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Female Stereotyping in Video Games and

Misrepresentation in Game Media

Zaine Bennett

James Madison University


This paper explores three articles and surveys that report on research conducted on gender

stereotyping and female misrepresentation in video games. All three articles chosen differ in their

area of research. Zobel de Ayala (2014) focuses on the representation of females inside the video

games. Fox and Tangs (2013) primary focus is on what character traits and other variables factor

into predicting sexist attitudes. Phan, Jardina, Hoyle, Chaparros (2012) research is made to help

game developers learn about gaming patterns. This paper looks at these findings and approaches

to better understand gender representation in video games and how women are stereotyped.

Keywords: Female, Stereotyping, Misrepresentation

Female Stereotyping in Video Games and

Misrepresentation in Game Media

Pink. Dresses. Dainty. Sexualized. These are all words that describe how game

companies stereotype women in video games. Gaming is becoming increasingly more popular

today, with 42% of Americans playing video games regularly. Currently, it is a male dominated

community and thus females are often oversexualized in games and are harassed inside and

outside of the game world. As video games grow in popularity, society needs to combat the

injustice and misrepresentation directed towards females. Gender stereotypes are defined simply

as over generalizations about an entire group based on their gender; These over generalizations

are often negative or harmful to the individuals. This paper will focus on the female stereotypes

prevalent in todays video games as well as how women are treated outside the game world and

inside the real world. This is important to the audience because many of them are females and a

good number may play video games too. As video games become more popular the injustice will

grow larger if not stopped. By speaking out against the misrepresentation the audience can bring

an end to the injustice.


In the first source, Eugenia Zobel de Ayala describes her experience in playing video

games with her brother when she was young. Zobel de Ayala mentions how she would pick

female characters because they looked pretty or wore pink, traits that would appeal to a young

girl but not a young boy. She quickly found out that these female characters had male

counterparts that were faster, stronger, and would always win. She theorizes that the appearance

of females in games has a correlation to their skillset. Simply put, because they look dainty and

girly they are worse than the male characters and thus contribute to their lesser ability in games

(Zobel de Ayala. 2014, p. 2). Zobel de Ayala also discusses how many times females are only

added to games to add minor backstory and sex appeal meant for male gamers (Zobel de Ayala.

2014, p. 7-8).

In the second source, the goal was to determine the variables that can predict sexist

attitudes directed towards women in the video game industry. The study found that the

anonymity that online gaming offers promotes sexual harassment because there is no fear of

repercussion. Fox and Tang write Although women are often able to remain hidden or

anonymous in some gaming environments, it is likely that when women reveal their sex, their

legitimacy and competence will be questioned. (Fox et al., 2013). They also theorize that since

women are a vocal minority in online gaming they are more likely to be harassed by other male

gamers (Fox et al., 2013). The studys results found Given that men often outnumber women in

networked video games and that masculine behavior is typically rewarded, this may provide men

with the opportunity to express social dominance in the virtual world in a way they cannot in the

physical world. (Fox et al., 2013). This means that because there is a separation between the

men and the women, the men feel like they need to be dominant over the women. More results

yielded an answer as to why women are harassed with terms like get back to the kitchen or

sexually harassed with terms like show me your boobs (Fox et al., 2013). These results

displayed that some men in an anonymous situation with other males tend to feel like they need

to assert their sexuality over other men (Fox et al., 2013). By demanding pictures of the womens

breasts, they prove to the other men that they are heterosexual or different than the other males.

In the third source evaluated researchers investigated gamers to better understand video

game usage and preferences among both males and females. (Phan et al. 2012). They found this

data via a questionnaire that determined video game behaviors. They conducted this research to

the benefit of Game companies and developers. They found that when game companies

developed for women specifically the resulting games were stereotypical, i.e. females wearing

dressed, being weak or dainty, among other things (Phan et al. 2012). The results of the study

indicated that men were more likely to play violent games but women equally played either type

of game. Females were more likely to play puzzle and casual games than strategy and fighting

games (Phan et al. 2012).

The chief point of agreement in these sources is that females are stereotyped in video

games. Zobel de Ayala writes about how women are stereotyped in video games themselves .

Fox et al and Phan et al talk about gender stereotypes in real life but all discuss the same topic.

Women are misrepresented in video games based on appearance and skills. They are often

weaker, less equipped, and generally undesirable to gamers due to these misrepresentations

(Zobel de Ayala. 2014).

These researchers also conclude that appearance of female game characters attribute to

stereotypes. Zobel de Ayala remarks, Princess Peach? She wears a gown, dainty gloves, and a

clueless expression, which imply nothing as far as skill and ability, unless you consider her

special attack: a dimpled, smiling heart that protects her cart (Zobel de Ayala. 2014). Princess

peach is stereotyped as a girly girl that wears pink dresses. This can be offensive to many

females who dont like these things. In the Phan article the same finding is shown, Phan writes,

adhere to stereotypes about females (i.e., pink, fashion, and shopping) (Phan et al. 2012).

These game developers work under the assumption that all women like pink and dresses /


While there are numerous comparisons there are also differences in each article. Some of

these differences include what type of research was done and what the medium of the research

was (whether the research focused on stereotypes in game or in real life). In the Fox et al and

Phan et al articles are more science based. They conduct experiments to find statistics about

stereotypes and seeks to discover the root of why they are occurring. Zobel de Ayalas article is

more focused on her experience. It is less scientific and more personal. That does not mean it is

any less important or relevant, it just means that it was not about numbers and more about

emotion and findings.

The second contrast point is the medium of the research. Zobel de Ayalas article was

about women inside video games, such as game characters. They are often depicted and act

stereotypical according to Zobel de Ayala (Zobel de Ayala. 2014). In contrast to her article Fox et

al and Phan et al direct their research to women and gender outside of video games, in real life.

They discuss why people in real life commit or believe these stereotypes and how me might

rectify them in the future to end these stereotypes.

The weakness of de Ayalas piece is only that she is not an official but just a regular

person. This can hurt the credibility of the piece and the credibility of its validity. Her strength in

this piece is her deep knowledge of the topic. She offers deep insight into this topic and this

insight helps convey her message. In Fox et als survey and article s strength is that it is a

formally conducted by officials with a proper testing method and math that brings evidence to

support the conclusion. A weakness would be that I could not find other surveys to back this

information up. It was not conducted again. The Phan survey has the same strengths and

weaknesses. It was formally conducted but I could not find a repeat of the findings so they could

be wrong.

Throughout this essay and research, I have found that gender stereotyping is a much

bigger problem in video games than originally thought. I am in favor of change in video games

to help women feel more comfortable and welcome in gaming world. This is an important issue

that needs more light shed upon it, gender stereotyping in games needs to stop. More research

should be done to back the numbers found in the surveys and to back up the claims made in all



Fox, J., & Tang, W. Y. (2013, August 2). Sexism in online video games: The role of conformity

to masculine norms and social dominance orientation. Retrieved from


Phan, M. H., Jardina, J. R., Hoyle, S., & Charparo, B. S. (2012). Examining the Role of

Gender in Video Game Usage, Preference, and Behavior. Retrieved from


Zobel de Ayala, E. (2014, March 6). Damsels In Distress: Female Representation in Video

Games. Retrieved from https://www.hastac.org/blogs/ezobel/2014/03/06/damsels-