Sexualized female game characters have always been controversial and people claim that sexy game characters make women uncomfortable about the way their bodies look. That seems to be the common opinion in the community. Lara Croft in Tomb Raider is a perfect example. Many people want her body to be realistically proportioned.
Research indicates that sexualized female characters do not impact a woman’s body image. Playing a sexy Lara Croft will not make a woman feel body shame and she will not feel less satisfied with her body. The study has been published by the American Psychological Association. Around 100 women were asked to play two different Tomb Raider games, Tomb Raider Underworld and the 2013 Tomb Raider Reboot.
In Tomb Raider Underworld, Lara wore a bikini top and fitted clothes. The study explained, “one of the indicators of sexualization is clothing that is not appropriate for the task to be completed.” In the 2013 Tomb Raider game, Lara wore cargo pants and a tank top.
The results of the study revealed that women that played the sexualized Tomb Raider Underworld portion did not feel body shame. The authors of the study theorized, “Participants identified the sexualized video game protagonist as fictional and thus not a realistic source of messaging about women’s bodies,”
A game is exactly that, fiction and nothing more. That is how games have been seen for a long time and that is how we should see them in the future. While games have become very realistic with cutting edge graphics and high-end hardware at the disposal of players, it is still a form of art and something that is meant to be enjoyed.
In relation to the study, one of the authors, Chris Ferguson, a professor of psychology at Stetson, was asked whether the movie Wonder Woman had a positive impact on how women see themselves. Here is what he had to say regarding the matter:
I suspect that much of the impact of the movie had to do with its affirming women’s views about themselves (or women in general) as having or deserving equality in a realm historically devoted to men. In other words, the movie didn’t cause anything in terms of psychological constructs but was recognizable to women (and, of course, many men) as consistent with their beliefs about gender equality.
In short, it seems that people will perceive what they want to perceive. Let us know what you think about this study and whether or not you believe sexualized female game characters make women feel less of themselves.