STEREOTYPES AT PLAY: Gaming researcher Katryna Starks.
STEREOTYPES AT PLAY: Gaming researcher Katryna Starks. Iain Curry

Researcher pushes for more 'girl-friendly' video games

A SUNSHINE Coast gaming researcher hopes to crack the code to more girl-friendly games.

PhD student Katryna Starks' thesis, titled Game Chang(h)er, aims to prove that female gamers are not adequately represented in game design.

"I'm investigating whether there are gaming elements that promote positive female identity, which may also promote positive results in life," Ms Starks said.

Her research will explore the effects games have on female stereotypes and self-esteem in pre-adolescent and adolescent girls.

While far from being anti-gaming, Ms Starks said she believed there was a major gap in the marketplace when it came to games with strong, positive, non-sexualised female role models.

"The women in games are often stylised in a sexist or stereotypical fashion, and the few games that are directed at females tend to have a few limited, stereotypical themes, like ponies or makeovers to look pretty," she said.

"I think girls would be better served with a wider variety of themes, including more mysteries and adventures.

"I'm trying to find positive results in games that can empower young women. I want girls to have more exciting ones to play.

"My research will include an extensive investigation of how girls react to, and are influenced by, the range of games currently available.''

Ms Starks said both women and the gaming industry could benefit from a more positive approach to female-friendly games.

"When it is done right, the first-person nature of the games, as well as the 3D graphics, provide an immersive experience, while the puzzle and mystery story themes of good games provide challenges and the opportunity to build problem-solving abilities," she said.

"There is a clear demand for a wider variety of such games: ones that girls want to play and that they enjoy playing. They should feel empowered and creative and be instilled with confidence when they play these games.

"This can give them life tools and the confidence to move forward in the world at the same time."

Ms Starks is looking for teenage girls to take part in her research.

If you are interested email Katryna Starks