Why are female video game characters always hypersexualized?

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In 2020, it was reported by the Entertainment Software Association that 64% of all American adults play video games and 41% of gamers are female.

So why are women so inaccurately portrayed in video games?

While the role of female video game characters has shifted from the damsel in distress to the strong, independent main character, these characters aren’t limited to how they play out in the story. And while we’ve recently seen fuller, more realistic female video game characters, the problem of oversexualization persists. This issue needs to be addressed, as female players are constantly being fed unrealistic body proportions, outfits and armor. It can be difficult to truly immerse yourself in a world of video games where you don’t feel respected or welcome.

Along with other forms of media where female characters are highly sexualized and stereotypical, young girls today are increasingly damaged by the way they see themselves. Video games negatively affect girls’ self-perception, especially when playing a sexualized female character.

The Global Critical Media Literacy Project published an article on the effects of hypersexualization of female video game characters on female gamers, stating that “the results of this study suggest that female participants, after playing a video game involving the emphasis on the female body, felt significantly less well. on their body. The article goes on to say that as children gain access to more video games that feature harmful stereotypes about women – whether it’s what women are supposed to look like or how way they’re supposed to act – they start to internalize those perceptions. This leads to many damaging self-image issues in girls and can even cause boys to impose unattainable ideals on the girls around them.

A big complaint among female gamers is that female video game characters have extremely unrealistic body proportions. Being constantly bombarded with completely inaccessible numbers can make video games unappealing to women. Female characters in video games often have extremely slim waists or breasts that are too big and flaunt them in a way that often doesn’t make much sense in the context of their games. For example, Quiet from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is dressed in one of the most laughable and incredible costumes in a video game, with an outfit that could best be described as a little other than a top. bikini with a thong visible through its thin, ripped leggings. Creator Hideo Kojima’s reasoning is that she has a parasite that prevents her from breathing through her normal airways, so she has to breathe through her skin.

In addition to the issue of the over-sexualization of female video game characters, there is also a blatant disrespect towards female gamers. Female players already face a lot of disrespect in the community, whether it’s from male players or even entire companies. In 2010, a World of Warcraft player was chosen to pose a question to the panel at BlizzCon, a convention hosted annually by video game company Blizzard Entertainment. The fan criticized the sexualization of some of the female characters in the company’s games and asked if the company would include characters in the future that “don’t seem to come out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog.”

After the comment, a small minority of fans, mostly female, began to cheer and praise the brave woman, but the sound was quickly drowned out by a gallery of booing male players. The panel even laughed at his comment, with one panelist asking “Which catalog would you like them to come out of” prompting more laughter from the (mostly male) crowd. The behavior of these Blizzard employees is unfortunately not shocking, especially with the sexual harassment and discrimination against Blizzard female employees which recently resulted in a lawsuit from the California Department of Employment and Housing. .

Recently, some companies have attempted to reverse their past mistakes by forcing female video game characters to wear revealing clothing. For example, in the movie “Mortal Kombat” fans were surprised to see Mileena wearing a much more appropriate outfit to fight. Older renditions of Mileena showed her fighting with little or nothing, with the latest game in the series even showing her in a cropped top with her stomach exposed. Mortal Kombat has been criticized in general for many of its female characters wearing revealing outfits that make no sense in the context of the fighting game. Meanwhile, seeing a timeline of the transitions of Sub-Zero, another character in Mortal Kombat, shows that he was never discovered, wearing clothing or armor that would indicate to players that he is a fighter.

Strong female video game characters have emerged, and games that focus on these characters have been praised online for their lifelike portrayals. For example, The Last of Us Part II stars Ellie – a strong gay female character – and the game did wonders, racking up 4 million copies sold in its first three days of release. There are plenty of other lifelike female video game characters out there recently, such as the mighty and capable machine hunter Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn and the clever Warlock leader Vanguard Ikora Rey from Destiny 1 and 2. Characters like these repel the limits of what women can be. games and roles they can fulfill. They give young players new role models to follow, who are judged on their strength, skill and intelligence rather than their outward appearance.

Video games have never been able to accurately describe women. There might be a joke here that says men don’t understand women enough to create lifelike characters, but there is a sense in saying it. Women understand women enough to create lifelike female video game characters, but with the way video games have become so unappealing to women because of these hypersexualized characters, many women are dissuaded from the idea of ​​games. video. Women are grossly under-represented in the industry due to stories from companies like Blizzard that heavily discriminate against their female employees.

Just because video games started out with a “by men for men” model doesn’t mean they should stay that way. In fact, there are currently around 213 game companies that were founded by women. Women try to break the mold of gaming in their own way, and the best thing we can do as fans of video games is support them. With that comes the need to hold sexist and misogynistic video game companies accountable for their actions. Women deserve to feel respected and represented in the gaming world, and we need to make sure we help make that happen.

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