Games and Learning

Can a board game teach us about sexism?

This cycle I’m choosing to critique: Using Experiential Learning to Increase the Recognition of Everyday Sexism as Harmful: The WAGES Intervention by Cundiff et al. published in 2014 in the Journal of Social Issues. I chose this study for a few reasons. First, it is using a board game as one of the means of the experiment, secondly because it deals with reactions in higher education, and thirdly because the study focuses on the effect of passive versus active learning in a training and development situation.

WAGES (Workshop Activity for Gender Equity Simulation) is an activity used to educate people on the pervasiveness and effects that subtle acts of sexism, or microagressions, specifically targeted towards women, can have in the workplace. For this study, they turned WAGES into a board game to simulate how everyday sexism can have an affect on those in academia, particularly faculty. They contrast the results from the WAGES game to those of people who learned the exact same information, but in a passive format.

Game play of WAGES-A(Academic) is simple. Players are divided into two teams (green and white), each team gets a set of cards to draw from. These cards can either advance, or deter your progress on the track. The end goal of the game is to be the first person to advance to the top of the academic ladder. The players learn at the end of their play session that the green team is the “women’s” team and the white team is the “men’s” team. Some card examples are: “You’ve received a promotion, you get a larger office with a nice view” (white card), and, “You’ve received a promotion, however your office isn’t quite as large as your peers of the same rank, but you can make do” (green card).

The results were remarkable but not surprising. The group that played the board game absorbed more material that those who were passively presented with the information. The WAGES-A participants also reflected and discussed the situations and statements after the game play ended. This supports the resounding research that people absorb and retain information better when interacting with the material rather than simply watching and listening.

Participants in the study were primarily undergraduate students at a mid-atlantic university. I wonder if the students felt like they learned so much since they are new to the working and academic world. If they would have used the game with actual faculty would their results have changed? Different faculty from different generations might also have a different perception of what is sexist and what isn’t, and would have had different reactions to the game.

This study relates very well to our first set of readings this cycle These subtle acts of sexism in the professional academic world hurt more in the long run than blatant acts of aggression. Have we been exposed to sexism so subtly, and for such a long time, in video games that it has become the norm and a general expectation? The advent of video games were pixelated characters, and gender neutral (unless the box had a picture of the main character).  For example: gamers didn’t know Samus from Metroid was a woman until much later in the game, and that was a huge shock to the gaming community at the time. How did we go from basically gender neutral to such obvious sexuality?

WAGES website

Examples of WAGES items

Reddit post where I found this article


Cundiff, J. L., Zawadzki, M. J., Danube, C. L., & Shields, S. A. (2014). Using experiential learning to increase the recognition of everyday sexism as harmful: The WAGES intervention. Journal of Social Issues, 70(4), 703-721.

About Lisa

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>