Free Essay: Is the Gaming World Sexist?

Published: 2023-10-09
Free Essay: Is the Gaming World Sexist?
Essay type:  Argumentative essays
Categories:  Women Gender Video games Stereotypes
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1299 words
11 min read

The gaming industry is one of the biggest and most revolutionary industries in the 21st century. Forbes, an American business magazine, estimates that the industry is one of the fastest-growing. It is expected to hit 300 billion US dollars by the year 2025 (Koksal, 2019). With over 2.5 billion gamers all over the world, the industry has the potential to influence culture. A sexist culture is one of the issues that the gaming industry has been largely accused of promoting. Dudley Harvey-Kelly, from the University of the West of England, referred to an assumption while presenting two sides of an ethical argument surrounding sexism in games. According to Harvey-Kelly (2018), “the general assumption in the gaming industry is that sexualization of women feeds into most male fantasies.” While the assumption might hold as a justification, it does not qualify as a defense against the accusation of the industry being sexist. If the general assumption is anything to go by, then it means it is not a matter of “if,” it is instead a “why” issue. Therefore, the gaming world is sexist based on the representation of genders in the games, the role of female characters in the storyline, and the cultivation of sexist attitudes and beliefs among gamers.

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Gender Representation

The industry has a sexist representation of the female gender through the appearance and representation of female characters in the games.


The female gaming characters are frequently oversexualized by dressing them in scanty clads, and certain body appearances. Laurent Bègue, and his team, reviewed the issue while assessing the relationship between game exposure and sexism for the first time in a large and representative sample. According to Bègue et al. (2017), 80 percent of female characters in video game magazines are portrayed as either scantily clad, sexualized, or a vision of beauty. There seems to be a constant urge to represent women in either sexually suggestive or attractive ways. That is achieved by giving them highly revealing clothing or nude.

On the other hand, the male characters are not given the same kind of treatment. Bègue et al., (2017) also reviewed this issue by stating that while male characters are usually portrayed in normal sizes, their female game characters are usually skinny. This differential treatment was well represented in the advertisements for Grand Theft Auto IV, with one of the advertisements featuring a female character suggestively sucking a lollypop, while the other one had a white female only wearing a thong while standing in front of a fully dressed male character (Peck et al., 2011). That shows the sexualization of female characters in games.


The female characters are underrepresented in video games as compared to their male counterparts. According to Harvey-Kelly (2018), women are highly underrepresented in video games because there are very few female protagonists. The underrepresentation of women in video games is an issue that was also discussed in Bègue et al. (2017), where they mentioned that the female characters are generally underrepresented along with being presented as attractive beings.


The female video game characters are either given non-active roles or assigned to a role the promotes a certain stereotype towards women.

Stereotypic Roles

It is almost standard practice for some games to assign roles that further contribute towards promoting a certain gender stereotype against people of the female gender. Johannes Breuer and his team identified this issue while conducting a longitudinal study on the relationship between video game use and sexist attitudes. According to Breuer et al. (2015), the representation of female characters in video games is distorted to promote tropes such a damsel in distress, as is seen in popular titles such as “Super Mario Series.” Such representation work toward encouraging the sexism in the industry.

Non-Active Roles

The gaming industry has made a habit of assigning main roles such as protagonist or antagonist to male characters while confining the female characters to supporting or less active roles. Paulina Rajkowska identified this issue in her research of female video game characters. According to Rajkowska (2014), earlier studies had indicated that women are the most oppressed group that serve minor roles to that of men. The habit of assigning women to non-active role feeds into the sexist culture because then the support characters are more likely to be weak and dependent on the protagonist, who is usually a male character (Rajkowska, 2014). That shows the sexism that exists in the industry and how the portrayal of female characters encourages it.

Sexist Attitudes

Nature of Games

Some factors discussed above, such as stereotyped roles for female characters and their over-sexualization, help to build a sexist attitude among the gamers. According to the cultivation theory, long-term exposure to certain media content can affect people’s perceptions (Breuer et al., 2017). Which means sexist games build sexist attitudes among gamers.

Gaming Communities

The online gaming spaces are fond of reproducing the gender inequalities that often exist offline and sometimes end up being a hostile space for female gamers. This issue was studied by Bróna Nic Giolla Easpaig while mapping the contested digital terrain as part of studying sexism in the online gaming communities. According to Nic Giolla Easpaig, (2018), the grounded theory approach acknowledges the sexism in online gaming communities and does not deny the presence of female harassment in some specific gaming communities. That shows that sexism is a culture that is prevalent in various gaming circles.


One of the primary counter-arguments against the accusation of sexism in the gaming industry is that game developers are simply making products with their target audience in mind. Nic Giolla Easpaig indicates that gender distribution during the early days of the gaming industry was significantly skewed towards the male gender. During the 1980s, female gamers accounted for only 5 percent of the entire gaming market (Nic Giolla Easpaig, 2018). A lot has changed since then, with the percentage of female gamers in the United States rising to 48 percent. However, the increase is generally attributed to the rise of smartphone games, which usually do not have characters. So that means while the percentage of female gamers has increased, it is primarily due to the smartphone industry, and that means the majority of First-Person Shooter (FPS) gamers are largely male.


While the counter-argument might justify the over-representation of male characters and the roles they are given in games compared to their female counterparts, it does not do much to refute the over-sexualization and stereotypical portrayal of women. Also, there has been no evidence that game sales will decrease if the portrayal of female characters is any different. Therefore, the gaming industry is sexist because of gender misrepresentation, stereotypical role assignment, and sexist attitudes in the gaming communities.


Bègue, L., Sarda, E., Gentile, D. A., Bry, C., & Roché, S. (2017). Video games exposure and sexism in a representative sample of adolescents. Frontiers in psychology, 8, 466.

Breuer, J., Kowert, R., Festl, R., & Quandt, T. (2015). Sexist games= sexist gamers? A longitudinal study on the relationship between video game use and sexist attitudes. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 18(4), 197-202.

Harvey-Kelly, D. Sexism in Video Games: Should the Industry Reflect or Lead Society?

Koksal, I. (2019, November 12). Video Gaming Industry & Its Revenue Shift. Forbes. Retrieved July 12, 2020, from, M. A. (2016). Women in gaming: A study of female players’ experiences in online FPS games.

Nic Giolla Easpaig, B. (2018). An exploratory study of sexism in online gaming communities: Mapping contested digital terrain. Community Psychology in Global Perspective, 4(2), 119-135.

Peck, B.M., Ketchum, P.R., & Embrick, D.G. (2011). Racism and sexism in the gaming world: Reinforcing or changing stereotypes in computer games?

Rajkowska, P. (2014). Roles of female video game characters and their impact on gender representation.

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