Teenage Boys Want Less Sexism in Video Games

Going by the ongoing hate campaign that is #GamerGate, you would think that all boys who play video games are hopeless sexists driven to blinding rage every time a woman ventures to have an opinion. But according to a new survey, teenage boys who play video games want games to be less sexist. In fact, a majority of teen boys who identify as gamers would like to see more female protagonists in video games, and think women are too often treated as sex objects.

Sort of makes you wonder who Gamer Gate is supposedly advocating for, if male teenage gamers aren't threatened by the idea of a less sexist approach to games, huh?

The survey, which was conducted by educators Rosalind Wiseman and Charlie Kuhn and gaming expert Ashly Burch, included over 1,400 middle and high school students from around the country. And although the research was only exploratory, what they found was surprising. It turns out boys aren't actually as into the idea of sexualized female characters in games as you would think, and they aren't at all opposed to playing as a female character.

In total, 47 percent of middle school boys and 61 percent of high school boys agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that women are too often treated as sex objects in games, implying that they, too, would like to see less of it. This was even true among boys who identified as gamers — 57 percent agreed women are too often treated as sex objects.

Even more encouraging, neither boys nor girls in the survey were more likely to play or not play a game based on the gender of the protagonist, and in fact 78 percent of boys say it doesn't matter which gender they play as (70 percent of girls said the same). And the data suggested that in fact boys tend to care less and less about the gender of the protagonist as they get older. And 55 percent of boys who identified as gamers said there should be more female protagonists in video games.

But maybe the best statistic wasn't even a statistic at all, but an informal observation. When asked about sentiments expressed by GamerGate, Wiseman wrote in TIME that "very few of our respondents knew what Gamergate was." So much for GamerGate being the great representatives of the gaming world.

The real takeaway here though, is that we should probably start revising our idea of what a quintessential gamer is really like. Rather than the teenage boy eager to stare at explosions and scantily clad women, it seems that actually teenage gamers are far more open to a less sexist approach to games than people give them credit for. So instead of defending sexist depictions of women in games as simply being a way to appeal to their core demographic (despite the fact that teenage boys are no longer a majority of video game players), video game companies might instead want to stop underestimating teenage boys and their ability to see women as equals. Just a thought.

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