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Sexy Female Avatars Can Alter Female Gamers’ Perception of their Own Bodies

Update Date: Oct 15, 2013 01:20 PM EDT

When parents complain about video games' violence levels or when researchers study the effects of video games on gamers, both groups often focus on adolescent boys. Within culture, the stereotype is that young boys tend to play video games while girls play dress up. In a new study, researchers remind people that many girls partake in video games as well and examining the effects of video games on girls is as important. In this particular study, researchers examined the role of sexy female avatars and discovered that using this type of video game character could alter female gamers' view on rape and their own bodies.

A team of researchers from Stanford University decided to examine the effects of using a hyper-sexualized character in a video game. Several studies in the past have found that young girls can be very impressionable when it comes to body image ideals. For this study, the researchers recruited 86 females between the ages of 18 and 40. The women were asked to play a video game using either an overly sexualized avatar or a non-sexualized avatar. The character's sexuality was based on clothing. Some of the avatars were then created to look like doppelgängers of the players.

The researchers then administered questions for the participants to answer on a five-point scale ranging from strongly disagree to strongly agree. The team reported that women who used sexualized avatars that looked like them were more likely to accept the rape myth. For example, when asked, "In the majority of rapes, the victim is promiscuous or has a bad reputation," women gamers using sexy doppelgänger avatars were more likely to say "agree" or "strongly agree."

The researchers also asked the participants to free write after the experiment. They found that women who used sexy avatars that looked like them were more likely to self-objectify. The researchers believe that their study, even though it was small, suggested that video games can have a detrimental effect on women's self perception. Around 46 percent of gamers are females and the games that these women play usually incorporate an overtly sexualized character.

The study was published in Computers and Human Behavior.

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