Computer science stereotypes as barriers to inclusion for women and how they extend to videogames

In my previous blog post, I reviewed a study on the associations between career interests and videogames preferences of which I argued the need to go deeper than just looking at associations. The study piqued my curiosity about why so few women major in STEM careers and how this affect women’s career interests with videogames (see Wikipedia). To my knowledge, most universities offer videogames design courses through computer science, a major predominantly populated by men. There are many researchers who studied the underrepresentation of women in STEM careers and they found different kinds of barriers (i.e. cultural, psychological, etc.). I will summarize studies focused on a single aspect and consider its relation to videogames, which at this point referring to interests in gaming and careers in videogames. Continue reading

The relation between videogame preferences and career interests (Giammarco et al., 2015)

There was a reddit AMA from someone associated with Kerbal Space Program that female kerbals will be included in the game. It’s quite a pleasant surprise and this relates to issues about how videogames influence youth’s career interests. Kerbal Space Program, Guitar Hero, America’s Army among many others had influences on youth’s career aspirations. Of course, this influence varies and it was not quite clear how big of an influence videogames have on career interests.

I came across a study by Erica Giammarco (University of Western Ontario), Travis Schneider (UWO), Julie Carswell (Research Psychologist Press) and William Knipe (Lucas Secondary School) examined the relation between videogame preferences and career interests.

Abstract

The current study used an mTURK sample to determine if there is a relation between video game preferences and career interests. Previous research has found that individual (e.g., personality) differences influence gaming preferences (Zammitto, 2001) and we sought to extend these findings to the domain of career interests. In addition, we examined the potential moderating role of gender. Since researchers have found that gender disparities in spatial attention can be reduced by playing certain types of video games (Feng, Spence, & Pratt, 2007), and it has been demonstrated that spatial ability is an important predictor of success in careers where women are typically underrepresented (Blickenstaff, 2005), we predicted that women with a preference for these types of games (versus a general preference) may have more interest in these careers. We found that gaming motivations were differentially associated with career interests. In addition, gender was found to significantly moderate a number of these relations, such that the association between gaming tendencies and career interests was stronger for women than for men. Findings from the current study should help guide future research that aims to increase the representation of women in STEM careers.

I started playing Team Fortress 2 and am really getting into it. Continue reading

Can clans protect adolescent players of massively multiplayer online games from violent behaviors? (Ybarra & boyd, 2015)

A recent study by Michele Ybarra (Center for Innovative Public Health Research) and danah boyd (Microsoft Research) has been published for February 2015 in the International Journal of Public Health. The study examine how adolescents’ membership in MMO clans or guilds affect their violent behaviors.

Abstract

Objectives To examine whether clan membership mediates observed associations between violent game content and externalizing behaviors among youth who play massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs).

Methods Responses from 486 11- to 18-year-olds who: live in the United States, read English, have been online at least once in the past 6 months, and have played MMOGs in the past year were examined. Generalized estimating equations were used to estimate the population-averaged incident rate ratio of aggressive, delinquent, and seriously violent behaviors among MMOG players given one’s self-reported exposure to in-game content depicting violence.

Results Twenty-nine percent of all youth respondents played MMOGs in the past year. Rates of aggressive, IRR: 1.59, 95 % CI [1.11, 2.26], and delinquent, IRR: 1.44, 95 % CI [0.99, 2.08], behaviors were significantly higher for MMOG players who were in clans versus not in clans. For females, clan membership attenuated but did not eliminate the observed relation between exposure to in-game violent content and both aggressive and seriously violent behavior (16 % and 10 % reductions in IRR, respectively); whereas for males, clan membership was largely uninfluential (i.e., less than 2 % change).

Conclusions Clan membership is neither associated with lower rates of externalizing behaviors for youth, nor does it affect the likelihood of reporting externalizing behaviors among male players. There is some suggestion that clan membership may attenuate the concurrent association between in-game violent content and some externalizing behaviors for females.

Due to circumstances, I intend to enter the industry, preferably focusing on  players/gamers online interactions or user research. Continue reading

A “Dry Eye” for William Carver: playing a violent videogame on pupil dilation (Arriaga et al., 2014)

clementine-dryeyelook

Clementine’s dry stare (The Walking Dead: Season Two)

Last Sunday, I finished The Walking Dead: Season two’s third episode. At the second last flag, I decided that Clementine should stay and watch Carver. Watching Clementine’s stare, it reminded me of Patricia Arriaga, Joana Adrião, Filipa Madeira, Inês Cavaleiro, Alexandra Maia e Silva, and Isabel Barahona study on players’ pupil dilation after playing a violent videogame. The study was published in the Psychology of Violence.

Abstract

Objective: The present experiment analyzed the effects of playing a violent video game on player’s sensitivity to victimized people by measuring the involuntary pupil dilation responses (PDRs) during a passive picture viewing paradigm and examining the mediating role of PDR on aggression. Method: Participants (N = 135) were randomly assigned to play a violent video game or a nonviolent video game. The participants’ PDRs were then recorded while they were exposed to pictures of alleged victims of violence displayed in negative, neutral, and positive contexts. A competitive reaction time task was also used to measure aggression. Results: Participants in the violent game condition demonstrated both a lower PDR to the victims of violence in a negative circumstances and greater aggression than participants in the nonviolent game condition. Lower PDR to victims displayed in negative context mediated the relationship between violent game play and aggression. Conclusion: The negative effects of playing violent games are a societal concern. Our results indicate that a single violent gaming session can reduce the player’s involuntary PDRs to pictures of victimized people in negative context and increase participant aggression, a new relevant finding that should encourage further research in this area.

I play one episode every Sunday to pace myself. I should be done in two weeks. Spoiler alert for those who did not play the Walking Dead. Continue reading

Underground: A serious game for laparoscopic surgery

A wii videogame called ‘Underground‘ was developed by Grendel Games as a serious game for laparoscopic surgery. According to a recent Nintendo Life interview, the developers were approached by Dr. Henk ten Cate Hoedemaker (University Medical Center Groningen) to create the game as existing laparoscopic simulators were not fun which discourage them from using them unless they’re told to. Drs. Maarten Jalink, Jetse Goris, Erik Heineman, Jean-Pierre E. N. Pierie, and Henk ten Cate Hoedemaker published two studies in Surgical Endoscopy regarding the effectiveness of Underground.

The game uses a custom-designed game peripheral that mimics laparoscopic equipment as shown below. The developer did mention that it can be played with the Wii U’s gamepad.

The gameplay involves the player’ interactions through two extended mechanical arms that mimics laparoscopic equipment. The game world is an underground mine involving robots. You use these arms to grab, drag or break objects, kind of like Surgeon Simulator 2013 (well more easy to use). The objectives is to create a path for allied non-player characters who must reach a destination (Nintendolife review). Continue reading

Review of 2014 videogames research: More diverse than about violence and addiction

At last year’s annual review of videogames research, I mentioned gathering data regarding when videogames scholarly articles were published most often. My initial suspicions were that they were more proliferous during spring time than other times of the year, in particular to the end of the year. Jamie Madigan commented videogames studies is dominated by violence and addiction studies.

To answer these expressed views, I started counting and categorizing every article I picked up during this year and entered them into excel spreadsheet.

Method

I have set up search alerts in scholarly databases that will email me whenever new peer-reviewed articles on videogames has appeared. Every Thursday, I dug through more than 30 email alerts and whenever I found a relevant videogames article, I download the full text article, uploaded its citation information to my citeulike and categorized the article according to its primary outcome.

Databases: Google scholar, EBSCOhost, Elsevier’s ScienceDirect, SpringerLink, SAGE Publications, Web of Science, Taylor & Francis Online and Wiley Online Library.

Terms used: I used boolean searches to gather as many articles that may relate to videogames, unfortunately this resulted in high number of false positives, especially coming from Wiley Online Library and SAGE Publications. The terms used are videogame*, digit*, video*, comput*, consol*, game*, digital, electron*, onlin*. Jesse Fox (Ohio State University) gave this advice: include as many key terms as possible in your title and abstract to increase your work’s visibility. Videogame articles that do not use these terms don’t show up in my emails. It’s all fun and good if your article title is an inside joke or reference, but a beginner researcher would not think of it during their searches. Sometimes, articles usually outside of my field don’t show in my emails, even though they are in the databases I’ve set up. For example, this article titled ‘‘LOVE YOU GUYS (NO HOMO)’: How gamers and fans play with sexuality, gender, and Minecraft on YouTube’ written by Amanda Potts, a linguistic and English scholar. I thank Tony Bean for picking it up.

Journals: I subscribed to receive table of content alerts from journals that usually publish videogames research, see resources link for a complete listing.

Category types: I categorize articles based on its primary outcomes. For example, an article about teens’ aggression from playing videogames would fall under aggression rather than developmental. I make new categories whenever an article don’t fit with any of the existing ones, and sometimes I may have miscategorized some articles because of its ambiguity. Some categories were combined because it simplifies the process. The categories are: aggression, addiction, advertising, cognition & neuropsychology, game engagement, Culture & qualitative research, decision making, industry, developmental, religion, Training & Education & Gamification, Health & Exercise, Motivation, Prosocial, Sensation & Perception, User study & game design, Stereotype & Ethniciy, Identity (social, self, gender), Social, Politics & Law & Science, Methodology, Emotion & Mood & Arousal, Sports, Economics, Forensics.

Results

A total of 491 scholarly peer-reviewed articles were picked up over the year of 2014. Weekly article collections averaged at 9.62 (SD = 6.16).

To answer my views on that videogames studies were published most often during springtime, I stared at the excel sheet and found that articles are publishing pretty much evenly during the year. Thus the data does not support my opinion.

To answer Jamie Madigan’s views about research being dominated by violence and addiction research, I present the top 10 categories.

  1. Training, Education & Gamification: 85
  2. Health & Exercise: 75
  3. Addiction: 44
  4. Aggression: 43
  5. Culture & Qualitative research: 43
  6. Cognition & Neuropsychology: 37
  7. Motivation: 24
  8. User Study & Game Design: 21
  9. Social: 20
  10. Identity (social, self, gender): 18

Honorable mentions: advertising stands at 9, game engagement at 13. Gamification alone accounted for 17 articles, including that of Hanus & Fox (2015), Christy & Fox (2014). I should note that the culture & qualitative category are articles that I lumped together because they’re mostly critical culture essays on videogames that do not necessarily fit with each other.

There were also special journal issues: videogames and religion from the Heidelberg Journal of Religions on the Internet. Digital game-based learning from Computers in the School. An issue from European Psychologist had five articles on the debate of violent videogames.

The data supports Jamie’s views in that violence & addiction research are at the top 10, but is overshadowed by the education and health categories. It is possible that violent & addiction research get more press attention than other types of studies since they can be viewed as ‘sexy’ and ‘attractive’ to readers and viewers. I must note for the health category that the number could have been higher if I could included articles from the Games for Health Journal. The problem is that citeulike could not import the Digital Object Identifier information from the journal, and I do not want to spend more time than necessary in collecting articles.

I counted my blog posts (N=23) using the same categorization, here are the categories:

  1. Aggression: 4
  2. Addiction: 3
  3. Motivation: 3
  4. Identity (social, self, gender): 2
  5. Social: 2
  6. Prosocial: 2
  7. Science communication: 1
  8. Advertising: 1
  9. Cognition & Neuropsychology: 1
  10. Game engagement: 1
  11. Education: 1
  12. Health & Exercise: 1
  13. Stereotype & Ethnicity: 1

My blog seem to reflect a bit of what I picked up. Albeit I am leaning much to the aggression, addiction and gender studies.

Discussion

The take home message is that videogames research publications is more diverse than previously thought. The health sciences and education field have taken an interest in applying videogames and given the numbers published this shows that videogames is showing a lot of positive potential. Of course, it can also be used in maladaptive ways, such as escaping into virtual worlds and not coping well with their social and health problems.

Last year’s number was 263 articles and yet this year I have counted 491. It is possible that I may have miscounted, but the numbers from my citeulike database may also be wrong. Previous counts were done by searching my citation database through articles tagged under ‘videogames’ and its year. Unfortunately, the year in question is the article’s publishing year rather than when I picked it up. So it is possible that I have underestimated the number of articles I picked up in a given year. Hence, when counting for this publishing year’s count, it returned the number to 487, less than my excel sheet counts. It is because more recent articles have been slated to publish in 2015, 23 of them as of this writing, conversely my 2013 article collection may have also included some publications slated for 2014.

The purpose of my blog is to review the latest videogames peer-reviewed studies for the gamer and scientific audiences. This entails a great degree of uncertainty of what to review, if I were to review last year’s publications, then this blog would have been a retrospective review defeating its original purpose.

I have reviewed a tiny fraction of what I picked, nevertheless I was picky in what to review and the criteria varies from time to time (i.e. I do what I want). Sometimes, I want to review easy to summarize articles because I’m in crunch time; some grabbed my attention, like Andrew Przybylski’s competence impeding study; was given a request to review; I rejected papers when they sounded great in its abstract, but turned out horrible when I read the full text. I do try to blog at least one type of study, specific a cognition-related study even if it hurts my brain.

The lack of proportional blogging on education and health-related studies may have stemmed from my lack of understanding and/or its generic contribution to the scientific literature. My impressions of the education studies is that the authors have created some kind of intervention, either they created their own education game or used games as part of the intervention, then they measured for some kind of educational outcome, such as reading level or topical knowledge. Their results found that their intervention improves the outcome and argues for gamifying the curriculum. I figured that someone who is a gamer and an educator might have blogged these studies. As for the health studies, I believe it’s mostly lack of interest in them. I should try to blog some articles, see how much interest there is for these types of studies.

Other news

My posting on Rachel Kowert’s work on emotional sensitivity in online gaming at Gamasutra led to increased visibility and interest in her works that led Massively.com to write a two-part article on her research and an interview on the second part. I can humbly say that I gave her a little bump. My blogging of Adrienne Holz Ivory et al.’s field experiment on players’ reaction to women’s voice garnered some attention including a short article at Polygon. I find that a good number of people exaggerate my blogging contributions, I barely get three-digit daily views on my blog, not much commenting and very links from gaming forums, in essence I barely have much have an impact factor.

I have completed my candidacy exams, I have evolved from a PhD student into a PhD candidate and thus I must craft my dissertation proposal by the end of the academic year. So I will be on the academic job market by Fall of 2015, although crossing over to industry research has been on my mind as well.

My co-author, Jesse Fox, and I have gathered enough data and sent manuscripts for peer review that I am considering in presenting my findings to a videogames conference, like the Game Developers Conference or Penny Arcade Expo. I welcome suggestions for other venues and which one to present. The research is about sexual harassment in online videogames.

That is all.

Co-occurrence of problematic video gaming, substance use and psychosocial problems in adolescents (van Rooij et al., 2014)

Antonius van Rooij (IVO Addiction Research Institute), Daria Kuss (Briminghan City University), Mark Griffiths (Nottingham Trent University), Gillian Shorter (University of Ulster), Tim Schoenmakers (IVO Addiction Research Institute) and Dike van de Mheen (IVO Addiction Research Institute) have published an article in the Journal of Behavioral Addictions regarding the occurrence of problematic video game use and substance use among Dutch adolescents.

Abstract

Aims: The current study explored the nature of problematic (addictive) video gaming (PVG) and the association with game type, psychosocial health, and substance use. Methods: Data were collected using a paper and pencil survey in the classroom setting. Three samples were aggregated to achieve a total sample of 8478 unique adolescents. Scales included measures of game use, game type, the Video game Addiction Test (VAT), depressive mood, negative self-esteem, loneliness, social anxiety, education performance, and use of cannabis, alcohol and nicotine (smoking). Results: Findings confirmed problematic gaming is most common amongst adolescent gamers who play multiplayer online games. Boys (60%) were more likely to play online games than girls (14%) and problematic gamers were more likely to be boys (5%) than girls (1%). High problematic gamers showed higher scores on depressive mood, loneliness, social anxiety, negative self-esteem, and self-reported lower school performance. Nicotine, alcohol, and cannabis using boys were almost twice more likely to report high PVG than non-users. Conclusions: It appears that online gaming in general is not necessarily associated with problems. However, problematic gamers do seem to play online games more often, and a small subgroup of gamers – specifically boys – showed lower psychosocial functioning and lower grades. Moreover, associations with alcohol, nicotine, and cannabis use are found. It would appear that problematic gaming is an undesirable problem for a small subgroup of gamers. The findings encourage further exploration of the role of psychoactive substance use in problematic gaming.

I should start writing my end of year blogging report, I’ve collected data regarding the type of videogames studies published this year. Continue reading