I am a senior this year at Loras College, a small Catholic institution located in eastern Iowa. I am working towards a BA in Sociology (rather, this work is nearly complete). For those of you not familiar with sociology, it is the study of human interaction and society in general. As with most seniors on the college level, we are required to complete some major project, thesis, design, or research. For my particular major, we were assigned to do a research proposal. Limits to the proposal? The obvious: keep it sociologically relevant (in other words, discuss things like the looking glass-self, Marx's critique of capitalism, gender portrayal and representation, socialization, understanding the concept of "race," etc). While this research proposal would not require the actual collection of data using a measuring tool like a survey, it would require me to delve into the background and obtain a vast understanding about whatever topic I chose. It took some time to think of a topic that would pique and maintain my interest throughout the semester. Eventually, I attempted to connect my love of sociology with my passion for video games.
What was the result of this? I decided to ask and research the following question: To what extent are gender roles portrayed and perpetuated in the video game industry, and have these portrayals changed over time? Asking such a question not only required me to look back on my prior knowledge of video games with an objective eye (as much as I love the Mario series, the gender stereotypes within are palpable), but also absorb a vast amount of information of prior studies dealing with this topic.
Gender Stereotype Checklist
Damsel in Distress?
As much as I want to embellish the amount of time and work I committed to this proposal, a realization came to mind that seems infinitely more valuable than a simple senior thesis. This realization initially arose when I began to receive feedback about this project. Personally, I was very surprised by the positive feedback I received from both my peers and my professors during the process of putting this proposal. I figured I would be shut down rather quickly for picking such a niche topic. However, my professor reassured me by saying something akin to "Your topic shows that sociology doesn't always have to be dry and boring." This reinvigorated me all the way to the completion of this proposal. Essentially, this experience taught me that it is possible to integrate a person's passion, no matter how niche or "non-mainstream" they appear to be. I was able to merge the so called "real" world with the world of video games to create a product that not only promoted my education, but the education of my peers and professors.
Another peer in my seminar also did something similar to my method: he integrated a passion of his (tattoos) with the learning process. I believe his overall goal was to examine particular cultural elements within the tattoo subculture. Just as I believe my topic allowed others to learn about various facets of video games, I learned much about his passion, absorbing a background including tattoo history, types of tattoos, and previous research addressing cultural aspects of this practice.
Such a lesson and experience should be had by all, no matter what their particular passion happens to be. We should be able to integrate our passions in such a way that can promote our own education and perhaps reduces the many stereotypes that exist with various other hobbies and interests, such as video games, tattoos, comic books, woodworking, birdhouse building, crocheting, other examples of nerdom, etc, etc. In other words, the next time you are assigned a major project for high school, college, or another similar educational institution, share a passion of yours! Not only can it make the project, essay, research, or study more interesting for you, it can also make it a valuable learning opportunity for your fellow peers!
Strive to connect the "real" world with your passions!
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