The Surprising Way Young Boys Feel About Women in Video Games

July 9th 2015

Laura Donovan

Do those hyper-sexual "Game of War" commercials featuring Kate Upton ever get under your skin? According to author Rosalind Wiseman, whose book "Queen Bees and Wannabes" inspired "Mean Girls," young kids feel the same way. In a survey of more than 1,400 middle school and high school boys, Wiseman and two researchers found that nearly half of middle school boys and 61 percent of high school males believe video games sexualize women too much.

"When the ads for Game of War started showing up on my students’ phones last year—they haven’t stopped—many were annoyed," Wiseman wrote in a piece for TIME. "[W]hat really irritated them was Ms. Upton, in a full-cleavage-baring white flowing dress ... [T]he message is obvious: Game of War is a boys’ game, and Upton is the game’s mascot, walking through battles totally unscathed and doing nothing except looking pretty ... [T]he video game industry seems to base much of its game and character design on a few assumptions, among them that girls don’t play big action games, boys won’t play games with strong female characters, and male players like the sexual objectification of female characters."

Wiseman and her survey team interviewed an eighth grader named Theo, who plays "Mortal Combat" and would like to see female characters with some dignity in his games.

“If women are objectified like this it defeats the entire purpose of fighting,” he told the researchers. “I would respect the [female] character more for having some dignity.”

Some Twitter users seemed to agree with the sentiment surrounding the "Game of War" ads:

Last year, Feminist Frequency founder Anita Sarkeesian gave a speech at the XOXO Festival about online harassment as it pertains to the tech and gaming worlds.

“One of the most radical things you can do is to actually believe women when they talk about their experiences,” she said.

Sarkeesian, who is part of the series "Tropes vs. Women," previously said that women in video games are often “non-playable sex objects,” who are either “sexual playthings and the perpetual victims of male violence.”