All posts by Aric

Research 10- “Gender Disparity in Video Game Usage”


This is a 2012 Media Psychology article entitled “Gender Disparity in Video Game Usage: A Third-Person Perception-Based Explanation,”  by Mark Cruea and Sung-Yeon Park.

The study looks at 1) others’ perceptions of peoples’ time spent playing games and 2) perceived influence of “unrealistic images” in terms of body, much like my earlier post, the article from Sex Roles.

The study start out by noting that gamers, be they women or men, are considered gamers by a very large blanket-term; anyone from Solitaire and Minesweeper players who play one game a week to players who rock their Xbox for more than four hours per day. This study, of course, spotlights people’s perceptions of others’ play, which probably contributes to some of the confusion in terms of who’s playing what and the thought that video gaming is “still a man’s world.”

I found it interesting because, as I mentioned with the previous study about body images in games, I was surprised that in-game body image was such a big factor in the real world. I guess I still am, and always seemed to overlook it myself, never finding it to be of much importance. I’ll admit, when I saw the girls in Mortal Kombat for the first time, I noted that yes, they were wearing very revealing clothing and their bodies were hypersexualized, but I don’t know.  Like I said, I kind of overlooked it. I mostly played Scorpion anyway, and he was a ninja. I’ve always wanted to be a ninja myself, so that was cool… and really, he was never supposed to be sexy, unlike the women in the game- the dude took off his mask and there was a flaming skull underneath. Not very attractive.

Thus, I am increasingly seeing this argument’s importance.

Most importantly, I find that the perception that others are affect by this imagery much more than one self is rather interesting. We seem to think, perhaps, we are less prone to suggestions than others are. This  probably means that we either underestimate the effects of hypersexualized characters on our own psyches, or we are overestimating the effects on everyone else.

Research 9- Perpetuating Stereotypes

This one is an article from 2002 by Akilah Monifa published in the Miami Times.

It says simply that many games are perpetuating racial and gender stereotypes. There are a couple important stats: “four percent of African-American characters appeared as heroes… Black American female characters were also more likely than any other group to be victims of violence… Every one of the Latino characters was in sports games, usually baseball.” There are some rather disproportionate numbers too, such  as Latinos who were shown “exhibiting physical harm and pain after an injury, such as colliding into a wall while trying to catch a pop fly.”

Baseball violence is for the most part comic mischief compared to any run-of-the-mill shooter, and I believe the author may be making a bit of a straw man argument here, but there are other statistics I’ve seen that seems to generally agree with the findings. I’d say it’s something that’s worth looking into.

Research 8- Players and Body Image

Another article I found, “The Impact of Body Emphasizing Video Games on Body Image Concerns in Men and Women” published in Sex Roles in 2008, highlights the fact stated in its title: apparently, body image is of a concern for both male and female players. The link here:

Created characters, for instance, are sometimes “enhanced versions” of the players making them. This study seems to have found that games impact players thoughts of their own body image. It mentions that a lot of body image study had been done using “female examples,” and one can easily find examples of Photoshop touch-ups and fixes to make models look impossibly beautiful on Youtube. I found this interesting because, while playing Mass Effect, my friends and fellow gamers have made numerous comments on the in game characters’ appearances and sexuality.

In several chats with a female player I play ME3 multiplayer with frequently, I have heard that there are a great many male players who find the all-female Asari race especially attractive. Their race somewhat symbolizes “the epitome of femininity” in the game, and Shepard’s singleplayer squadmate Liara also has a highlighted sex scene near the end of the game (as in the scene is a little longer and more, shall I say, “detailed,” than those with other squadmates,) should either Shepard or Femshep choose to romance her. There appears to be more of the model-type females in this game than there are males, and I wonder what kind of effect that has, and whether it agrees with this study.

Interestingly, they used WWE (WWF, at the time) Wrestlemania 2000 on the N64- a very dated game with graphics that cannot stand up to today’s standards. I also wonder if a modern game were used, one with more detail, would that have an even stronger effect? The reason they cited was the character creation- they were able to create characters specific body images for players to fight against (a really strong muscular character and a very obese character for the males), and most modern games did not have this capability, so they said.

I’m honestly surprised to see body image has such a connection with video games.


Research 7- Video Games and Brain Activity

Here’s a brief study conclusion I found, entitled “Video Games and the Brain,” published in Science Teacher in 2008, and  linked here:

An experiment on “territoriality” of men vs. women was conducted, and a simple computer game was used to test this. The findings were unsurprising, as far as I can tell, indicating that males were more territorial than females.

There are also other notes on brain activity going on during the games, showing that males had much more brain activity going on throughout the game than the women did. I thought this difference in brain activity, though only garnering a quick mention in this brief summary of the study, might be of use to my research.

Research 6- Breaking the “Gamer” Stereotype

This article is entitled “Women, Socialization, and Video Games,” published in Women in Higher Education in November 2011. As always, the link here:

The first sentence of the article reads, “Most people are astonished to learn that about half of women are gamers.” The whole idea behind the article is demonstrating how the stereotypes are fading out, and quotes statistics about women who play games like Bejewled and Solitaire, much like McGonigal did in the first book we read for class, Reality is Broken. Technicalities a aside, the facts are facts, and the argument is that because most game designers are white males, they really don’t understand the female audience. Dr. Chris Paul is mentioned in the article citing ways in which the industry can improve general gender inclusiveness in games. He suggestions were: “Diversify the gamer base as a way to diversify the student body, design community and stimulate other ideas… Enroll more women in courses on game studies… [and] [e]ducate both industry and academia on women’s issues and the role games play.” With this in mind, the idea is that women will stop being so alienated by the regularly produced console games and help expand the industry’s audience.

The Metroid Prime Trilogy and Corruption Metaphor

I was a little uncertain how to write this, honestly. I tried to follow the posted guidelines and make some sort of real-life connection, just like the authors we have been reading have attempted to do.  Hopefully this is an adequate analysis. I’m open to feedback.


Metroid Prime, released on the Nintendo Gamecube in late 2002, saw the return of female bounty hunter Samus Aran for the first time since Super Metroid in the early 90’s. The plot of the Prime trilogy was a dark one, and literally; Samus was forced to brave world after world filled with corrupted “darklings” as she progressed deeper and deeper into the mystery surrounding the Space Pirates and their use of the bizarre radioactive element, called phazon. As mentioned in some scans and on the Wikitroid page, the phazon shows signs of being “organic” and “sentient,” meaning it is a sort of radioactive poison plant of sorts that can think for itself.

Along the way, we learn of the fate of the bird-people she was raised among, the Chozo (Metroid Prime,) the telepathic insectoid race, the Luminoth (Metroid Prime 2: Echoes,) and several others on various worlds in the third installment (Metroid Prime 3: Corruption.) All of these races have been plagued by the corrupting forces of phazon.

Samus’ main adversary is the bizarre creature called the “Metroid Prime” by the scanner systems in her Varia battle suit, and the phazon it has spawned from. The Metroid Prime is a formidable foe indeed, and pushes Samus to her limits throughout the series. At first, we assume the creature has died, but then, come the second game, we see it has mutated, and now, Samus’ worst enemy is her own dark side: a phazon-charged demon spawn that looks just like her and goes by the name of Dark Samus.

The idea of corruption is present throughout the series, and culminates in the third game, which is entitled, Metroid Prime 3: Corruption. Samus’ first experience with the phazon is on a Space Pirate frigate, where she finds the remnants and data from Pirate experiments done on floating, talon-bearing creatures created by the Chozo, called metroids. The phazon is used on metroids, and is also a source of great power.

Once landing on Talon IV, a Chozo colony, Samus finds only ruin. The phazon has spread across the planet, bringing with it mutations, destruction, and, of course, corruption. The ponderous thing about this story, the corruption that the phazon brings, and how this corruption actually becomes strong enough to create the Metroid Prime/ Dark Samus, is in the potential real world metaphors. Sure, one could look at the phazon, see it plaguing everything it touches, turning innocent peoples into monsters, and forcing Samus to kill former allies in a sci-fi horror show and say that phazon acts rather similar to any other kind of real world power. Some might argue corporations act this way, at the least in America- they run the world as they see fit, because they have the money and the influence to push their own agendas with much greater capacity than any one person. Corporations are an example of power- they have the ability to stick their hands into virtually any matter and influence it greatly, for better or worse. Money, too, is sometimes seen this way. If one acquires too much wealth, then the proverbial fear is that this person will become greedy. This behavior echoes Dark Samus’; it always feeds on phazon, constantly needing more to sate its appetite. Can much the same be said for money?

Not in every case. Money is used for good almost as often as it is used for something one might call “evil.” Philanthropy is hardly a dead practice- there are many million- and billionaires who donate a great deal to various charities and non-for-profits. In game, Samus gets a hold of the phazon’s power on a couple of occasions, and she uses it to destroy the Space Pirates, who eventually come to worship Dark Samus as if it were a deity, and all the darklings that Dark Samus sends her way. In the first game, the Phazon Suit, in addition to being arguably the “coolest looking” suit that Samus dons in the first Metroid Prime, offers her complete immunity from the phazon vines that cover parts of Talon IV, and affords her a primitive version of the Phazon Beam that she will have access to again in the third game.

But Samus experiences problems with the phazon in the third game. She does not simply get a jazzy suit, but gets a specific Phazon Enhancement Device built into her suit after she is exposed to a blast from Dark Samus. As the game progresses, she gets visibly more corrupted by the poison, which turns her suit progressively bluer, and also starts producing vine-like growths on her face and body that resemble the substance growing on walls and tunnels. She experiences vomiting and other side effects from the overexposure, and only gets rid of the substance completely by going directly to the planet Phaaze, from where all of the phazon in the universe is originating.

The sickness Samus experiences seems more symbolic of what I would be tempted to call “remorse” in the real world, almost like a reaction to realizing one has too much power, or more specifically, that one has mindfully abused such power.

It is challenging to speak of the game’s relation to reality in such vague and general terms, but there are several possible interpretations that make for interesting thought. Power and money are two potential ideas, but perhaps and even closer metaphor would be human treatment of the environment. The phazon corrupts the worlds and everything on them that it comes into contact with. Perhaps something like global warming is a fairly accurate real-world example of corruption. Just like the phazon, global warming at least indirectly affects everyone on the planet. With ice melting and glaciers falling apart, the oceans rise, and cities that are closer to sea-level, New York for example, may well be in danger of getting completely washed out in the coming decades as a result of the effects. The result would be much like the hurricane that rocked the shores of New York two years ago, sending water surging into the lower parts of the city.

Of course, these are all just brief examples of the potential metaphors that phazon may be loaded with, and all of these could be potentially erroneous speculations. Perhaps Metroid Prime’s phazon is simply an age old story element, a corrupting force that takes influence from virtually all others in our world, including stories written and told in the past. We can never be certain, but nonetheless, it may be a warning, or perhaps just a proverb for the masses— be wary of the world in which you live, and do your part to stop it from becoming any more corrupt than it already is.