Researchers at Indiana University have found that over the past eight years, there has been a “significant decrease” in sexualization of females in video games. The paper, written by PhD student Teresa Lynch with assistance from several academics, focused on the portrayal of females in video games over a 31-year period between 1983 and 2014.
Having looked at 571 titles, the researchers found that there was a spike in sexualization around mid-90s and into early 2000s before a sudden decrease. Apparently, the popularity of Lara Croft in Tomb Raider contributed to the spike.
According to Lynch, in the last eight years there are “a lot of characters who are in keeping with more feminist notions of what a powerful, non-objectified woman would look like.” “The remake of the Tomb Raider series and Lara Croft’s redesign is an excellent example of the way the industry is now humanizing female characters,” she explained.
Interestingly, the paper highlights that while females in lead roles aren’t sexualized as much, if they’re cast in secondary roles, they appear to be more of an “eye candy” as opposed to important characters with a backstory or meaningful interaction with other characters.
That said, Lynch et al also point out that they’re not suggesting females in games shouldn’t be sexy.
Sexuality and physical attractiveness are important parts of women’s identities, and many women and men enjoy playing as sexy characters in games as long as the context makes sense. But when you have a male character in body armor and a female character in a bikini fighting side by side, it’s hard for women not to feel trivialized and objectified.
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