I should preface this by saying I am not a gamer. I am one of those people who forgets that holding the controller and then moving your body to the left does not actually move the character on screen, and saying ‘pew pew’ doesn’t make your character shoot. I also sort of have issues with the idea that killing things on screen is okay, because the victims aren’t real (I’ve never understood why a violent impulse is acceptable as long as it is acted upon in a fictional space. Would it be okay if we had virtual arenas for torturing the elderly, raping women, or abusing children? No, because those things are wrong. So why is virtual killing the exception? Never quite got that).
But my partner is a gamer, and a pretty serious one, so by proxy I have seen a lot of video game action. Far too much in my opinion, but that is a complaint for another time.
One of my biggest qualms with video games is their depiction of women. Although video games have jumped leaps and bounds from their original female roles (think Princess Peach in Mario Bros., or Zelda in the Legend of Zelda- innocent women in dire need of rescuing. From men), to now allowing women to hold guns and such, I have yet to witness a video game where the female characters aren’t buxom and wearing skin tight or little clothing. There are no real women- just stripper-esque eye candy.
Take for example, my partner’s latest video game of choice: Mass Effect 2. One would think that because players can chose to play the main character either as a female or a male (only 18% of players chose to play the lead as a female), this game would show women in a less sexist light. That is not all the case. All of the women in the game are wearing skin tight garb, and there are ass and boob shots …
… aplenty (example). At one point the main character goes to a strip club, and you can have strippers shake their various lady bits in your face on command. As many times as you want. And this isn’t some sort of racy Grand Theft Auto sort of game that would require this kind of atmosphere; it’s a space rescue mission. This sort of game design is common to pretty much every game I’ve seen. Even when they throw female characters some sort of action related plot line, they have the women fight in absurd clothes with perfect hair and make up. As a woman looking at these games, not only do I not relate to ANY of the women in the game, but I’m ashamed to think someone thinks this is what a strong female looks like.
So why aren’t their any good female roles in video games? Escapist Magazine takes a look at the elements of character design, and the roles women play in video games.
You can watch the video here.
The video walks through the various categories composing the female character, and explains how developers might make more interesting and complex female characters in their video games. The video leads through the various gender differences which separate men and women (genetic and societal), and the difference between inherent and related behaviours.
I found the video to be informative, and very well written. The narrator takes care to explain the issue in clear terms, while discussing the issue critically.
As the video states, the next step is for developers to put greater thought into their female characters. There are so many interesting characters and plotlines available to a developer who is willing to explore the parts other than the T&A that make up women. Even though sex may sell to the largely male video game market, the sexuality used in video games is a stale concept (Once you’ve seen a pair of digital tits, you’ve seen them all. This won’t get more interesting in future games). I think gamers would be far more interested in playing out new and interesting character than continuing to ogle the fake breasts shoved down their throats in current video games.
Or at least I’m hoping.