An Exam ination of Violence and Gender Role
Portrayals in Video Gam es: Implication s for
Gender Socialization an d Aggressive Behavior
Tracy L. Dietz
University of Central Florida
Using content an alysis, this research exam ines the portrayal of wom en and the
use of violent them es in a sam ple of 33 popular Nin tendo and Sega G enesis
video gam es. It is proposed that video gam es, like other media forms, impact
the identity of children. This an alysis reveals that traditional gen der roles and
violen ce are cen tral to man y games in the sam ple. There were no female
characters in 41% of the gam es with characters. In 28% of these, wom en were
portrayed as sex objects. Nearly 80% of the gam es in cluded aggression or
violen ce as part of the strategy or object. While 27% of the gam es con tain ed
socially acceptable aggression, nearly half included violence directed specifically
at others and 21% depicted violence directed at women. Most of the characters
in the gam es were Anglo.
Drawing upon symbolic interactionism, we find that individuals make se nse
of the world around the m by using the meanings that the membe rs of so-
ciety have come to share. Individuals, like actors in a stage production,
occupy partic ular role s. The y “play” these role s according to socie ty’s
norms, or expectations, for the particular role. Howeve r, while the re are
socie tal expectations about give n role s, the rule s for “playing ” the role are
not rigid. Rather, within the confine s of the meaning attributed to a role
by socie ty, individuals de velop “ide ntities” that de fine what a particular role
Sex Roles, Vol. 38, Nos. 5/6, 1998
1998 Plenum Pub lish ing Corporation
Support for th is study was provided, in part, by the Family Re search Laboratory of the
Unive rsity of New Hampshire and NIMH Training Grant T32-MH15161.
The author would like to expre ss her gratitude to Michae l D. Ware and for his assistance
in the data collection process.
To whom corre spondence should be addre ssed at Departmen t of Sociology and An thropol-
ogy, Un iversity of Ce ntral Florida, P.O . Box 25000, O rlando, FL 32816-1360.