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Research on the effects of playing sexist or other -ist roleplaying games

There exist several studies that reveal sexist, ableist, racist, etc. tropes in this or that roleplaying game. (See the bottom of the post for some references.)

How does playing such games affect the participants? Since everyone has an opinion and not all of them are pretty, answers should rely on rigorous studies.

Some common opinions concerning the matter:

  • Playing games is fun and thereby the question is deflected.
  • Only stupid and worthless people are affected by the media they consume.
  • Playing a game with orcs does not cause change in behaviour towards any minorities.
  • Playing a game with orcs reinforces racist stereotypes and thinking.
  • Playing a game with sexist stereotypes reinforces patriarchy and therefore has all sorts of undesired consequences.

To distinguish what is true or not, one requires experimental studies. A study concerning other media might be useful, if the answer also argues rigorously how and to what extent it generalizes to roleplaying games.

Possible answers

The connection between playing violent video games and aggressiveness has been studied from several angles. As far as I understand, the state of the art is that if playing violent games has an effect, it is positive but very small. There might also be no effect.

There certainly exist methods of quantifying biases and stereotypes, so similar studies concerning those would be possible; the question is whether any have been done and what they tell about roleplaying games.

Own effort

I have read a number of studies such as the kinds referenced below, but do not remember them addressing this question. I talked about this with someone writing a master’s thesis on drow and sexist tropes, and they did not know of such studies, though had not looked into it. This does not seem to be a commonly asked question, for some reason.

I follow International journal of roleplaying, Analog game studies, and more recently Games and culture, but do not recall articles concerning this, but I might forget something and have not read through their archives in detail.

I have not looked into the wider game studies literature, nor have I read most Solmukohta books.

References (not exhaustive)

An introduction:

  • Aaron Trammell (2018). “Representation and Discrimination in Role-Playing Games.” In Zagal, José P. and Deterding, S. (eds.), Role-Playing Game Studies: Transmedia Foundations. New York: Routledge, 440-447. https://nitessine.wordpress.com/2019/06/17/free-stuff-chapters-from-role-playing-game-studies-transmedia-foundations/

Research articles, some of them unfortunately behind a paywall:

  • Garcia, A. (2017). Privilege, power, and Dungeons & Dragons: How systems shape racial and gender identities in tabletop role-playing games. Mind, Culture, and Activity, 24, 232–246. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10749039.2017.1293691

  • JONES, Shelly. Blinded by the Roll: The Critical Fail of Disability in D&D. Analog game studies, 2018. http://analoggamestudies.org/2018/03/blinded-by-the-roll-the-critical-fail-of-disability-in-dd/

  • Stang, S., & Trammell, A. (2019). The Ludic Bestiary: Misogynistic Tropes of Female Monstrosity in Dungeons & Dragons. Games and Culture. https://doi.org/10.1177/1555412019850059

  • STENROS, Jaakko; SIHVONEN, Tanja. Out of the dungeons: Representations of queer sexuality in RPG source books. Analog Game Studies, 2015, 3. http://analoggamestudies.org/2015/07/out-of-the-dungeons-representations-of-queer-sexuality-in-rpg-source-books/

  • Trammell, Aaron. 2014. “Misogyny and the Female Body in Dungeons & Dragons.” Analog Game Studies 1(3). http://analoggamestudies.org/2014/10/constructing-the-female-body-in-role-playing-games/