– Marz Raul
Playing video games carries all sorts of stereotypes and pre-conceptions, the most common being gamers are nerdy, socially awkward and overwhelmingly male. However research carried out by UNSW scientists Michael Kasumovic and Tom Denson indicates this may not necessarily be the case; and perhaps, more interestingly, tackles the awkward questions around gamers and their sex drives. While this might conjure images of awkward, fumblings by clueless teenagers; the news is actually positive and we are sexier than we thought.
One of the first stereotypes that springs to mind when discussing video games and sex is that of a gamer’s gender. Most people assume gamers are almost exclusively male; it’s a stereotype that is promoted by popular culture, advertising and even the video gaming industry itself with many games designed, built, and marketed with males in mind. However, the Entertainment Software Associations (ESA) 2015 fact sheet shows that (at least in the United States) gamers are split 44% to 56% female to male respectively. In fact female gamers over 18 are a significantly larger slice of the gamer pie than males under 18. Turns out that talking about games on a date may not be as disastrous as it has been in the past; you may even find a common interest.
So with the male/female split close to even, Kasumovic and Denson delved into what that actually means for video games and sex in the physical sense. The researchers surveyed 500 American adult gamers and asked them what games they were playing and how violent they thought they were. They also asked about their views on sex and interest in having sex, as well as their self-perception as a romantic partner, referred to as their “mate value”.
The results found that men preferred violent video games more than women, but the difference was not as large as expected. Now while we always hear about perceived correlations between violent video games and violent behaviour in children; it seems with adults that violent video games might be less likely to make them punch-out someone, but rather make-out with someone. Kasumovic and Denson found that those gamers who are most interested in sex are the ones who play the most violent video games.
When analysing the participants “mate values”, the data showed there was no correlation between the amount of violent games men played and what they thought of themselves as a romantic partner. But, the women who played more violent games did consider themselves a better catch. To confirm consistency, they conducted a second study with 500 new gamers and found the same result.
Kasumovic believed this correlation was due to the feeling of power and dominance that competing on a level playing field with males instilled in female gamers. He said that women tend to underestimate their ability so when they play on a level-field, and are winning, they feel good, thereby boosting their “mate value”.
Discussing their research over on The Conversation, the authors summarised their findings:
We also extended our initial findings by asking participants to rate the extent to which gaming made them feel strong and sexy, and more attractive. We found that women were more motivated to play violent video games because doing so made them feel more attractive and sexy.
When asked by LoadScreen if this empowerment may be a driving factor in female gamers purchasing choices, Kasumovic said that other social factors may have a more important effect on game choice. He said more research is needed in this area, but it does raise interesting questions, such as how female or male protagonists in games may affect this outcome.
However, Kasumovic does believe the gaming industry needs to do more to market traditionally “boy” games to female gamers.
“This is one of the mistakes the industry is currently making – thinking that the market is smaller than it is, I find it very strange that many games seem so tightly marketed to such a small group of men” he said.
“But this is where games came from, so it’s not surprising that the mindset hasn’t changed so much.”
Kasumovic, an evolutionary biologist, suggested the link between video game violence and sex drive may be due to our evolutionary past; where those who competed and secured resources had the most reproductive success. That is to say that gaming taps into our ancient need to beat our chests, fight and show off in order to secure a mate, but translates it into a less violent (at least in the physical sense) and much safer outlet.
So, it turns out all those hours you’ve put into Call of Duty and Mortal Kombat are turning you into a sexual tyrannosaurus; especially if you’re female. Maybe it is time to get out there and mingle at the next convention, LAN party or eSport tournament? You might just find your player two.