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Video Games and Gender

Info: 4759 words (19 pages) Essay
Published: 14th Jun 2017 in Media

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The origin of video games is very different from their use today. The earliest innovation in video games is the invention of the idea itself. The idea of having an fast changing or moving objects on a display that a person could interact with. This idea resulted in the game “OXO” or “Naught and Crosses” made by Alexander S. Douglas in 1949 for his Ph.D. thesis on human and computer interaction in the University of Cambridge. The machine utilized a cathode ray tube as its display unit. (Winter, 1998)

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“OXO” however did not have moving images or “video” rather it was a set series of tubes that lit up in accordance to the rest of the machine and programming. (Winter, 1998) The idea of using a computer and a display device was again visited upon in 1958 by William Higinbotham using an oscilloscope and an analog computer, thus “Tennis for Two” was born. The game was simple, the 5 inch oscilloscope displayed a game of tennis which was controlled two players, each with their own controllers and the objective was to keep the relay going as long as possible. The aim of this invention was to “liven up” the Brookhaven Nuclear Research Laboratory exhibit and nothing more. The device was dismantled in 1959. (Nowak, 2008)

Early video games were developed for the sake of innovation. The inventors who made them did not market them as consumer products; rather they were showcases on what the current technology at the time could do. It was in 1971 when Nolan Bushnell made the arcade game called “Computer Space” where the video game as an industry started. What made this arcade game different was it included a coin slot which meant it was a “pay to play” machine. It was, however released to a very limited audience because the machine was only available to universities and corporations which had the necessary hardware to run the arcade machine. It was not until 1972 that video games became widespread among the population with “PONG”.

Research Questions and Objectives

The aim of this research is to find out the affect of video games on the gender gap or to be more precise: how video games increase the gender gap. What are the factors that help increase this perceived division among the sexes? Do males and females truly have different interests in video games?

Significance of the Study

Video games are one of the most prolific forms of media today; therefore, just like any other form of media, it ought to be studied. This has a particular relevance to the youth who on average play video games the most. Gamers or those who consider themselves “hardcore” video game players will find that their favorite pastimes are more complex that they thought and will expand their perspective. Parents who buy games for their children will also find studies on video games to be helpful as it will help them gain a better idea on the said topic. Perhaps the one are most likely to take notice of this are the video game developers who have to power to incorporate the content of such studies in their development of future games.

Scope and Limitations

This research will be limited to the topic under study – that is, video games and the perceived widening of the gender gap that they cause. For this study, young adults of any gender in the age range of 20 to 30 years old as it is believed that this is a stage where many are likely to play video games and be aware of what they think.

As for the video games, there will minimal emphasis on the genres and name of the games. Although they have significance, the content and target audience of the video games will be the priority. Because this is a quantitative study of the topic, in-depth interviews and experiments are not going to be tackled.

Chapter 2

Review of Related Literature

As Bryce and Rutter note, ‘the most frequently advanced argument concerning the gendered nature of computer gaming relates to the representation and consumption of game content. In this study, boys as well as girls in the school students group were confident and experienced users of the Sims, with its emphasis on the traditionally feminine sphere of domestic space, although they used that space differently, in ways reflective of Jenkins’ distinction between risk taking and care taking (Beavis, 2005).

It suggested that while there were clearly practices that good gamers utilized to develop expertise, specifically gendered practices could not so easily be identified. Rather, players’ investment in specific games, and their attitudes to themselves as successful or disinterested games players, shaped the ways in which they approached the games and used them in broader contexts of identity construction and display.

In seeking to understand more about the ways in which young people’s out of school learnings and experiences around computer games might be utilized in the curriculum using ICTs in ways hospitable to both boys and girls, it is important to attend not just to the practices on display, but to issues of identity, purpose and social context in order to promote interest, flexibility and expertise.

The study of young male and female gamers across these two very specific sites underlines the socially situated nature of play, in relation to both classroom and games activity. where relationships, contexts and purposes flowing across both on and offline play shape the practices entailed in the students’ discussion and activities, and the ways they engage with each other and the games. Understandings drawn from the observation of successful girl gamers suggest expertise is not just a matter of specific skills, strategies and familiarity, but is more broadly located within the complex dynamics of in- and out-of-school discourses and contexts that need to be factored in to the construction of gender-equitable pedagogy and curriculum (Beavis, 2005)

In relation to future English curriculum and technology, the study suggested ways forward in implementing the study and utilization of technology. It lends support to the need to focus not just on texts and technology per se, but also on the ways in which these are used and aligned with the major adolescent project of identity. This study suggests the need to attend more broadly to such matters in considering how we might plan curriculum across the school that most usefully supports all students to become critical and effective users of technology.

In playing computer games, young people are making use of ICTs for their own purposes, in complex and pleasurable ways. Computer games are an important aspect of what Sefton-Green describes as ‘a wider ecology of education where schools, home, playtime, the library and museum all play a part . As such, they are a valuable site for exploring the ways in which new and older forms of literacy and multimodality combine, changing understandings of what constitutes text and engagement and providing insights into the highly effective learning principles incorporated into games as an essential precondition of commercial success and play.

However, as Facer and others point out, much games research, while identifying the power of games and play to generate motivation or ‘hard fun’ fails to ‘recognize the social contexts in which games, fun and learning take place. They focus on the characteristics of the activity itself, on design issues, rather than on the player’s experience, attitudes and interests.

As social geographers Soja, Skelton and Valentine Holloway and Valentine suggest, context and location play an important role both in the construction of meaning and the formation of identity and community, for young people as for others. It is not helpful to over generalize about games and gender regardless of the widespread temptation to do so.

Citing Haraway on the need for ‘a politics of location’, Ang argues for a ‘particularistic perspective for research into gender and media consumption’. She asserts ‘the fundamental instability of the role of gender in media consumption practice’ and the impossibility of assuming pre-articulated gender identities. Gendered practices, she argues, are shaped at the site of interaction with media technologies, with both gender and media consumption both needing to be problematized. As Charles have argued elsewhere, Ang’s observations suggest that gendered identities do not simply pre-exist the act and location of game play. Rather, they are actively formed and constituted through particular instances of game play in particular contexts.

These two sites then, provided very different but particular instances in which to explore the ways in which the boys, girls and young women in our study engaged with computer games, and the meanings both the games and their involvement with them had for them. With the school students, we were very aware of the heightened artificiality of the research site. Even for those students who played computer games at home, the presence of games in the classroom, hitched to curricular activities and purposes, was likely to change important aspects of their reading and play. We were conscious of the ways in which texts and purposes often change when appropriated for institutional purposes, and the powerful effects of location on both reading and identity, consistent with the socially situated nature of literacy practices.

During interviews and observations of the students, we found both continuities and contradictions between the ways they played and presented themselves during the classroom lessons and what they told us of their game playing and leisure preferences and activities at their friends’ places and at home. In the case of the young women in the Counterstrike clan at the internet café there was less dissonance between the research site and the interviews, and a closer approximation to a more ‘natural’ ethnographic study was possible.

An argument often made is computer culture (and by extension, computer software) “could be positively transformed through the integration of girls’ and women’s insights” (AAUW, 2000,). Our research seeks to test this assumption. If the assumption is true, then the gender of a software designer in a setting where she can express her true perspectives and preferences would be expected to have a measurable impact on her design process and/or her design outcome.

The proposition should be tested. If we document that gender of the designer does influence the software design outcome, this compelling result could help motivate the computer industry to integrate girls and women onto their teams. It would also advance our understanding of the impact of gender on design.

The often proposed solution of involving more women and girls in game design assumes that game designers create games which are appealing to themselves. The expectation that girl-designed games will appeal more to girls than boy-designed games presumes that by growing up girl, or growing up boy, a designer embodies some kind of implicit understanding of what appeals not just to themselves, but to their gender and this will naturally be reflected in the designs they create (Heeter,2004). .

Considerable research has been conducted on girls and games, including amount of game play by gender, genre and play style preferences, spatial orientation gender differences, and a variety of recommendations of what girl-friendly games should be like. These studies often conclude with a call to involve more women in game design. But the presumption that doing so will result in games which appeal to girls has not been tested.

Issues of girls and their gaming preferences are explored through observations of computer games sessions at an all-girl state school. What emerged is that preferences are alterable, and site specific. Gaming selections relate to the attributes of particular games – but they also depend on a player’s recognition of these attributes and the pleasures they entail. Players accumulate these competencies and they are an assemblage, made up of past experiences, and subject to situation and context (Carr,2005).

So, what computer games do girls like? The answer is that it depends. Socialization may well play its part, yet our gaming preferences will also depend on where we are, what we know, who we know, what we’ve tried, and what we’ve grown tired of. Distinctions in taste between male and female players reflect patterns in games access and consumption that spring from (very) gendered cultural and social practices. As this suggests, accounts of gaming preference need to be situated within a framework that incorporates reference to players’ previous access to games and existing gaming knowledge. Gaming preferences need to be conceptualized within a paradigm that can accommodate mobility, increment, learning and alteration.

Different people will accumulate particular gaming skills, knowledge and frames of reference, according to the patterns of access and peer culture they encounter – and these accumulations will pool as predispositions, and manifest as preferences. Familiarity and competence feed into a player’s experiences of gaming, partly determining the pleasures that he or she will expect, recognize and access, and thereby impacting on preferences that might be expressed as a result. Preferences are an assemblage, made up of past access and positive experiences, and subject to situation and context. The constituents of preference (such as access) are shaped by gender and, as a result, gaming preferences manifest along gendered lines. It is not difficult to generate data that will indicate that gendered tastes exist, but it is short sighted to divorce such preferences from the various practices that form them. To attribute gaming tastes directly, solely or primarily to an individual subjects’ gender, is to risk underestimating the complexities of both subjectivity and preference.

The constituents of preference, such as access, are certainly shaped by gender. As a result, gaming preferences may manifest along gendered lines. It is not difficult to generate data indicating that gendered tastes exist, but it is short sighted to divorce these outcomes from the various practices that contribute to their formation.

So, what computer games do girls like? The answer is that it depends. Socialization may well play its part, yet our gaming preferences will also depend on where we are, what we know, who we know, what we’ve tried, and what we’ve grown tired of. Distinctions in taste between male and female players reflect patterns in games access and consumption that spring from (very) gendered cultural and social practices. As this suggests, accounts of gaming preference need to be situated within a framework that incorporates reference to players’ previous access to games and existing gaming knowledge. Gaming preferences need to be conceptualized within a paradigm that can accommodate mobility, increment, learning and alteration.

Different people will accumulate particular gaming skills, knowledge and frames of reference, according to the patterns of access and peer culture they encounter – and these accumulations will pool as predispositions, and manifest as preferences. Familiarity and competence feed into a player’s experiences of gaming, partly determining the pleasures that he or she will expect, recognize and access, and thereby impacting on preferences that might be expressed as a result. Preferences are an assemblage, made up of past access and positive experiences, and subject to situation and context.

The constituents of preference (such as access) are shaped by gender and, as a result, gaming preferences manifest along gendered lines. It is not difficult to generate data that will indicate that gendered tastes exist, but it is short sighted to divorce such preferences from the various practices that form them. To attribute gaming tastes directly, solely or primarily to an individual subjects’ gender, is to risk underestimating the complexities of both subjectivity and preference.

Given that computer gaming is routinely claimed to be more popular and more frequently engaged in by males, it is seems a reasonable extrapolation that the activities and practices which constitute computer gaming are also gendered. Indeed, these are the activities which define computer gaming as a social practice. It is the negotiated experiences of everyday gaming which give a reality to game texts and realise the socially situated nature of gaming activities.

The gendering of gaming experiences is, in part, related to perceptions of gendered game content and notions of gender roles and appropriate leisure activities. It has been suggested that females are more affiliative and nurturing, preferring leisure activities which have a stronger social aspect. This, when linked to a general (but largely empirically unsupported) perception that gaming is not a social activity, but a solitary activity for male ‘nerds’ or ‘geeks’, seems to quite neatly offer a model for understanding gendered gaming. However, such an argument is essentialist and circular in nature, ignoring the actual negotiation and resistance which occurs within gaming strategies.

This raises two issues which relate to the gendering of computer gaming: firstly access and participation in gaming activity is restricted and exclusion is experienced at a local level. Secondly, that exclusion creates expectations of rejection which, together with the identification of gaming as a male activity, discourages women from attempting to enter into gaming practices or associating themselves with being “a gamer”. Indeed comparative studies of the frequency of gaming in males and females may also reflect a lack of self-identification as a gamer by females who may perceive themselves as casual or infrequent gamers who have a more casual commitment to the activity.

While neither of the propositions outlined are inaccurate, the circular relationship argued to exist between them does not offer a position for gamers and researchers to examine the origins of, or a means to break out of the cycle. Indeed, as was previously argued, when we look at gaming developments there is little doubt that computer gaming is an increasingly social and public leisure activity and one that is cross-gender. This is highlighted by the development of gaming communities and networks. It is apparent that gaming practices are undergoing rapid social and technical changes and at the same time it is noticeable that gendered perceptions of gaming are changing. This is demonstrated by groups such as ‘grrl gamers’, female online gaming clans and web communities, all of which have been successfully discussed elsewhere. This is not a phenomenon unique to gaming and is consistent with the increased participation of

females in other leisure activities which have been previously perceived to be ‘male’ (e.g., football, rugby and extreme sports).

In such activities female players and gamers are not only seeking parity with male counterparts, but are adopting and enacting oppositional stances to categoriZations of gender appropriateness, access to leisure activities and consumption. Although we do not wish to argue in a Fiskean sense that all gaming is an act of political challenge, it is possible to understand female gaming within a context of resistance to the constraints placed on female leisure in contemporary society. This is most clear in areas where visible female participation in ‘masculine’ leisure activities challenges dominant gender stereotypes

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Crucially however, it is not necessary to look towards spectacular acts of opposition or web-based presentations of the self to see evidence of the gendering of gaming activities and the routine exclusion of female gamers. Schott & Horrell successfully begin to unravel the routine and everyday manner in which gaming is negotiated in domestic settings. They demonstrate how even in homes in which the gaming machine belongs to a female member of the family it is fathers, brothers or cousins who take control of the technology as part of what they claim to be “support or collaborative play” Access to the technology and the gaming is controlled by the male player who assumes the role of expert by interpolating the female gamer into a subordinate role. The technology and its use creates an environment in which girl gamers are reproduced as not being skilled or technological competent enough to compete with the boys.

Such behaviour reproduces the perception of computer gaming as a masculine activity and its relationship to its technological nature. Indeed it has been effectively argued that technology incorporates masculine culture and as such excludes females through the promotion of the idea of female technological inferiority and the gendering of technological artIfacts Given that such technologies are central to computer gaming practices and activities, their perception as masculine is a vital, but often ignored, aspect of the gendering of gaming. Like the experience of gendered spaces it is a form of gendered exclusion which is experienced, negotiated and reproduced at a routine and everyday level and further contributes to the lack of visibility

of the female gamer.

This critical evaluation of the gendering of computer gaming suggests that despite evidence of the gendering of activities and spaces associated with computer gaming, there is growing evidence that females do play computer games and this may be altering the perception of this activity as masculine. This may also provide a means of challenging the dominant view of female technological inferiority by changing gendered perceptions of technological abilities.

This places emphasis on the ability to use technological skills and knowledge whilst emphasising competition in a variety of leisure spaces. The negotiation and reconstruction of gender identities through computer gaming is consistent with the notion of leisure spaces and activities as sites of resistance to dominant concepts of masculinity and femininity.

Chapter 3

Conceptual Framework

In the toy industry, manufacturers maintain that, once sexual difference kicks in after three years old, they are only responding to what the child market wants – they are not creating a gendered demand, it is simply out there. All the many efforts that the toy industry has made to sell cross-gender toys and so find new markets have failed. Most do not even get to market. Cars as people who speak have held no appeal to girls, even if dolls – in the sense of action figures – have always appealed to boys.

Electronic toys have little appeal to girls. Girls prefer pink and purple, boys prefer black orange, red and silver. We might wish otherwise, but these are the facts. Yet in recent years, the rise of ‘feminine values’ has, still more than the rise in female employment, brought about a modest convergence between male and female roles in UK society. Aleks Krotoski is not alone in recognising that the same computer games can now appeal to both sexes – even if Sheri Rainer Grey’s capture of the term ‘gender inclusive’ for the computer games industry leaves a little to be desired (if gender inclusive, then why not our old friend, Unisex?).

Nevertheless, the differences between games for women and games for men appear enduring ones.

Computer games figure hardly, if at all, in the work of prominent feminists such as the late Andrea Dworkin, or Catherine MacKinnon. Yet in putting forward the view that pornography is the same thing as male violence, these authors have probably had a subtle influence on feminist thinking about computer games. No matter how great the take-up of games among girls and women, the continuing tastelessness of many ‘masculine’ games is seen misanthropically – as an enduring sign that men’s horrid, aggressive lust for power, and indeed men’s lust, will always be with us.

People see human nature as the one exception to today’s endlessly alleged world of accelerating change. Yet today human nature is more protean than it ever has been. Some sex differences will always endure, being biologically founded; but many will not, having social roots. Much that might endure turns out not to.

Computer games don’t transform teenagers into monsters. Yet they do involve, and will involve, a modest augmentation of our faculties. With his usual hyperbole, Sunday Times philosopher Brian Apple yard says that games ‘are ontological prosthetics, artificial extensions into alternate conditions of being, independent of our rotting carcasses’. 215 Still, games are indeed a small part of the extended human mind today. They do contribute to transformations in what it means to be human.

Neither nurture in the sense of the parenting and schooling of children, nor nature as explained by the new disciplines of neurology and evolutionary psychology, can fully account for those transformations. In this sense, the answer to Q1 – are the differences between men and women around the making and use of computer games to do with culture or biology? – is simple enough. The differences that exist are not set in stone. References to culture and biology as direct and proximate causes of these differences fail to grasp this. They have more in common with description than explanation.

Chapter 4

Method

This is a qualitative/quantitative study. The descriptive research method was used for this thesis. The descriptive research design studies what is. It is a plan, structure and strategy so conceived in order to get answers to research questions or problems. It is a write-up of existing events, situation or phenomenon. It also involves description of classification and enumeration of collated data (Rebustes and Salvador, 2006).

The descriptive research design also seeks to determine relationships between variables, explores causes of phenomena, tests hypotheses, and develops generalizations, principles or theories on the basis of its findings. While its primary concern are conditions and things which exist at the time of the study, it also considers past events and influences which are deemed related to what is studied in the present (Ardales, 2008).

For this research, a survey will distributed via questionnaires to a population of about fifty persons. Alongside this survey, an online survey will also be done; a population of at least twenty is expected.

The Instrument and the Data Gathering Procedure

The researcher used primary sources in gathering the data. This was undertaken by preparing a survey questionnaire. To assist the researcher in validating the sources, information were sourced from newspapers, journals, digests, books, and the Internet.

The researcher used a self-made but literature-based survey questionnaire to gather primary data. The questionnaire includes items that apply a 5-point Likert scale to gather the numerical equivalent of the responses.

.

Statistical Treatment of Data

The data were counted, tabulated and analyzed. The statistical treatment of data were frequency, percentage and mean.

Frequency

Percentage

% = n / N x 100

where: % = percentage

n = number of classification

n = total number of respondent

Mean ∑ f x s

TM = ———————–

N

where: ∑ = Summation

f = frequency in each scale

s = scale of response

N = total number of respondent

 

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