Gender and Racial Stereotypes in Popular Video Games

Gender and Racial Stereotypes in Popular Video Games

Yi Mou (Cambridge, MA, USA) and Wei Peng (Michigan State University, USA)
Copyright: © 2009 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-808-6.ch053
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While the violent content of video games has caused wide concern among scholars, gender, and racial stereotypes in video games are still an understudied area. The purpose of this chapter is to provide a better understanding of the stereotypical phenomenon in video games. The book chapter first provides a comprehensive review of previous studies conducted upon gender-role and racial portrayals in video games. Then a small-scale content analysis on a sample of official trailers, introductory sequences and covers of 19 of the most popular video games is introduced. Finally, the implications of stereotype in video games and the possible social and psychological impacts on players, especially adolescent players, are discussed.
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Stereotypical Portrayals In Video Games


A stereotype is a mental “shorthand which helps to convey ideas and images quickly and clearly” (Courtney & Whipple, 1983, p. 205). It refers to one group’s generalized and widely accepted perception about the personal attributes of members of another group (Ashmore & Boca, 1981; Dates & Barlow, 1990). Stereotypes serve multiple purposes in a variety of cognitive and motivational processes (Hilton & von Hippel, 1996). They emerge as a way of simplifying the demands on the perceiver (Bodenhausen, Kramer, & Susser, 1994; Bodenhausen, Sheppard, & Kramer, 1994; Macrae, Milne, & Bodenhausen, 1994); or as a way in response to environmental factors, such as different social roles (Eagly, 1995), group conflicts (Robinson, Keltner, Ward, & Ross, 1995), and difference in power (Fiske, 1993); or as a means of justifying the status quo (Jost & Banaji, 1994; Sidanius, 1993), or in response to a need for social identity (Hogg & Abrams, 1988).

In traditional media, gender and racial stereotypes are the most pervasive two. In mass media, compared to female characters, male characters appear more frequently, talk significantly more, and engage in noted behaviors more, such as achieving and showing leadership (Thompson & Zerbinos, 1995). In addition, these media provide distorted representation of women and minorities (Aubrey & Harrison, 2004; Greenberg & Baptista-Fernandez, 1980; Thompson & Zerbinos, 1995). Exposure to these distorted images can have a negative effect on users’ perception of women and minorities (Omi, 1989). For instance, women are usually perceived as subordinate and passive-dependent to men, with sexual relationships as central in life (Cantor, 1987). Racial stereotypes widely exist in mass media as well. For instance, Black men are more likely to be portrayed as criminals (Entman, 1992; Peffley, Shields, & Williams, 1996); Asian men are usually portrayed as culturally ignorant; while Asian women are portrayed as submissive (Park, Gabbadon, & Chernin, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Introductory Sequence: A non-interactive introductory sequence for a computer or video game to create cinematic atmosphere. Usually appears before actual game playing to introduce the background story.

Racial Stereotype: A widely accepted perception or belief about the attributes of a particular race, especially minority groups.

Coding Scheme: The coding manual to mark the coding unit by choosing the manifest content which best demonstrate whether the material contains or does not contain the latent content to the research (Shaw, 2006).

Lara Phenomenon: “The appearance of a tough and competent female character in a dominant position” (Jansz & Martis, 2007, p.142).

Gender Stereotype: A widely accepted perception or belief about the attributes of males or females.

Content Analysis: “A technique used to extract desired information from a body of material (usually verbal) by systematically and objectively identifying specified characteristics of the material” (Smith, 2000, p. 314).

Coder Reliability: The reliability to measure the correspondence between two or more coders’ estimates of the same content.

Stereotype: A widely accepted perception or belief about the attributes of the members in a group.

Unit of Analysis: The basic unit that is being analyzed in the study.

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