Women And Sexuality In Gaming

dragon's crown

In case you missed it, a blogger over at Kotaku has taken Vanillaware designer George Kamitani to task over the sorceress character featured in the game because of her ridiculously large and unrealistically bouncy breasts. Predating that, YouTube vlogger/activist Anita Sarkeesian recently published a video series on female tropes in video games. This has given many a platform to talk about how gaming is a horribly immature pastime and that all female video game characters are giant breasted, hyper-sexual bimbos that only serve to play out the childish fantasies of the male audience.

This is certainly true of some characters and properties, but I also can't help but think about the other side of that coin that is so often ignored: the more realistic, stronger, and sometimes even more modest female characters.

The go to example of this is often Alyx Vance of Half-Life 2 fame (she's also in the running for best video game companion ever) and some even remember Jade from Beyond Good & Evil. Both characters are capable, realistic, and not oversexualized. Usually the first example I can think of is galactic bounty hunter Samus Aran who may just be the most dangerous woman in the universe. Meryl Silverburgh from Metal Gear Solid is another favorite of mine. She spends most of MGS4 babysitting her bowel-issue ridden, nearly impotent male partner while simultaneously taking down elite squads of cutthroat soldiers. Lucca from Chrono Trigger is a genius inventor, highly intelligent, and no slouch with a pistol. More recently we got Chell from Portal and despite being somewhat "sexed up" for the higher-profile sequel she was still a far cry from the Mai Shiranui's of the gaming world. What about Jill Valentine and Claire Redfield from the first two Resident Evil games? Women who overcame great adversity with brains, grit and without exposed 38DDs. Or, speaking of Resident Evil, Sheva freakin' Alomar: a woman so badass that she held her own beside a hulked-out Chris Redfield. Also in the horror genre, we have Heather Mason who didn't ask for any of what happened to her, but was able to pull through anyway along with Aya Brea from Parasite Even who was uniquely equipped to deal with her situation and didn't need any men to fight her battles for her. What about Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite? She takes care of herself for the most part and protagonist Booker DeWitt literally cannot progress in the game without her help. Not to mention the fact that she's constantly saving your skin. Makoto from Street Fighter, a series packed to the brim with giant-chested, impossibly beautiful, and barely clothed female fighters is rather average looking in comparison and wears a modest karate gi. She also spends most of her time punching men in the crotch... Who remembers Faith from Mirror's Edge? Athletic, capable, and no cleavage. Ashe from Final Fantasy XII deserves mention in this category as well since she's the "true" main character of FFXII in addition to being strong-willed and independent. She also, ironically, has more clothing than Vaan who is pretty much shirtless throughout the entire game.

alyx vance

Of course, not all scantily clad female characters are flat, one-dimensional sex dolls either. Bayonetta turns out to be a pretty interesting character in addition to dispatching angels in incredibly sexy and violent ways. Lara Croft fits in this category as well since the series has largely "grown up". Juliet from Lollipop Chainsaw may seem trite at first, but consider the fact that she saws through zombies like a chainsaw through butter and carries around her boyfriend as, essentially, an emasculated fashion accessory. Tifa Lockhart does have unnecessarily large breasts, but she's also a compelling character and probably possesses the most raw fighting ability of the group since she fights hand-to-hand. Does her provocative appearance diminish her? I don't think so. I'll concede that there are many female video game characters that serve no other purpose than to just look pretty. I'm not arguing that gaming is completely egalitarian. However, if you're willing to look, there are plenty of great female characters that are not just eye candy. There's also plenty that are eye candy, but possess other qualities that make them interesting and unique. There's also much to be said about the way male characters are portrayed in gaming. Many male characters are portrayed as overly macho and tremendously muscular meat heads who lack any degree of nuance or depth and solve every problem they have by punching it or blowing it up. There's also the Homer Simpson-style idiot male character that is barely intelligent enough to function properly. Steiner from Final Fantasy IX is a perfect example of this trope. He's well-meaning, but his foolhardiness and lack of proper social skills constantly get him into trouble.

steiner small

In conclusion, I think it's important to realize that the characters that populate our fiction are often idealized a great deal. That's why the vast majority of heroes and heroines across all mediums are beautiful, suave, and cool. Of course, it's also important to note that video games ARE indeed fantasy. All fiction is. There are those among us who enjoy that type of escapism and fantasy for what it is. In regard to Dragon's Crown specifically, all of its characters literally are tropes: the heavily armored Fighter, the stout and strong Dwarf, the bow wielding Elf, the muscular and powerful Amazon, the mysterious Wizard, and the dark and sexy Sorceress: all established fantasy archetypes. It seems ridiculous to me to criticize tropes for being tropes. Ultimately, you can vote with your wallet. Reward the developers that make the kind of games you like with your business and perhaps they'll make more of them. I would recommend buying the HD version of Beyond Good & Evil. In addition to being a really great game, its protagonist Jade is everything you probably want in a video game heroine. Game developers make products for a market after all.

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Avid gamer, writer, and and comic book fan that has way too many action figures in his room and doesn't really know how to write about himself. If you fail to correctly answer the Sphinx's riddle and find yourself trapped in the mountains of North Carolina, look him up.