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Sexy, Strong, and Secondary: A Content Analysis of Female Characters in Video Games across 31 Years

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Journal of Communication

Published online on


We analyzed in‐game content from titles released between 1983 and 2014 (n = 571) featuring playable female characters. Results indicate that sexualization has diminished since an observed height in the 1990s. Traditionally male‐oriented genres (e.g. fighting) have more sexualized characters than role‐playing games. Games rated Teen or Mature did not differ in sexualization and featured more sexualization than Everyone games. Despite an increase in games featuring playable female characters, games still depict female characters more often in secondary roles and sexualized them more than primary characters. A positive relationship emerged between the sexualization of female characters and their physical capability. Critical success of games was unrelated to sexualization. We discuss these findings in light of social identity and objectification theories.