Teen boys want more female heroes, less objectification in video games, finds new study

The new Lara Croft from 'Rise Of The Tomb Raider', as unveiled at last month's E3 gaming conference.

The new Lara Croft from 'Rise Of The Tomb Raider', as unveiled at last month's E3 gaming conference.

Here's some unexpected but completely encouraging news: teenage boys are as over gaming's "dudes only!" mentality as much as everyone else.

Contrary to popular opinion, a new study has found that teenage boys don't want magically-breasted new incarnations of Street Fighter's Chun-Li - awesomely, they want the issues around objectification and representation that they discuss in their high schools reflected in their video games.

The "exploratory" study - a survey of over 1,400 middle and high school students from throughout the US last year - was conducted by author Rosalind Wiseman and her colleagues, in an attempt to break through the gaming industry's long-held assumptions: "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," as Wiseman explains. 

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Among the study's more revelatory findings were:

- 47 per cent of middle school boys and 61 per cent of teenage boys agreed that "female characters are treated too often as sex objects" in games

- 78 per cent of boys and 70 per cent of girls said the gender of the game's protagonist "didn't matter" (and also, boys care less about playing as a male character as they age, while girls care more about playing as a female one)

- 55 per cent of boys who identified as gamers think "there should be more female heroes in games"

Recent instances - including online reactions to the introduction of women players in the upcoming FIFA 16, and ongoing exclusionary trends highlighted at this year's E3 gaming conference - prove that not all gamers' attitudes are as progressive as those found in the findings.

But, more hopefully, the findings suggest that the current gaming establishment is severely out of step with the desires of the next generation of gamers. 

"This all matters because gaming has become an important part of our culture, and it's sending the wrong message onto our boys' and girls' screens," Wiseman wrote in an essay for Time. "Our kids deserve better. And it's what they want."