Medusa: A Video Game Designed to Affect Empathy and Rape Myth Acceptance LevelsPublic
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This paper discusses the research and design process of the creation of Medusa. Medusa is a 2-dimensional, pixelated, role playing game with a top down view, that was created with the purpose of raising awareness and active consideration of rape culture. Within this game players are able to take the role of both Perseus and Medusa in an interactive retelling of Medusa’s story. Players start the game as Perseus and their main goal is to defeat the evil monster Medusa. Once the player is about to kill Medusa, a flashback occurs which transfers the player into the body of Medusa. This flashback allows players to learn about Medusa’s life before she was cursed, and her sexual assault revealing why she was cursed in the first place. The game then ends with Medusa entering the cave where Perseus later killed her. We combined a specific balance of disciplines and focuses from psychology, philosophy, and game design to have our game successfully raise awareness about rape culture while being sensitive and ethical in both respect to the players and their potential triggers and the sensitivity of the topic and its representation. In this paper, we will delve into the extensive research done on various topics such as rape culture, bias reduction, and educational game design that aided us in our design process. Beyond creating Medusa to spread awareness, we also wanted to assess the ability of video games to increase players’ empathy towards victims of sexual assault as well as decrease rape myth acceptance and hostile sexism levels. Thus we conducted a study of the game in which participants were randomly assigned to play one of two versions of the game: 1) playing as Perseus only, or 2) playing as Perseus and Medusa. After playing the game, participants answered questions that measured empathy felt towards Perseus and Medusa, hostile sexism levels, and rape myth acceptance levels. We initially hypothesized that playing Medusa would lead to increased empathy towards Medusa and reductions in rape myth acceptance and hostile sexism. Our data did not support our second nor third hypotheses as there were no significant differences between rape myth acceptance and hostile sexism levels and the game version played. However, the data gathered did support our first hypothesis that playing the full game would produce higher levels of empathy for Medusa. Additional studies can expand on the potential video games offer in promoting player empathy for game characters and how that empathy may affect cognitive biases.
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