No matter how hard modern day activists may try to level all playing fields when it comes to breaking gender stereotypes or equalizing aspects of society, some things may always remain geared towards one gender or the other. Is it fair? Probably not. But there are reasons why video games are most often depicted as “boys territory.”
The video game industry is a cycle. A higher percent of males started playing video games, then the industry began to gear their marketing towards males, and therefore even more males started to purchase and play these games. So why do more boys than girls play video games?
Boys are often more attracted to video games because so many of the available games involve content that is traditionally considered “masculine.” Games usually feature male-dominated sports (for instance how many video games do you see with traditional “female” sports like ice skating or volleyball.) Games like Grand Theft Auto and Call of Duty are all specifically geared towards adolescent males. Most games are also filled with masculine stereotypes that emphasize power, strength, competition, action and oftentimes violence.
Marketing also plays a role in not only what games players choose to buy, but also who buys them. Advertising is an art, and big marketers for the most popular video games target boys and men. There are more males in commercials for video games, and less popular “girly” games aren’t advertised. Even minor details like coloring and format appeal more to the average male. When an entire game has the ideal ‘masculine’ man for each of their characters, and then feature usually no more than one girl, who typically looks nothing like teenage girls in real life, guys are automatically more attracted to this.
This presents the question: Are boys more susceptible to becoming addicted to video games?
A recent brain-imaging study by researchers at Stanford’s school of medicine suggests that while playing video games, men have more activity in the mesocorticolimbic center, the region of the brain associated with reward and addiction, than women.
“These gender differences in the brain may help explain why males are more attracted to, and more likely to become hooked on video games than females,” said Dr. Allan Reiss in an article from Stanford Medical News Center, who led the research team.
The research showed that men are at higher risk for video game addiction or compulsive gaming. Up to 90 percent of American youth play video games and as many as 15 percent of them (more than 5 million kids) may be addicted, according to data cited in a report by the American Medical Association’s Council on Science and Public Health.
Besides the biological reasoning behind the higher percentage of male video-gamers, learning styles can also attribute to why more boys are attracted to video games. There’s been buzz for years about how boys are beginning to fall behind girls academically– fewer males are going to college in the United States. Part of this is arguably coming from certain teaching styles inside a traditional classroom. These teaching styles cater more to girls’ “innate” abilities, such as being able to sustain attention longer, stay more organized, and openly discuss what they are learning.
Andrea Schneider, LCSW, in an article from Good Therapy, highlights a study conducted by social philosopher Michael Gurian that states boys perform better when they can really get engaged in the task and sometimes when a sense of competition and strength are involved — which is exactly what most video games provide. There’s an active, fast-paced nature of video games that generally suits a learning style for males.
Boys also have an easier time opening up and talking/making friends while doing something they enjoy. Therefore, an open community forum on video games can aid them in making friends. Girls are generally more interactive, and like to have face to face contact.
In today’s world most things can be twisted into a pawn for gender equality, but some things — video games included — should be left alone. While big gaming companies market to and most often specifically target boys and young adult males with their advertising, they do it because that’s what sells. The gap between percent of adolescent males versus females that game regularly isn’t as astounding as it is made to seem. Many girls do play video games; they just aren’t the ones you see most advertised. And boys are almost always the ones depicted in media as becoming addicted to games or to spend more time than they should playing. There’s biological and social evidence to prove why boys are generally more likely to play video games, and that evidence is OK to accept. Not everything should be turned into a fight for social equality.