Survey Regarding the Feelings of Young Gaming Enthusiasts is Flawed, To Say The Least

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Fri, Jul 10 - 8:42 pm EDT | 3 years ago by
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A recent study appears to indicate that young boys and girls are fed up with the portrayals of female characters in video games – but it’s not without its issues.

Rosalind Wiseman is a teacher, “thought leader,” and author of several books, including Queen Bees and Wannabes, the New York Times best-seller that served as the inspiration for the movie Mean Girls.  In 2014, Wiseman launched a study aiming to explore the feelings and perceptions of middle and high school boys and girls in regards to female representation in video games. Collaborating with Wiseman on the study were Charlie Kuhn and Ashly Burch. Over 1400 students from throughout the country participated by answering a variety of questions exploring how they felt about gender representation in games and the types of games that girls play. The results were shared in March at the Game Developer’s Conference, and Wiseman posted the results in a Time article titled “Everything You Know About Boys and Video Games is Wrong” on Wednesday.

Teen playing video games
Source: iStockphoto via Getty Images

Before highlighting the findings, it is critical to note that Wiseman herself states that the study was exploratory, claiming a lack of resources contributed to not being able to conduct a thorough evaluation.

Yet many publications are citing this study as both a confirmed indicator of the feelings of youth in regards to video game representation and confirmation that there are issues within the industry that require a remedy. I’m not going to do that.

An eighth grade boy by the name of Theo apparently told the researchers, “If women are objectified like this it defeats the entire purpose of fighting,” in regards to Mortal Kombat – which he “loves” to play. “I would respect the [female] character more for having some dignity.” It’s important to remember that Mortal Kombat is game that is recommended for players over the age of 17, as is evidenced by its Mature rating. Sorry Theo, but that game wasn’t made for you. It may have been more appropriate to ensure that the children being surveyed are playing age-appropriate games.

One of the most immediately apparent issues with the study is the way in which the information was gathered. The primary method for collecting and compiling the answers for this study was through an online service called SurveyMonkey, with potential respondents directed to the survey link via public tweets. There is currently no way to verify the identities of those who respond to surveys through this website. “Do you have 6th-12th grade boys or girls who can take our new gaming survey? And please share!” Wiseman wrote in one tweet. Ashly Burch wrote: “We need more teenage respondents for our gaming survey! If you’re a teen or know any teens, pls take/share,” later clarifying “That survey is only for kids in middle school and high school, FYI!”

Another issue with the study is the lack of neutral and balanced questions asked. Several focused on the types of games girls play, and the types of games boys think girls play. No questions exist to explore the opposite perspective. A second imbalance was the lack of questions aimed towards male representation in video games. Considering the method used to conduct this research, no additional resources would have been required to create a more neutral survey for the anonymous internet users to share their feelings. Instead, the study focused exclusively on the “hyper-sexualized depiction of women onto the phone, computer and TV screens of millions of boys and girls,” seemingly without offering questions about either male characters or positive female characters.

Despite the incompleteness of the research and the author’s own admission that a thorough evaluation was not possible, Wiseman concluded that “gaming has become an important part of our culture, and it’s sending the wrong message to our boys’ and girls’ screens. Our kids deserve better. And it’s what they want.”

While the questions asked in the study are neither new nor troubling, one can reasonably question whether the decision to ask children about games that were not created for their age group, without the ability to confirm the identities of the study participants, or including a biased, unlevel series of questions may have skewed the results. One could also reasonably question whether it is responsible to cite such an unstable study in demands of altering the entirety of the game industry.

Requests for comment in order to clarify whether measures were taken to confirm the identities of the study participants went unanswered at the time of posting. Updates will be provided if and when they become available.

For the full slide created for the purpose of sharing the collected data, you can click here.

Liz Finnegan is a soulless ginger with no political leanings. Pun enthusiast. Self-proclaimed “World’s Okayest Person.” Retro gaming contributor for The Escapist.

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  • Beolach
  • epobirs

    What a way for the parents of the 13 year old Mortal Kombat player to find out their son is gay.

    • Jiří Dvořák

      Indeed, it’s pretty weird to think that sexy women don’t have dignity. Anyway, it’s obvious that the kid is indoctrinated. No 13yo kid is gonna use feminist talking points on its own.

    • d0x360

      I was thinking the same. Since when does sexy female equal something bad? Does being sexy make her less of a person? Does it mean she has no self respect, dignity, intelligence etc? I don’t think that’s the case but apparently it is. So I learned all sexy women are self hating. I also learned sexy means you can’t be strong or a positive influence because as we all know clothing defines the person to their very core.

    • Jake Martinez

      See, you are actually demonstrating that men are capable of differentiating between someones outside appearance and their actual personality, intellect and value as a person.

      This goes completely against the reigning notion from so called “advocates for equality” where all men are portrayed as babbling baboons who lose it at the sight of a pair of breasts (well, unless of course they are skinny jean wearing hipster goons that are wearing “Feminist!” badges)

    • Vanilla Knight

      “Since when does sexy female equal something bad?”

      Horseshoe theory essentially. They are so hellbent on being “progressive” that they actually have incredibly socially-conservative values. For all their talk about not judging people based on appearances, they do it almost the entire time. They continue to remove females from having any agency and it’s really quite disturbing to watch the mental gymnastics.

    • Ajt

      Is it sad I was thinking the same thing? Plus no 13 year old boy would ever talk about a female characters “dignity” in Mortal Combat. Ever.

  • Jiří Dvořák

    Great article! Good to see someone reporting on that bullshit study.

  • Rich

    Great article. Hopefully it won’t go unnoticed.

  • Dr. Evil’s Brother’s Evil Twin

    (Despite the incompleteness of the research and the author’s own
    admission that a thorough evaluation was not possible, Wiseman concluded
    that “gaming has become an important part of our culture, and it’s
    sending the wrong message to our boys’ and girls’ screens. Our kids
    deserve better. And it’s what they want.”)

    I’m not crazy, right? She just said they were gonna lie about it even though they couldn’t do a thorough study of the situation, it must be true because batshit insane SJWs believe it.

  • Neptunium

    you can be dam sure that the majority of answers were filled out by these twitter feminist’s followers.

    • Jake Martinez

      Considering that they only used social media to advertise the survey, it’s a given.

      This is what is called a self-selecting sample. It’s like going into a church and asking them to fill out a survey on if they think God exists.

    • liin

      But there’ll be two camps. One trying to indicate even boys agree with them to prove their point. The other trying to ensure boys act like misogynist to prove their point. Which camp will win?

    • Mikeymoonshine

      It’s not misogynistic to think that there isn’t some huge problem with the way games represent people. In fact I felt this “Theo” kid’s opinion on female characters sounded quite misogynistic to me. Why do women need to be covered up to be respected?

      This is a manipulative move to try and trick developers into making the kids of changes these people want by making them think their target market has some huge issue with their products. It’s not going to work though because developers use their own data to decipher what does and doesn’t sell.

    • liin

      I agree. My point was, either way, feminists will claim they are right. If boys prefer “sexist” games, than misogyny exists in gaming and need to be changed. If boys prefer games to be “non-sexist”, then even boys agree misogyny exist in gaming and need to be changed. That’s how feminists are.

    • Mikeymoonshine

      Ah ok, yeah there is a forgone conclusion at work here about video games.

      sorry for misunderstanding you.

    • Smoky_the_Bear

      Well that’s because their methods almost universally involve starting with the conclusion and reverse engineering “evidence” and data to fit that.
      As you say, they are “right” either way, the problem being that they start with the assumption that when they define something as misogynistic, that is 100% correct and definite. It really doesn’t matter what they do from there, it’s going to be proved misogynistic because they deem it so, even if others don’t.

    • Ajt

      Follow the money. Really it’s that simple. If you want to determine what 13 yo boys actual views on this subject are watch where they spend. The kid grumbles about women’s outfits and obviously gives the answers he thinks his interviewers want to hear. The ones that make him look like a good guy. But he buys And plays Mortal Combat.

      There are 2 truths about 13 year old boys. In public they will lie outrageously to tell you what you want to hear. And when given the choice they will pay extra for more boobs.

    • liin

      I’m fully aware game contents are dictated by supply and demand. I’m even aware even if, and that’s a big if, boys are inclined to like sexist games, if it’s not fun, they won’t play.

      What I was trying to get is, it doesn’t matter what “studies” say, feminist will claim they are right. If “studies” say boys prefer “misogynistic games”, feminists will say, “Look, misogyny exists in game culture.”, teen boys say so themselves.

    • Smoky_the_Bear

      I don’t buy that the idea of boys wanting to look at attractive females is “sexist” to be honest. Feminists are pushing that agenda constantly but it’s not true. We like what we like.

      Now I agree that too many games are focused on the young male demographic and more diversity would be nice, however their methods of trying to portray any scantily clad women in games as “sexist” “misogynistic” and somehow terrible for society is just baseless nonsense with no evidence to back up their claims. People of both genders and all ages should be able to play what they want (within reason that the law and in the case of minors deems it legal of course) without being told they are evil and sexist for doing it.

    • liin

      I agree.

      Besides, many got suspicious of this news because 7+ news outlets wrote about this on the same morning. So, they dug it up, and this is actually what it was. Parents were encouraged to sign their kids up to help kids understand video game are harmful. The course basically teaches theses kids how sexist and misogynistic video games are. At the end of the course, kids are then told to do an assignment where they were asked to write a letter to developers. And the homework they handed in, is the result of this study.


  • der_ketzer

    wait an anonymous online survey? This has SURELY not been abused and the data is 100% correct. Unless boys at 13 really lost interest in staring at boobs.

  • Ms_Fortune

    Someone posted some thoughts on the /v/ thread, I’ll post them and my own below, here are the issues he had with this “study”:

    Sample corrupt from the start, due to the fact that the survey the study is based on was linked on of the researchers personal twitter

    There is no way to verify the participants were who they said they were, meaning anyone could pose as a teenage boy and fill out the survey with their intended ideology.

    There was no statistical analysis ran of the data discovered by the survey, meaning there is no way to prove if there is a statistical significance to the data or not.

    The study wasn’t peer reviewed, meaning the data could be a fluke. Peer reviewing helps to show that a study is actually accurate, rather than just being a onetime thing

    Study wasn’t published by a relevant Journal, meaning the data has no verification

    Questions were not looked at for potential bias.

    Potential biases were not discussed.

    Faults of the research were not discussed.

    Now onto my thoughts.

    Here’s the thing though to get a proper consensus and studyin gaming, you would need an almost impossible to achieve number of people, gaming as it stands is literally enjoyed by millions, possibly billions of people around the world, this is an industry where a single game has sold nearly 50 million copies, 1,800 sample size for a study isn’t even 1% of that giant number, its not even a drop in the ocean, it is nothing.

    Now there’s other factors to take into consideration when you are doing a study like this, shit like ethnicity, financial situation, your home situation, hell if you surveyed high school kids you’d get dramatically different answers based off what social clique they run in.

    For example did you know that in Brazil the PS2 is STILL the most popular console? Not just brazil but a lot of countries like that still have older consoles as the most popular ones due to how prohibitory expensive it is to get one of the newer ones, never mind getting top of the line PC parts, and don’t get me started on how different cultures embrace different games or have different standards for what they want and like.

    Ultimately this “study” isn’t muddling the facts, it is literally making up shit as it goes along, its tripe of the highest order, the fact that nearly 10 outlets have written stories about it just goes to show how desperate these people are getting.

    • Kimble

      Peer review doesnt determine whether the result was a fluke and a sample size of 1800 is reasonable for a study of this sort. It doesnt matter one bit how large the population is.

      The self-selection and failure to verify true identities is what kills this study. It is absolute rubbish.

      No 13yo boy responds like that unless they are either well-indoctrinated, or are actually a feminist who has no idea how 13 year old boys talk.

      I dont think it is unreasonable to assume that the majority of respondents in the survey were not young game players, but sad internet feminists.

    • Mavis Waldron
    • mvpfan10
    • Angela E. Hairston
    • Can’t Twiter Gud

      “I dont think it is unreasonable to assume that the majority of respondents in the survey were not young game players, but sad internet feminists.”

      Due to the fact that word was passed around on Twitter as late as November and considering the people responsible for the study are women involved with gender studies/activism/writing/etc, it may be safe to assume it’s the latter more than the former.

    • mvpfan10

      The sample size is important because you do need to have a fairly large number in order to detect significant differences between your variables, but in terms of a large population, it’s equally, if not more important, that your sample be representative of your population; if your sample is representative, you can say that your data represents the population, not just the sample you selected. You can take 1,800 from 50 million and have a good sample so long as it’s representative and the sample size has enough power to detect significant differences.

  • Joseph F

    This is like Rush Limbaugh tweeting out a straw poll asking black women who they think the next President should be, and then going, “Hey, it turns out black women want Rick Perry to be our next President. Who knew?”

  • rumcious

    In every instance where the word “study” is used, strike-through and replace with “survey”. ;o)

    • Matthew Lane

      Exactly. This is a study like a pile of dog shit is a gourmet meal: Not at all.

  • CM Dubya

    These folks are trying way too hard to act like they’re the saviors of a menial problem and are taking down some non-existent Boogeyman. This is such textbook slacktivism, it’s getting embarrassing. Anonymous Internet strawpolls of one middle school is their checkmate move now? And they expect people to take them seriously as intellectuals? Give me a break.

    Good, less-hyper-sexualized female characters do, have been, and will always exist LONG before and after dirtrag sites like The Mary Sue or Jezebel or Kotaku fold for good. Innovation in these different artforms don’t come from failed armchair critics sitting on their ass setting up lame strawmen for themselves to tear down (that only impresses their equally as naive readerbases); it comes from people with a passion for the arts, a passion for their craft, and the courage and wherewithal to put in the hard work and unleash their imagination upon the world.

    I think it’s safe to say we all want the same thing, great, unique, engaging fictional characters in the media we consume, but they’re SO desperate to play hero that, again, they have to set it up like there’s some villain to defeat. But as they say, if you don’t die a hero…

  • Alto Berto

    I’d like to take this moment to declare myself the High Queen of the Thought Leaders™

  • chizwoz

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on what the actual agenda behind this is Liz? Is it coming from the money side of things and just political opportunists trying to get a foothold in a very big industry. Or is it just a bunch of halfwits who’ve been heavily conditioned into victim narratives and they just happen to have landed so many media jobs?

  • Jonathan David Farley

    Everything Rosalind Wiseman Knows about Boys and Video Games Is Wrong

    Quotes are from the Time Magazine article.

    1) “But what really irritated them was Ms. Upton [in the Game of War ads], in a full-cleavage-baring white flowing dress.”
    Really? The boys were irritated by seeing Kate Upton? How then does she make
    millions, if everyone is irritated by her wearing such outfits?

    Or is this more proof that feminism is simply “jealousy toward beautiful

    2) “‘If women are objectified like this it defeats the entire purpose of
    fighting,’ Theo, an eighth-grader who loves playing Mortal Kombat, told us.”

    Define “objectified” and then we can discuss this statement

    3) Theo continues, “I would respect the [female] character more for having some

    I thought feminists opposed “slut-shaming,” which is exactly what Theo’s
    statement and the criticism of Kate Upton are. Also, is Theo’s mom a feminist
    activist, by any chance? Because this doesn’t sound like any eighth grader I
    have ever encountered.

    4) “Interestingly, boys care less about playing as a male character as
    they age and girls care more about playing as a female one.”

    That’s more than interesting: that’s weird and deserves further study. What’s
    the reason for it? Estrogen in the drinking water?

    In conclusion, Wiseman presents no proof that “[t]eenage boys want less sex in

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