Gender Aspects on Computer Game Avatars Anna Larsson 1, Carina Nerén

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1 Gender Aspects on Computer Game Avatars Anna Larsson 1, Carina Nerén SICS Technical Report T2005:06 ISSN ISRN:SICS-T--2005/06-SE Abstract. Women are less dedicated to computer gaming than men. Previous studies show that one reason might be that current games exhibit hypersexualised female avatars: avatars that have exaggerated sexual signals to which female players object. In this thesis the purpose is to find out how female (and male) consumers of computer games really feel about hypersexualized female avatars in computer games and how these feelings differ between the genders. We also explore how the avatars appearance being assigned certain attitudes impact the preference of avatar. The thesis is divided into two areas of study; in the first, the preliminary study, we investigate which attitudes are associated with certain stereotypes; in the second and main study we use the results from the first study when examining how people relate to hypersexual avatars and the reasons for this. The results from the main study of this thesis show that there are no great differences of how the hypersexual avatars are perceived by males and females, a majority in both gender groups do not reflect on the abnormality of the avatars exaggerated body shape; avatars with this appearance are actually preferred as personal representations in a game. It is the avatars clothes that are more in the centre of attention in the study, the avatars that does not show as much skin as the others are the ones preferred by both males and females. Stereotypical attitudes associated with the avatars seem to influence how the avatars are perceived, the avatars that make people think of a negative stereotype are shunned in selections for personal representation in a game, with a positive stereotype the reactions are the opposite. 1 Department of Computer and Systems Sciences, Stockholm University, where the original report was published November The project was supervised by Annika Waern, SICS.

2 Keywords: game design, avatar, gender, experimental study, interaction design

3 Table of Contents 1 INTRODUCTION BACKGROUND PROBLEM STATEMENT PURPOSE RESEARCH QUESTIONS DELIMITATIONS OVERVIEW OF STUDIES PRELIMINARY STUDY EXAMINING STEREOTYPES MAIN STUDY COMPUTER GAME AVATARS OVERVIEW OF METHODOLOGY PRELIMINARY STUDY MAIN STUDY CHAPTER OUTLINE THEORETICAL BACKGR OUND GENDER THE FEMALE CHARACTER S DEVELOPMEN T IN COMPUTER GAMES THE IMPORTANCE OF AVATARS IN COMPUTER GAME PLAYING IMAGES OF WOMEN IN MASS MEDIA AND COMPUTER GAMES STEREOTYPES METHODOLOGY QUANTITATIVE AND QUALITATIVE METHODS CAUSAL MODELS EMPIRICAL STUDY PRELIMINARY STUDY STEREOTYPES STUDY PARTICIPANTS MATERIAL STUDY PROCEDURE DATA PROCESSING RESULTS FROM PRELIMINARY STUDY DEFINITIONS OF HYPERSEXUAL AND NORMAL MAIN STUDY STUDY PARTICIPANTS THE MEASUREMENT INSTRUMENT STUDY PROCEDURE DATA PROCESSING RESULTS... 20

4 5.1 CHOICE OF OWN AVATAR CROSS-GENDER STEREOTYPES CHOICE OF AVATARS FOR STEREOTYPIC CHARACTERS STEREOTYPES AND AVATARS CRITICISM DISCUSSION THE HYPERSEXUALIZED BODY IS THE FEMALE GENDER NORM CLOTHES MATTER FEMALE STEREOTYPES ARE MORE ESTABLISHED AMONG WOMEN THAN AMONG MEN PRECONCEPTIONS STEREOTYPES EFFECT ON AVATAR PREFERENCE THE IMPORTANCE OF GAME GENRE CONCLUSIONS FUTURE WORK ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS REFERENCES MAIN REFERENCES WEB REFERENCES SECONDARY REFERENCES APPENDIX I GLOSSARY... I APPENDIX II -THE COMPILED RESULTS FROM THE PRELIMINARY STUDY...III APPENDIX III EBBA S AND LOVISA S DIALOGUE... XI APPENDIX IV SCREEN DUMPS FROM THE GAME PROTOTYPE...XIV APPENDIX V - QUESTIONNAIRES AND INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FROM MAIN STUDY...XVI

5 APPENDIX VI STEREOTYPICAL TRAITS OF BIMBO AND CRAMMER...XXI APPENDIX VII THE COMPILED RESULTS FROM THE MAIN STUDY... XXII

6 1 Introduction 1.1 Background Women have always to a lesser extent than men had access to and used computers in their homes. Although the spread of computers for home use in, for example, Sweden has more than doubled between 1997 and 2003 there is still a gap between men and women users. (Statistiska C. 2003) This could have a number of reasons. Graner Ray, the author of Gender Inclusive Game Design from 2004, says that women tend to see computers not as a media of entertainment but as merely a useful tool, with which you solve specific tasks. Men, on the other hand, usually have no problems using the computer for all sorts of things; from work-related tasks like making spreadsheets to conquering the world in the virtual worlds of computer games. The game industry does nothing or little to change the fact that women do not use computers for entertainment. In an investigation from 1990 done by a game developer on which game titles were offered in stores, it was found that products without a hypersexual avatar* 2 on the cover did not contain entertaining software. Instead they were more productively concerned with how to type better or how to prepare a budget and the like. The computer was not mediated as something fun and entertaining for girls; instead, it was presented only as something useful and practical. (Graner Ray 2004) This has perhaps changed in recent years when quite a number of games have been released for both female and male players and succeed in appealing to both groups. The Sims from Maxis, for example, was released in 2000 and was an instant success, especially among girls who make out over 50% of the players (FiringSquad 2002). Some other recent numbers indicate that up to 70% of online* players are female, but in traditional* computer games girls are still heavily outnumbered by male players. (Meretzky 2002, referred to by Graner Ray 2004) According to Graner Ray (2004), the reason why boys to a larger extent play computer games than girls do is not that girls dislike technology or computers. If it were because of this there would not be as many girl users on the Internet 3. The problems lay more likely in the fact that girls have been told all the way through their upbringing that computers and technology are not for girls and the fact that many of the games do not seem to be designed for girls due to their often violent and sexist contents. (Graner Ray 2004) Another reason for girls not playing traditional computer games as much as boys do could be that there are more male programmers than female ones and therefore the kinds of games designed tend to be those that appeal to a male audience only. (Holland 2002) Despite the fact that there have been success stories such as The Sims, game designers still do not seem to know what female gamers* want. But what they do know is that it is a market with enormous potential. Software targeting only a female audience currently 2 A glossary (Appendix I) contains the most important terms used throughout the thesis. When first occurring, the terms will be marked with an asterisk *. 3 Females make up 52% of the Internet users in the US (Graner Ray 2004). 1

7 makes up less than one per cent of the total game industry, which in year 2001 made close to $20 billion, more than Hollywood takes at the box office. To succeed in reaching this new market it will require some deep thought about such fundamental issues as gender and stereotyping, and even the definition of games themselves. (Holland 2002) The avatar is the first thing a computer game consumer gets in contact with when he or she is going to buy a game. This usually happens through the game s cover. According to Graner Ray (2004), it is highly unlikely that the female gamer buys a game if the female avatar in the game is represented as hypersexual. Although she does not seem to have this statement scientifically established she could have a point. There are probably a lot of different reasons why women do not want to play certain types of computer games. One reason could be the game developers choice of how they design the character* appearance where some appearance could appeal to women and others not. According to T.L Taylor, one of the key ways that games can exclude women is in the "hypersexualized" avatar choices they are offered. She thinks that the proportion of women playing games would likely increase if they were given more freedom to choose the way in which there are represented. (Ratan 2003) But if we now know some important reasons to why women do not buy or play computer games as much as men do you could ask yourself why the design of computer games is not adjusted to appeal more to female players? Apparently, most game development companies shy away from developing games for females because no one is really sure how large the market is for that group of people. It seems far safer to create games that are already well established on the market, and most of these games happen to be designed for the male consumers, like for example the traditional first-person shooter games*. (Holland 2002) We, the authors of this thesis, are ourselves computer game players and we constantly react to the fact that there are so many for us non-pleasing avatars in computer games. Instead of being designed for female users they seem to have been produced solely for the purpose of graphically representing some sort of female ideal that (some) men perhaps find attractive. After speaking to other women about this we discovered we were not at all alone in having these opinions. Since we could not find any data about female game players views on these kinds of overly exaggerated sexy female avatars, we decided to conduct our own study. Since it is the female avatars that concern us, there are only fe - male avatars in the study. 1.2 Problem statement There is obviously a problem when facing females and games and that problem seems to lie in the fact that there are not that many games developed for female players and that in some of the games that do exist the player s female representation consists of a hypersexualized avatar which women seem to dislike. If that is the case it is perhaps not that strange that there are fewer females than males playing games. 2

8 But why should women play games? Besides the obvious reasons based on the struggle for equality in society (where it seems self-evident that females should have the same opportunities as males to enjoy themselves), it seems as such a waste when (more than) half of the human population is not or scarcely at all considered when designing a commercial product. But what should we do to make females more interested in playing computer games? In this thesis we are concerned with the design of the computer game avatars, and just by finding out what women (and men) really feel about their appearance can help in finding out what avatars (and perhaps as a consequence; computer games) should be like to appeal to all. We will also examine some possible reasons to why there are hypersexualized avatars in computer games and why people like/do not like them Purpose The purpose of this thesis is to find out how consumers of computer games feel about hypersexualized female avatars in computer games and how these feelings differ between the sexes. We also want to find out how the avatars appearance being assigned certain attitudes impact the preference of avatar Research Questions The questions we seek answer for are thus:? How do men and women choose if they are given the choice between female hypersexualized avatars and female normal avatars? Are there any differences between how male and female subjects make their choice of avatar?? How do men and women think a member of the opposite sex would choose given a choice between hypersexualized and normal avatars?? With which avatars do the subjects associate the stereotypical characteristics of a bimbo* and a crammer* 4? Are there any differences in how male and female sub - jects associate these stereotypical attitudes with avatars?? Do stereotypical characteristics associated with the avatars impact the choice of avatar to represent oneself? Delimitations The study is conducted using a game prototype we designed for this experiment (see 4.3.2) and the results may not be applicable to other computer games in different genres (further discussed in 6.6). The results of the comparisons between the avatars characteristics to those of stereotypes may only be generalized to a certain extent because of the small number of stereotypes examined in this thesis. Furthermore, the results from 4 The reason to why the attitudes belonging to these stereotypes were chosen is explained in chapter 4. 3

9 both the preliminary and main studies may not be generalized outside of the span of the two population groups used in the studies, with reference to their limitations in number of subjects, age span, and geographical and cultural context. 1.3 Overview of Studies The empirical data in this thesis will be gathered in two steps, a preliminary study is first performed to gather information about stereotypical characteristics to be used in the main study; in the main study we examine the computer game avatars. The two studies are described in more detail in chapter Preliminary Study Examining Stereotypes In the preliminary study we want to find out which attitudes are, of a given set, associated with the stereotypes crammer and bimbo. The results from this study will be used in the main study Main Study Computer Game Avatars In the main study the subjects play a text-based game where they get to converse with two in-game* characters; Ebba and Lovisa, whose stereotypical dialogues are modelled on the results from the preliminary study. 1.4 Overview of Methodology In the studies of this thesis we use different types of methods described below. These methods will be discussed further in chapter Preliminary Study The preliminary study is conducted using a quantitative method. Questionnaires containing multiple choice questions are used to gather the research data in the preliminary study Main Study The main study is in its form explorative, since no preconceived perceptions about the results exist. We take both a qualitative and a quantitative approach. In the first part of the main study, where we look at how the players choose avatars, the approach is quantitative. To gather the information we want in this part we use questionnaires. In the second qualitative part we want to find out more about how the player relates to the avatars; and to do this we use an open inquiry and an interview to allow the player to express opinions and attitudes more freely. 1.5 Chapter Outline 4

10 ? Chapter 2 consists of a background to the subject gender and comp uter games.? In chapter 3 we discuss the methodology used in the studies as well as the causal models to be examined.? In chapter 4 we describe the preliminary and main studies in more detail, as well as the results from the preliminary study to be used in the main study.? In chapter 5 we list the main results of this thesis as well as give critique on our own work.? Chapter 6 is a discussion of the results and related factors.? In chapter 7 we conclude the work and suggest future work. 5

11 2 Theoretical Background With this chapter we want to establish a relevant background to the subjects examined in this thesis. 2.1 Gender In this thesis we will repeatedly refer to the term gender. Gender is a grammatical term that refers to a distinction between different types of nouns (for example une fille, un fils in French). In the 1970s the use of gender entered into a discourse about sociological differences between the sexes. (Connell 2003) Sofie Petersson has in her thesis (Petersson 2002) described gender as being the socially constructed conceptions about the sexes. The differences between sex and gender contain the differences between essentialism and constructivism. Essentialists believe that the sexual identification is essentially bound to the body via a biological determinism which is unchangeable over time and space. Constructivists, on the other hand, state that gender is socially and culturally created in a specific time and space context; gender is a construction and the physical body and the biological prerequisites for what sex is are not enough to explain how women and men experience themselves. (Lundal 1998, 92f, Fagrell 2000 referred to in Petersson 2002) In this thesis we will analyze things from a gender perspective and define differences between people s identities as being socially and culturally constructed and not bio - logically bound to a specific sex. 2.2 The Female Character s Development in Computer Games There are two ways computer game designers have handled female representations in history. The first is to depict woman as a sex object and the other is to depict her as an object for the male player to gain as a prize or to save. It is only in recent years female characters have been given a place in the spotlight as capable main characters. In the 80 s female characters consisted mainly of helpless girls whose main purpose in the game was to be saved by the player. Donkey Kong (figure 1) and Dragons Lair, both from 1984, serves as good examples from Figure 1 Donkey Kong, Nintendo this time; here the female avatars in the games version (Retrogames) consisted of helpless girls who desperately needed help from the male main characters. (Graner Ray 2004) In Donkey Kong, the fe- 6

12 male avatar did not do anything; she worked only as a goal to be reached by the main character. Throughout the 90 s female avatars began to appear more frequently and the games improved graphics made it possible to depict the avatars in a more realistic way, and also to make them prettier. Figure 2 Duke Nukem 3D (Planet Duke) Figure 3 Barbie Fashion Designer (PC games) In the game Duke Nukem 3D (figure 2) from 1996 the female characters are portrayed as a couple of strippers which the player has to save. In Barbie Fashion Designer (figure 3), also from 1996, the female main character is portrayed with a disproportionate body for which the player is supposed to design clothes. Figure 4 Tomb Raider 1, Lara Croft (Tomb Raider World) Also in 1996, one game managed to step beyond the save the princess scenario. Tomb Raider (figure 4) is a game where the main character is a very capable female avatar that runs, fights, shoots, and climbs. These abilities makes her a well-balanced character, she is no princess who has to be saved; she saves herself. Despite all this she is depicted with an unrealistically large chest, an extremely thin waist and an extremely well-rounded behind. So, although the skills of the avatar are well balanced in the game her appearance still qualifies as hypersexual and is, according to Graner Ray (2004) [..] essentially eye candy for male players. 7

13 Figure 6 One of the avatars from SSX 3 (GamesAreFun.com) Figure 5 April, the main character in The Longest Journey (Longest Journey) The Longest Journey (figure 5) from 1999 is a role-playing game where the female avatar saves the world. She is attractive with somewhat normal proportions and clothes. (Graner Ray 2004) In SSX 3 (figure 6); a snowboarding game released for Playstation 2 in October 2003, the female characters are depicted just like ordinary snowboarding girls; with more or less ordinary snowboarding outfits to be selected by the player, with a focus on the style of the clothes being right for the snowboarding arena, instead of the female characters being styled the right way for the male arena. (EA SPORTS BIG 2004) 2.3 The Importance of Avatars in Computer Game Playing It is important to make the player feel comfortable with the avatar, since it is through the avatar the player interacts with the game. According to Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams a player will not play a game if the avatar does not interest the player or if the avatar is not believable (Rollings & Adams 2003). The way the avatar is presented, which role it is given to play and how the designers communicate the game to the player through the avatar are, according to Graner Ray (2004), three very important issues to keep in mind when it comes to ensuring the player s level of satisfaction and joy. A well-constructed avatar encourages the player to identify with the character and this will improve the player s sense of enjoyment. Even if a well-constructed character that is well-balanced with reference to graphics and capacity is important, it is just as important for a female player to have the possibility to be able to choose a female avatar when she is playing. If that possibility does not exist a female player will feel discontent with the game and, according to Graner Ray (2004), feel as if the game was not made for her and perhaps not play the game. According to Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams (2003) the player will 8

14 not develop an affinity for the avatar and will not be particularly sympathetic for the avatars plight if the avatar, among other things, does not intrigue the player or if the player does not like the avatar. Computer games quite often offer some selected characteristics of specific sexes. In a role-playing game the player may, for example, choose from playing a male warrior, a male magician or a female thief. In this case where there is only one female character to choose from, who then is a thief, a female player who wanted to play a warrior would first be forced to overcome a possible feeling of discontentment with playing a male character. Incorporating less female characters than male characters in a game makes it, according to Graner Ray; seem as if the female character is nothing more than a symbolic character, especially if the female character is portrayed as a weaker kind of stereotype. (Graner Ray 2004) 2.4 Images of Women in Mass Media and Computer Games In Provocateur Images of Women and Minorities in Advertising (Cortese 1999), Cortese takes a look at how women are portrayed in western-culture (in this case US) advertising. He draws a straight line between what men see as attractive in women and how women are made to appear in ads. According to Cortese men see a narrow waist and a high-pitched voice as a sign of vulnerability that attracts a man s self-image as the Protector. Large pupils are perceived as sexually attractive and dilation occurs unconsciously during arousal. Youth is also a sign of good health and sex appeal. An exaggerated leg length is perceived as more adult and therefore more sexual. A smile symbolises approval or attraction. Unaware blushing is considered very sexual because it signals innocence. The blushing starts at the cheeks and spreads to the rest of the face and often to other parts of the head and the body. The cleavage between the breasts and buttocks are also viewed as highly sexual. Women colour their lips so they become a symbol for sexual arousal. Big, red female lips resemble the female labia. (Cortese 1999) In computer games, many of the above stated traits very often apply to how the female avatars are designed. According to Graner Ray, a female avatar can be represented in different ways in a computer game, but the typical representation is one with unnaturally large breasts, unnaturally narrow waist and with a very shapely behind. All this plus her hypersexual way of dressing makes her send signals like: I am young, fertile and ready for sex. These signals are sent from the female conception where breasts placed high up on the chest, a narrow waist and a firm backside, indicate youth. Large breasts and round breasts indicate fertility. In the same way there are physical signals, which indicate that a woman is sexually susceptible, these are blushing, pouting lips, bedroom eyes and hardening nipples. These signals are also usually very exaggerated. (Graner Ray 2004) 2.5 Stereotypes People sometimes are unable or unwilling to obtain all of the information they would need to make fair judgments about other people or situations. When people turn out to be in such situations they develop stereotypes. A stereotype is a generalization about a per- 9

15 son or group of persons. Stereotypes allow people in many cases to fill in the blanks when they are in absence of the total picture. Without knowledge of all facts, people in virtually every case, resorting to prejudice by ascribing characteristics about a person based on a stereotype. By stereotyping, people assume that a person or a group has certain characteristics and quite often people have stereotypes about persons who are members of groups with which they have not had firsthand contact. (Grobman 2004) The journalist and commentator Walter Lippmann identifies four aspects of stereotypes. The first one is that a stereotype is simple; its characteristics may be summarized in two to three sentences. The second is that it is acquired second hand; people tend to acquire stereotypes from cultural mediators rather than from their own direct experience with the groups being stereotyped. The third aspect of stereotype is that all stereotypes are false. The fourth and last aspect is that stereotypes are resistant to change. (Lippmann 1922 referred to in Nachbar et al 1992) People stereotype around characteristics of age ("All teenagers love rock and roll and have no respect for their elders."), sex ("men want just one thing from a woman."), race ("All Japanese look and think alike."), religion ("All Catholics love the Pope more than their country."), vocation ("All lawyers are greedy weasels.") and nationality ("All Germans are Nazi warmongers."). According to John Nachbar and Kevin Lausé (1992) stereotyping is such a natural human function and it is so common that there are a number of useful functions of stereotyping. For one thing it is sometimes valuable to create classifications of individuals. For example there is the stereotype freshman, which is a naive newcomer who is familiar with neither the social nor intellectual life of a campus. This stereotype serves the purpose of encouraging the constructing of introductory courses and it also encourages campus social organizations to sponsor group activities. A second useful function of stereotypes is in the use of what can be termed "countertypes." This is a positive stereotype (one which arouses "good" emotions and associates a group of people with socially approved characteristics). A countertype evolves as an attempt to replace or counter a negative stereotype that has been applied previously to a specific group of people. For example the negative stereotype of "Women as Helpless Victims" has been challenged as well with countertypes on US television ranging from the tough cops of Cagney and Lacy to the headstrong, independent Murphy Brown. Countertypes are important reflections (and shapers) of popular beliefs and values. (Nachbar et al 1992) In this thesis the stereotypes bimbo and crammer are used in our effort to explore to which extent certain physical traits can be associated to a set of attitudes. Bimbo is generally believed to be extremely self-centred and extremely concerned with her appearance, the crammer, on the other hand, is extremely focused on her studies and dresses more casually. 10

16 3 Methodology In this chapter we will declare and discuss the methods used in this thesis as well as give an overview of the aspects examined in a causal model. When one looks at the research questions in this thesis one will see that it consist of three concepts. One of them is the participants in the study - the units, which in our study consist of yo ung people in the age between 17 and 22. One other concept represents what we have to say about the units, what we want to examine, that is the variables. There are in principle two different types of variables. The first variable is the one being explained (the dependent variable), and the other contains the elements that explain the quality examined (the independent variable). In this study the dependent variables include, for example, the subject s choice of avatar and the character description of the avatar made by the subject. The independent variables, on the other hand, include for example the subject s gender and the avatar s graphical appearance (see 3.2 Causal Models). (Holme&Solvang 1996) 3.1 Quantitative and Qualitative Methods There are two main methodological approaches in research; quantitative and qualitative methods. Both qualitative and quantitative methods make out a classification system of the data collected in a research study. Quantitative methods are used to generalize the results of the study and make statistics. The information is converted into numbers and quantities, which are used in statistical analyses. One reason and benefit of using a quantitative method in the preliminary study and the first part of the main study is that we want the disposal of the study to be standardized. In both the preliminary and the main studies we use questionnaires to gather information and giving all subjects the same type of questions and answer alternatives standardizes that information. The standardized information can then be generalized. The standardization makes the gathering of the information completely controlled by the researchers and this is important when we, for example, want to get the answer to an either-or question with multiple choices such as when we gather information about how the players choose their avatar. Another benefit of using a quantitative method is that the gathered information is exact, but this also means that the information can be superficial; it disregards more subtle individual differences. (Holme&Solvang 1996) In the case of the subject choosing an avatar, however, this is not a problem since it is only the choice itself we are interested in at this stage. Qualitative methods, on the other hand, are used to get a deeper understanding of the object that we are studying. These methods combine five research techniques: direct observation, participatory observation, informant and respondent interviews and secondary data analysis. One benefit of using a qualitative method is that you get a comprehensive picture of the aspects examined. The use of qualitative methods in our study makes it possible for us to get a more complete picture of the players opinions examined in the study. Furthermore, the use of these methods may lead to a prevention of misunderstandings between the researchers and the subject by the researchers using usual and ordinary conversations adjustments. By performing interviews with the subjects we can, 11

17 through this direct dialogue hopefully get as reliable information as possible; information that is a result of the players own opinions. The players can express themselves relatively freely and the study is not that much controlled by the researchers. Another benefit of using qualitative methods is that it makes the study more flexible. In this study we can use this to, for example, reformulate some questions from the interview if we find it necessary. (Holme&Solvang 1996) However, too extensive changes could make it hard to compare information from the different subjects. 3.2 Causal models By thoroughly examining the research questions of this thesis we have extracted a few variables and relationships between variables to be the main issues of investigation. The primary variable we want to investigate is the subject s choice of avatar to represent her/him in the game. This variable is a dependent variable, depending on the independent variables of the subject s gender, the stereotypical attitudes the avatar is associated with (if any), and the appearance of the avatars. Other dependent variables are the perceptions the subjects have about the choices a member of the other gender would or would not do when selecting avatars. Finally we want to examine the way the avatars characters are perceived by the subjects as stated in the character descriptions 5. It is the relationship between the independent and the dependent variables we are concerned with here, thus; if and how the subject s gender influences the choice of avatar and how it relates to how a member of the other gender is believed to choose; and also how the avatars appearance influence the choice of the subject s own avatar. Lastly we want to find out if and how stereotypical attitudes associated with the avatars influence the choice of avatar 6 and if they influence how the subjects perceive the avatars characters. The variables and interrelationships are shown in the causal model, figure 7. 5 The character description is part of the main study, the subject describes how he/she perceives the character or personality of an avatar (see 4.2.2) 6 If there are any stereotypes associated with one or more of the avatars will be decided when looking at the character descriptions of Ebba and Lovisa (se 4.2.4) 12

18 Avatar Appearance - Hypersexual body, fully clothed - Hypersexual body, less clothed - Normal body, fully clothed - Normal body, less clothed b Choice of Avatar d Subject s gender - Female - Male a Preconceptions about the other Gender e Stereotypical Attitudes c Character Description f Figure 7 - Causal Model The variables and relationships examined in this thesis The independent variables are: a the gender of the subject b the avatar s graphical appearance, with a hypersexual or normal body and less or fully dressed c the stereotypical attitudes of crammer and bimbo The dependent variables are: d the choice of avatar that the subject makes e the choice of own avatar made by a member of the other gender, as perceived by the subjects f the description of an avatar s character/personality made by the subject The relationships are: a-d the relationship between the subject s gender and the choice of avatar a-e the influence of a subject s gender when making preconceptions of the avatar choices of the other gender b-d the relationship between the appearance of the avatar and the choice of avatar c-d the influence of stereotypical characteristics on the choice of avatars c-f the influence of stereotypical attitudes on the way the subject perceive the character of an avatar 13

19 4 Empirical Study This chapter describes the empirical elements of this thesis. The empirical study consisted of two parts; the preliminary and the main studies. In the main study, where the subjects were to play a game, one of the in-game characters was given attitudes that can be associated with the stereotype bimbo while the other character has the attitudes of a stereotypical crammer. These stereotypes were chosen because we think that they are frequently used among young people when referring to girls or women, and because they stand in opposition to one another. Another reason to choose the stereotypes bimbo and crammer was a preconception among the authors that the body types hypersexual and normal could be associated with them. The benefit of using well-known stereotypes, as we see it, is that they are well-established in people s conceptions and people generally already have strong attitudes associated with them. Which attitudes that actually are associated with bimbo and crammer are investigated in the preliminary study. Both the preliminary and the main studies was conducted in Swedish, thus all material from the studies shown in English in this thesis is translated by the authors. 4.1 Preliminary Study Stereotypes Since we did not find a relevant source to describe which attitudes are related to bimbo and crammer, we conducted a small survey among young people with a median age of 25 years to clarify which attitudes are associated to a certain stereotype. In this survey we asked the participants with which stereotype, given bimbo and crammer, they associated a given number of attitudes. Lastly the participants were given the opportunity to add attitudes to the stereotypes that they thought were missing in the questionnaire. All answers from the survey, as well as the questionnaire used, can bee seen in appendix II Study participants The 21 participants were students belonging to the department of Computer and Systems Sciences at Stockholm University Material The study material in the preliminary study consisted of a questionnaire with 51 questions about attitudes and if and how the participant associated them with the stereotypes bimbo, crammer, both or none (see appendix II). The topics in the questionnaire were chosen because we think they play an important role in the thoughts and concerns of young people and therefore perhaps would make the dialogue of the game prototype seem somewhat natural. 14

20 4.1.3 Study procedure The questionnaire was sent out by to a number of students who were enrolled at the department of computer and system sciences (at Stockholm university) in By choosing these students we were hoping to reach as many young people as possible. 21 students chose to fill out and return the questionnaire and those was then used in the analysis Data Processing To be able to analyze the results from the survey, we compiled all the answers and made graphs to compare the results. Some of the questions with the most predominant results either towards bimbo or crammer were used when modelling the dialogue (the dialogue is in Appendix III) of the characters Ebba and Lovisa in the game Results from Preliminary Study Some of the questions where a strong majority of the participants were unanimous were used in Ebba and Lovisa s dialogue in the game prototype, the results that were not used there worked as a comparison for the answers given by the participants in the character descriptions in the main study, to establish if the description could be referring to a bimbo or crammer. The results from the questions about what kind of courses a bimbo and a crammer takes in upper secondary school clearly showed that a crammer is associated with Natural science (Swe. Naturvetenskapligt program) and a bimbo with Hotel and Restaurant (Swe. Hotell och Restaurang) (see Figure 8). This was used in the dialogue. Upper Secondary School 20 Number of participants The Hotel and Restaurant Program The Natural Science Program 0 Bimbo Crammer Both None Figure 8 Natural Science is associated with crammer and hotel and restaurant with bimbo 15

Stiftelsen Allmänna Barnhuset KARLSTADS UNIVERSITET

Stiftelsen Allmänna Barnhuset KARLSTADS UNIVERSITET Stiftelsen Allmänna Barnhuset KARLSTADS UNIVERSITET National Swedish parental studies using the same methodology have been performed in 1980, 2000, 2006 and 2011 (current study). In 1980 and 2000 the studies

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