Girl Unplugged has an excellent rant about the way that both male and female characters are portrayed in games, looking mostly at TF2. And she has two really good points here.
First, why are female characters always so overly sexualised? The glib answer here is that they’re created to suit male fantasies, and to appeal to a male audience, and it’s a male audience that likes cheesecake.
The second answer is that female players like to play hot looking characters too. Call it a blot on popular culture, but women just are expected to cut more highly sexualised images.
But really it’s a failure of imagination as much as anything else. A female character can be hot without being made to jut out her hips and boobs like a porn model. So where are the hot, unconventional looking women? Where are the hot, badass women? Surely a decent artist can draw a hot woman who isn’t showing masses of skin, just … look at real life for examples.
I’m sure guys would like those just as much.
And more importantly, why aren’t the guys in games as sexualised? Why is it that gamers are A-OK playing fugly male characters but the rest of us just don’t get our beefcake?
Girl Unplugged wishes more of the TF2 characters could look like Daniel Craig, Vin Diesel, or Hugh Jackman. I think this is a campaign we should all support. More Daniel Craig lookalikes in videogames please!! I do get that a lot of male gamers have homophobic tendencies and might not want to play male blood elves. But Daniel Craig? I mean, come on!!
It’s all about the silhouettes
A lot of the way female characters are presented is down to practicalities. Characters need to be recognisably male or female even when drawn on the screen in small scale or viewed in silhouette. And the easiest way to make a character recognisably feminine is to give it huge boobs and make it walk with a pornstar wiggle.
I still don’t like it, but there are actual reasons beyond ‘this game is for boys only.’ A really good example of this is from ArtOrder’s challenge last week, where he challenged artists to produce a TF2 style team, drawn in silhouette.
Look at the stances that the female characters are drawn with. Which are the most easily recognisable silhouettes? Look for the boobs being thrust upwards and the legs akimbo, and see which artists are able to portray female silhouettes without resorting to that.
Props in particular to Kiriko Moth who I think was the only artist who chose to draw four female silhouettes to make up her TF2 fantasy team, and they all look badass and awesome.
But why oh why can’t we have some more hot guys?