International Handbooks on Gender series
Edited by Jill Steans and Daniela Tepe
Chapter 39: Computer games and the reinforcement of gender gaps
Around the world there is recognition of gender-based disparities and the need to reduce these gaps to create a gender-just society (see Hausmann et al., 2012). One area which has not received the attention it deserves is the increasingly popular computer gaming industry, which determines the mind set and attitudes of the younger generation and is a major source of informal education for children and adolescents. This chapter analyses how video games contribute to the increasing gender gap in society. We argue that there is gender stereotyping in many of these games, regardless of their genre, and hence, inasmuch as there is no change in mind set, the gender gap continues. One major factor in creating gender division is gender role stereotyping. Many studies report that girls and young women display less interest in digital games, have less game-related knowledge, and play less frequently and for shorter durations than do boys and young men (Lucas and Sherry, 2004). These differences are reinforced, since games are typically targeted at traditional male interests, such as action-related sports, games and computer programming. In comparison, few digital games target girls except Barbie Fashion Design, a program that allows girls to create outfits, jewellery and hairstyles for Barbie. Most attempts to explain the gender gap in computer game involvement focus on the content and the design of typical games (Kafai, 1998).
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