Sexualization (Video Games)

Authors

  • Tim Wulf
  • Daniel Possler
  • Johannes Breuer

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.34778/3e

Keywords:

video games, gender roles, stereotypes, sexist gender representations, female character, body image

Abstract

This variable aims at identifying how bodies and movements of (mostly female) characters are portrayed in video games. This is often done by coding specific bodily attributes of characters or to what degree certain body parts are covered (or not covered) by clothing.

 

Fielf of application/theoretical foundation:

The variable sexualization is an indicator commonly used in studies investigating the depiction of gender roles in video games and especially in studies aiming to identify stereotypical or sexist portrayals of women in games. Other variables that are often considered in such analyses are character attributes like being physically capable in terms of strength and agility (which is often how male characters are portrayed; Lynch et al., 2016) or whether characters are perpetrators or victims in violent interactions.

 

References/combination with other methods of data collection:

Content analytic codings of stereotypical or sexist gender representations can be complemented by surveys among players to ask about their perception of the games they play. In addition, researchers may consider using computer vision methods for, e.g., detecting the amount of skin shown by characters (if they use screenshots or printed ads as coding materials).

 

Example studies

Coding Material

Measure

Operationalization

Unit(s) of analysis

Source(s) (reported reliability of coding)

20-minute segment of game play

Sexualization by clothing

sexually revealing clothing, nudity (none, partial, full, not applicable, cannot tell),
appropriateness of attire (appropriate, inappropriate, not applicable, cannot tell)

Primary and secondary characters

Downs & Smith, 2010 (Scott’s Pi = .87; .90; .90)

5-minute segments of recorded gameplay after “the player had taken control of the character’s onscreen action” (Lynch et al., 2016, p. 571)

Sexualization by clothing

Bare skin between armpits and bottom of the breasts (both dummy coded: bare skin vs. no bare skin)

Target female character

Lynch et al., 2016 (α = .70)

20-minute segment of game play

Sexualization by size of body parts and proportions

body proportion (realistic, unrealistic, not applicable, cannot tell),
breast size (flat, average, voluptuous, cannot tell),
waist size (disproportionately small, average, disproportionately large, cannot tell)

Primary and secondary characters

Downs & Smith, 2010 (Scott’s Pi = .82; .98; .88)

5-minute segments of recorded gameplay after “the player had taken control of the character’s onscreen action” (Lynch et al., 2016, p. 571)

Sexualization by size of body parts and proportions

Breast proportion to body size (dummy coded: proportionate vs. disproportionate)

Target female character

Lynch et al., 2016 (α = .81)

20-minute segment of game play

Sexualization by specific behavior(s)

sex talk (dummy coded: present vs. absent);
sexual behavior (dummy coded: present vs. absent) 

Interactions between characters

Downs & Smith, 2010 (Scott’s Pi = .99; 1.00)

5-minute segments of recorded gameplay after “the player had taken control of the character’s onscreen action” (Lynch et al., 2016, p. 571)

Sexualization by specific behavior(s)

presence of sexualized movement (dummy coded, “unnecessary undulation or jiggling that drew attention to their body in a sexual manner”, Lynch et al., 2016, p. 572)

Target female character

Lynch et al., 2016 (α = .75)

5-minute segments of recorded gameplay after “the player had taken control of the character’s onscreen action” (Lynch et al., 2016, p. 571)

Physical capability

dummy coded: engagement in feats of physical strength or agility vs. no engagement in feats of physical strength or agility

Target female character

Lynch et al., 2016 (α = .84)

 

References

Downs, E., & Smith, S. L. (2010). Keeping abreast of hypersexuality: A video game character content analysis. Sex Roles, 62, 721–733. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11199-009-9637-1

Lynch, T., Tompkins, J. E., van Driel, I. I., & Fritz, N. (2016). Sexy, strong, and secondary: A content analysis of female characters in video games across 31 years. Journal of Communication, 66(4), 564–584. https://doi.org/10.1111/jcom.12237

Published

2021-03-26

How to Cite

Wulf, T., Possler, D., & Breuer, J. (2021). Sexualization (Video Games). DOCA - Database of Variables for Content Analysis. https://doi.org/10.34778/3e

Issue

Database

Fiction / Entertainment: Variables for Content Analysis

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