This is by far my longest c-blog yet and also a bunch of pictures to spice up the lengthy word count.
So, there have been a lot of complaints from a lot of women and even quite a bit of men that many female video game characters are merely sex objects. There are largely two extremes here at work, one being what I just mention and the other being mostly the stereotypical horny teenage male that indeed do view and treat women merely as sex objects and not people. Most people that regularly talk about stuff in gaming industry tend to of course, be on the first end like Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation fame. I had it with the two extremes at work here and Iím sick and tired of the same arguments coming up over and over without any counter-arguments that I see are valid. Are some of these complaints valid or are most of them just overblown from America society that has a very love-hate relationship with sexual content? For the most part, I felt like I only read and seen stuff from a few people like Moviebob of Game Over Thinker fame that isnít like ďsex appeal is horrible, periodĒ like what I mostly see from the gaming community. However, since this is coming from the view point of a heterosexual male, that could be a big factor in how people react to this c-blog. Maybe if I were female this would be yet another rant against such aspects, but not all women are against the mere concept of sex appeal woman. Even way, it would certainly be a big difference in reaction. The standard viewpoint is that if a woman in gaming has sex appeal, sheís automatic being objectify, a bad role model, has horrible character design, and more. In this view point, the people designing them are nothing more than misogyny pigs. Now there are examples of women that basically have little character beyond being sex symbols, but it seems like thatís all thatís being focused on. Maybe itís not so much that women are being designed with sex appeal, but how itís done. Iím also not quite able to use the argument that ďthese women are in control of their sexualityĒ since these are fictional characters developed in most cases by heterosexual men and itís not like these characters act on their own. Since those people who view women merely as sex objects are already pretty much debunked, Iíll focus my attention more on ďsex appeal is bad!Ē thatís quite common. There are various arguments related to this and Iíll organize them in such a way that should make it much easier to read than simply by paragraph after paragraph.
ďThose women look unrealistic.Ē
Letís make this clear right away that people tend to complain about women being unrealistic only
if they look
unrealistic and not if they can perform unrealistic feats. Nevermind if they can perform inhuman feats or even have superpowers, how realistic a woman is in this case depends solely on how she looks. Even then, there wouldnít be complaints about them looking unrealistic attractive if they are done in a clearly unrealistic style, like anime, but only if its unrealistic sex appeal. Why is it that women have
to look realistic anyway to be considered good characters? The actual reason for the complaint is that the person believes the woman to be objectified, but instead of directly addressing that, they indirectly address it with arguments like this which when used by themselves, I see quite flawed and invalid. I can see this argument only being valid if the characters are supposed to look realistic, but the females have Barbie figures while the males much more closely match real men. Even then, many ďrealisticĒ settings are only semi-realistic. Even in games where the characters are supposed to be everyday people, they will still realistic be attractive to an extent.
Video games, much like other media, tend to be fantasy and idealized. Now granted that video games tend to be largely male fantasies, but they are fantasies nonetheless. Sure women tend to wear revealing outfits in settings that logically wouldnít be logical, but this is why itís fantasy and not reality. Itís almost like the factor of the males being idealized is almost completely forgotten about. There are still male video game characters here and there that donít quite look realistic. I know there is a clear difference between how males and females are designed and marketed, which Iíll get to that.
ďMen donít get objectify.Ē/ďMen donít commonly run around half naked.Ē
There are different standards for what people find attractive and sexy between men and women. Men also tend to be much more horny then women. Itís not like you can have a guy run around wearing little more than underwear and expect the majority of women to like him the way it is vice versa. Men tend to like to see bare skin more for what they find attractive then women. Itís also much easier and acceptable to show off womenís breasts then a guyís penis, which is not quite as easy to imply like it is to show some cleavage. Women tend to have more complex standards for what they find attractive than merely showing skin. In lists made by women of most attractive male video game characters, I see more variety in those and actual appearance plays a much smaller role compared to their personality. Thatís not to say Iím gonna stereotype myself and act like men only care about how a woman looks. How exactly would you objectify a man anyway? I donít mean that question in an ďitís not possibleĒ way, but would that work out? If men would put in the same sexual roles as women, would female gamers take much of an interest? Thus far, I only saw sex-crazed female fans in yaoi fandoms that do easily get on if a guy looks attractive and is shirtless or less.
ďThere needs to be more balance.Ē
What if women were in charge of developing games instead of men? While there would be far less women designed to be sexual appealing, they would still be attractive and designed to look beautiful and cute. People as a whole tend to want to feel like better people than they are and looking that way is one of those aspects. If people can put themselves into a fantasy setting, how many would intentional make themselves ugly? Even if women were to go wild with their sexual desires like how men tend to do now when developing games and such, there would likely be a lot less sexual content. How many women get on from the following image?
While it would be pretty rare, they may be a character or two every now and then that does look like the same fantasy woman that a man would have designed. On the other hand, I wonder what the results would be like if gay males were put in charge of developing some games.
ďFemale gamers are unable to relate to these characters.Ē
One of the most common complaints is that female gamers are unable to relate to the women in gaming, which is mostly solely on how they look. Even if we move past appearance, most male gamers are unable to relate to the men in gaming as well, at least directly. In the average game, youíre often a guy performing feats that you would be hard pressed to do in real life. How many men can kill hundreds of people, run and jump without getting tired, keep on going regardless of how injured they are, and more? I donít know about you people, but I donít
want to be able to relate to a video game character in most cases. If I could relate to them, they wouldnít be able to even remotely perform cool feats at all. Unless my whole argument is invalid if people are talking about relating to the personality of a game, but even then, these complaints are still largely based on a characterís appearance. Even in games that allow you to create a character and even import your face in, youíll still likely be doing stuff thatís far beyond what you could do outside the game. Itís not like there isnít quite a bit of male power fantasy male characters whose personality basically comes down to ďRIP AND TEAR!Ē even if developers try to hide it better these days.
Now Iíll get to men in games that are idealized. Look at the majority of the games out there these days with male lead characters. Characters like Kratos and Marcus Fenix may not look handsome, but they are still idealized and are very built. How many men are built like them? How many people are complaining that they look unrealistic or are expected to be like them? Even for male characters not designed to be male power fantasies who are pumping muscles throughout their body, they are still idealized. If you were to go outside and look around or check out the Average Joe on TV, how many are slim and fit like various video game characters? How many lead characters are just Average Joes in appearance? The rule and not the exception is that men are idealized as powerful while women are idealized as attractive. How many games do you play as men who are not empowered in some kind of way? Other than some exceptions like many survival horror games, not so much. Now Iím not in any way saying that being designed to be powerful is even remotely similar to being designed to be merely sexy, but I could spent awhile going on about that, which I wonít go any further about that here to still focus on the sex appeal of female video game characters. However, outside of empowerment, I like to make a quick mention about how Japanese games and anime tend to feature pretty boys as their idealized males, especially since itís rare for a male lead character to not be a pretty boy.
ďFemale gamers lack good role models.Ē
Finally, people have complained about the lack of female role models in gaming, but do they really think many modern male ďheroesĒ in gaming are role models? Can you only have a role model of someone of the same sex as you? Are there no male characters that females can view as role models and vice versa? If an anti-gamer complained that video game characters are bad role models for children, how many characters can we show them to prove them wrong for higher rated games? Considering the nature of games, many games are not focused on moral lessons and such are possible not the best media to look for role models.
ďAlyx Vance and Jade from Beyond Good & Evil are positive role models.Ē
These two ladies are given so much praise because they look realistic. Now Iím not denying that they very well indeed may have strong character, but this mostly only gets brought up because of how they look. If they were designed with more sex appeal, but otherwise had the same personality, they would not be considered good role models. How many female characters that are considered sexual appealing have ever been considered a role model from the same people that consider Alyx and Jade role models? Now Iím not gonna invalid my own argument and do the opposite by acting like a female character canít be ďgoodĒ if they donít have sex appeal, but itís just that a lot of it still comes down to judging by appearance. There have been people that even blamed the poor sales of Beyond Good & Evil due to Jade not being a sex symbol.
ďPeople focus too much on the sex appeal of female video game characters.Ē
Itís a common complaint that those that like the sex appeal of female characters focus too much on appearance, when those complaining about it are doing the same thing. It may be for different reasons, but they are still judging if a female character is good or not based on how much sex appeal she has. Am I the only one seeing a double standard here or is my argument invalid for one reason or another?
Itís like if a woman is designed with sex appeal, sheís ultimately a bad character who solely appeals to horny heterosexual males. Itís like sex appeal is always
a negative trait and if a woman has it, anything positive about her is thrown out the window. Itís like it comes down to the two extremes of ďstrong and little to no sex appealĒ or ďsexy bimbo with no character otherwiseĒ. Even from what I gathered on say, the Rev Rant on Sexy Heroines, itís just one or the other. Itís like thereís this black and white thinking that applies to a lot of subjects with little to no room for gray middle ground and sex appeal is largely one of those.
ďWomen are under pressure to look like these fantasies.Ē
So once again, I know, Iím a heterosexual male, so what do I understand about this? There is no way I can deny that far greater pressure is put on women than men to look attractive. On the other hand, itís almost like itís being ignored that men donít have pressures put on them too when it comes to appearance, although to a lesser extent. Men and women are pressured to not appear fat, for example. Is it really worth being with or making an attempt to impress someone that judges what people should look like based on fantasy? Men who expect their women to look like perfect models are mistaken and so are women who expect themselves to look like that. Seriously, do there not exist women who realize that they donít have to crater to rare or impossible body types? Are we saying that women are too weak to not try to crater to idealized standards and spend thousands of dollars in the process? Itís almost like peer pressure in a way. While Iím not quite able to relate to the peer pressure of appearance, I can when it comes to other things, like when I was in high school and decided to not want to be a part of the stupidly of most of the students there. I much rather be an outcast than crater to such narrow standards. Life story aside, maybe itís long overdue for many women to do the same for impossible body standards.
For you ladies, if a guy doesnít want to be with you because you donít look like a supermodel, he just did you a favor. I say that because is it really worth wanting to be with someone that judges you that much by impossible standards? All those stereotypical teenage boys online who act like real life women should look like those in the media is just saving you time in not trying to become friends with them. They basically show how narrow they are in a pretty quick way.
ďSex appeal can rule a manís judgment.Ē
I am fully aware that males can easily focus on sex appeal to the point of losing focus on other things. I do know that simply appealing to sexual desires is enough to sell a product and otherwise hardly put any effort into it. However, just because a game with sex appeal and horrible game play is panned by critics doesnít always mean the developers focused more on sex appeal then game play. It also doesnít mean that developers canít make a good game with a sexy heroine.
Itís easy to say a game like X-Blades has horrible game play simply because of the sex object that is the heroine and that the developers may
have focused more on that then anything else. This same argument has been used for games with high production values in graphics as well that get panned. Not that Iím here to defend that game, especially since it sounds like a case of ďsex object with little characterĒ and not ďstrong character with sex appealĒ. It also doesnít help that action games with strong focus on sex appeal tend to do have horrible game play and the opposite is the exception.
The developers of Bayonetta are certainly not trying to hide the fact that the lead character has sex appeal, but at the same time, it also appears that they actually care about making the game play remarkable. They appear to be going by game play before sex appeal instead of vice versa. This is just going by impressions and not a review of final product itself, a subject I covered in one of my previous c-blogs.
So to quickly touch on something else related to this before this c-blog becomes long enough to publish a book on, thereís games designed mostly to sexual appeal to men like Dead or Alive and the concept of breast physics. Breast physics in general can be a quick way to turn a female character into a sex bimbo. With the two beach spinoffs, especially since they only feature the female characters from the series as playable, itís no secret that the real stars are just a pair of breasts attached to a womanís body, along with the sport they play so the breasts have an excuse to move. Even in this highly sexualize male fantasy; there are some women out there who enjoy playing the games for the dress up factor. I canít deny that the main focus here is the sex appeal and it may very well turn off many female gamers, but this is another aspect of people designing what they like. Just like games designed around shooting because people like that, these games exist because of the people that like sex appeal.
So to wrap this up, there may be a case for women in gaming merely being sex objects and hardly more, but itís almost like a woman canít be sexy and still have strong character. However, if women in gaming being sex objects first and characters second is the main issue, then why not directly mention that instead of using some of these other arguments to indirectly address it? As long as we are sexual beings, this will never stop. However, there is a fine line between controlling it and letting it control us. Somewhere within a subject as complex as human sexuality, I must have completely missed the point somewhere. Even this c-blog can barely touch the surface on a subject this complex and if I keep going, would easily be triple the length or more. It gets longer anytime I go back through it and have more thoughts on the matter. So letís hear the agreements, disagreements, and whatnot.