Thursday, December 1, 2011

gender issues in games (part 1 - character design)

Okay, this isn't really going to be a series, just something I talk about when I feel like it.

I think today I'll explain why I'm talking about it.  Read this article first, not the comments.  And now you know why I'm thinking about it.

Gender is.... naturally complicated.  Men are usually the ones making the games (which is something else) so when it comes to character design, women are usually sexualized

While the men are... not.

I know there are unsexualized mature women (Jade from Beyond Good and Evil and Faith from Mirror's Edge for example)  and sexualized men (Tekken's Jin for example)  and, admittedly, Kaine's case is VERY complicated so she's getting her own post later.

But, by and large, this is the general trend.  Which is why women get very frustrated.

For me, at least, either turn down the fanservice on the female characters or turn it up on the males.  It's really frustrating when men are "complicated" and dressed reasonably but women are more "fanservice" and... that's it.  (Yes, I'll know I'll get called on for some characters such as Tifa, but let's just look at the general picture right now.  That is the exception, not the rule.) 

Some fanservice isn't that bad.  Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII has a belly button ring you can see, and that's it.  Othertimes, it's so overboard it may as well be parody, but it gets to be more then annoying when the first female character's show up, and it's a big breasted women wearing nothing but underwear, which has happened alot.  And then personality ends up just being somewhat one dimensional.  Admittedly, early non RPG games (and even some early RPG games) didn't really give anyone a personality so they are excused,  but since technology has developed, this has to change.

Again, nothing against fanservice, when done in moderation.  Girls do wear Midriff bearing shirts (which is why Jade isn't on my sexualized list)  and men do sometimes go around shirtless.... though unless they're exercising or in a naturally hot climate that just makes them look like jerks in my opinion.

Just make design practical (I can see a few small edits that could turn Lara's outfit from fanservice to actual climbing gear.... like extending the pants and shirt so she doesn't risk getting easily cut)   or give it a reason.  (Kaine)  and make the men a bit fanservicey too.  Again, in the realms of practicality.

And please, for the love of Cosmos, give the girls a real, complicated, personality, will ya? 

Then maybe we can look on these designs as something outdated from yesteryear, rather then something we do need to fix now.

So, can I ask a favor?  May I get a list of your top video game characters, one for each category.
1) Sexualized male
2) Sexualized female
3) Unsexualized male
4) Unsexualized female

Thank you for reading this post.  I'll try to tackle other gender issues later, and maybe I'll rewrite this post some day.


  1. I disagree with you completely. Well, maybe not completely, but your posting contains partial truth and only from one standpoint. Yes, women are usually made to be provocative in some manner, just like in movies and TV. So I agree with you, but in context I do not see it worse than any other media. What, half naked women swinging swords or something? Well ok, that's a bit over the top, but that is also what video games do, over the top stuff. Compare it to movies which tend to be the closest in "over the top" situations, and you will see women depicted the same way. Maybe the fantasy aspects don't come up as much, but when they do you get similar situations (I'm thinking the 5th Element). Sex sells, and that is why they do it, especially in a consumer group that adores it (at 60%+ being men). But I also don't hear the girls I know who play games complaining about it. In fact they enjoy it too.
    The flip side, yes you showed a couple samples of men not being overly sexualized, but I would say that it basically happens equally. All the men are unrealistic representations of male physique. Just like how some women look like Sheva (Resident Evil 5) but most don't, some men look like Chris Redfield (Resident Evil 5) but most don't. I mean, have you looked at his arms? My waist isn't that big. And you will typically see that among many of the men in games.

    I would also like to take another tangent. So far I am comparing physique to physique. Considering when I hear people complain about unrealistic women they are talking about the physical appearance, not their character or how they act, or the generic style to their design. Can't that be sexy too? Either in a good way or bad? For instance, in Uncharted 2 Chloe is not only physically attractive, but she is not shy about it and can be very domineering with it. No, they don't portray her as a slut or being loose, but part of why she is sexy is that she is comfortable and up front about her desires. The other female lead, Elena is much more reserved. Honestly, to me she is sexier because of that reservedness, and apparently Drake agrees.
    Ok, but what about the men? Your examples are Leon, who is just too cool for words. I mean, he is slick and stylish, tough as nails and brave, but soft and tender underneath. And the presidents daughter crushes on him because of it. So his muscles aren't showing, but that doesn't mean he wasn't designed to be sexy.
    And what about Ezio? I'm sorry, that guy is suave and has more panache than most game characters. And again, tough as nails, but just the silent type. I liken him to Gambit of the X-Men. Sexy written all over him.
    So, what it boils down to in my mind is a character is designed to be a certain way, and that includes being attractive (both physical and not). Yes, there will be some exaggerations, but they are a proven formula in successful game making so I don't see it changing any time soon. Nor do I think it is such a major problem that it has to. Sure, it may not be the ideal, but I don't view it as something that gets in the way of the games and ruins anything.
    So before I forget, off the top of my head:
    1) Monkey
    2) Lara Croft
    3) Belmont (the original Simon or more recent Gabriel)
    4) Samus Aran

  2. Well here's this subject again. Look I'm a man that loves me some woman, I'm not gonna lie. If I see a sexy woman, I'm gonna go for her. Are they real, no? Do I think all women are or should look like this, no. I look at the men characters thinking: No average man can be this smooth or this rip. Video games are what people what to be, not what we are. No one would want to play as a skinny four eyed nerd who could barley talk to anyone. (I say this only as myself.) While it is true woman game characters do need some real personalities bout I can think of a few that do.

    Dr.T: Bioshock

    The Boss: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

    Yuna: Final Fantasy X

    Lulu: Final Fantasy X

    Rikku: Final Fantasy X

    Terra B: Final Fantasy VI

    Dagger: Final Fantasy IX

    Eva: Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater

    CatWoman: Batman (It counts, she's in a game.)

    Tifa Lockheart: Final Fantasy VII

    Shiki: The World Ends With You.

    Midna: Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess.

    It happens to both men and women. Aldo your gender made yaoi so it's only fair we made yuri

    Now for the list.

    1) Solid Snake or Deadpool
    2) Kairi or Yuna
    3) The Big Daddies
    4) Sunny from Metal Gear Solid 4.

  3. Hi Mina! I love your blog!

    This is irritating, but I think it's starting to improve. Admittedly, I don't really play M-rated games so maybe I'm just not seeing the worst of it, but when I compare Tifa's design to, say, Aqua's or Lightning's, I think the situation's improving.

    1) Zack Fair
    2) Tifa Lockhart (ironically, because of her personality, not her looks!)
    3) TINGLE! (No, no, I'm kidding!) Um...Sora!
    4) Namine

    Okay, I clearly need more variety there, but I can't help it- they ARE my favorites!