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Powering Up: Games for Sexual Violence Prevention

  • Author / Creator
    Gordon, MacKenzie
  • In recent decades video games have been adopted to tackle a slew of complex social problems, with games increasingly employed across health and social services. Yet the sexual violence prevention sector has been slow to adopt games as tools and little research exists to support or refute uses of games in reducing antisocial attitudes about sexual violence. The present research engages with the as-yet unexplored question of whether a prosocial video game can be an effective intervention for combating values that support sexual violence and rape culture. The thesis begins with an examination of the current state of research on sexual violence and games and provides some critique of the predominant focus of existing research, which is highly deficit-focused and draws little on the established practices of game studies. The research study was comprised of a pretest/posttest design that evaluated participants on the Illinois Rape Myth Acceptance scale (IRMA) to assess their level of endorsement of common myths about sexual violence. As an intervention, half of the participants played a portion of the video game Decisions that Matter (Patronus, 2015) and half of participants played the full game. Participants were re-tested on the IRMA and asked follow-up questions about the events of the game. Analysis of the participants’ responses revealed that the game was mildly effective in improving the attitudes of players in general towards sexual violence, but that the ambiguous nature of the game’s messaging also led to moderate increases in rape myth acceptance in some cases. Participants with high initial levels of rape myth acceptance showed more proclivity to change than other participants, but a subgroup of these were highly resistant to prosocial interventions. Examination of the responses to survey questions about ‘gamer’ identity and game play habits also revealed that participants who self-identified as gamers had higher levels of rape myth acceptance than other participants. These findings yield some initial insights into the potential applicability of games for violence prevention, but also highlight the need for precise and well-considered game design practices. Findings regarding the relationship between gameplay habits, gamer identity, and rape myth acceptance suggest a need for further research into the interplay between gamer culture and attitudes towards sexual violence. Overall, the study demonstrates that games do have the capacity to engage players in critical examination of their beliefs regarding sexual violence and provides a strong call to action for further research coupled with more refined design practices in creating games to tackle sexual violence.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
    Thesis
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
    https://doi.org/10.7939/R3RV0DG8D
  • License
    Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.