"Family Friendly" Gaming

Although kids and young adults of all age partake in video games, in the past, video games have been marketed specifically towards older boys, anywhere from the age of twelve to early twenties (Dill, 68). This was especially true in the 80’s and 90’s with the creation of gaming systems such as Playstation, and various Nintendo consoles. However, as gaming systems have evolved, children eight and under are being targeted much more heavily. As more “family friendly” consoles like the Wii become popular, the marketing strategy has changed drastically in terms of the targeted demographic. There have always been some video games marketed towards young children, but with this idea of interactive playing with the motion sensor, the whole idea of family and being active has become a selling point for those creating games. This new "family" demographic could have several effects on the way children play video games, which as a result would affect potential gender constructions within these games. Because this technology is so new, almost no research has been done on the effect of this highly interactive style of game play. Despite this, it is reasonable to say that due to the interaction between children and video games, the potential impact is much larger. Adding more to this argument is the "Mii" feature on the Wii console, in which children can create their own avatar and play as "themselves."

Create Your Own Mii!

Despite this movement from marketing video games solely towards boys, children already have conceptions about video games and gender. One study found that “even kindergarten children assign a gender to video games, viewing them as more appropriate toys for boys” (Cassell & Jenkins, 12). The reasoning behind this can only be speculated, perhaps because of the lack of marketing towards young girls, which some think is due to the fact that the vast majority of video game programmers and creators are male. Also, studies done on personal ownership of game-consoles points clearly to the fact that boys are the main consumers of video games, and they are a common bonding source between boys. Because it is proven to be more of a male activity, the association between boys and video games is somewhat justifiable (Roberts & Foehr, 44). Either way, this perception among young children that video games are a boy toy becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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Works Cited:

  • Cassell, Justine, and Henry Jenkins. From Barbie to Mortal Kombat: Gender and Computer Games. MIT, 2000. Google Scholar. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.
  • Dill, Karen E., and Kathryn P. Thill. "Video Game Characters and the Socialization of Gender Roles: Young People’s Perceptions Mirror Sexist Media Depictions." Sex Roles: A Journal of Research 57 (2007): 851-64. Academic Search Premiere. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.
  • Roberts, Donald F., and Ulla G. Foehr. Kids and Media in America. Cambridge UP, 2004. Google Scholar. Web. 2 Dec. 2010.
  • Turkel, Sherry. Interview. Nightline. 1997. Television.