Are unrealistic female models a problem?

Female models

The subject of female characters, female developers and women as part of the games industry as a whole, has been big news in the past couple of years. We've heard about sexism and gender bias, over sexualisation of characters and even people questioning whether boobs could be used for elements of gaming other than eye candy.

Most recently though, there's been a discussion about Crytek's Russian FPS, Warface, which has updated to introduce female characters. However, unlike their male counterparts, which were designed in house, Crytek offered the community a chance to take part in the design process.

A noble idea, but one fraught with danger, as the Russian Crytek fans offered up a scantily clad woman, in high heels and little to no protective clothing. It should be reminded at this point, that this character is going to get shot at just as much any of the male avatars.

Ultimately Crytek opted to ditch the heels, but still left in a fair amount of cleavage and no body armour. The female sniper in particular, featured none of the protective clothing worn by the male iteration of the same class.

Unsurprisingly, the Western press and many gamers cried foul, suggesting this was ridiculous, immersion breaking, sexist and immature on the part of not only the developers, but the gamers themselves.

And I have to say, I agree with them.

Look, I know tits are great. I like tits, I'm sure you like tits, and maybe ass as well, but we should be able to move beyond needing to see what in our female characters. I don't know about you, but I don't play a game because it sexually arouses me. If you do, that's fine, play a game that is designed to do that – but why does every game with female characters need to feature an attractive, young, often poorly dressed one?

The problem I think lies, not in men thinking that all women should be half naked, but in men thinking that other men, playing a female character are lesser men. They're “fags,” or “pussies,” so the guys that want to play a female character, or just happen to because that's the game (Tomb Raider) feel the need to say they're only doing so because they want to look at a nice ass while they shoot bad guys.

That might well be true for some of them, but I guarantee there's others that don't care which gender they picked and others still, which identify more with being a female character than a male. And that's ok too.

One argument often put forward by the pro-tits agenda however, is that we could just remove all female characters from games and then there would be no complaining. Of course that's like saying we should remove all the fish from the ocean to deal with overfishing, but let's consider why that sort of move is unnecessary and wrong.

50 percent of the world's population are women. It might not be quite that evenly spread in terms of gaming, but there's a lot of them, to the point now where on mobile platforms, female gamers actually outnumber their male counterparts. That's a massive section of a developer's audience which would never have the ability to play with a character that is their gender. That might not be something they care about, but they might.

Personally I prefer playing as a male character when given the choice – it's just easier for me to relate to. So if I was a female gamer and found all female characters removed, I'd be pissed. On top of that, it removes half of the entire world's experience and stories, based simply off of the fact that male gamers can't find the confidence within themselves to play a female character, just because someone might make fun of them for not staring at her ass the entire time.

It really is as ridiculous as it sounds and it's holding gaming back. It's making it harder for female and male gamers to integrate, it's giving us a bad name in the press as sexist morons and it's slowing the progress of developers creating intriguing and detailed stories about being a woman.

But we don't just need female characters in games that conform to the same universe specific traits as men, in order to preserve some shred of the game world's realism, we need to get to a place where we can play games that have female perspective mechanics and gameplay too.

We got to see Duke Nuke'm piss in a toilet multiple times. Can I play as a female soldier who has to do that awkward balance/squat thing, while pulling my pants forward? That looks challenging in real life, let alone doing so with a controller. Hell make a whole minigame out of it with the control base from Surgeon Simulator and I think we're on to a winner.

The point is, when female characters are reduced to sexual objects for tantalising enjoyment, rather than realistic actors in the title's play (not realism as in real world, but realistic in the context of the game world they inhabit) it restricts and slows the development of gaming as a whole, it accentuates stereotypes and above all, it's completely unnecessary.

Now here's the interesting part. You've read the above (hopefully), you've taken it in (hopefully) and maybe you agree with me (hopefully). If not, judge your state right now. Do you have some interesting counter-point to make? If so, pop it in the comment box below. Are you huffing and puffing with rage and barely suppressed sexual desire because all you've been picturing while reading is the pixelised version of a pair of giant, fake tits?

If so, maybe it's time you played a few less games and talked to a few girls. Really, the real life versions are way, way better than the ones in most games.

Author: Jon Martindale

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