Avid gamer or not, the release of Grand Theft Auto V has created such waves that everyone is seemingly aware of it.
But one part of the game that not as many seem to be aware of is its treatment of the female characters — one of the factors stopping many game reviewers from giving GTAV a perfect score.
However, this is sadly a trend that is common across many video games, but one that is also trickling into real life. A new study from Stanford University proved that the negative treatment and sexualization of female avatars in video games can actually negatively affect women outside of the game.
“Women may be at risk for experiencing self-objectification and developing greater rape myth acceptance,” the researchers said in their conclusion. “These attitudes may influence their behaviors both on and offline.”
In the study’s experiment, women were found to be more self-conscious of their bodies after playing video games with renderings of their own faces displayed over the sexualized avatars.
The sexualization of avatars affects men as well. Another study, mentioned as evidence in the Stanford study, found that men who play video games that contain objectified female characters “indicated a greater likelihood of sexually harassing women” than men who did not play those games.
The article also notes that 31 percent of girls age 8 to 18 play video games on any given day, but a study by the Entertainment Software Association puts the total of female gamers overall, not just between the ages of 8 and 18, at 45 percent.
For an industry whose consumers are almost half women, why is there such a disparity between sexualized male characters and sexualized female characters? And why is it happening at all?
Some proponents may argue that sexualized female characters are a necessary part of some games in order to keep them realistic or to increase sales to the male demographic.
But female characters do not need to be unnecessarily sexualized in order to make a game sell or be fun to play. For an industry where almost half of its consumers are women, is seems detrimental to trivialize female roles in games to only that of sex objects — even when those females are the main characters.
Games like “Portal” have incredible levels of popularity and both the lead character and main villain are women.
Even though this is a new study, the results follow a logical thought process and should not be ignored.
Female characters in video games need to change to respond not only to the amount of female consumers that video games have, but also because it’s ridiculous that women are still being represented in this way.