The Concerns Surrounding Sexist Content in Digital Games

  • Jessica E. TompkinsEmail author
  • Teresa Lynch


Digital games are a medium in which new forms of representations are possible and where new, imagined rules can be created and established. Unfortunately, many representations and rules within digital game worlds reinforce harmful sexist beliefs and attitudes belonging to the real social world. Male and female digital game characters are portrayed as sexist archetypes, and some games feature sexist themes and rulesets which depict women as objects. Yet the question remains if sexualized and sexist portrayals influence players of digital games. In this chapter, we will draw on social psychological theories as well as evidence from empirical research (e.g., Behm-Morawitz and Mastro, Sex Roles, 61(11–12):808–823, 2009; Fox and Bailenson, Sex Roles, 61(3–4):147–157, 2009; Fox et al. Computers in Human Behavior, 29(3):930–938, 2013) to argue that critiques of sexist character portrayals have legitimacy and that this content may undesirably influence some players’ cognition, attitudes, and behaviors both during and after gameplay. We provide a dispassionate, evidence-supported argument that sexist content in games does contribute problematically to perceptions of women and their status in contemporary society. We also provide some suggestions for future research, such as asking scholars to carefully consider and distinguish sexist imagery from the game mechanics which may contribute to sexist thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors.


Video games Digital games Sexist Sexism Gender Stereotypes Social psychology Ambivalent sexism Female characters Sexualization 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Media School, Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA
  2. 2.School of Communication, The Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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