Women and violence in video games

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As a group, female video gamers have been shown to prefer different types of computer games compared to male gamers,[1][2] and to play video games less frequently.[3][1] Researchers such as Jeffrey H. Goldstein and Eugene Provenzo have suggested that this difference can be explained through women's preference for non-violent video games.[2][4] Video game scholars such as Mia Consalvo, Mark C. Hopson, and Pam Royse have suggested, however, that many women do play violent video games, and that it is important not to make broad generalizations about women gamers.[5] There is some evidence that violent video games lead to increased aggression in female gamers, but it remains unclear whether female gamers are affected differently than male gamers by violent content in games.[6]

Women as gamers

Male and female gamers often prefer different types of games, and women tend to play video games less often than men. One 2002 survey, for example, found that 77 percent of males played video games once a week, while 46 percent of females did so.[7] A similar study found that 75 percent of men and 51 percent of women played games actively, while "power" gamers - those who played more than 20 hours a month - were disproportionately male. While 42 percent of men were power gamers in this study, only 15.6 percent of women played frequently enough to meet the "power" gamer criteria.[8][1] This data suggests that female gamers are less likely to see gaming as a primary hobby, whereas male gamers focus more on gaming as their hobby, and treat games as a primary interest.[9]

Some studies have shown that female gamers tend to prefer console and mobile games such as Candy Crush and Dance Dance Revolution.[9] A 2002 survey found that female gamers prefer puzzle-solving, platform and sports genres, while men prefer sports, action/adventure, and simulations games.[1]

Other studies have stressed that women gamers are "too often conflated as having single perspective or experience,"[5] and that some women do play violent video games. According to one 2012 study, women do play video games that involve violence, but they also tend to broaden their outlook, and play games that require physical duties and heavy mind interaction. In this view, The Sims is preferred by the female gaming community because it requires fast thinking and problem solving skills, just as Dance Dance revolution involves cognitive brain functions to play along at the required pace. While a large number of men also indulge in these types of games, female players outweigh the men.[9]

Women's responses to video game violence

Multiple studies have shown that women prefer non-violent games.[2] According to Rika Nakamura and Hanna Wirman, for example, female players "show a preference to games without aggressive themes and non-violence in general."[10] In a large 2007 study, Pam Royse et. al. questioned this simplistic view of women's relationship to violence in video games, dividing women into sub-groups of non-gamers, moderate gamers, and "power" gamers. The study found that "the moderate gamers as a group tended to reject violent genres such as the FPS games," while non-gamers rejected video games, in part, because of they were concerned about "sexualized and violent content." Female power gamers, in contrast, were often drawn to aggressive and competitive, despite the fact that such games "are played by males and have violent content." Such games, according to Royse et. al., power gamers are often attracted to violent games because the games allow them to "define and extend their definitions of self and gender."[1] These women take "tremendous pleasure" in challenging gender norms through their choice of video game genre and their aggressive behavior in-game.[1][11]

Effect on women gamers

Scholars such as Brad J. Bushman, Craig A. Anderson, Mary E. Ballard, and J. Rose Wiest have found that frequent play of violent video games can be linked to increased aggression and violence.[12] Some of these studies included female participants, but in general the impact of violent video games on the behavior of female players is less well understood.[13] During the 1980s, early research by Joel Cooper and Diane Mackie found that adolescent females showed greater aggression after playing a violent video game than after playing a non-violent game.[14] Much more recently, Craig A. Anderson and Christine R. Murphy also found that violent game play increased aggression in young, female players, and suggested that the gender of the character being played was significant.[15] A 2001 meta-analysis determined that violent video game play affected aggression in both genders equally.[16][13] Communications scholar Matthew S. Eastin has argued that while "males are considered generally more aggressive," environmental cues to aggression such as mediated violence and video games "are thought to influence both sexes equally.”[13]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Pam Royse, Joon Lee, Baasanjav undrahbuyan, Mark Hopson, and Mia Consalvo. Women and Games:Technologies of the Gendered Self. New Media & Society, 9:4 (August 2007), 555-576.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 See, for example:
    • Goldstein, Jeffrey. “Sex differences in toy play and use of video games.” Toys, Play, and Child Development. Ed. Jeffrey H. Goldstein. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994.
    • Nikken, Peter. “Boys, Girls and Violent Video Games, The Views of Dutch Children.“ Children in the New Media Landscape: Games, Pornography, Perception. Eds. Cecilia von Feilitzen and Ulla Carlsson. Unesco Yearbook, 2000.
    • Gailey, Christine Ward. “Mediated Messages: Gender, Class, and Cosmos in Home Video Games.” Journal of Popular Culture. Vol. 27, no. 1, 1993. 81-97
    • Provenzo, Eugene. Video Kids: Making Sense of Nintendo. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, London, England: Harvard University, 1991.
    • Greenfield, Patricia M. and Subrahmanyam, Kaveri. “Computer Games for Girls: What Makes Them Play.” From Barbie to Mortal Kombat. Eds. Justine Cassell and Henry Jenkins. Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1999. 46-71.
  3. Ivory, J. D., & Wilkerson, H. C. (2002, August). Video games are from Mars, not Venus: Gender, electronic game play and attitudes toward the medium. Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, nd.
  4. https://books.google.ca/books?id=kVG9AQAAQBAJ&pg=PA50&lpg=PA50&dq=provenzo+making+sense+of+nintendo+violence+girls&source=bl&ots=tCb80qsEIJ&sig=Je2Kt40SK2zNHvGuty2kOoX6CDM&hl=en&sa=X&ei=8IRgVZOWNoeWyQSrhYM4&ved=0CDAQ6AEwAw#v=onepage&q&f=false
  5. 5.0 5.1 Nayar, Pramod K., ed. "Women and Games:Technologies of the Gendered Self". The New Media and Cyber Cultures Anthology. Blackwell. https://books.google.ca/books?id=L0Ycv5Rq3PoC&pg=PA408&lpg=PA408&dq=is+still+misunderstood+and+too+often+conflated+as+having+single+perspective+or+experience&source=bl&ots=hWFTSuMY4P&sig=Ig5LD5OO7wx67mZht6w96bCFYHE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=yUJfVdy3OMyRyASCtYCYBQ&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false. 
  6. Susan Mackey-Kallis. Video Gaming: Violence. Encyclopedia of Gender in Media. 2012.
  7. Ivory, J. D., & Wilkerson, H. C. (2002, August). Video games are from Mars, not Venus: Gender, electronic game play and attitudes toward the medium. Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, nd.
  8. Consalvo, M. and R.Treat (2002) ‘Exploring Gameplay:A Survey of Game Players’ Preferences’
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Phan, Mikki H.; Jardina, Jo R.; Hoyle, Sloane; Chaparro, Barbara (September 2012). "Examining the Role of Gender in Video Game Usage, Preference, and Behavior". Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting 56 (1): 1496-1500. 
  10. Nakamura, Rika; Wirman, Hanna (October 2005). "Girlish Counter-Playing Tactics". Game Studies 5 (1). http://www.gamestudies.org/0501/nakamura_wirman/. 
  11. See also Taylor,T.L. (2003) ‘Multiple Pleasures:Women and Online Gaming’, Convergence 9(1): 21–46
  12. See, for example:
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Eastin, Matthew S. (July 2006). "Video Game Violence and the Female Game Player: Self- and Opponent Gender Effects on Presence and Aggressive Thoughts". Human Communication Research (Wiley Online) 32 (3): 351-372. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1468-2958.2006.00279.x/abstract. 
  14. Cooper, J., & Mackie, D. (1986). Video games and aggression in children. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 16, 726–744.
  15. Anderson, C. A., & Murphy, C. (2003). Violent video games and aggressive behavior in young women. Aggressive Behavior, 29,423–429.
  16. Anderson, C. A., &Bushman, B. J. (2001). Effects of violent video games on aggressive behavior, aggressive cognition, aggressive affect, physiological arousal, and prosocial behavior: A meta-analytic review of the scientific literature. Psychological Science, 12, 353–359.