator of sex roles in our society, even
in video games (Duncan, 1990; Riffe, Place, & Mayo, 1993). With this in mind,
we are interested in how the female characters are dressed in relation to the male
characters, a variable not given deep consideration in previous research con-
ducted on video games.
282 BEASLEY AND COLLINS STANDLEY
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METHOD
To determine gender role stereotyping based on the presence or absence of female
characters and the types of clothing those characters were wearing in video games,
a content analysis was conducted. A population of video games was constructed
by compiling a list of the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation games available for pur-
chase at the time of the study, except for adult-only titles. The game titles were
supplied from a major national toy store. By listing only those games still avail-
able for purchase from the manufacturer’s supplier, discontinued titles were not
included in the population. The population of video games consisted of 227
PlayStation games and 114 Nintendo 64 games. A random sample was taken from
this population—every seventh game beginning with the fifth game in the list of
games compiled from the store was selected. These numbers were randomly se-
lected from a list of random numbers. A total of 48 games was selected for the
sample—32 PlayStation games and 16 Nintendo 64 games.
The games were rented from area video game stores in one large city, one
midsize city, and two small towns. Because not all the games that were in the
sample were available to rent, some alterations to the sample occurred. For
the Nintendo 64 games, one game was not available to rent and was dropped from
the sample without replacement. For the PlayStation games, six games were not
available to rent. These games were replaced by random selection. The games in
the original sample were removed, and replacements were drawn from the
remaining games. The originally chosen sample, along with the replacements, is
listed in the appendix.
The Entertainment Software Rating Board has determined ratings for each
video game. These ratings categories are EC (Early Childhood) for ages 3 and
older, E (Everyone) for ages 6 and older, T (Teen) for ages 13 and older,
M (Mature) for ages 17 and older, and AO (Adults Only) for content for adults. In
addition, some older games in the sample have the rating K–A (Kids Through
Adults). These games were included with the games rated E because they were
targeted to that group. Also, in some cases, the games had an RP where the rating
should have been, indicating that the rating was pending. None of the games in-
cluded in the sample lacked a rating.
Unit of Analysis and Coding
The unit of analysis for this content analysis was character. Character was defined
as a human, animal, or object within a video game that displayed human-like qual-
ities such as speaking, using tools, or making conscious decisions. The game was
started at the beginning, and each character within the first 20 min of game play
was coded. It was determined that playing the complete game would require more
GENDER ROLE STEREOTYPING IN VIDEO GAMES 283
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skill than the coders had at video game playing, so 20 min was chosen to give an
idea of what types of characters would be present within the game. Characters
were coded for the game system they appeared in (Nintendo 64 or PlayStation),
the game rating, the game category, gender, species, sleeve length, neckline, lower
body clothing, and cleavage.
Characters were also coded for the type of game in which they appeared. The
possible categories were team sports, individual sports, storyline, combat, classic
video game, board game or game show, television or movie based, and other. Team
sports were defined as any sport where members play as a team, such as football,
baseball, or hockey. Individual sports were defined as any sport where the person
plays as an individual, such as snowboarding, track and field, racing, or fishing.
Storyline was defined as any game that emphasized a storyline over all other ele-
ments. In other words, a storyline game had an objective other than just playing
the game. For example, Crash Team Racing emphasized a storyline by explain-
ing that if the player did not win all his or her races, the world would be con-
quered by aliens. Role-playing games, such as Body Harvest, were also included
in this category. Combat games, such as Battlestations, were defined as any war
simulation games. Classic video games were defined as those games that were
originally released as an arcade game. Examples of classic video games are
Pac-Man, Frogger, Asteroids, and Centipede. Board game and game show games
were defined as those games based on a classic board game or a television game
show such as Jeopardy, Clue, or Monopoly. Television and movie-based games
were defined as those games based on a television show, such as MTV Music
Generator, or a movie. Games based on game shows were not included in this
definition because they are in a separate category. Other was a category for those
games that did not easily fit into any of the other categories. Because there were so
few characters that belonged to the classic video game, board game and game show,
television and movie-based, and other categories, these categories were combined
for analysis purposes.
Characters were also coded for gender and species. Categories for gender were
female, male, and unknown for those characters whose gender could not be deter-
mined. Categories for species were human, animal, object, and other. Because
there were relatively few characters that fell into the animal, object, and other cat-
egories, and in some cases it was difficult to tell whether a character was an actual
animal or some alien shape, for analysis purposes the animal, object, and other
categories were combined.
Clothing of characters was also coded. The clothing was split into three parts—
the sleeve length, the neckline, and the lower body clothing. The categories in-
cluded in sleeve length were long sleeves or those sleeves stretching from the
shoulder to the wrist, 3/4 sleeves or those sleeves stretching from the shoulder to
past the elbow but not reaching the wrist, short sleeves or those sleeves stretching
from the shoulder to above the elbow, no sleeve or bare arms from the shoulder to
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wrist, and not applicable or unknown for characters that were not expected to wear
clothing or characters where the sleeve length could not be seen. Due to the small
number of characters wearing 3/4 sleeve length, these were added to the long
sleeve category for analysis.
The categories used for neckline were turtleneck or a collar that covers the
neck, high neck or a collar that reaches the base of the neck, midcollar or a collar
that is below the base of the neck but not showing any cleavage or pecs, low col-
lar or a collar low enough to show cleavage or pecs, other or any collar that does
not fit into any of the previous neckline categories, none for characters not wear-
ing anything on their upper body, and not applicable or unknown for those char-
acters that are not expected to wear clothing or where the clothing is unknown. For
analysis purposes, the categories of turtleneck and high collar were combined.
The purpose of this category was to ascertain how often the player’s eyes were di-
rected to the female character’s cleavage by having the character dressed in cleav-
age-exposing clothing (Duncan, 1990).
The categories used for lower body clothing were pants or clothing below the
knee and split into legs, shorts or clothing above the knee and split into legs, long
skirt or a skirt below the knees, short skirt or a skirt above the knees, other for
any lower body clothing that did not fit into any of these categories, and none,
not applicable, or unknown for those characters that were not expected to wear
clothing or the lower body clothing was unknown. None of the characters that
were expected to wear lower body clothing were shown nude. The purpose of
this category was to ascertain whether women were depicted in traditionally
female clothing, such as skirts, and even if they were, how often they were
shown wearing short skirts to emphasize the character’s legs and genital area
(Duncan, 1990).
Cleavage was also analyzed. The categories used for cleavage were flat, aver-
age, voluptuous, and not applicable. Female characters were coded according to
breast size. The coding was done by consensus between a male coder and a female
coder.
Intercoder Reliability
Three coders were trained for the study: two female researchers and a male
coder. Intercoder reliability was judged as acceptable with more than 80%
agreement on all categories. Intercoder reliability was tested on a randomly se-
lected subsample of seven games (14.89% of the sample). This provided 72
characters (12.08% of the sample). Agreement on the game category was
84.71%, with a Scott’s Pi of .83. Agreement on the sex category was 90.27%,
with a Scott’s Pi of .85. Agreement on the species category was 94.44%, with a
Scott’s Pi of .93. Agreement on the sleeve length category was 91.67%, with a
GENDER ROLE STEREOTYPING IN VIDEO GAMES 285
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Scott’s Pi of .90. Agreement on the neckline category was 88.89%, with a Scott’s
Pi of .87. Agreement on the lower body clothing category was 97.22%, with a
Scott’s Pi of .97. Agreement on the cleavage category was 88.89%, with a
Scott’s Pi of .85. Agreement was not calculated on the game system and rating
categories because there was no judgment call involved. The information was
clearly labeled on the game.
RESULTS
A total of 47 games was analyzed for character. From the 47 games, 597 charac-
ters were coded. Five of the games in the sample had no characters—two Nin-
tendo 64 games (Top Gear Rally 2 and Top Gear Overdrive) and three PlayStation
games (Gran Turismo, Frogger, and MTV Music Generator).
Characters were coded according to the game rating. None of the games were
rated EC. Of the 597 characters, 309, or 51.76%, came from games rated E; 144,
or 24.12%, came from games that were rated T, 128, or 21.44%, came from games
rated M. Sixteen characters (2.68%) came from games that were listed as rating
pending.
Of the 597 characters analyzed, 427, or 71.52%, of the characters were men,
82, or 13.74%, were women, and 88, or 14.74%, were of an undeterminable gen-
der. A chi-square goodness-of-fit test showed the difference between the number
of male and female characters (leaving out those characters whose gender could
not be determined) to be statistically significant, χ2(1) = 233.8, p< .05.
A chi-square cross-tabulation compared the gender with the game systems (see
Table 1). This was statistically significant, χ2(1) = 8.29, p< .05. Only 8.54% of the
female characters in the sample came from Nintendo 64 games, whereas 22.48%
of the male characters came from Nintendo 64 games. Although female characters
are vastly underrepresented on video games, the games for Nintendo 64 have the
fewest number of female characters.
A cross-tabulation that compared the rating with gender (see Table 2) was not
statistically significant, χ2(2) = 0.923, p< .05. This is important because it shows
that female characters are equally poorly represented in all ratings of games.
286 BEASLEY AND COLLINS STANDLEY
TABLE 1
Game System by Gender
Game System Women % Men % Total
Nintendo 64 7 8.54 96 22.48 103
PlayStation 75 91.46 331 77.52 406
Total 82 100.00 427 100.00 509
Note. Percentages are column percentages.
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A cross-tabulation that compared game category with gender (see Table 3) was
statistically significant, χ2(4) = 20.34, p< .05. This significance is largely due to
the lack of female characters in team sport games. This goes hand in hand with a
lack of games that feature female team sports. The largest percentage of female
characters compared with male characters was in the individual sport category.
A large portion of the female characters in this category came from a single
game—the PlayStation game Sydney 2000, which featured a number of female
Olympic events.
Sleeve length was compared with gender in a cross-tabulation (see Table 4).
The result of this was statistically significant, χ2(3) = 34.15, p< .05. Nearly one
half of the female characters in this study were shown with no sleeves. Most of
these women were wearing clothing such as halter tops, tank tops, and bathing
suits. This, along with Table 5, points to the fact that women in video games are
shown less clothed than are men in video games.
A cross-tabulation of neckline without the categories of none, other, and not
applicable was conducted (see Table 5). The result of this was statistically signifi-
cant, χ2(2) = 95.35, p< .05. Of those characters shown with a low neckline, in
which cleavage or pecs were visible, 85.71% were women. This again supports the
claim that female characters are shown less clothed than men.
GENDER ROLE STEREOTYPING IN VIDEO GAMES 287
TABLE 2
Game Rating by Gender
Rating Women % Men % Total
Everyone 37 14.23 223 85.77 260
Teen 18 15.38 99 84.62 117
Mature 21 18.1 95 81.9 116
Total 76 417 493
Note. Percentages are row percentages.
TABLE 3
Game Type Category by Gender
Game Type Women % Men % Total
Team sports 14 8.54 150 91.46 164
Individual sports 29 27.36 77 72.64 106
Storyline 29 19.73 118 80.27 147
Combat 7 10.00 63 90.00 70
Other 3 13.64 19 86.36 22
Total 82 427 509
Note. Percentages are row percentages.
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A comparison of lower body clothing and gender was statistically significant,
χ2(5) = 130.98, p< .05. However, this comparison included skirts, which are
generally expected to be worn by women but not by men. When a comparison
was conducted of lower body clothing and gender, leaving, out all categories but
pants and shorts, the result was not statistically significant, χ2(1) = 1.71, p< .05.
The cleavage of female characters in the video games was also analyzed. Of the
71 female characters for whom cleavage could be seen on, 2, or 2.82%, were
considered flat, 40, or 56.34%, were considered average, and 29, or 40.85%, were
considered voluptuous. However, many of the characters that were considered
voluptuous were unrealistically large breasted.
A chi-square also compared rating by cleavage (see Table 6). Female charac-
ters in unrated or rating pending games were not included. There is a significant
difference among the ratings, χ2(4) = 9.90, p< .05. A greater percentage of
women in mature games have large breasts, whereas a greater percentage of
women in games rated for everyone have average breasts. However, here it is
worth noting that of those female characters with voluptuous breasts, 31% are in
games rated for everyone. The E category is subjected to women with unrealis-
tic breast sizes.
288 BEASLEY AND COLLINS STANDLEY
TABLE 5
Character Neckline by Gender
Women % Men % Total
High neck 36 11.46 278 88.54 314
Mid neck 18 21.69 65 78.31 83
Low neck 24 85.71 4 14.29 28
Total 78 347 425
Note. Percentages are row percentages.
TABLE 4
Character Sleeve Length by Gender
Sleeve Length Women % Men % Total
Long 32 39.02 149 34.89 181
Short 6 7.32 137 32.08 143
None 39 47.56 94 22.01 133
N/A 5 6.10 47 11.01 52
Total 82 100.00 427 100.00 509
Note. Percentages are column percentages.
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CONCLUSION
As can clearly be seen, there is considerable gender role stereotyping in video
games. Female characters are vastly underrepresented in video games available
for the two major console gaming systems at the time of the analysis. In fact, there
were more characters of indeterminate gender (88) than there were female char-
acters (82). The characters of indeterminate gender were predominantly animals
or aliens without speaking parts. Most of the female characters appeared in indi-
vidual sport and storyline games, and there were more female characters in
PlayStation games than in Nintendo 64 games. Not only are women underrepre-
sented in video games, but those who are present are less clothed than their male
counterparts. Female characters are more likely to be seen in low-cut clothing and
with bare arms than male characters, and nearly one half (41%) of all female
characters were big busted. More important, nearly one third (31.03%) of the
voluptuous women appeared in games rated E, which means that these games are
suitable for even young children.
The majority of female characters are dressed in such as way as to bring atten-
tion to their bodies, particularly their breasts, which carry strong sexual meaning
for the young boys who predominantly play these games. As social learning the-
ory and gender schema theory explain, children exposed to gender role stereotyp-
ing in the media, including video games, may develop those attitudes themselves.
When applied to the 47 games analyzed for this study, social learning theory and
gender schema reveal that the dominant theme of the games is the same—female
characters are unimportant based on the fact that only about one in four characters
are women, although one half of the world’s population is female. Furthermore,
those female characters that do appear in the games are big busted and dressed in
clothing that emphasizes their sexuality by drawing attention to their breasts.
Video games may be a fairly new media industry, but game designers should be
reminded that such obvious gender role discrimination in any media industry is
unacceptable.
GENDER ROLE STEREOTYPING IN VIDEO GAMES 289
TABLE 6
Game Rating by Female Character Cleavage
Rating Flat % Average % Voluptuous % Total
Everyone 2 6.25 21 65.63 9 28.13 32
Teen 0 0.00 7 53.85 6 46.15 13
Mature 0 0.00 6 30.00 14 70.00 20
Total 2 34 29 65
Note. Percentages are row percentages.
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Limitations
This study had several limitations that should be corrected for further study. First,
every character was coded, regardless of his, her, or its importance to the video
game. This included characters that were seen in the introductory footage video
but were not available for game play. In future studies, characters should be coded
as to their importance in the video game. Although this study was concerned with
the number of female characters in the games and how their clothing defined them
as women, future studies looking at behavior are necessary. Further studies should
code what the characters are doing, whether they are engaged in dominant or sub-
missive behaviors, whether violence is committed or received, whether the char-
acters are heroes or villains, and whether the characters are active or passive.
Another limitation was the coding of the lower body clothing category. It was
not discrete enough to capture some of the nuances of female clothing designed to
draw attention to the lower sexual zones of the character’s bodies. For example,
many of the outfits that wound up in the other category were bathing suits and
thongs for female characters and tights for male characters.
In a related concern, for researchers interested in evaluating male gender role
stereotyping as indicated by clothing, the sleeve category could be troublesome.
Masculinity in men can be demonstrated through large arm muscles, which often
are shown off by wearing sleeveless shirts. It would be prudent then to include a
category about muscle definition and exposure.
Clearly, there is room for improvement in the area of video games as it relates
to gender role stereotyping. Continuing study should be conducted to watch the
video game market for improvements. As more girls and women begin to play
video games, one hopes more female characters in a variety of clothing styles may
be seen in these games.
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293
APPENDIX
PlayStation Nintendo 64
Video Games in Sample
Ape Escape Banjo Kazooie
Battlestations Donkey Kong 64
Command and Conquer Retaliation Body Harvest
Contender Gex, Enter the Gecko
Crash Team Racing Madden NFL 2000
Dino Crisis Extreme G XG2
Frogger NBA Courtside 2 featuring Kobe Bryant
Jet Moto 2 Perfect Dark
Legend of Mana Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six
MTV Music Generator NFL Quarterback Club 2000
Mortal Kombat Special Forces Rush 2049
NBA Live 2000 Shadowman
Tomb Raider II Turok 3 Shadow of Oblivion
Psybadek Top Gear Rally 2
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing Top Gear Overdrive
Road Rash
Sydney 2000
Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage
Syphon Filter 2
Thousand Arms
NCAA Football 2000
ECW Anarchy Rulz
WCW Mayhem
Vagrant Story
Saga Frontier 2
NHL Rock the Rink
Games Unavailable to Rent
MTV Andy MacDonal Saban’s Power Rangers Lightspeed Rescue
Echo Night
Gallop Racer
Mobil 1 Rally Champ
Trick N Snowboarder
Star Wars Dark Forces
Replacement Games
Gran Turismo None
Tigger’s Honey Hunt
Speed Punks
Barbie Race & Ride
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater II
Sammy Sosa’s High Heat Baseball 2001
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