“When I asked them what detracts from their identification with a
character, the sexualized elements were ranked at No. 6,” she said. Much
more important to the players were such factors as whether they were
winning the game and whether they could easily direct a character’s
“When you’re losing or feel like you can’t control your character,
you get frustrated and lose that sense of identification,” Hutchinson
said. “When you’re winning, you identify with the character no matter
what it looks like. These are functions of the genre, not related to how
the character appears.”
The research also shows the value in studying a particular type of
game, rather than the industry as a whole, she said. Japanese fighting
games give players a choice of dozens of characters and the ability to
engage in short fighting sequences that last only a few minutes. After a
fight, a player can change characters if she or he wants to.
In a different kind of game, where a player directs a single
character through a narrative that might take hours to complete, the
findings might be different, Hutchinson said.
“I think a lot has to do with choice, with whether a game gives you a
choice of characters,” she said. “These fighting games are different
from other genres, and the way people play them is different.”
New minor in game studies
A new, interdisciplinary minor in game studies is available this
semester, largely because of the interest expressed by students, said
Hutchinson, who is a co-founder of the UD Game Studies Research Group.
That group was established with support from the College of Arts and
Sciences’ Interdisciplinary Humanities Research Center.
A survey of undergraduates found that many students — with majors
including computer science, art, communication, and languages,
literatures and cultures — were interested in a game studies minor,
Hutchinson said. Faculty from a variety of disciplines worked together
to create the program and develop related courses.
The minor requires 18 credits in such subjects as game design, game
reception and games and culture, and Hutchinson said it’s already
proving to be popular with students.
“Most students have been playing these games for a long time,” she
said. “Now, we can help them learn to think about them in a different