Technologies of Play: Video Games and Gender

Recognizing the importance and relevance of both “technologies of play” generally and video games specifically in teaching about the relationships between technology and gender, we created an interactive pedagogical tool for use in undergraduate classes. The interface is designed to assist in organizing information on the gendered analysis of video games, to provide examples, and to anticipate conflict that may develop in and among learners. On this site, we demonstrate the significance of gender in the realm of video games and explain why the relationship is important. Additionally, the site encourages learners to understand the various factors that contribute to the acceptance or rejection of such a gendered critique.

Description from Merlot

Technologies of Play: Video Games and Gender is an interesting website that explores violence and computer games through a gendered perspective.

The site is interesting for its navigation and use of multimedia and brings to light central concerns about violence and gender stereotyping in computer games today. This is by no means that only site to highlight this issue, but its simplicity and ease of use make it better than some of the other research studies published on the web.

Bikinis

Images such as those above, tame in comparison to the much debated sex scenes and violence in games such as Grand Theft Auto 3 (players are street thugs who can beat prostitutes to death with baseball bats after having sex with them) promote approaches to living and inter-personal relationships that can contribute to structural violence in society. Even good parenting, one can argue, may be hard pressed to mitigate the effects of such games on impressionable minds of young adults.

As this study notes:

Results indicate that not only do males play more video games than females, males also have a greater preference for violent games, while males and females prefer non-violent games equally.

So is a desire for visceral limb-shredding intestine-spewing mayhem in games hardcoded into our gender? Or is it more complex? Does the context and environment one grows up also contribute to attitudes towards violence? As Peace Work : Women, Armed Conflict and Negotiation edited by Radhika Coomaraswamy and Dilrukshi Fonseka states:

It is now widely recognized that women are uniquely affected by war and violence–their traditional role as ‘nurturers’ of the family suffers strain; their bodies become sites for the expression of hatred and revenge; their subordinate positions in everyday life render them especially vulnerable. Increasingly, women are also drawn into conflict as active participants–as soldiers in war, as guerillas in subversive movements.

The point the authors make is that women as passive care-givers may well be an erroneous gender stereotype itself especially in a context of protracted ethno-political conflict. Ultimately, I think a lot of studies done on the effects of computer game violence simplify the complex matrix of factors and actors that shape our approach to conflict in real life. That women like less violent games don’t necessarily make them inherently better peacebuilders, a proposition as ridiculous as stating that men, given their propensity for violence, are less capable as peacebuilders than women.

In reality, gender roles and the development of non-violent approaches to conflict are inextricably entwined with, inter alia, parenting styles, the general socio-political climate, existing gender role stereotypes promoted by media and an individual’s own life choices. While studies may help us better understand the linkages between in-game violence, gender and real life conflict, I don’t think that any study I’ve come across to date help me understand how it is possible for someone to blow themselves up to kill and maim others while others, no less discriminated against, continue to promote non-violent dialogue with their opponents.

3 thoughts on “Technologies of Play: Video Games and Gender

  1. some nursery rhymes are also violent, dvds (like videogames) have codes for parental guidance, and they are after all GAMES…
    btw street thugs DO beat up prostitutes and pedestrians Do go splat if you dirve into them with a car…educational or what?!
    p.s. my wife has been asking me to buy a beat em up game fopr my xbox for ages, she likes them moe than i do (i like sport games, golf, crickt etc, peaceful games)
    even the sexy pic of the beachvolleyballers above is harmless imo coz can u imagine if they were fat and ugly? it would look strange… there are also games where instead of humans performing sports there are starnge creatures/monsters playing the sports, should we ask ourselves if we r going to turn aliens, gargoyles, devils, yakkas into upset homicidal entities because they are in the games and they might emulate the behaviour of the digital avatar?

  2. […] The gender aspect of this just has me amazed. Masculinity and feminity as interpreted as dichotomies. People often argue that gender roles bring in a balance in relationship. Given the forms that expected masculinity takes, it appears more so as a matter of establishing power over a role, or giving a higher value to the role. Yesterday, I linked to an interesting post at Global Voices, which drew links between the expected roles of women in the peacebuilding process in Sri Lanka and the way women are perceived by the gaming industry. An interesting point Ultimately, I think a lot of studies done on the effects of computer game violence simplify the complex matrix of factors and actors that shape our approach to conflict in real life. That women like less violent games don’t necessarily make them inherently better peacebuilders, a proposition as ridiculous as stating that men, given their propensity for violence, are less capable as peacebuilders than women. […]

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