In my review of Haunting Ground, I argued that the over-sexualization of the protagonist hurt the game’s ability to be scary. My point was that the bouncing breasts and mini-mini skirt that follow Fiona around throughout the game amount to fan service, and ultimately distract from the game’s primary goal of being scary.
Leigh Alexander, author of the weekly column The Aberrant Gamer, thinks otherwise. In her recent column about Haunting Ground, Alexander argues that portraying Fiona as an obvious sex object serves to heighten the player’s sense of fear because we understand that the game’s antagonists are also thinking of her this way. The cost of failure is very high for Fiona, as her assailants seek not only to kill her, but to violate her in terrible ways as well. This, Alexander argues, puts Fiona in an even more vulnerable position than she might otherwise be in, which makes her easier to be scared for.
This is not an angle that I had previously considered. If you are interested in this sort of thing, the article is a good read.