Anita Sarkeesian, founder of Feminist Frequency, has released the latest episode in her Tropes vs Women in Video Games series, this time looking at women as background decoration. Viewers should be warned, however, that the clip includes some graphic depictions of violence against women.
The 30 minute video looks at the trend of women being placed in minor roles as non-player characters (NPCs) for the sole purpose titillation for an assumed straight male audience, as well as the use of women in advertising for games targeting that same demographic.
Drawing on the work of philosopher Martha Nussbaum, she looks at different elements of objectification - including violability, instrumentality, and the denial of agency - and how these are often reproduced in "non-player sex objects" in games like Grand Theft Auto, Fable, Duke Nukem, and Red Dead Redemption, among many others.
She goes on to look at violence against women in games, and how this is tied to their sexual objectification. She also responds to comments from many about such actions being enacted against male NPCs as well, by pointing out that male NPCs are almost never sexually objectified the way female ones are, and that violence against women, in these cases, is uniquely gendered.
Finally, Sarkeesian looks at the real world impact of such portrayals, drawing on a wealth of sociological and psychological research looking at how objectified images of women in media affect men's attitudes towards women, and women's own self perceptions.