Thought of the Day: Boobs in Games and Modern Art

Takashi Murakami 's Hiropon

Seraphina Brennan at Massively writes a plea for people to stop complaining about the size of the female characters’ assets in videogames.

Before I add my thoughts on this, take a look at the picture to the left. It’s by an artist called Takashi Murakami and it’s a classic of modern art.

Murakami says of this piece, “The design took its original inspiration from a large-breasted girl game that was on a software fan magazine that I picked up at the 1992 summer Comike. With these abnormal swollen nipples and breasts, I could illustrate the depth of Japan’s subculture, and the excesses of its art, the psycho-sexual complexes of the Japanese, and the increasingly malformed otaku culture!”

Is it hot, over the top, or is it OK because he’s taking the piss out of otaku culture?

I mention this because Brennan’s article includes some pictures of gaming characters who look almost as stupidly endowed as the girl in the sculpture. Except, amazingly, people take them seriously and don’t realise that graphic artists are sending them up.

I have three thoughts on the boobs in gaming issue:

  1. That character is going to represent me in the game. Games are often wrapped in escapist fantasy. Players like characters that look pretty, that look badass, that look hot — but not too hot if they’re male, evidently. Whether hot equates to looking like an anime fanwank pornstar is open to debate. To me, that doesn’t look hot and it’s offputting enough that I won’t play. Everyone has their own boundaries; I’ll respect yours if you respect mine. If I find examples that strike me as especially ludicrous I may post about them.
  2. It isn’t just the boobs. Look at how the character is posed and dressed as well. Does it look badass and ready to rumble, or does it look as though it’s posing for a porn shoot?
  3. If devs put as much work into every detail of a games as  into getting the breast jiggle perfect, that would be one hell of a game and we’d be talking about more than just the boobs.
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25 thoughts on “Thought of the Day: Boobs in Games and Modern Art

  1. 1.Basically fantasy from the last 50 years has had men with muscles, shirtless warriors, cleavage, and this is why it’s a fantasy. Comic books carried this over with men and women in tights. Again, more pecks, abs, and cleavage. So yea…it’s carried over into games.

    2. The majority of those pictures used on the Massively site were actually done by 3rd parties. The Tabula Rasa image was from an issue of Playboy about videogame characters.

    3. Most of the time they do? People just find it boring to talk about how accurate the physics of a bullet shell bouncing off the floor is.

  2. Agreed, Spinks. As a girl, I find the blokes to be stupidly overbuilt (and generally with silly hair) and the girls to be underbuilt except in the chestal region. There’s fantasy and then there’s being profoundly uncomfortable because you’re running about causing eating disorders.

    I for one would love the option of moving the boob slider down to “normal”. At least! Remember Conan? It started at Insanely Enormous and only went up from there. There’s plenty of over-the-top fantasy in magazines, TV, movies, etc. etc. – If I’m going to be spending 4+ hours a day in a pretend skin, let me do it in a skin that’s not offensive to my entire gender.

  3. It’s more or less result of the main target audience: young, usually poor and girlfriendless males. If our age group is targeted, there are no such nonsense. For example try to find big tits in Civ4.

  4. There’s some links to game footage for Blade and Soul, an anime influenced game that’s in development in this F13 thread:

    http://forums.f13.net/index.php?topic=13972.0

    What I found interesting was that the art style went down pretty well with most of the forum, who are in general grown-ups who make games.

    To me it was so absurd it’s not even sexy. The female characters are just dolls, no more erotic than Barbie.

    But it is interesting that so many professionals approve and are impressed by this. I guess that means that as players who think it’s naff we’re kinda stuck with it. Well, we can choose not to buy their games.

  5. I think its a whole of the society problem – with the constant exposure to models, pop-stars, porn-stars and other types of celebrities the biggest crime for a girl nowadays is to look ordinary …. We males have it a bit easier in that account – just keep your weight in check and spend 2-3 hours per week in the gym. Where as the criteria and rules for girls are much harsher.

  6. Maybe by spending several skillpoints those could be used as (blunt) weapons!? Or maybe for crowd control? ..wobble… But how deos that translates to male chars?
    Ok, fun aside:
    I just see it as a cynical hype. We dont get, what we “need”, but what somebodyelse thinks, we should want.

  7. Dragon Age’s Morrigan was a welcome blend of biting wit, fierce independence, badass-ness, and scant clothing without malapportionment. All designers can take pointers from Bioware.

  8. I for one don’t really care for games where the female toons are exaggerated like that. That might be appealing to the younger players, especially those that struggle socially and are likely seeing more skin in-game than they’ve seen in real life.

    However, as a longtime gamer who has dealt with the misconceptions of what it means to be a “gamer”, both in the workplace and among family members who don’t understand, this kind of thing isn’t helping. I don’t need someone to tell me, “Well, you just play that game because the chicks wear skimpy outfits and have giant boobs.”

    When games go over the top like that it takes away from the legitimate reasons we might enjoy the game. On the one hand, I could care less what other people think, but at the same time I don’t need blatant reasons for them to poke fun at games I enjoy either.

    BTW Spinks – I’ve commented here and there in the past with no website link (and not under my current name), but I finally got around to getting my WoW blog started – check it out if you get a chance!

  9. The problem though is that not many people realize that the more stylized the artistic form, the more sexual characteristics have to be exaggerated to avoid androgyny. I know you posted Murakami (although he really didn’t get the true problem-its not exaggerated breasts, it’s onii-chan and moe, and japanese men divorced from most women except their sisters) but there are tons of anime and anime characters that show if you blur the line and try to make more realistic models, you may wind up creating gender confusion.

    When I played Mabinogi, they had much more realistic character designs for women, and much less muscular ones for men. The problem is that a lot of times you mistook male characters for female and vice versa, especially since you could wear full-length robes, helmets and hoods. My own character was a tall girl with short hair and a very light powder blue robe, and everyone thought I was male unless they examined my character sheet for the armor, or my robe dropped in a dungeon after my death.

    It’s a complex issue, I might track back to you and write on it in my own blog later.

  10. I don’t understand why commenters are using the word “problem”. Secondary sexual characteristics are an “is” and male attraction to and interest in them is normal and not a “problem”. Female attraction to them is also normal, but is clearly less powerful as a marketing/advertising tool and may even offend at times.

    The way a game developer chooses to exploit or not exploit that is the real “problem” (for them, especially). I imagine there are meetings and focus groups and more meetings to determine the right proportions to attract but not offend.

    • I agree with this post. A+.

      In a visual medium the only way to expose sexuality is to exaggerate it. The problem is not the sexuality but the medium itself.

    • The look of Blade and Soul women (which is what prompted Sera’s article) is of creatures with little girl faces, schoolgirl style clothing (eg the white panties) and absurd torpedo shaped breasts.

      Even setting aside the element of pedophilia for some of us men they aren’t attractive or sexy, they are horrible caricatures of features a woman with a great body would have.

    • I mostly have issues with the notion that I should shut up and not complain when I see something that I don’t like. Why on earth would I do that if I think they’ve gone too far?

      Also I’d like to be able to discuss my hobbies with my friends without having to apologise for them. I don’t really want to see gaming go the way furrydom has (I’m not a furry but I think it’s a shame that people assume everyone who likes cartoon animals must also be into kinky sex.)

      • Of course you have the power to complain if you think they have gone to far. That’s healthy. What I worry about is that you feel the need to apologize to your friends for something that does not reflect you. If someone comments, just simply remark that those characterizations aren’t present in the type of games you play. Instead of looking at it as apologizing look at it as educating.

  11. 1.) Something is very wrong with Japanese culture and its view of women. It is different in reality, but literature and art are a shadow and mirror of reality to some extent.

    2.) Too much boobs and too much obvious sex shoved right into the face can also turn players off. It is cheap, but I am afraid people nowadays too often take this as “normal” by now.

    3.) I also have a problem with the way male warriors are depicated in Guild Wars. They are all bodybuilders – the inspiration for their skeleton and incredible muscles and sixpacks came from nothing else.

    4.) Still, I will not deny that I love sexy female avatars. I would even say erotic avatars are a cool thing. But the art of seduction and eroticism is not throwing tons of boobs and asses at someone. It is often more interesting to know that there is something interesting to see behind that thin cloth than getting it thrown right into the face…^^

    5.) I wonder how things like Hiropon can even exist. A super hot sexy woman does not look like that, like a freak.

    • I don’t think there’s anything wrong with Japanese culture. They are an incredibly interesting and in-depth people who take things to the extreme. The way they view woman is kinda chauvinistic but you gotta remember that 100 years ago they still lived in a feudal society :) Plus, that sort of otaku craziness is only representative of a tiny sub-culture and is often very tongue-in-cheek.

  12. This tangentially reminds me of a funny!

    One of the alliances I was in (no longer part of), in Guild Wars, was extremely uptight about anything even vaguely sexual, due to consideration for minors, family content, etc etc etc.

    Now I’m not saying they were wrong, though I eventually left because I found them to be overly restrictive.

    What I did find hilarious is that they were uncomfortable with the occasional discussion of breasts, in channel (and I do mean *discussion, not random cussing*), in a game where the female elementalist dance is… a wonderful, glorious jiggle. XD

    • I think this is something Guild Wars did right. It has its own style, a successful blend of western themes and manga elements.

      So yeah, female elementalist have huge knockers, but they have not extremely overdone it, as it seems to be the norm otherwise.

      IIRC Katy Hargrove designed the Elementalist armors with the most cleavage, maybe this is the reason why we have smexy armors that are not too much.

  13. It’s a really complex issue. I’d love to chalk it up to a male dominated work force, but then you don’t have to sift through deviant art or similar places long before you realize that female artists are just as guilty as males of doing it.

    Ultimately, I think it’s a cop out. Everyone wants attention. Everyone wants people to love their work and this is an easy way of doing it. Yes, men may not be the overwhelming majority. They may not even be the majority for some games, but they are the vocal majority when it comes to an attractive female.

    It’s boob’s ability to not only get males to notice something but also get them to talk about it that is so attractive about them from a designer/sales standpoint.

    And unfortunately by females taking issue with it, it really just draws more attention to it. So, there’s really no win solution unless you can somehow get males stop caring about breasts. (good luck)

  14. http://www.designersnotebook.com/Columns/029_Bad_Game_Designer_2/029_bad_game_designer_2.htm#JUVENILIA

    Ernest Adams sums it up pretty well. I also remember an “Anatomy for artists” class I took in college. The instructor basically said “Yes, women have breasts, get over it and draw what you see, not what you think you see (or want to see)”.

    Games are basically escapist fantasy… but all too many of them are fantasies that I find puerile and idiotic. That’s part of the territory, especially in uch a male dominated field (where most managed to grow old without growing up), but it still bothers me that such idiocy is the norm rather than the exception.

    The market as a whole is stuck in its teen years, desperately wanting to be mature, but mistaking the ESRB’s definition of the word for the real thing.

  15. Pingback: Keeping abreast of the news. « MMO misanthrope

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