Nicole Martins who is Assistant Professor at the Dept. of Telecommunications,Indiana University, US, has undertaken (along with colleagues from the University of Southern California, and the University of Illinois) a unique investigation into ‘Virtual muscularity’. The study sought to quantify the body sizes of male video-game characters to determine whether such images reflect actual bodies found in the male US population – or not. Pointing out that :
“Much has been written about the sociocultural pressures put on women to attain unrealistic ideals of physical perfection. But there is also evidence that men are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with their bodies as well.”
An experimental investigation looked at the virtual male bodies depicted in 150 top-selling video-games and compared them with bodies of 1,120 North American real men. And there were indeed considerable differences :
“… the disparity between the real world sample and the video game sample may not be due to video game characters becoming more idealistic; rather, it may be due to American men becoming more un-ideal. In other words, video game characters are representing bodies that real, healthy men should have in the first place.”
Virtual muscularity: A content analysis of male video game characters is published in the journal Body Image, Volume 8, Issue 1, January 2011, Pages 43-51.