Rosalind Wiseman over at TIME Magazine discovered that “kids are fed up with Kate Upton” or more specifically, fed up with having the Game of War ads in which she features heavily showing up on their mobile phones. Case in point:
When the ads for Game of War started showing up on my students’ phones last year—they haven’t stopped—many were annoyed. They hated that it was impossible to close the ad, forcing them instead to watch the video until the end. But what really irritated them was Ms. Upton, in a full-cleavage-baring white flowing dress. The ads are clearly effective for some, but the message is obvious: Game of War is a boys’ game, and Upton is the game’s mascot, walking through battles totally unscathed and doing nothing except looking pretty.
Really? They were more irritated by Kate Upton’s cleavage than the fact that they couldn’t skip the ad? Usually when people complain about the Game of War ads, Kate Upton’s cleavage is the only redeeming feature, and it’s the awful voice-over, total lack of gameplay footage, and sheer frequency of their appearance that irritates people.
After determining that Kate Upton’s scantily clad presence isn’t enough to sell video games, Wiseman and her colleagues conducted an “exploratory” survey of some 1,400 middle and high school kids to see if gamers really are sexists after all. What they found is that everything they knew about boys and video games was wrong:
Boys believe female characters are treated too often as sex objects
47% of middle school boys agreed or strongly agreed, and 61% of high school boys agreed or strongly agreed. “If women are objectified like this it defeats the entire purpose of fighting,” Theo, an eighth-grader who loves playing Mortal Kombat, told us. “I would respect the [female] character more for having some dignity.”
Yes, if the female characters don’t have a dignified look to them, it’s just not worth brutally beating them to death and then ripping out their spines for good measure. And if anyone knows what dignity looks like, it’s eighth-graders.
Both boys and girls aren’t more likely to play a game based on the gender of the protagonist
70% of girls said it doesn’t matter and 78% of boys said it doesn’t matter. Interestingly, boys care less about playing as a male character as they age and girls care more about playing as a female one.
This is something gamers have been trying to get across to the media for quite some time, especially those who support #GamerGate. Guys don’t mind playing as female characters if the games are good, and there have been tons of great ones over the years, yet media outlets like TIME continue to claim that the industry is rife with sexism and attack developers for their purported lack of diversity.
Just last week IGN grilled Nintendo about why they can’t play as a female version of Link in the new Legend of Zelda game, Tri Force Heroes. Not to mention the Fallout 4 kerfuffle and the assault on Ubisoft we covered previously.
Girls play a variety of game genres
26% played first-person shooter games like Call of Duty and HALO, 36% played role-playing games like Skyrim and Grand Theft Auto, and 17% played sports games like FIFA and Madden. (19% did not play games, compared to 3% of boys.)
Note the lack of comparison to the boys here. It’s not that female gamers don’t play a variety of games, it’s that there are certain genres that boys prefer more than girls, and boys tend to spend much more time playing games in general, as evidenced by the disparity in that last stat. This also neglects to specify whether “played” consists of just trying it out once or regularly spending time with those types of games.
Naturally any discussion of women in the video game industry will get around to #GamerGate eventually, and so they added some questions about that to the survey too:
We also asked kids if they identified as “gamers.” Especially in light of the“Gamergate”controversy that erupted last year and revealed intense sexism among some self-identified gamers, would the young people who identified as gamers share any of these sentiments? But very few of our respondents knew what Gamergate was and they had very different responses from what one may expect: 55% of boys who identify as gamers think there should be more female heroes in games, and 57% believe that female characters are too often treated as sex objects.
Actually #GamerGate revealed huge ethical lapses in the games industry, particularly in the press, and explicitly refuted the claims that there is intense sexism among self-identified gamers. Ironically, this survey only serves to support #GamerGate’s assertions, even if it can’t really be trusted because Wiseman & co. “didn’t have the resources to conduct a thorough evaluation.”
Despite that, Wiseman hopes this survey will encourage more studies on the topic, and that’s something #GamerGate would happily support because they know full well the results will continue to show that gamers aren’t misogynists and the portrayal of women in games is far more variable than the media will admit.