Reactions to a woman’s voice in an FPS game: The moderating role of status and skill (Kasumovic & Kuznekoff, 2015)

Michael Kasumovic (University of New South Wales) is an evolutionary biologist, has posted his write-up of a study at The Conversation and even has a comic version. Its data is quite familiar though.

In early 2013, I blogged about a field experiment on players’ reaction to a woman’s voice in an FPS game. Its popular take home message was that a female player received three times as many negative messages as male players do. There was some press attention and I believe the study is mentioned quite often in sexual harassment panels at videogames conventions.

The field experiment’s data was once again explored with a different perspective and a fine-tooth comb on particular variables previously explored in the 2013 study: in-game skill, performance and status. Michael Kasumovic provided an evolutionary perspective of the data and Jeffrey Kuznekoff (Miami University) is the communication scientist who originally conducted the field experiment.


Gender inequality and sexist behaviour is prevalent in almost all workplaces and rampant in online environments. Although there is much research dedicated to understanding sexist behaviour, we have almost no insight into what triggers this behaviour and the individuals that initiate it. Although social constructionist theory argues that sexism is a response towards women entering a male dominated arena, this perspective doesn’t explain why only a subset of males behave in this way. We argue that a clearer understanding of sexist behaviour can be gained through an evolutionary perspective that considers evolved differences in intra-sexual competition. We hypothesised that female-initiated disruption of a male hierarchy incites hostile behaviour from poor performing males who stand to lose the most status. To test this hypothesis, we used an online first-person shooter video game that removes signals of dominance but provides information on gender, individual performance, and skill. We show that lower-skilled players were more hostile towards a female-voiced teammate, especially when performing poorly. In contrast, lower-skilled players behaved submissively towards a male-voiced player in the identical scenario. This difference in gender-directed behaviour became more extreme with poorer focal-player performance. We suggest that low-status males increase female-directed hostility to minimize the loss of status as a consequence of hierarchical reconfiguration resulting from the entrance of a woman into the competitive arena. Higher-skilled players, in contrast, were more positive towards a female relative to a male teammate. As higher-skilled players have less to fear from hierarchical reorganization, we argue that these males behave more positively in an attempt to support and garner a female player’s attention. Our results provide the clearest picture of inter-sexual competition to date, highlighting the importance of considering an evolutionary perspective when exploring the factors that affect male hostility towards women.

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Longitudinal relation between videogames use and sexist attitudes among German video game players (Breuer et al., in press)

Just today, I’ve been alerted from Johannes Breuer (University of Cologne) that his paper on the longitudinal relationship between videogame use and sexist attitudes has just been published online at Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking. Along with the mention of twitter exploding like crazy, so I dropped everything and reviewed it. The paper is co-authored by Rachel Kowert, Ruth Festl and Thorsten Quandt.


From the oversexualized characters in fighting games, such as Dead or Alive or Ninja Gaiden, to the overuse of the damsel in distress trope in popular titles, such as the Super Mario series, the under- and misrepresentation of females in video games has been well documented in several content analyses. Cultivation theory suggests that long-term exposure to media content can affect perceptions of social realities in a way that they become more similar to the representations in the media and, in turn, impact one’s beliefs and attitudes. Previous studies on video games and cultivation have often been cross-sectional or experimental, and the limited longitudinal work in this area has only considered time intervals of up to 1 month. Additionally, previous work in this area has focused on the effects of violent content and relied on self-selected or convenience samples composed mostly of adolescents or college students. Enlisting a 3 year longitudinal design, the present study assessed the relationship between video game use and sexist attitudes, using data from a representative sample of German players aged 14 and older (N=824). Controlling for age and education, it was found that sexist attitudes—measured with a brief scale assessing beliefs about gender roles in society—were not related to the amount of daily video game use or preference for specific genres for both female and male players. Implications for research on sexism in video games and cultivation effects of video games in general are discussed.

The good news is that the paper is published in Cyberpsych and thus is quite short for my review. Continue reading

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

Reactions to a woman’s friend request in an FPS game (Holz Ivory et al., 2014)

Previously in communication science, Kuznekoff & Rose (2013) did a field experiment in a popular FPS where they played either as a male or female player and analyzed comments directed towards them. What they found is that the female player received three times as many negative comments as the male player.

Adrienne Holz Ivory (Virginia Tech), Jesse Fox (Ohio State University), Frank Waddell (Pennsylvania State University) and James Ivory (Virginia Tech) conducted a field experiment of their own where they examined how players of a different FPS game reacted to either a male’s or female’s friend request following a match. What did they found in this field experiment?


Sex role stereotyping by players in first-person shooter games and other online gaming environments may encourage a social environment that marginalizes and alienates female players. Consistent with the social identity model of deindividuation effects (SIDE), the anonymity of online games may engender endorsement of group-consistent attitudes and amplification of social stereotyping, such as the adherence to gender norms predicted by expectations states theory. A 2 × 3 × 2 virtual field experiment (= 520) in an online first-person shooter video game examined effects of a confederate players’ sex, communication style, and skill on players’ compliance with subsequent online friend requests. We found support for the hypothesis that, in general, women would gain more compliance with friend requests than men. We also found support for the hypothesis that women making positive utterances would gain more compliance with friend requests than women making negative utterances, whereas men making negative utterances would gain more compliance with friend requests than men making positive utterances. The hypothesis that player skill (i.e., game scores) would predict compliance with friend requests was not supported. Implications for male and female game players and computer-mediated communication in online gaming environments are discussed.

Yay! It’s summer time, now I get to catch up on the games I bought from the last steam sale! Continue reading

Why girls play pink videogames? (van Reijmersdal et al., 2013)

The gender disparity in the gamer demographics is probably one of its defining characteristics. The proportion of men who game are higher than women, in a broad sense, but anecdotes and some survey data show that there are greater disparities in some genres. Men are attracted to competitive and combative videogames (e.g., FPS, RTS, MOBA) whereas women are attracted to socially interactive videogames (e.g., MMO) (references). Researchers noted that this does not reflect some fundamental reason to justify why girls don’t play videogames… it’s complicated. I’d have to bring in developmental psychologists, sociologists, and other social scientists who specialize in gender to interpret these results.

Eva van Reijmersdal (University of Amsterdam) and colleagues noted that there is not much we know about girls and videogames, especially why pink games are popular among young girls.


Based on social role theory and uses and gratifications, this study provides insights into the popularity of so-called pink games. This study is the first to examine the roles of identification, playing time, and age in the experience of motivations while playing an online role-playing game. Drawing upon a survey among 2261 girls between10 and 17 of age, our results show that identification with characters in the game is an important process in explaining girls’ gaming motivations. In addition, identification and motivations are intensified with playing time. Although age affects identification negatively, age is not related to the most important motive in playing pink games: social interaction. This study has important theoretical and practical implications for the popularity of pink games among girls.

So… my first article is finally published in Computer in Human Behavior. Continue reading

Self-objectification by embodying sexualized virtual selves (Fox et al., 2013)

From Jurassic Park: Trespasser

From Jurassic Park: Trespasser (1998)

I was going through articles deciding what to review in light of recent developments. I came acorss Jesse Fox (Ohio State University) and colleagues’ article in Computers in Human Behavior that relates well with the Oculus Rift. I’ve seen some youtube videos of people’s experiences with the oculus rift, including an execution with a virtual guillotine. Jesse Fox (whom I co-authored on an upcoming article in the same journal) and colleagues examined the effects of sexual self-objectification within the virtual reality setting, not dissimilar from using the Oculus rift. At present course of gaming development practices towards gender depiction, this is what we could expect in the near future.


Research has indicated that many video games and virtual worlds are populated by unrealistic, hyper-sexualized representations of women, but the effects of embodying these representations remains understudied. The Proteus effect proposed by Yee and Bailenson (2007) suggests that embodiment may lead to shifts in self-perception both online and offline based on the avatar’s features or behaviors. A 2 X 2 experiment, the first of its kind, examined how self-perception and attitudes changed after women (N = 86) entered a fully immersive virtual environment and embodied sexualized or nonsexualized avatars which featured either the participant’s face or the face of an unknown other. Findings supported the Proteus effect. Participants who wore sexualized avatars internalized the avatar’s appearance and self-objectified, reporting more body-related thoughts than those wearing nonsexualized avatars. Participants who saw their own faces, particularly on sexualized avatars, expressed more rape myth acceptance than those in other conditions. Implications for both online and offline consequences of using sexualized avatars are discussed.

Jesse and I have already planned follow-up surveys and hopefully get enough data before I review my own work for the first time. Continue reading

The SeX-Box and benevolent sexism (Stermer & Burkley, 2013)

When I saw the title from the new academic journal, Psychology of Popular Media Culture, it sounded familiar that I googled and found out it was a probable reference to the Fox News’ face-palming reporting of Mass Effect’s erotic cutscene (“se”xbox). Steven Paul Stermer (Oklahoma State University) and Melissa Burkley has a line of studies examining sexual depictions in videogames.  This study investigated the correlational link between sexist videogame content and benevolent sexism. This reminded me of a videogame commercial I saw a long time ago when television had a big place in my leisure time.


We examined the association between playing sexist video games and sexist attitudes. Undergraduate students (61 men and 114 women) indicated the level of perceived sexism present in their most frequently played video games. Students also completed the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (Glick & Fiske, 1996), which measures both hostile and benevolent sexism. As predicted, men who played video games perceived to be high in sexism showed higher levels of benevolent sexism, compared with men who did not play such games. This relationship was not evident for women. Importantly, our study provides the first known evidence of a link between long-term exposure to sexist video games and sexist attitudes. Although correlational, these data are consistent with the notion that sexist video games encourage and reinforce sexist attitudes. Our findings have important real-world implications for video game researchers, parents, and game players themselves.

I started playing League of Legends after finishing a good portion of the Assassin’s Creed series. I can see why it’s popular, I am starting to think on my play style and which champions to aim for. Continue reading