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“Kind of like a Barbie doll, but for grown men!”: Women gamers’ accounts of female bodies in digital games

Cole, JM and Grogan, S (2018) “Kind of like a Barbie doll, but for grown men!”: Women gamers’ accounts of female bodies in digital games. Psychology of Women Section Review. ISSN 2396-8796 (In Press)

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Abstract

Although various authors have argued women’s bodies in video games are unrealistically thin and large breasted, few studies have asked women who make frequent use of video games to discuss their experiences of viewing these kinds of images. In the present study, 32 women who identified as ‘women gamers’ answered an open-ended questionnaire on the portrayal of women’s bodies in video games. Responses were analysed using thematic analysis broadly informed by discursive analysis. Women presented complex accounts where they constructed themselves as informed gamers, not duped into wanting to emulate the sexualised images on display. The idealised bodies in games were constructed as pandering to the sexual fantasies of male gamers who were seen as malleable and naïve. Participants reported that they were frustrated by the prevalence of hypersexualised bodies in games, but emphasised their mastery over the gaming environment, and their ability to dismiss the images as fantasy. Implications for understanding body image in women gamers are discussed.

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