In Gaming, Sex Sells. But At What Cost?
Let me preface this post by saying that yes, I am a male gamer. Yes, I understand that gaming has been predominantly male-dominated & male-oriented for decades. However, I am also a feminist, and believe in calling out sexism & misogyny where I see it. It happens far too often in our subculture of gaming, and its existence (and those who perpetrate it) continues to make my head hurt. That being said…let’s talk, shall we?
Over the years, there have been a lot of characters and mechanics in gaming that seem to have been created purely to sell sexual objectification. Characters like Soul Caliber’s Ivy & Sophitia, Bayonetta, Lara Croft, and even Samus Aran, have all been utilized as objects of sexual desire in order to sell games to young (and older) men. Sure, some of them have become icons of badassery in recent years, and much of the kudos for that goes to the writers and developers who wanted to see these characters become more than simply being hyper-objectified stereotypes for the sake of selling sexuality.
Still, there remain some characters whose designs and mere existence seem to be nothing but eye candy for gamers who just want to ogle the female form. Take for instance, the Sorceress in Dragon’s Crown. Her proportions changed dramatically from the original concept art to what was ultimately put into the game. So much so, that she’s nearly unrecognizable from her original form.
This brings me to the crux of today’s venting, dear readers. It was discovered today, via a tweet from Faze’s Fortnite team, that the popular online multiplayer game now has what has become known over the years as “boob physics”. One of the team members (who goes by “Agony”) tweeted a gif this morning of a female character performing the “Jubilation” emote, and included the caption, “The most important thing in the Season 6 update”.
Seriously, dude? Is it really the “most important thing” about the new update? I mean, I’m all for the occasional hyperbole for the sake of illustration, but…holy crap, man! There’s got to be more about these updates that strikes you as having an impact on the game rather than the female anatomy bouncing around when doing any kind of emote.
Now, could this tweet have been meant sarcastically, in pointing out that Epic Games would rather add jiggly bits to their game rather than focus on improving balance and playability? Sure. It could have; and if it was, let me be the first to apologize for the terse nature of this article. Still, that’s not really the way it comes across, and we’ve got a LOT of historical evidence with gamers (and gaming at large) to back up the notion that it was meant seriously.
C’mon, gamers… This kind of mentality is so juvenile! Are there really so many of us out there whose major focus on the games we play is whether or not we can see “bewbs” jiggle? Aside from the blatant disrespect toward women that these kinds of things portray, do we really want to continue to be viewed as the misogynistic, basement-dwelling, neckbeard-having troglodytes that some of society stills sees us as? Personally, I would rather focus on how gaming can bring us together, rather than drive a wedge between us.
In my opinion, gaming should be about friendly competition, challenging ourselves, achieving goals, enjoying the artistry & mechanics that make games fun, and furthering the medium of video games itself. It’s this kind of over-sexualization of female characters and misogyny that has led to things like Gamergate and subsequent issues like it all across our fandoms, and this kind of garbage really needs to stop.
In June of 2016, a study was published in the Wiley Online Library’s Journal of Communication, which analyzed the content of female video game characters and how the inherent sexualization of them. The results indicated that “despite an increase in games featuring playable female characters, games still depict female characters more often in secondary roles and sexualized them more than primary characters”. However, the study did note that there has been a decrease in said sexualization since its apparent peak in the 1990s.
So, while it seems that some progress is being made by developers, there’s still a lot of work to be done to lessen (and hopefully eventually eliminate) the instances in which female game characters are seen as not much more than sex objects. We can start by not worrying so much about “boob physics”, and focusing more on how characters actually play. Maybe devs should take a look at whether or not their characters get the right message(s) across, and whether or not they are truly what those devs want their game(s) to represent.
Tell us your thoughts on this concept, friends. Would video games really suffer that much from less sexualization? Have we reached a saturation point where gamers expect this to happen and don’t care? What do you all think? Leave us a comment down below!
I didn’t start gaming until I was in my early 50s (nearing 60 now). I’ve been put off by the overly sexual female characters… but not so much that I won’t play. The first few years I wouldn’t play a female character, but that was more about me wanting to entirely step out of my life while playing than anything else. Now if I have control over how they look I usually aim for old(er) and frumpy. It’s fun to look like that and kick butt.
I’d really like to see the gaming industry evolve away from sexualized female characters, and I’m glad to see this discussed here. Hoping to see more comments, more discussion. Many thanks.
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Thank you for such a well thought out response. Please feel free to share this article with friends, so we can continue discussions like these!
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