For all purposes and intents, this particular article can be considered borderline NSFW. You might also find that it lacks quite the descriptive photos that I’d usually like to have on. I still included some of these pictures anyway, but hidden behind the links.
At the time of writing this article, a Google image search gone wild have caused certain embarrassment when done in plain view in the family living room.
Over-sexualized females are a familiar sight in many male dominated media; comic books, video games, and Japanese anime. On approaching a balanced gender ratio of 1:1 at a slow and steady rate, women in gaming have lashed out at the portrayal of women in video games, and so the calls for various changes in the industry now rings loud and clear.
More demand, no supply.
Though some would suggest that these studies of gender ratio are to be taken with a pinch of salt. Some of these studies are commissioned by organisations with a vested interest in disproving gamer stereotypes. They are not peer-reviewed or un-biased. Legitimacy of the studies aside, over-sexualized females are controversial topics of discussion in the game industry, while word on their male counterparts remains sparse. The sexualized female is no rare sight. In MMORPGs, the amount of skin liberated is bears a positive correlation with the tier of amour a female is wearing. While they both might start out resembling any other peasant, draped in cheap linen fabric, their end-game armor is vastly different from each other. The male armor grows bulkier, establishing an illusion of a hunkier male with sturdy chestplates and over-scaled shoulder pads. In contrast, the female armor tends to cover significantly less skin than does male armor. Their armor remains relatively unreliable – or even less reliable. The disparity in armorsmithing draws attention from both gender crowds. For a variety of reasons, what was thought of as a fan service to the consumer is now a disservice, leaving a foul taste in many mouths, regardless of gender.
A taste of the medicine
TERA’s female armors are commonly attributed with the inability to offer protection against even a cool breeze, and stands as a prime example on how not to design female armors. As they strive to bring bikini plating to the next level, some World of Warcraft players have decided to re-clothe various male NPCs with female armor. There’s also the Hawkeye Initiative. While not meant to be taken seriously, it provides a hilarious perspective. It also made glaringly clear the point that male sexualization takes a vastly different route from female sexualization. Whatever worked for males in the sexualization of females, aside from baring skin, is in need of an overhaul and should head back to the drawing board. It soon comes to mind that female input is necessary – one that is rather lacking in the game industry.
How do we do it?
I’m writing as a straight guy. To be honest, I’ve only a slight idea of what works and what doesn’t. Something tells me that Solid Snake has a solid booty that fully utilizes his otherwise latent potential for erotic fan fiction. But I don’t swing that way, so I don’t really know.
For the record, my mother and I are on the same page when it comes to accepting homosexuals; we welcome them and love them as much as we would otherwise – a point that was endearingly made clear to me moments ago. Note: Aftermath of the Google search. Maybe we should copy the guys from Twilight. I’m just kidding – the whole TwilightMoms thing still freak me out.
Well hang on – why should we do it?
Why do we even sexualize a female character in the first place? The coquettish game cover art seemingly does marketing really well. Although it’s a highly controversial move, it still works. It does its job so well that some developers and publishers feels encouraged by the reception to create games that pushes the boundaries of M18 Nudity. Scarlet Blade’s art style is basically soft core pornography, one that has catapulted into fame after being doused in hellfire by many critics. Despicable? Most probably. Even though the common man may be occasionally tempted by it, the temptation is almost invariably accompanied by a sense of shame. It cheapens and demeans. But as long as the market of pubescent boys and their over-charged hormonal drives exist, so will these games. But what’s left for the girls?
“If you decide against sexualizing your male characters, be very honest about what’s going on with your female characters.” – GDC 2014 speaker Michelle Clough