Sex Roles

, Volume 57, Issue 9–10, pp 733–742 | Cite as

Gender Differences in Video Game Characters’ Roles, Appearances, and Attire as Portrayed in Video Game Magazines

  • Monica K. Miller
  • Alicia Summers
Original Article


Video game characters have the potential to shape players’ perceptions of gender roles. Through social comparison processes, players learn societal expectations of appearances, behaviors and roles. Forty-nine articles were coded from current U.S. gaming magazines, resulting in 115 coded characters. This content analysis of video game magazine articles investigated how characters are portrayed, focusing on gender differences. Males were more likely to be heroes and main characters, use more weapons, have more abilities, and were more muscular and powerful. Females were more often supplemental characters, more attractive, sexy, and innocent, and also wore more revealing clothing. Understanding these video game messages is an important first step in understanding the effects games and magazines may have on behavior and attitudes.


Video games Media Media effects Gender Gender differences 



The authors would like to thank Michele Cannella, Allison Brodish, David Flores, and Jamie Anthony for their help with this project.


  1. American Psychological Association (2006). Violent video games—Psychologists help protect children from harmful effects. Retrieved 21 December 2006 from
  2. Aubrey, J. S., & Harrison, K. (2004). The gender–role content of children’s favorite television programs and its links to their gender-related perceptions. Media Psychology, 6, 111–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barlett, C., Harris, R., Smith, S., & Bonds-Raacke, J. (2005). Action figures and men. Sex Roles, 53, 877–885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Beasley, B., & Collins Standley, T. (2002). Shirts vs. skins: Clothing as an indicator of gender role stereotyping in video games. Mass Communication and Society, 5, 279–293.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berry, G. L. (2003). Developing children and multicultural attitudes: The systematic psychosocial influences of television portrayals in a multimedia society. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, 9, 360–366.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bessenoff, G. R. (2006). Can the media affect us? Social comparison, self-discrepancy, and the thin ideal. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 30, 239–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Brathwaite, B. (2007). Sex in video games. Boston, Massachusetts: Charles River Media.Google Scholar
  8. Calvert, S. L. (2001). Young adults’ perceptions and memories of a televised woman hero. Sex Roles, 45, 31–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Carpenter, L. M. (1998). From girls into women: Scripts for sexuality and romance in Seventeen magazine 1974–1994. Journal of Sex Research, 35, 158–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dietz, T. L. (1998). An examination of violence and gender role portrayals in video games: Implications for gender socialization and aggressive behavior. Sex Roles, 38, 425–442.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Eastin, M. S., & Griffiths, R. P. (2006). Beyond the shooter game: Examining presence and hostile outcomes among male game players. Communication Research, 33, 448–466.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes. Human Relations, 7, 117–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fraser, B. P., & Brown, W. J. (2002). Media, celebrities, and social influence: Identification with Elvis Presley. Mass Communication and Society, 5, 183–206.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Funk, J. B. (1993). Reevaluating the impact of video games. Clinical Pediatrics, 32, 86–90.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Future (2006). U.S. circulation update, January–June 2006. Available online at
  16. Gentle, D. A., & Walsh, D. A. (2002). A normative study of family media habits. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 23, 157–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Heath, L. (1984). Impact of newspaper crime reports on fear of crime: Multimethodological investigation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 47, 263–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hesse-Biber, S., Leavy, P., Wuinn, C. E., & Zoino, J. (2006). The mass marketing of disordered eating and eating disorders: The social psychology of women, thinness and culture. Women’s Studies International Forum, 29, 208–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Ivory, J. (2006). Still a man’s game: Gender representation in online reviews of video games. Mass Communication and Society, 9, 103–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jaffe, L. J., & Berger, P. D. (1994). The effect of modern female sex role portrayals on advertising effectiveness. Journal of Advertising Research, 34, 32–42.Google Scholar
  21. McDonald, D. G., & Kim, H. (2001). When I die, I feel small: Electronic game characters and the social self. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 45, 241–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Milkie, M. (1994). Social world approach to cultural studies: Mass media and gender in the adolescent peer group. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 23, 354–380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Morrison, T. G., Kalin, R., & Morrison, M. A. (2004). Body-image evaluation and body-image among adolescents: A test of sociocultural and social comparison theories. Adolescence, 39, 571–592.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  24. NPD Group (2005). Annual U.S. video game sales. Retrieved 26 December 2006 from
  25. Roberts, D. F. (2000). Media and youth: Access, exposure, and privatization. Journal of Adolescent Health, 27, 8–14.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Roberts, D. F., Foehr, U. G., Rideout, V. J., & Brodie, M. (1999). Kids and media at the new millennium: Executive summary. Menlo Park, CA: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.Google Scholar
  27. Scharrer, E. (2004). Virtual violence: Gender and aggression in video game advertisements. Mass Communication and Society, 7, 393–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Smith, S. L., Lachlan, K., & Tamborini, R. (2003). Popular video games: Quantifying the presentation of violence and its context. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 47, 58–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Strasburger, V. C. (1989). Adolescent sexuality and the media. Pediatric Clinics of North America, 36, 747–773.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Thompson, K. M., & Haninger, K. (2001). Violence in E-rated video games. Journal of the American Medical Association, 286, 591–598.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Ward, L. M., & Friedman, K. (2006). Using TV as a guide: Associations between television viewing and adolescent’s sexual attitudes and behaviors. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 16, 133–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ward, L. M., Hansbrough, E., & Walker, E. (2005). Contributions of music video exposure to black adolescents’ gender and sexual schemas. Journal of Adolescent Research, 20, 143–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of Nevada, RenoRenoUSA

Personalised recommendations