Is there a link between video games and sexism?

Posted on June 30, 2017

Without a doubt there are video games that are sexist.  Some in fact go so far to promote sexism, misogynistic attitudes and even violent and unwanted sexual behaviour against women.

But do these kinds of games result in a decreased empathy for women for those who play them?  Until now the consensus has been yes – but with little evidence.

US researchers from Florida Stetson University and Texas A&M University re-examined a landmark study hailed as a clear link between sexism and violence in games and development of sexist behaviour.  This study stated that men, when exposed to a violent-sexist game, increased their masculine beliefs while lowering their empathy for female victims.  This was certainly a big call to make, as it suggests that exposure to sexist and violent content can moderate a gamer’s behaviour.

This new study entitled “Are Associations Between ‘Sexist’ Video Games and Decreased Empathy Toward Women Robust? A Reanalysis of Gabbiadini et al. 2016” was recently published in the Journal of Youth Adolescence.  This reanalysis found that the results of the landmark study changed dramatically depending on how the data was analysed.  The researchers also criticised the lack of experimental evidence on empathy.

Sexism in Games

In short, the data was in no way conclusive and cannot be used for any such claims.

“… our reanalysis joins an increasing body of literature that suggests there may be little link between sexism in games and sexism in real life. ” states lead author Christopher Ferguson in this re-analysis paper.  “However, this perspective does not mean that moral concerns about sexism in games are unimportant. Our concern is that claims about the power of scientific evidence to support moral agendas may backfire, especially when the evidence is equivocal.”

We here at Checkpoint do not condone sexist behaviour, of course. But at least we know now that video games most likely do not make gamers sexist.

Looks as though the bad ones were already like that.