Long gone are the days of sneaking out of bed in the middle of the night in order to beat that one damned level of ridiculously pixelated Super Mario. Now we have the possibility to sit back, mouths gaping, and have our senses assaulted by amazing graphics, beautiful soundtracks and unforgettable storylines.
However, as someone who has played countless amounts of various types of games, I’ve had one question repeat itself in my head more frequently over the years of button jamming – is it just me or are that girl’s breasts larger than her head?
It really does make you wonder – the further game developers are able to progress with the artwork of a game, the more out of proportion the body types gets, female bodies in particular.
And we have to agree – sometimes the effort put into making a female appear as visually (and sexually, let’s not dance around this topic) appealing as possible can rival the overall qualities of the character.
Ryan Wilson, the current Chairman of the DMU Video Game Society says: “Sometimes it is sheer laziness on the writer’s behalf. Why make an interesting character when you could put her in an amour-kini and suddenly make her appealing without the hard work? Well, for one I’d like interesting and believable characters, that’d be nice.”
It would be completely wrong to say that every single woman portrayed in video games is sexualised or out of proportion, as well as it would be wrong to say that male characters are not held to a standard either. In general, body image can often be a very tender subject, regardless of what gender you are.
Lauren Jepson, former chair of the Video Game Society says: “I also think that men are portrayed poorly in video games as well – if you’re not a rugged, white, brown haired man who’s an adventurer with a soft side then you won’t find many characters to relate to in video games. This is not covered much in the media, but I do think it’s an issue. It’s just not noticed as much because it does not demean men, it puts them in a position of power and strength.”
“This is a problem, it’s a problem in a lot of media, not just games, as is sexualising women. Sex sells, the male gaze sells; I think that has a lot to do with it.”
Looking at this issue from a different angle, it could be argued that it’s really not that bad, or at least could be much worse. Video games for a lot of people are a form of escapism – you dive into a different reality or realm, where different rules apply and different standards are set (or they don’t exist at all).
Ryan suggests that sexualised characters aren’t always a bad thing, as long as their portrayal stays in context with the storyline, he says:
“Think Smite where the characters are based off of gods and goddesses from various religions/mythologies, some of which are overly sexualised in their historical forms so it makes perfect sense for their characters to represent this.”
All in all, context or no context, it can be a little awkward to see oversized breasts and a waist that looks like it’s about to snap. It’s unrealistic – that factor goes against (in a way) the progress that artists have made with drawing realism.
A lot of video game enthusiasts might agree with me on this one – there has to be some sort of balance. In order to produce a good game that can be enjoyed throughout the ages, an equal amount of effort has to be put into the storyline, characterisation and mechanics. The scale can tip over at any moment where too much or too little is put in into either of the three spheres.
For those who are interested in games that have that sort of balanced out diversity, Lauren suggests Persona 4:
“One of the best games I’ve ever played in terms of representation of different kinds of people is Persona 4. The characters are fully fleshed out with incredible personalities, backgrounds, motivation.”
“For example, there is a character that denies his homosexuality because he believes himself to be masculine. He associates homosexuality with femininity, therefore his sexuality conflicts with his identity.”
“This is a prime example of how diversity can make a game more interesting. Some people are gay, some people are straight, some women and men are strong, and some are weak. They all have their place in gaming, it’s just the matter of getting the right writer and development team to execute it”.