New York, July 19 The tendency to depict female video game characters in secondary roles and sexualise them more than primary characters has diminished in recent years, say a study.
The findings are based on content analysis of female characters in video games across 31 years.
“This study provides a long view of how trends in character design have changed over time, and assembles an otherwise disjointed picture of what has been going on with female video game characters over the years,” said one of the researchers Teresa Lynch at Indiana University in the US.
The study was published in the Journal of Communication.
The researchers analysed in-game recordings and database information of 571 different games with playable female characters.
They coded for five variables — genre, ratings level, critical score, release year, and primary character, and then assigned scores for 11 character variables that examined the sexualisation of the character.
Traditionally male-oriented genres (e.g. fighting) have more sexualised characters than role-playing games, the researchers found.
The study showed that sexualisation of female characters peaked in the 1990s and have diminished since 2007.
The availability of primary playable female characters peaked from 1983-1990, and has since leveled off from a dip from 1991-1998.
Past studies have looked at female characters on box covers and advertisements or limited to top selling games. This is the first study to take a comprehensive look at female characters from actual game play and over such a long period of time.
“Previous analyses were limited in scope or sample, so they almost always arrived at the conclusion that female characters in games are generally always stereotyped or sexualised. Our analysis provides a more nuanced observation,” Lynch noted.