Dane Marco Di Cesare is looking to lead the first large-scale international study to examine how the gaming experiences of LGBTQ+ youth affect their well-being and identity development. The study is called LEVEL UP!, and was launched by the International Partnership for Queer Youth Resilience. One of the major things the study explored was the positive and negative impact of LGBTQ+ representation in current video games, because as Di Cesare says, representation matters.
“LGBTQ+ youth seeing themselves meaningfully and appropriately represented within video games can be affirming and have a positive effect on their mental health,” he said.
The LEVEL UP! study is looking to recruit 5,000+ LGBTQ+ youth, aged 14-29 from the US, Canada, Mexico, UK, and Australia to complete an online survey. The survey poses questions about gaming habits, observations on LGBTQ+ representation, and asks about supportive or discriminatory encounters in games or gaming communities.
“We want to know how they feel when they don’t see themselves represented, or when they see representation that’s problematic,” added Di Cesare. “We also want to know if it influences their engagement in different games and gaming spaces.”
Di Cesare also expressed his wish that the study findings might result in more LGBTQ+ characters and storylines in future video games, while encouraging gaming communities to ensure their spaces are welcoming to LGBTQ+ gamers.
“In the future, I want kids to see themselves in any game and not worry about hiding their sexuality or gender,” concluded Di Cesare. “I want them to just play.”
(All information was provided by The University of Toronto)