Thursday, April 26, 2012

Women in games

After thinking a lot about feminism lately and reading Tobold's take on chainmail bikinis in fantasy pictures I decided to take a serious look at the characters in the games I have been playing to see just how realistically or unrealistically female characters are portrayed visually.  This involved a lot of rotating camera angles around to check just exactly how tightly that outfit really does cling to the sides of the female character's breasts... for research purposes only, of course.  The conclusion I came to was that although there are places where females are regularly portrayed in physically impossible ways (breasts don't possess anti gravity fields, despite what artists might have you believe...) the really standout difference between male and female portrayal is clothing.

For example, in WOW the characters are idealized.  This is true for both men and women though as the women have a perfect hourglass figure and the men have broad shoulders and are outrageously muscled.  So muscled, in fact, that their arms and hands are freakishly large and inhuman.  Nobody sags, pot bellies are nowhere to be seen and even the elderly have the breasts of lingerie models or the biceps of olympic weightlifters.  In fact I find that the female characters seem a lot more appropriate for caster classes than male ones because somehow it feels wrong that a male warlock who wears cloth and carries only a dagger has arms big enough to crush skulls with; in the same way the females look strange as melee classes because they have normal arms wielding 2 meter long swords.  The real difference comes in the clothing.  Put the same gear on a male and female character and you can often see a big difference in how much skin is showing and obviously the female is always the one wearing less.

I don't have a personal objection to this to some extent; I happen to like females unclothed so when I see this sort of stuff I wish it went both ways rather than wishing for the women to be covered up.  I don't mind eye candy for those who like undressed men so long as I get my eye candy too!  The thing that does get me frustrated though is the utterly ridiculous and immersion breaking sexifying of women in games, particularly high heels.  I understand the basic principle of high heels in real life; they change the shape of women's legs in a way that appeals to most men.  (I have no idea if it is as appealing to most women who are attracted to women.)  High heels are awful things in real life where the people wearing them walk around on sidewalks and sit at desks; they are not appropriate at all for adventuring!  Both the female demon hunter in D3 and many of the female heroes in Mass Effect 2 wear high heels all the time and it looks utterly silly.  These are characters that plan to run from cover to cover, leap over objects and dive away from explosions and they choose to wear 15 cm stilettos?  Preposterous.  Even more so it is *easy* to change the shape of the legs of these women to be more appealing without adding the idiotic footwear!  Women in real life can't do that but there is no excuse whatever in video games for adding in action heroes wearing heels except to objectify them.

I don't mind sexing up pictures as long as the playing field is level.  If every male character is a Conan type wearing a loincloth and a sword then I have no issue with saucily dressed female characters either (but not in heels, please).  Clothes on, clothes off, either way is fine as long as we have it the same for everyone.  I am never going to look like Conan just like the great majority of women aren't going to look like Miranda but that is almost universally the case in stories; the people are stronger, smarter, richer and better looking.

Miranda pic from
Arnold pic from

1 comment:

  1. If you log into the diablo 3 beta and make some new characters, it is quite remarkable that male characters seem to have acquired proper shirts before their adventures while females couldn't find anything to cover their stomachs.

    The higher end gear (not even much higher end, even stuff you can get in the beta) already has most of the female models wearing actual clothes. I'm not sure why they went with the "my clothes got ruined escaping from a burning building" look for starter female wizards.