There has been a great concern as to whether the sexist content in games may influence sexist attitudes and behavior in players. However, preceding studies have not found evidence for a fundamental relationship between sexist games and sexist players.
A reanalysis of the data from Gabbiadini et al. (2016) can be conducted to determine how strongly the data support links between sexist games and reduced empathy toward women among adolescents. The reanalysis raises concerns over the strength of the evidence.
The findings are in alignment with an increasing body of literature that suggests there may be little link between sexism in games and sexism in real life. However, this perspective does not mean that moral concerns about sexism in games are unimportant.
It’s worth thinking about the accuracy of using scientific evidence to support moral agendas, some suggest that this is bound to backfire. Especially if the evidence is misleading. This is merely a constructive addition to the discussions of video game effects and the broader methodological issues facing all of the psychological science.
Evidence was provided last year by Italian researchers stating that Grand Theft Auto makes male teenagers have less empathy towards women. The research was picked up by outlets like The Daily Beast and uncritically spread around the web.
This is in alignment with the narrative that gamers are sexist and the media they enjoyed were contributing factors. But as with most sociological studies, it has been debunked by yet another sociological study.
Christopher Ferguson and M. Brent Donnellan reanalyzed the data and published their results in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. They found there was little evidence for video games affecting empathy towards women.
The two also mentioned that prior studies did not conclusively find a link between video games and sexism. Ferguson and Donnellan took issue with the varying, inconsistent age groups present in the study.
The original study saw participants play either a sexist/violent game, a violent, nonsexist game or a nonviolent, nonsexist game. For some reason, the players playing the sexist/violent category games were significantly younger than the other two groups.
The conclusion was that there was simply not enough evidence to conclude that games can make young men sexist, especially when sexist is already a subjective standard. However, Ferguson and Donnellan wrote that the perspective does not mean that moral concerns about sexism in games are unimportant.