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    Digital games in modern society

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    Digital games are now part of popular culture and everyday entertainment, and are undoubtedly a socially relevant mass medium. In the United States, the $120 billion gaming industry is growing with an estimated 2 billion people being ‘gamers’ from anyone who play games on their smartphones to people who have the latest and greatest hardware playing more competitive games (Webb K, 2019). Around half (47%). However, computer and video games have long been considered “boys toys” for a long time, to which women had little or no access, although they are relevant on the one hand as a player and on the other hand as a “buyer” of games (women also often make purchasing decisions for male family members). The fact that girls and women now use computer and video games as frequently and intensively as boys and men confronts the games industry with questions, such as whether the offerings of digital games do justice to female (consumer) interest, or whether the industry is girls and can offer women attractive employment opportunities and whether there are sufficient training opportunities that are also interesting for young women.

    With regard to the level of consumption and the question of whether and to what extent gender-specific preferences exist with regard to digital games, it can be shown on the basis of existing research that women are now playing in the same way as men, although for a long time they hardly have access to the necessary technical equipment (Video game consoles, etc.), which was still complex in the early days of video game culture. In the meantime, digital games can no longer be called “boy’s toys” or gaming can be understood as an adolescent hobby of white, male adolescents. This has to do with the fact that digital games have become the leading medium and have replaced film as the leading medium for industrial culture for our current digital culture and in that respect, and it would be surprising if this leading medium was only perceived by one gender and not by both (Polianskaya, A. 2019).

    Even if the game intensity for women has adjusted to that of men, girls and women prefer different gaming platforms than men and other genres, such as mobile & social games and mostly casual games, simulation and role-playing games. Women sometimes have different game motives than men, joy and fun, creativity, building, playing together are in the foreground and less the competition or competitive elements. Men and women also differ in the preferred game context: women often play alone, while men often play in virtual communities and teams. Identification with the character of the game is more important for women than for men.

    Overall digital games are now consumed similarly by both genders.

    ‘I don’t know exactly, I think that boys and girls are now growing up with technology and that is why it is ok for girls to deal with it right from the start. It is more acceptable to also play in the school playground, which girls also have a DS(Small handheld game console). Games are no longer a super funny hobby, but a normal leisure activity and therefore have a larger target group. (Duggan, M. 2019).

    The level of aesthetic representation of female characters and characters has been intensively researched – numerous works and studies date back to the mid-1990s, with the discourse gaining topicality again in the course of the # GamerGate debate in summer 2014. In addition, the aspect of the aesthetic and narrative representation of femininity in contemporary digital games is also relevant from a media psychological point of view, which is why a dedicated contribution will follow elsewhere.

    Overall, all experts said that female characters are still quantitatively less common than male characters, which is unsurprisingly in line with the current state of research.

    In addition, these are usually less important for the course of the game than their male counterparts, ie they are often less relevant for the narrative relevance in the game and mostly only appear in victim and supporting roles.

    The aesthetic representation of female characters is often based on stereotyping and sexual stylization – women are reduced to oversized genital organs in little or inappropriate clothing. Male characters are portrayed similarly stereotypically in their physical appearance, but they are rather idealized and not sexualized. In addition, the female characters are usually poorly equipped with weapons, skills or abilities, according to the research situation. However, some experts also emphasize that digital games are a fictitious format or an art form, which is why they cannot and should not be regulated:

    Overall, however, with regard to aesthetics, it is emphasized that digital games are changing and differentiating greatly, and in the course of this also the aesthetic and narrative representation of femininity (and masculinity).

    ‘I think that is changing increasingly. So that video games can also represent a greater variety that corresponds more to society. It is slowly moving in this direction, but what has been seen so far doesn’t really reflect it. And I believe that other media can do it better (Coyle, D. 2017).

    At the level of the product range, the question arises with regard to the virtuous cycle to what extent the existing range of digital games does justice to the female target group. Attempts by the so-called “Girls Game Movement” in the mid to late 1990s, which developed and marketed games specifically for the female target group, were only successful in the short term. Nevertheless, the game industry could no longer deny the existence or the need of the female players as a target group, at least since surprise successes such as Barbie Fashion Designer (1998).

    “You only spoke to 50 percent of humanity, so to speak, with what you did and that is of course a sales potential that has to be raised at some point. is also exaggerated in the best and worst sense with regard to aesthetic ideas. ‘(Expert’ P1 ‘)

    The fact that the proportion of women playing (and buying games) has increased significantly in recent years, up to half of all games, can not in my opinion be an immediate argument for a coherent offer to the female target group. It remains to be critically examined here to what extent an offer especially for women would be appropriate and / or desirable or whether there would not be a risk of “ghettoization of the offer”.

    The level of production, ie the participation of women in the development and marketing of digital games, has been in public discourse for several years, not only, but also within the game industry. Overall, it can be said that women are currently still significantly underrepresented in the games industry, although a positive trend can be observed. However, the reasons for this are not yet clear, although there are some empirical studies that attempt to investigate the causes.

    In the course of my discussions with experts, very different aspects were mentioned, among other things that women tend to be less interested in the games industry or that women are generally not interested in technical professions and that the professions within the games industry should be understood as part of them. According to a study by Lizzie Haines (2004), only 25 percent of women in the game industry work in technical areas.

    Specifics of female careers within the industry (including the crunch time phenomenon, the gender pay gap or a high degree of flexibility) are also mentioned as possible reasons for the underrepresentation of women.

    However, all experts also see a positive development and predict that the share of young women in the development and marketing of digital games would increase in the coming years.

    Overall, the discussions with the representatives of the German game industry confirmed the existence of a connection between the examined levels (consumption, supply, aesthetics and production). The experts saw reciprocal relationships in particular between the range of games and consumption; the range of games and production; the consumption and the production or the range of games.

    ‘I think so, it’s all related, definitely. So there would be more women, maybe the picture would be different how women are portrayed in the video games. I think so, it all depends on each other for me. ‘(Expert’ T1 ‘)

    With a view to the future, it is assumed:

    “But I believe that if more women strive to enter the industry, if there is a critical reflection on what the portrayal of women looks like in the game and something changes within society as a whole that women are seen less in technical professions, then something could change overall in the industry. But all of this must come together. ‘(Expert’ T2 ‘)

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    Digital games in modern society. (2022, Dec 22). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/digital-games-in-modern-society/

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