Games are like celebrities. Some games feature good role models, (male and female) but others can be raunchy and inappropriate. Just like some celebrities rely on their physical features and tabloid articles to sell their movies or songs, some games use glittering female eye candy to sell copies, even if there is no decent gameplay underneath them.
Obviously, games like the original Tomb Raider titles contained elements of both worlds: there was a decent game to be played, but then the female lead role was glorified and objectified based on her physical appearance. It’s highly degrading to see a perfectly good game marred by insanely over exaggerated sexual content, but it happens very often. Here’s what I think about sexism in gaming.
Now, I’d like to start off by saying that if every character were “normal,” games would be boring. The difference between games and everyday life is the fact that you can do things and see things that you couldn’t ever do or see in real life; in games like Resident Evil, that’s mainly because these things don’t exist to begin with. So, I understand that every once in a while, there will be a female character that’s a bit… “more” than what the typical woman really looks like.
With that being said, is it really necessary for games like Dead or Alive to feature nearly a complete cast of scantily clad women? Why do RPGs and MMOs cause the female versions of armor to be much more revealing than the male versions? The guys aren’t running around with just their helmets, combat boots, and boxers so that women can gaze at their six-packs and drool; why are the women just wearing glorified, metallic underwear?
This view that women in video games have to have a body that is physically impossible to obtain in real life is absurd. Again, I understand that every once in a while, a game will come along that features a main character that is objectified like this, but why are there so many titles like that?
For example, Bayonetta (a great game, rated 9 out of 10 by nearly every magazine and website) features a lead female protagonist in a full body catsuit. Would the combat have been any different if she were clothed just a bit differently? Would the game be drastically changed if her rear was a bit toned down or her bust size a bit smaller? Of course, not every game is intended for the teenage audience, but I couldn’t be caught playing that game in my house. My mother would have a fit if she saw me staring for hours at the game. She knows that it’s an impossible figure to emulate; she doesn’t want me as a teenager thinking that it’s what every woman should look like, because it isn’t!
I’m not trying to be a stickler or anything, but we can’t send out the wrong message to others; most of the gamers I know aren’t into the games that feature scantily-clad female leads. It’s not like we’re sitting here yelling for more games in the same vein as a collective group of gamers, so why do the developers keep designing character models like that in such large quantities?
Take this into consideration: a few years back, there was a fighting game called Rumble Roses that featured the exact same engine as Smackdown Vs. Raw. Therefore, the games’ mechanics were practically the same. Why did the creators of Rumble Roses need to create a fighting title to objectify women? To put a different spin on this, picture the situation this way: the guy gamers all go out to buy Rumble Roses to stare at fighting females in catsuits and bikinis while all the girl gamers go buy Smackdown Vs. Raw so they can drool over buff guys in Speedos. But, in reality, did females turn out in droves to buy Smackdown Vs. Raw? No. Why should men do the same for a game like Rumble Roses? (Brickley)
It comes down to this: have some respect for women. As it is, magazines are taking fire for promoting unattainable images through airbrushed and Photoshopped models in their photos. Should girls feel alienated from playing otherwise great games because they feature a model running around in a bikini with an impossibly perfect figure? Games should be taking as much fire as the magazines for promoting these images.
You might just think that I’m rambling on about a bunch of old games; DOA was released years ago, and so were Rumble Roses and the original Tomb Raider. Take a look at this current data, however. A whopping seventy-nine percent of respondents to a 2012 survey agreed that sexism was prominent in the gaming community. That number included nearly four out of every five men. (Matthew)
That wasn’t all: the study also indicated that over half of the men surveyed had spoken up in some way against sexism. As you can see, (the link to the original article will be below) even now, sexism is a blatantly obvious issue in the gaming industry. Not only that, but we men, who these sexist games are presumably created for, don’t even approve of the idea! Why, then, are these games still being created and developed? (Matthew)
Again, I’m not saying that every game has to be modest. There can and will be some titles featuring scantily-clad women; if all games were censored and “normal,” then what would set them apart from everyday life? People play games for an escape. For some guys, (not me) that might mean playing a little DOA or Mortal Kombat. It’ll happen, but the number of these games that are produced should be on a smaller scale. Like I said in my post about profanity: c’mon guys, we’re better than that.
Another article I read recently gave a somewhat humorous look at the flipside. Jared Brickley has this to say to women:
“Ladies, you may feel like you’re given an unrealistic standard to live up to when you see Ada Wong doing spin kicks in a cocktail dress, but let me tell you first hand that it isn’t much easier for guys when they’re living in the shadow of hyper-athletic, sword-wielding pretty boys who leave fangirls swooning left and right. I mean, did you look at Chris Redfield’s arms?! Between those guns and his “I’m too cool to care about how obviously sexy I am” looks, what can I possibly do to reach that standard aside from moving into a Gold’s Gym and meeting with a plastic surgeon?” (His link will also be below)
It’s kind of true; the super-buff, ultra-fit male roles are unrealistic as well, but I don’t think that men are nearly as objectified in their roles as women are.
In the end, it comes down to decency. As males, do we have the decency to respect the female gamer? Do we have the ability to buy the new Tomb Raider rather than Lollipop Chainsaw or Catherine? Yes; of course we do. If we begin to do this, slowly boycotting sexually obscene games, maybe the developers will take notice. Or, what if we made a public stink about it? We got Microsoft to change their policies; (althoguh there’s a conspiracy theory that they did this on purpose to gain publicity and they planned on “reversing” their policies anyway) could we do it again? We have to better the gaming community now. We have to do this on our own, or it’s not going to get better.
Of course, things are looking up. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics crafted a much more reasonable Lara Craft this generation, and it was a beautiful game. It’s one of my favorite titles of this generation, and I’m glad that they had the decency to make the reboot a more realistic one, in that sense. It gave me a hope for humanity, you know?
Halo Wars featured a strong female lead, as well. Professor Anders was smart, cunning, tough, and independent. She didn’t cry out to men in a desperate plea for help constantly, and her character model wasn’t unrealistic either. She was kind of thin, but she wasn’t skin on bones “thin”. No parts of her body were overly exaggerated, and it helped me to see her for the genius she was; she was a hero and a role model. That’s what the industry needs.
We don’t need total censorship, and we can’t get into the “make a game that offends nobody” mentality, but maybe consider decreasing breast size just a bit next time you design a character. Or, if you want unrealistic females in your game, make them minor characters; not the leading role. Is that too much to ask? I hope not. I want to experience great games without having to worry if an inappropriate character is going to be bouncing around my screen when my 11 year-old brother decides to walk in. Not cool.
What do you think? Sound off in the comments! Leave a like or a follow if you found this intriguing or insightful. The next article will either be about my opinion on the success of Minecraft, or subtitles and QTE’s.
Brickley, Jared. “Sexism in Video Games.” Examiner.com. 26, March, 2012. Accessed 26 August 2013. <http://www.examiner.com/article/sexism-video-games>
Matthew, Emily. “Sexism in Video Games [Study]: There Is Sexism in Gaming.” 6, September, 2012. Accessed 26 August 2013 <http://blog.pricecharting.com/2012/09/emilyami-sexism-in-video-games-study.html>
Here is Nathan’s YouTube channel link as well: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUeVaU-Jd5YlAZjG7jedHfg/videos