Stellar Blade has quickly become one of the most talked about game releases of 2024, but not because of its gameplay mechanics or interesting setting. Instead, players and non-gamers alike are actively discussing the design of the game’s protagonist, Eve, which is intentionally sexy and attractive. Some people liked this approach, while others saw it as something cheap and provocative. As a result, Stellar Blade became notorious long before its release, and this will certainly benefit the game’s sales.

But the case of Eve and Stellar Blade is far from unique and certainly not the only one. The issue of sexualization and objectification of female characters in video games has been a subject of heated debate for many years, and there has been no satisfactory compromise for everyone. But why is this happening?


The case of Stellar Blade

Korean studio Shift Up announced Stellar Blade back in 2019. At that time, the game was codenamed Project Eve, and the first teaser contained nothing but a beach landscape, futuristic designs, and a pretty girl. Back then, the game was planned to be released on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.

But over time, Shift Up’s plans changed. In 2021, it was announced at the PlayStation Showcase that the game would be a PlayStation 5 exclusive. And in 2022, it received its final name – Stellar Blade.

This development is remarkable in itself. After all, if you look at the library of full-fledged PlayStation 5 exclusives, you will find only about 10 games there. Moreover, there is no doubt that Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 will one day make their way to PC, just like Final Fantasy VII Remake and Marvel’s Spider-Man.

Stellar Blade is not a game from Sony’s internal studio, nor is it a remake or sequel to a well-known series. Completely original new AAA intellectual property is very rare in the modern gaming industry. So Stellar Blade has attracted attention for this reason as well.

The developer studio also aroused interest. Shift Up is known primarily for the Goddess of Victory project: Nikke. Technically, it’s a third-person shooter, but the emphasis is on gacha mechanics and anime style. Also, the studio’s artists do not hesitate to depict girls quite frankly, which also creates an important context for Stellar Blade.

Does sex sell? Stellar Blade touches on the age-old topic of objectification of female characters in video games
Example of female character design from Goddess of Victory: Nikke

Stellar Blade was Shift Up’s first “big” game for consoles. The future of the studio potentially depends on it, which, if successful, can continue to release games for PlayStation 5 and beyond. Failure would mean a return to focusing on mobile games. That’s why the Shift Up department, which is developing Stellar Blade, is trying to do everything to make the game appeal to as many people as possible.

The appearance of the main character Eva can also be considered one of the ways to attract players. She is deliberately attractive and, if I may say so, conventionally pretty.

Hyung-Tae Kim, the game’s creative director, makes no secret of his approach to Eve’s design. He likes to see characters in games that are more beautiful than himself, so he would rather strive for the “ideal” than the “norm”. This approach to development has become “somewhat bold,” especially given the current realities of the gaming industry.

“When it comes to the design, we put special attention on the back of the character because the player is always facing the back of the character when they’re playing. That’s what they see the most of, so we thought this was pretty important,” The game director commented on Eve’s design features separately.

Does sex sell? Stellar Blade touches on the age-old topic of objectification of female characters in video games
The back of Eve, the main character of Stellar Blade

This approach divided the players into different groups. Some sincerely enjoyed the main character’s design, perhaps even too much. Others started talking about unrealistic beauty standards and another case of objectification of women. Still others suggested playing the game first, or at least a demo, rather than drawing conclusions in advance.

However, the release of Stellar Blade reviews did not change the situation much. Players are still discussing their attitude to Eve, albeit in slightly different contexts. Some have even started to say that the main character’s design is “too ordinary” and unattractive.


The “unrealistic” nature of the protagonist is refuted by the fact that she is based on the image of the real-life Korean model Shin Jae-eun. Using 3D scanning technology, her body was digitized and fully transferred to the game. Therefore, the proportions and shapes of Eve in Stellar Blade are fully consistent with the real world.

Does sex sell? Stellar Blade touches on the age-old topic of objectification of female characters in video games
The model whose appearance was used for the main character of Stellar Blade

On the other hand, the Korean beauty industry is developing in close connection with plastic surgery and cosmetology. That is, not everything in a model can be “real,” which causes additional controversy.

Stellar Blade has already been released, so anyone with an extra 2299 hryvnias can evaluate the level of sexualization and objectification in the game. But it’s unlikely that the talk about Eve’s image will subside. Moreover, they can be conducted even without familiarizing yourself with the game, which the gaming community has been doing successfully for some time now.


The eternal question

Eve from Stellar Blade is often compared to Bayonetta from the Bayonetta series of games and 2B from Nier: Automata. These characters also received their share of criticism for their overly sexualized design.

Many of Bayonetta’s character traits are based on her frankness, bordering on vulgarity. And in Nier: Automata has an in-game achievement related to trying to look up 2B’s skirt. That is, the game encourages such behavior to some extent.

Bayonetta and 2B, on the other hand, are not quite human. The former belongs to an ancient clan of witches and is several hundred years old. The latter is a humanoid android designed to liberate the Earth from enemy robots for the further revival of humanity.

Does sex sell? Stellar Blade touches on the age-old topic of objectification of female characters in video games
Bayonetta design from Bayonetta 3

Their design features are somewhat at odds with the stories in which they participate. Nier: Automata is generally considered to be a postmodern drama, in which there is no special place for sexualization. Its script touches on philosophical topics such as self-determination and the nature of consciousness.

Why, then, is there a need for a frank 2B design that flirts with some fetishes? Because it makes it easier to sell the game. Square Enix producer Yosuke Saito specifically asked the artists to create an image that would be interesting to recreate through cosplay. And cosplay helps to increase the popularity of the game and open it to a new audience.

But the creative director of Nier: Automata creative director Yoko Taro doesn’t hide the fact that he just likes girls. He even asked us to collect all 2B cosplay and send it to him in one archive so that he could easily review it.

“I like girls. I prefer girls to brutal macho men. It’s a matter of taste, and some people may like men more. It’s just that this time I was in the mood for a girl,” Yoko Taro explained his decision on 2B.

This approach has proved to be a good one. Nier: Automata was released in 2017, but the legacy of 2B is still alive. Cosplays with her are regular, and various artworks are even more frequent. The heroine also appeared in many other games during collaborations. For example, you can play as her in Soul Calibur VI.

However, Bayonetta and 2B are not just beautiful models to satisfy the aesthetic tastes and needs of players. The characters are distinguished by well-developed personalities that change significantly as their story progresses.

The story of 2B is generally about finding yourself and the meaning of life when a senseless war is raging around you. And Bayonetta eventually managed to find a husband and give birth to a daughter, which even caused outrage in the queer community, for whom the witch was almost an icon. By the way, Eve from Stellar Blade has a romantic interest in girls, which was clearly shown in the comic book prequel to the game.

The problem is to find a balance between an attractive character design and its elaboration in all other elements. Developers have been pursuing this goal for many years. The origins of this approach can be traced back almost to Metroid 1986, in the ending of which it turns out that all along we were playing not as a super-soldier or robot, but as a girl named Samus Aran.

Does sex sell? Stellar Blade touches on the age-old topic of objectification of female characters in video games
Comparison of Samus’ designs from different Metroid games

The Metroid series is also sometimes criticized for the design of Samus, even if she doesn’t appear on the screen without armor that often. What can we say about Bayonetta and 2B, which are still mentioned in almost all debates about objectification and sexualization.

You may notice that Japanese games are mentioned here. And it is true that Japan is more accepting of explicit designs of female characters. This can be attributed to the peculiarity of local laws, social institutions, and even the problem of low birth rates among the Japanese, which the government is trying to combat by all means. Hence, by the way, the popularity of Spy x Family anime and manga, which promotes family values in an entertaining format.

But don’t think that Western studios are disgusted by this approach. Game studios in the West have given us at least one example: Elizabeth from BioShock Infinite, Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider series, Miranda Lawson from Mass Effect 2, Cortana from the Halo series, almost the entire roster of female characters from Overwatch, Jennifer from The Witcher 3 Wild Hunt, and many other attractive female characters.

However, recently, there have been significantly fewer outspoken heroines among Western game dev products. It’s all about the issues of representation and respect for women, which have become especially relevant in the West.


The importance of representation

All of the above characters are united by their traditional appeal. They have beautiful bodies and facial features. The initial idea was that video games are a fantasy and a way to escape from reality. Therefore, they tried to make the designs as bizarre as possible, close to an impossible ideal that cannot be achieved in real life.

This practice can be partially attributed to the power limitations of consoles and PCs at the time. However, the development of technology has led to the fact that today you can find the most realistic graphics in games. This has led to a general trend towards realism, with which the issue of representation has become particularly acute.

Does sex sell? Stellar Blade touches on the age-old topic of objectification of female characters in video games
Miranda from Mass Effect 2

Not all players look like characters in video games. Sometimes the difference is small, sometimes it is very significant. At the same time, people don’t want to feel “left out” or “different” because of game characters. That is why the gaming industry tries to take into account the needs of all potential video game buyers.

This is especially noticeable in modern games that have a character editor. Developers try not to limit you in options so that you can create someone to your own taste. For the same reason, many games have disappeared the division into “male” and “female” types. For example, in the Elden Ring editor, you can create literally any face and body shape.

On the other hand, predefined characters are often limited to specific types. Girls, as the main characters in video games, are still not that common. And it’s even more sad with the diversity of their appearance.

This can be partly justified by the genre focus of specific projects. After all, it is logical that an action hero or heroine with constant persecution and various events will be in good physical shape. However, genre diversity allows you to stay creative.

Take, for example, a small game called Paradise Killer. This is a vaporwave detective game in which you have to investigate a murder among eccentric characters. The main character with the pretentious name Lady Love Dies is a detective. She collects clues and interrogates suspects, trying to find discrepancies in their testimonies.

The whole gameplay is based on this. It is quite meditative and unhurried. Therefore, the large forms of the main character look as authentic as possible. What is there to be ashamed of, it is also very attractive. The work of the artists in Paradise Killer is generally on top.

Does sex sell? Stellar Blade touches on the age-old topic of objectification of female characters in video games
Character designs from Paradise Killer. The main character in the middle

Small projects and indie games are not shy about diversity in terms of character design. Celeste is generally dedicated to the metaphorical depiction of transition and self-acceptance. This is reflected in the design of the character Madeline.

Other examples of good realization and representation of female characters include: Hades by Supergiant Games, Cave Story by Studio Pixel, Iconoclasts by Konjak, Night In The Woods by Infinite Fall.

However, indie games do not depend so much on the mass sentiment in the gaming community and the desires of investors and publishers. Therefore, developers can afford to take liberties in this area.

But what about modern Western games? Where did the idea come from that only the gaming industry in the East can give us attractive female characters? The answer is not very obvious, but it has to do with the trend towards realism.

In short, Western studio developers make their characters close to reality. In reality, different people like different features of appearance. This is why there are disputes about whether this or that character is attractive.

Japanese studios, on the other hand, often pursue an idealized view of women. Even when it comes to family games like Super Mario. That’s why their characters resemble fantasy rather than real people.

Does sex sell? Stellar Blade touches on the age-old topic of objectification of female characters in video games
Eloy, the main character of Horizon Forbidden West

Remember the controversy over the appearance of Eloy from Horizon Forbidden West. Some people sincerely liked her, while others did not have any high feelings. Just like in real life, when everyone likes someone else. The same goes for Ellie from The Last of Us Part II, Mary Jane from Marvel’s Spider-Man, Freya from God of War Ragnarok. They are attractive, but in their own way, without trying to please everyone. This leads to the most lively discussions.

Now compare them with the discussions of 2B, Bayonetta, and Eve. No one doubts their beauty, the point is how exactly and for what purpose the developers realized it. These are radically different approaches, each of which has its pros and cons. However, finding a compromise between them is an incredibly difficult, almost impossible task.

After all, even if you portray a woman’s life as realistically as possible, there will still be people who are repulsed by this approach. This is what happened with the A Woman’s Lot expansion for Kingdom Come: Deliverance.

It shows how women lived in the Middle Ages. Spoiler alert: it’s pretty hard. But the players took it too radically, which is why some began to call the experience of completing the DLC “torture” and “nightmare”.


The real danger

We should not think that the issue of objectification and sexualization of female characters is exclusively a topic for debate on the Internet. It wouldn’t be so relevant if it didn’t contain real dangers.

In 2021, Belgian scientists conducted a study to try to identify the connection between video games and myths about sexual violence. Ultra Street Fighter IV was chosen for testing, as it allows for both revealing character swimsuits and covered costumes. The results showed that people who tend to see sexualized characters in video games are more likely to believe the following myths about sexual violence: “the victim is to blame” and “the victim is just lying for her own benefit.”

“Our results show that playing a video game containing sexualized female characters increases rape victim blame, when participants’ cognitive resources are low. Negative attitudes toward women in general, and rape myth attitudes in particular, are an important issue in our society and one of its underlying causes might be the sexualized content of video games,” this is the conclusion reached by the authors of the experiment after its completion.

Everyone is different, and no one can guarantee that what they see in video games will not leave an imprint on their personality and consciousness. That’s why developers try to smooth out the corners. For example, Stellar Blade has a life-size teddy bear costume that completely hides Eve’s body and makes it family-friendly.

But sometimes developers use this approach to ridicule players. This happened with Bayonetta 3, where the mode that removes nudity was called “Naive Angel”. That is, the name of the mode contains a reproach towards the player.

And this is at a time when Steam is filled with sex games on almost any topic. Some of them are quite provocative. For example, some games are dedicated to the “education” of slaves or sex prisons. And if you delve even deeper into the Internet, you can find downright horrific projects dedicated to the romanticization of rape.

Of course, frankly brutal games will not make it to Steam and other popular digital platforms. But someone is developing them, and they have their own audience willing to spend money on them. In these projects, the issue of objectification and sexualization is taken to the absolute, because women in these games are literally objects for sexual fantasies, not characters.


Men’s issue

The debate about objectification and sexualization in video games regularly boils down to discussing the male side of the issue. Allegedly, men are also subject to sexualization, and game characters impose unrealistic standards of beauty. The example of Mortal Kombat 11 is often mentioned here, in which female characters are made in a relatively neutral manner, while male characters flaunt their pumped-up biceps and abs.

Does sex sell? Stellar Blade touches on the age-old topic of objectification of female characters in video games
Example of characters from Mortal Kombat 11

It is important to understand a few things. This argument is most often used by men. They are not able to understand what women feel, and there is nothing to be done about it. And men and women have very different ideas about beauty.

Therefore, while men argue about the muscular fighters from Mortal Kombat 11, many women prefer the androgynous appearance of Astarion from Baldur’s Gate III or the unkempt, shabby look of Alan Wake from the series of games about himself. Female characters appeal to a wide variety of audience tastes, and so do male characters.

In addition, you should always remember that the role of women is often stigmatized in society. Even in 2024, a video game starring a girl is still perceived as a significant event. And an older woman as a protagonist seems like something strange.

Inside the gaming industry, the situation is even worse. Just a few years ago, sexism, sexual harassment, and toxic attitudes toward women were the norm at the largest game studios like Blizzard and Ubisoft. Hence the male protagonists in almost all well-known projects and the general emphasis on male problems and male perception of the world.

Shift Up, the studio responsible for Stella Blade, also failed to avoid similar accusations. In 2022, one of the studio’s former employees accused the management of harassment and deletion of her work because she openly supported the feminist movement. In South Korea, this topic is also still covered with stigma.

It is men who run most of the game studios. Therefore, it is somewhat incorrect to talk about “reverse sexualization and objectification” in this context.



Another thing is that sexual desires are connected to almost all areas of our lives. That’s why anyone can find a sexual subtext or create one from scratch. In the context of video games, it is connected to almost all characters.

Remember the hype surrounding the image of Lady Dimitrescu from Resident Evil Village. This is despite the fact that Capcom has actually created a vampire monster that eventually mutates into something completely unspeakable. However, the gaming community liked the image of Dimitrescu so much that art and cosplays of her still appear.

Does sex sell? Stellar Blade touches on the age-old topic of objectification of female characters in video games
Lady Dimitrescu from Resident Evil Village

But the example of Lady Dimitrescu is still relatively normal, because her “standard” form resembles a human. However, the Internet has managed to find sexual attraction even to Pokémon. And it’s not just that: on the Rule34 website, which is dedicated to pornographic art on a variety of topics, you will find more than 580 thousand NSFW works based on the Pokémon series. There’s even a porn of Isabelle the dog from Animal Crossing.

This raises a natural question. Could it be that sexualization and objectification originate in the eyes and minds of players, and not during game development? After all, anything can be turned into an object of adoration.

However, developers are actively pressuring this part of human life as well. For example, Hideo Kojima for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain made a complete digital copy of actress Stephanie Justen. In particular, he scanned her feet. As a result, the game includes a scene where Kwait, Justin’s character, flaunts her feet, and the player can see them in all their details. It’s a kind of entertainment for foot fetishists.


The problem of objectification and sexualization in video games is unlikely to go away. The fact is that it has turned into another way to increase sales and intensify discussions around a new release. Even if the basis of this method may not seem entirely ethical to some.

What do you think about the issue of objectification and sexualization in games? Do you have any examples of successful or not-so-successful treatment of this topic? Join the discussion in the comments, we are interested to hear your opinion on this undoubtedly hot topic.