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What do boys and young men experience in online gaming in terms of relationships, violence, and ideas about what it means to be a man? Recently in the gaming community, there has been a greater willingness to address ideas of toxic manhood and masculinity as well as misogyny and the exclusion of women. To aid in these discussions, it is important we understand the way manhood is presented, discussed, and perpetuated in the gaming community.

This groundbreaking research, conducted in partnership with the Oak Foundation, the Geena Davis Institute, and Promundo, delves deep into the representations of masculinity and diverse identities within popular video games and the Twitch gaming community. The study addresses critical aspects of gender, race, LGBTQIA+ identities, disability, age, and body size, offering insightful analyses and actionable recommendations.

Key Findings

  • Gender Representation: Male characters significantly outnumber female characters. While female characters are becoming more common in video games, they are often sexualized, with a high likelihood of being depicted in revealing clothing or partially nude. In contrast, male characters predominantly exhibit traditional masculine traits and are more frequently involved in violent actions.
  • Race and Ethnicity: The study highlights a stark underrepresentation of characters of color compared to white characters, with a significant portion of non-white characters relegated to stereotypical roles.
  • LGBTQIA+ Visibility: LGBTQIA+ characters are almost non-existent in the video games analyzed, indicating a severe lack of representation that does not reflect the actual diversity of the gaming community.
  • Disability and Age: Characters with disabilities and older characters are vastly underrepresented, pointing to a need for greater diversity in these areas as well.

Industry Recommendations

  • Diversify Character Representation: Encourage the creation of characters that mirror the real demographic diversity, focusing on equitable gender representation, racial diversity, and inclusion of LGBTQIA+, disabled, and older characters.
  • Combat Sexualization: Actively work to reduce the sexualization and objectification of female characters, promoting equality in character design and function.
  • Promote Positive Masculinity: Showcase male characters who express a wide range of emotions and engage in non-violent problem-solving, contributing to a healthier portrayal of masculinity.
  • Enhance Community Standards: Strengthen moderation in gaming communities to ensure a safe and respectful environment for all players.

Action Steps for Parents

  • Educate on Healthy Relationships: Teach boys about respect and equality in relationships, using game characters as examples of both positive and negative interactions.
  • Discuss Video Game Content: Engage in open conversations about the content of games, including the portrayal of gender and violence, to foster critical thinking and empathy.
  • Model Positive Behavior: Demonstrate and discuss respectful behavior and emotional openness as fundamental values to be upheld both online and offline.

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