Archive for April, 2012

Forsaken Underwear

Friday, April 13th, 2012
She lost her stocking in the dryer.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever engaged in any of the following activities: Hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, orienteering.

Now raise your hand if you’ve participated in any of these activities while wearing nothing but your underwear.

OK – you in the back, who used to live in a nudist colony: You don’t count.

For the rest of us, proper attire is normally desired whenever we’re not sleeping, or laying on the couch watching an episode of the “Housewives of Orange County”. In fact, there are entire stores devoted to “proper” attire for any G-rated activity that requires a moderate amount of physical exertion. Think REI or Dick’s Sporting Goods.

So why in dog’s name must my female MMO avatar be dressed like a Hooter’s reject?

Yes, I know – we’ve had this conversation before. Let me make sure I have my facts straight:

  1. All video games are intended primarily for young men under the age of 30.
  2. All men under the age of 30 like to look at scantily-clad women.
  3. Boobs sell.
  4. Therefore, ipso facto, video games contain female avatars with large breasts and small clothing.

This leads to another rather bizarre and circuitous argument regarding the making and marketing of video games: Women don’t play video games, so why make content that appeals to them? But since video game content is quite blatantly not made for women, why should they bother playing? Snake, meet tail. The fact that the rampant sexism and objectification of female characters in video games can be alienating to women, discouraging them from becoming players in the first place, seems to have completely escaped the logic of many game makers. I guess the industry believes that the money spent by women has cooties on it?

So, back to my poor Forsaken World assassin, with her plunging neckline, bikini bottom, and missing thigh-high stocking. This is a fantasy role-playing game, and the rules of MMOs dictate that we must appeal to the fantasies of young men, right? The problem with this is that these video games potentially limit their profits when they target only male audiences. Sure, there are women willing to buy these games because they are either oblivious to the sexual objectification, or (like me) they enjoy other aspects of a game enough to hold their noses and tolerate the sexism (I’m looking at you, Guild Wars.) But what many in the industry seem to fail to recognize is that the lack of female cleavage and naked thigh does not automatically correlate to a lack of players. Heck, I’m not sure if those little block people in Minecraft even have gender! I don’t think anyone is going to argue that the lack of pixelated breasts in any way limited Minecraft’s popularity.

Either a game is fun to play, or it isn’t. Trying to serve the pleasure of the heterosexual male viewer by reducing female characters to improbable objects is ultimately insulting to all players, regardless of their gender – and even if they are not consciously aware of the insult. Boobs may get their attention, but it’s not guaranteed to keep it. Just ask the folks at Evony.