Recently there has been a lot of talk about whether or not gender is being fairly portrayed in video games. Much like the criticism on Barbies, female protagonists in video games are now being seen as a sexualized and unrealistic representations of the female form. While I agree that women are often portrayed unrealistically and often sexualized, I venture to say that men are equally affected by unrealistic and unfair gender portrayals as well.
Gender roles in society can often get messy when not looking at them objectively. While we naively hold on to the belief that everyone should be equal in society, that idea is not tangible. While I believe we should all treat one another fairly, the fact of the matter is; we are not equal. Men and women are psychologically and physiologically different. Think of how many times you have heard someone say “I don’t understand (men/women)”. While I say this jokingly, it is a very important point. One of the first things to understand about video game development is that it is predominantly led by men. Men, according to Game Developer Magazine account for 96% of all programmers and engineers, 84% of all artists and animators, and 89% of all game designers in the industry (Miller CITATION). Naturally, there could be some discrepancies in the portrayal of females. Often times, women are portrayed as the men who are designing them envision them. While that’s not an excuse for blatantly sexualizing a female character, it does provide a reasoning behind some of the underdeveloped personalities that you find in female characters.
It’s painfully obvious that the sexualization of women is a blow to the efforts of feminists seeking gender equality. Jenny Ruby stated that “The few female characters in games are usually highly sexualized - wearing tight revealing clothing and having unrealistically large breasts and distorted small waists…”(CITATION). I have noticed that the gaming industry has slowly started to trend away from the large breasted female characters of the nineties, and is leaning toward more modest (but still attractive) female protagonists such as Lara Croft. The push on gender equality, along with the advances in motion capture technology (which allows human actors and their real bodies be rendered on-screen), have slowly shifted the characterization of women from blatantly obvious objects into more developed and realistic characters.
While the objectification of women in video games is clearly an issue, it is interesting to take a step back and look at male characterization as well. While it is safe to say that women are portrayed inaccurately, it would be laughable to say that all men are. From the heroic Master Chief in Halo to the deadly Marcus Fenix in Gears of War, male protagonists all seem to have the same thing in common: they’re all powerful, righteous, and fearless. The physical appearance of these male protagonists is just as unrealistic as some of the busty women I had previously...