One of the most important features of childhood and adolescence is the development of an identity. When all our children are seeing in not just video games, but in all media around them, is the same stereotypes, expressions, and displayed behaviors how much developing and exploring are they really doing?
A girl given a doll is being told, “Girls play with dolls like mommies take care of babies.” A boy given a computer game is being told, “Boys play with computers just like daddies do at work.” A girl given Barbie Fashion designer is being told, “Girls play with computers just like girls play with dolls.” A lucky few might get the message that, as some girls exchange dolls for real babies, others might progress from Barbie Fashion Designer to real-life fashion designer, or engineering systems designers, or software designer. But there’s a good chance that many will not. (Parents or Pop Culture?, Spring 2002)
Male characters are still more dominant than female characters. There is also a constant continuation of gender-stereotyped behaviors and characters. Male characters are normally more independent, assertive, important, and more attractive than their female counterparts. Male characters also tend to show more forms of bravery and aggression, they brag, interrupt, and even laugh more than female characters. Even though there are some positive changes in the portrayal of ethnic minorities and female characters, but still both groups often remain narrowly defined in video games and the media.
Video games are relatively new to our society. What messages are emerging from these seemingly perfect forms of entertainment for our children? What are they learning when a majority of characters are white and a majority of those white characters are male? Why are minorities, especially women of color, are less likely to hold playable characters’ positions. A girl may not be interested in playing video games because the way that women are portrayed might make them feel as if they are not wanted or welcomed on the world of video games. What’s worse, these portrayals of girls and women may also lead young boys and men to get the wrong impressions and perceptions about gender.
As role models outside of the media aspect we need to learn to capitalize on children’s need for guidance, so that they can be exposed to a greater variety of role models and as their role models outside of the media we need to make sure that there is a constant variety of potential heroes and role models of different genders and races so children can better learn to appreciate themselves and the diversity in others.