Little Evidence That Games Make Gamers Sexist Towards Girls/Women, Says Researchers
GTA Sexism
(Last Updated On: June 25, 2017)

Researchers Christopher J. Ferguson and M. Brent Donnellan took issue with with the research article from Allesandro Gabbiadini et al., entitled “Acting like a Tough Guy: Violent-Sexist Video Games, Identification with Game Characters, Masculine Beliefs, & Empathy for Female Violence Victims”, which was first published on April 13th, 2016.

The Italian research report was originally used by various media outlets to claim that violent, sexist video games such as Grand Theft Auto cause gamers to become less empathetic toward female victims. However, Fergurson and Donnellan’s latest report scrutinizes and breaks down some of the factual incongruities with the data.

Ferguson and Donnellan’s 14-page re-analysis of Gabbiadini’s report is available in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence and is also available online at Springer Link. Their brief summary of going back over the data revealed that they couldn’t quite seem to find the link between sexism in gaming and a lack of empathy toward women that some of the media had been promulgating, with the abstract briefly mentioning…

“We confirmed that there was little evidence for an overall effect of game condition on empathy toward girls or women.”

What’s more is that there were problems with the game selected for the original study. GTA: San Andreas and GTA Vice City were selected as the “sexist” games, while Half-Life 1 and Half-Life 2 were selected as the violent but non-sexist games, and Dream Pinball 3D and Q.U.B.E.  were selected as the non-violent, non-sexist games.

Ferguson and Donnellan had issues with this because they said the games being measured weren’t even, which is true. Dream Pinball 3D isn’t even in the same genre as the other games, and the two Half-Life games are first-person puzzle-shooters where-as GTA is a third-person sandbox game.

Additionally, Gabbiadini’s report seemed to skew the way the ages were handled in measuring exposure to “sexist” content in video games. Ferguson notes…

“During our reanalysis we found that the groups unexpectedly different significantly in the age of participants Participants in the “sexist” game group were significantly younger than in either the neutral group or violent game group.”

There were also issues with the way Gabbiadini et al., also selected an open-world game for the study, in particular GTA. Ferguson believed that using an open-world game where players can choose their activity in the sandbox game, it can distort the perception of sexist content given that players aren’t confined to just one activity…

“We also have one reservation about the use of sandbox games such as GTA to expose participants to “sexist” content. Although we agree with Gabbiadini et al. that the GTA series has sexist content, given that players have considerable freedom to shape their own experiences, it is harder to determine the strength of the manipulation on each person and the general flow of the causal arrow. Determining that exposure to sexist content is relatively constant in sexist game conditions may be one challenge for this research field in general.”

The conclusion was basically that after the re-analysis they couldn’t agree that some content in games deemed sexist could cause gamers to lose empathy for women. They also argued what is considered “sexist” in games, as some people considering rescuing women in games as “sexist” and some people consider strippers in games as “sexist”. Nevertheless, they feel as if there’s just not enough data to justify the conclusion that sexy women in games will instantly turn gamers into sexists…

“our reanalysis joins an increasing body of literature that suggests there may be little link between sexism in games and sexism in real life. 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.”

Ferguson does warn, however, that the re-analysis of Gabbiadini’s work is not meant to be taken as a be-all, end-all on the discussion and that it also doesn’t address or account for other hot-button topics regarding the social and psychological factors of gaming on gamers, such as addiction.

Nevertheless, for now, this new re-analysis joins other reports that so far seem to suggest that playing violent games with sexy avatars won’t turn you into a raging sexist.

(Main image courtesy of Heilige Frucht)

Ads (learn more about our advertising policies here)


Billy has been rustling Jimmies for years covering video games, technology and digital trends within the electronics entertainment space. The GJP cried and their tears became his milkshake. Need to get in touch? Try the Contact Page.

  • Galbador

    Way to waste money and time, that could have been used for more important problems… First world problems, Ladies and Gentlemen.

  • Erthwjim

    I would like to see a study where people have to read articles about sexism and then take one of those surveys to determine if they’re sexist. See if we find that reading about sexism all the time makes over more sexist, because for some reason I think it will

  • Mr.Towel

    I wish playing violent video games made people violent…

    Because then I could play Monopoly and become a millionaire.

  • Social Justice and feminist “academics” and “professors” will only provide and support citations, research and studies that are biased, one-sided and deceitful in their favor.

    • Disqusted

      “Pay us a fortune to confirm this really obvious shit.”

      Still better than some of the other shit I’ve heard money gets wasted on.
      Sadly, I can’t recall any of the silly examples right now. There was something about spending a fortune on dogs for a nonsensical test and then they put them all to sleep after, I think.

  • durka durka

    “Q.U.B.E. 2”

    Having played the first game i wonder how they can get anything out of that game and reach a conclusion. Also was qube 2 ever released?

    • Heh, whoops… QUBE 2 ain’t out yet. I’m pretty sure they meant QUBE 1. Made the edit. Thanks for catching that.

  • GuyGuysonEsquire

    I would like these grant money black holes to conduct a research on my theory that modern feminism makes human kind sexist towards women.

  • GuyGuysonEsquire

    I would like these grant money black holes to conduct a research on my theory that modern feminism makes human kind sexist towards women.

  • Disqusted

    It annoys me how people need to research basic obvious shit all the time.

    If there’s anything that causes sexism against girls, it’s giving girls special treatment that inevitably screws over other people. It’s not even necessarily a gender-specific thing. Girls hate other girls or guys who get special treatment, too. I’d imagine almost nobody likes to see other people getting special treatment over them, especially if it’s just because they were born lucky.

    I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone else point this out.

    I think part of the reason why idiots see this as a “gaming makes men hate women” issue is because there are many girls who reveal their gender online with the specific intent of getting special treatment. Of course, I’m sure there are girls who just reveal their gender without thinking anything of it, but that doesn’t stop people from interpreting it as wanting special treatment.

    There will always be guys who play along with this, because they think girls should be treated specially, or because they think they can get into her pants if they do, or because they enjoy protecting a cute girl, or whatever.

    But I bet there are plenty of guys who’re sick of having to give girls special treatment everywhere. That’s probably why some guys treat female characters badly in games. But it does not mean they do that in real life, OBVIOUSLY. Most people use games/fictional media to do what they’re not allowed to in real life. What do you think’s gonna happen if people aren’t allowed to vent their frustration in a fictional setting?

    Assholes who bitch about this stuff always complain about how ficional game behavior must negatively affect reality, but they never, ever, EVER seem to consider how people use games to unleash their pent-up frustrations, specifically to avoid behaving negatively in reality.

    By the way, I’m not saying girls should have to conceal their gender like how a burka conceals their sexuality, but it should be a serious consideration because there are plenty of people who conceal their gender/identity for various reasons. I personally avoid revealing my race/age/gender/nationality, because I want people to see me as who I am, not what I was born as.

    I feel like this whole bullshit isn’t as big of an issue in Japan, partly because both guys and girls usually conceal their identities for fear of reprisal or stalking, and partly because gaming is a part of their culture and decently understood by most of their population. In the West, it’s still treated with disdain by ignorant morons and assholes.

    When I talked to Japanese friends about this, I learned they already have a term for this stuff happening in online games. It’s “hime purei”, aka “princess play”, or “himepu” for short. For more details, run this link through Google Translate:

    It basically talks about how games usually depict guys as cool and girls as cute, so the guy characters want to protect the cute girl characters, and it’s a win-win both ways because the guy gets off on protecting the girl and the girl gets off on being treated like a princess. It then covers how it can become a problem, and how guys pretend to be girls online.

    Notice Sarquasar bitching about princesses isn’t listed on there. Probably because her scam bullshit isn’t even worth considering in a more intelligent society. If she saw that article, she would start boasting about bombing Japan again. F**king racist abhorrent bitch.

    Another thing nobody seems to consider: If it’s soooo HORRIBLE to be a female, why do so many guys want to be seen as female both in real life and online? Why do girls eagerly reveal that they’re female, instead of trying to conceal it? Why are most, if not all women who bitch about male privilege and patriarchy so confident that they would never want to be a guy even if they could be? The answer to all these should be obvious.