Gender socialization involves first the limits presented by the messages that we are sent, second our reaction to those limits, and third our efforts to reinforce or change those limits. Gender socialization often happens through media, and one of the newest and most popular forms of media is the computer game. To examine gender socialization in computer games, I’ve recorded a video that walks through the various options presented for the development of “male” and “female” characters in a very popular game called Sims 4.
As you watch the brief (6 minute) video of the results below, consider: what messages do the options for the two available gendered categories of “male” and “female” identity send us? What choices does the player have? What choices does the player not have?
Here’s what I noticed during my walkthrough:
- Most crucially, only two named categories are presented. They’re labeled “male” and “female,” although really what’s being performed here is not explicit biological sexuality but rather social indicators of masculinity and femininity. This is indeed about socialized gender, not strictly sex. If we’re dealing with gender, would you say there more than two gender categories put on display in the Sims 4 character design feature?
- Walks: Both Male and Female Characters may have a “Perky” or “Snooty” Walk…
- For both Males and Females, a particular walk is labeled “Feminine”
- For males, available voices are “clear, “warm, ” and “brash.”
- For females, available voices are “sweet, “melodic, ” and “lilted.”
- The female character shows a “romantic” trait by drawing in, bending, and turning.
- The male character shows a”romantic” trait by placing legs apart, stepping forward.
- Both male and female characters display identical “Bro” behaviors.
- Male stylized character packages display a wide stance, a direct forward gaze and thorough coverage…
- …except for the “Emo” package, which displays feminized characteristics in dress and bodily arrangement.
- Some female stylized character packages display a somewhat wide stance and a direct forward gaze…
- …but some draw inward and back, have an indirect gaze. Most are less covered by clothing.
- Available tops for male characters cover the torso thoroughly.
- Available tops for female characters are more likely to expose the torso …and present more alternatives.
- Female full-body clothing options for characters expose skin, as do bottom clothing choices.
- Male full-body clothing options for characters are less likely to expose skin, and present fewer choices.
- Male bottom clothing options for characters are also less likely to expose skin, and also present fewer choices.
- 33 accessory clothing accessory choices are available for female characters.
- 14 accessory clothing accessory choices (less than half) are available for male characters.
That’s what I noticed. What do you see?