I have to preface this post by saying that I am not a gamer. I’m not even a cell phone games gamer because I don’t have a smart phone. However, I do consume and am very involved with other aspects of “geek” culture (comics, anime), so my hobbies frequently crossover with video games. Also, my boyfriend is a gamer and gets me to play with him once in a while, so I’m not coming at this from a completely ignorant perspective.
At this point it’s widely known that video gaming is an arena rank with misogyny. Even though nearly half of gamers worldwide are women (47%, according to a 2012 report by the Entertainment Software Association), women and girls are still not widely accepted. For proof, one need look no further than the “Idiot Nerd Girl” meme; feminist pop culture blogger Anita Sarkeesian’s “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” Kickstarter campaign, which resulted in frighteningly aggressive harassment; or the laughable fatuglyorslutty.com, which posts in-game player to player insults against women.
But is it any wonder as to why this happens, when so many video games are clearly designed to titillate young, straight males? No wonder they think video games are made for them alone—they are! Character designs are chock full of gravity-defying boobs and ridiculously sexy strips of fabric masquerading as â€œclothes.â€ The fighting game “Soul Calibur” (which I’ve actually played—”Soul Calibur IV” to be precise), for example, has some of the most boobalicious character designs going and the clothes fall off as the characters take damage. Really?? Even in “World of Warcraft,” the most widely played video game on the planet, non-human races such as goblins and cow-people and zombies still have human female sex characteristics and oftentimes cleavage—even the cow! Yes, the “Tauren” females have breasts and wear midriff-bearing tops. Shouldn’t they have udders, if anything? I think sexualizing a cow is taking boobs in video games way too far.
So a few weeks ago when I happened to see my boyfriend watching a video about the character designs for the then-upcoming MMO (“massively multiplayer online game”) “Guild Wars,” I was beyond excited. This game’s character designs are not only gorgeous, but include variety! Variety in body shapes, curviness, muscle definition, and costumes. This is what I want to see in comics and video games. It’s not that I want there to be no sexiness and no over the top characters at all—it’s that I want to see these things in addition to other options. Here’s what I’m talking about:
First, body choices: Here is a screen shot of the physique page for a human female (click to see bigger). There are 18 bodies to choose from and more than 24 skin colors. To be fair, this image below is the biggest female body one can select. There’s nothing even remotely plus-size, which is a shame.
But I am pleased that you can select a bodacious body…
…or a slim one with small breasts and a bit of muscle definition:
Human males get similar treatment. Still not much girth, but you can go from an on-steroids muscley look…
…down to a waif:
Next up are the “Norns,” which are basically humanoid giants. The females have much the same options as the humans, from very thin…
…to a much bigger body that looks genuinely strong:
The male Norns go from gorilla-like (note the long arms and massive trapezius muscles)…
…to the Incredible Hulk. And look—body hair!
I also really appreciate that unlike World of Warcraft, the animal-like characters don’t have human boobs. Here’s a female “Asura”—a gnome-like creature resembling a cross between a rabbit and a lizard:
And here’s a female “Charr”—a big, catlike creature:
Look Ma—no boobs! For comparison, here’s a male:
The major differences are the faces (though there are more scowly females and less scowly males to choose from) and the detail of full-fluff tails on the females and only a puff of fluff at the tail’s tip on the males. Gee, sex-selective characteristics that are relevant to the creature at hand instead of to humans—what an idea!
As for stupidly sexy costumes, well the game designers have that covered too. They do offer silly, skin-baring outfits like this female human Mesmer class:
But also full armor, like this human Guardian class:
Same goes for the Norns. Here’s a fully clothed Engineer:
And a skimpier Elementalist:
Additionally, the game actually provides a mostly sensical reason as to why most of the Norn costumes show a lot of skin. They’re so big that their body heat is far greater than that of a regular-size human, so they need to keep cool. And since some of the males wear skimpy attire too, I’ll just go with it:
There are also some cutesy outfits that are girly without being too titillating, like this Sylvari Elementalist:
The Sylvaris, by the way, are really stunning. They’re plant people, and the creativity that went into their designs is unparalleled. Some of them have tree branches for hair, some have different leaf shapes—there’s even one with a mushroom cap for a head. Genius! Here’s another female Sylvari, this one a Mesmer class. She’s got a gorgeous orchid-like gown that almost looks like it’s part of her body as opposed to clothing:
Lastly, I must point out that some of the male and female versions of the same species and class actually wear the exact same thing. Imagine that! Here are a male and female Sylvari Ranger:
I think “Guild Wars” has really covered its bases with character designs that appeal to players of all genders, ages, and interests. I only wish more game developers could take the same tack as these guys. Characters don’t have to be nearly naked, well endowed, or all look the same to be fun to play. Variety is the spice of life!
And here’s an additional bonus: Unlike many other MMO’s, there is no monthly subscription fee. You buy the game once and can play it forever. There are items you can purchase in game with real money, so I assume that’s how the company plans to make ongoing profit.
I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of this before- The Mary Sue tends to cover issues (and triumphs) with the gaming (and comic) world depicting women. It’s definitely a step forward, not all the way in the direction I would like but definitely better.
I think it’s been on here before but Boobs Don’t Work that Way (tumblr, NSFW) is pretty good on covering the unrealistic expectations in comics and games.
My opinion on the topic of anti-grav boobs/unrealistic bodies in the world of comics and gaming is that, provided the men are held to the same unrealistic level of rippling muscles and skin exposure, I am fine with it. I don’t like seeing either male or female sexuality singled out (though it is usually female of course). I completely agree about World of Warcraft though… the Females of other species having human breasts just weirds me out! It seems like an uncreative, easy, and self indulgent design choice. I found the characters designs in Diablo III were lovely for both the men and women. Where a female class wold be showing skin, so would the male equivalent. Many of the designs also had nothing to do with sexuality and were designed for practicality. I am optimistic about where the gaming world is going in terms of character design, but there’s still quite a ways to go.
Have you seen Laura Croft’s new design? It’s very toned down in comparison to the old design. It’s not that’s there’s anything wrong with the old curvy Laura Croft, I just don’t appreciate that she was made that way pretty much for men to oggle.