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Violence and Gender Roles in Video Games

It would be incredibly hard to argue that video games are a powerful learning tool that address significant cognitive learning methodologies, and then to also pretend that excessive violence and gender stereotypes therein do not affect players. A study conducted by Smith, Lachlan, and Tamborini (2003) concluded that 68% of the popular games sampled included violence, even those rated “E” by the ratings board. This study suggests that even young children who play video games regularly will be presented with a significant amount of violence from those games. Dietz (1998) suggests that video games are becoming increasingly important in the social identities of children and that violence and gender roles will negatively impact the self-identification of children who grow up playing video games.

In my opinion, while the research is not conclusive, it comes down pretty heavily on the side that children watching and experiencing excessive violence through media are likely to find violence more acceptable. Gender roles are likely to have a similar effect. However, in the same way that a teacher must use care and planning when introducing a video game into the classroom, parents must use care and planning when introducing video games to their children. Helping children identify gratuitous violence and contextualize it, can go a long way toward helping children compartmentalize that violence. In this way children, and students, cease being passive viewers of violence and gender roles in video games, but become participants and critics of the portrayal of violence and gender roles in video games. As adults, we are capable of understanding that the roles we play in games are not necessarily intended to be emulated, and teaching that to our children is an increasingly vital part of parenting.


Dietz, T. L. (1998). An Examination of Violence and Gender Role Portrayals in Video Games: Implications for Gender Socialization and Aggressive Behavior. Retrieved April 2011, from Procon.org: http://videogames.procon.org/sourcefiles/Dietz.pdf

Smith, S. L., Lachlan, K., & Tamborini, R. (2003, March). Popular Video Games: Quantifying the Presentation of Violence and Its Context. Retrieved April 2011, from Lionlamb.org: http://www.lionlamb.org/research_articles/jobem%20article.pdf

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