Sexualized video games do not harm male or female gamers, new study finds

Sexualization in video games does not appear to harm gamers, according to a new study published in Computers in human behavior. The results indicate that playing video games does not lead to misogynistic views or adverse mental health outcomes.

Female characters are often attractive and scantily clad in video games (although there are seems to be a decline in this trend over time). Some people have raised concerns that the sexualized portrayal of women is having negative effects on players. But research on the topic has produced mixed results.

To better understand whether playing video games is associated with decreased player well-being or increased misogyny, the authors of the current research used a statistical technique known as meta-analysis to systematically assess the results of previous searches.

“I’ve been studying the effects of video games on gamers for two decades now, mostly on violence. I think most people have come to accept that there is no relationship between violent video games and aggression or violent crimes (despite some recalcitrants, including the APA),” the study author explained. Christopher J. Fergusonprofessor of psychology at Stetson University.

“However, people still ask a lot of questions about sexualization and whether games make male gamers more sexist towards women or whether female gamers experience more body dissatisfaction and other wellness issues. This is a much smaller area of ​​research than the area of ​​violence, so we were hoping to bring some clarity to it.

Ferguson and his research team conducted a meta-analysis of 18 relevant studies. All studies included a measure of exposure to generalized or sexualized video games. Fifteen of the studies measured aggression towards women or sexist attitudes, while 10 studies measured outcomes related to depression, body image or anxiety.

But the researchers failed to find a statistically significant link between video games and sexist attitudes or psychological well-being.

“Overall, the ‘moral panic’ over video games and sexualization roughly follows the ‘paint-by-numbers’ pattern of the video game debate. Lots of hyperbole and moral outrage, but very little evidence that video games cause ‘harm’ to male or female gamers,” Ferguson told PsyPost.

“As a purely ‘public health’ issue, it doesn’t seem to be a concern at all. That doesn’t mean people can’t advocate for better representation of women in games. They just need to be careful not to make “harm” claims that can be easily debunked, thus calling into question what might otherwise be reasonable advocacy goals.

The researchers also assessed the quality of the studies, looking at factors such as pre-registration, standardized measures, independent ratings of video game content, and the use of control variables.

“The main caveat is just that many studies just aren’t very good,” Ferguson said. “The good news is that higher quality studies were less likely to find evidence of negative effects than lower quality studies. In some cases, scholars probably introduced their personal moral views into the studies, even if they were unintentional. Admittedly, this is still a fairly small area of ​​research, but this initial data has been so disappointing that I’m not sure there’s much to exploit here.

“Obviously we go through these cycles of blaming the media for social issues,” the researcher added. “At least with fictional media, evidence often reveals that we are likely scapegoats and that fiction rarely causes social problems. Again, to be fair, advocating for better representation of women in games can be a good cause even if games don’t cause harmful effects. I support these efforts, I just hope advocates don’t misrepresent the evidence as part of their efforts (which, unfortunately, is all too common among advocacy groups).

The study, “Does sexualization in video games harm gamers? A meta-analytic reviewwas written by Christopher J. Ferguson, James D. Sauer, Aaron Drummond, Julia Kneer, and Emily Lowe-Calverley.

Comments are closed.