Do Female Characters on Video Games Are ‘Harming’ Our Body Image?

As a child, I grew as a stay-at-home kid. Me and my older brother didn’t have any friends around the neigbourhood beside our school friends. So other than piano dan painting course, we spent most of the free time by reading books, comics, and playing video game. I hardly remember what was the first console we had in our home (I assumed it’s Sega), but I remembered that we played a lot. Raised as a daughter where the environment was build upon ‘precise dichotomy’ between girls and boys, I found most of the games back then were so ‘masculine’ (except Tetris) and highly themed with Damsell in Distress where men are aggressive and women are passively waiting to be rescued (Yes, by saying that I was talking about Mario Bross). Meanwhile, I was dreaming to have a hero that represents me as a female.

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The second console came a bit late. It was on Playstation, circa 1996, where I first played Tekken. Most of the games bore me; fighting, racing, always led by the male prontagonist. Then a bit later, one of my friends introduced me to Tomb Raider and Resident Evil: Biohazard. You wouldn’t believe that Jill Valentine was once my role model because she’s great in combats. And for Croft, she was quite an adventurer which I found tres genial! Me as a chubby little girl only have this simple dream: to have a great body and cute face like them. Wait, really? For our mutual surprise, yes I admit I once wished for that. Little that I realize, these representations of a female body was harming my concept of beauty.


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What is body image? According to Wikipedia, body image refers to a person’s feelings of the aesthetics and sexual attractiveness of their own body that may be forced by others or social media. Like most media, the characters represented in video games are developed with ‘idealized’ body type with small nose, small mouth, small face, symmetrical face, and good skin. Both men and women are portrayed unrealistically ‘beautiful’, and therefore we have our own ideas of body image, that affected by exposure to game. Even a study in 2008 found that young men and women experienced lower body satisfaction after fifteen minutes of playing a game where the characters were muscular (in the case of boys) or thin and attractive (in the case of girls). That’s sad!

game love

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It’s impossible if you guys haven’t heard about Street Fighters, Dead or Alive, or any other games where women were over-sexualized. The majority of female characters in those kind of video games are portrayed in a highly sexualized way, being both thin and curvy, and depicted with revealing clothing. According to Beasley and Standley’s 2002 study, female characters were more likely to show skin than their male counterparts. It then confirmed that the design of game characters has not changed, as the continuation of the unrealistic body proportions. Though the games companies finally created much more games with heroines, it only created more ‘problem’ because they developed and designed them with male target audiences in mind.

So what do you think, will you play a game where the characters are less attractive but realistic? Or the ones with proportional body figures and flawed personality?

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P.S: I love playing The Last of Us, because it’s so realistic. The characters and everything. (Beside that I’m into survival game) 😀



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