Are PC Games Still Taking Over Sexualisation Too Far?

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Black Desert Online is one of many games accused of unfairly sexualising its female characters.

How far is too far?

I guess the first thing to establish in this argument is the difference between sexy and sexualised.

Is there a problem with sexy characters? I don’t think so. I think that women that are beautiful for all the right reasons, as part of a complex character, are a form of expression for female empowerment.

So, what is the difference? Sexualisation can be defined as characters are put in skimpy outfits, or made to behave in a sexually provocative way just because they are women, even if the character themselves wouldn’t otherwise behave that way.

The Witcher 3 perfectly illustrates a positive balance of gender representation in the character of Yennefer, who despite appearing naked in game is never objectified or made into a sexual object outside of what makes sense for her character.

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As an industry, we should be admonishing things like the ever-present bikini Armor, or the infamous ‘senpai’ character trope.

What About the Industry As A Whole?

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After kickback from fans, Blizzard agreed to change the pose of one of its characters due to complaints of over-sexualisation.

Well, actually there is a bit of data we can use to track this kind of behaviour from developers. One such study, titled Sexy, Strong, and Secondary: A Content Analysis of Female Characters in Video Games across 31 Years finds a huge trend of over sexualisation remains, but on the whole, representation of women is slowly improving across the industry.

The study looked at 571 female character across video games between 1989 and 2014 and defines ‘hyper-sexualisation’ as including over-enlarged breasts or hips, nudity and unrealistic narrowing of the waist.

These kinds of trends are most common in action based Asian-centric games (such as Black Desert Online, Metal Gear Solid and Dead or Alive).

The study also found that male characters are less objectified, portrayed in a more relatable manner and that female characters are more often relegated to secondary roles in video games.

So who is doing a better job?

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Tomb Raider has come a long way since the early days of short shorts and unrealistic proportions.

Actually, there are a few AAA titles that are making serious strides in giving us well represented female characters.

Life is strange portrays the relationship between two teenage girls as they struggle with the implications of the main characters ability to travel in time, Assassin’s creed syndicate had a strong, well fleshed out female lead character and the Witcher 3 gave us memorable female characters that struck the perfect balance between sexy, powerful and tasteful characterisation.

We’d love to see more women take a serious role in video games, in the meantime it’s good to see big studios are taking continual steps towards diversity across the industry.

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Entertainment writer, occasional fiction author and definitely not a legion of soul-devouring horrors trapped inside a sugary sweet cadaver. I promise.
Gamer Since: 1995
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Total War: Warhammer
Top 3 Favorite Games:Stellaris, Total War: Rome II, Dragon Age: Inquisition