Forsaken Underwear

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.

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10 Responses to “Forsaken Underwear”

  1. Kdansky says:

    And you know, it wouldn’t actually be too hard to satisfy both audiences at once: MMOs generally have more than one outfit, and it would not be hard to have a different amount of skin shown. That way, if you are a teenage boy and want your character to look like a harem member, then you get those pants that consist of three strings, and if you’d rather prefer proper plate mail, then you pick the plate mail.

    What I’m saying: If you replaced 50% of their female armor textures with proper clothing, they might win some customers, but certainly not lose any.

  2. Stebbi says:

    I can’t help but notice that the blacksmith has less clothing on then the woman and yet she looks more naked.

  3. krellen says:

    Interestingly, I played Evony back when it was still called Civony and the advertisements had nothing to do with women (it was a screaming warrior I clicked on). I quit after a group completely destroyed my kingdom for not joining their guild or whatever.

    Seeing what “Evony” became, I’m glad I never invested in it.

    Also: that metal “bra” (for lack of a better term) looks horribly uncomfortable. How does she avoid chafing or, worse, laceration?

  4. Amy says:

    You mention Guild Wars as being sexist, but at least it has equal opportunities sexism:

    http://wiki.guildwars.com/wiki/Warrior_Elite_Gladiator_armor

  5. Consumer Unit 5012 says:

    Kdansky: Another solution would be to have armor have different ‘modes’ you can switch between: “Sensible” (vaguely resembles real-world armor), “Baroque” (looks like WoW male armor) and “Sexy” (looks like WoW female armor).

    Or, use the City of Heroes approach: Your character’s costume has NO effect on their abilities.

  6. Ateius says:

    Which Guild Wars are you referring to? The first one had pretty awful female armour, as I recall, but my experience in the beta events for GW2 suggest they’ve done a lot to rectify this. Practical and fully-functional armour galore, not even a boob window!

    Different story if you’re a caster, though.

    • Leslee says:

      I’m referring to the original Guild Wars. I have not played GW2 yet.

      • Ateius says:

        Having played GW2 for a while and seen some of the higher-level armours, I’d like to retract my praise. While the generic heavy armour does indeed come in fully practical forms, just about all the unique faction/cultural armour I’ve seen so far looks awesome on men but is ridiculously exposing for women.

  7. Dude says:

    I am more pissed that the women don’t look like warriors. If the women were fighters they would look like this:
    http://www.nbc.com/American_Gladiators/about/index.shtml
    Not some dainty elf with no musculature and big ears swinging a sword for max damage.
    Where is your outrage about that? Oh that is right it is a FANTASY GAME! About fake stuff like magic and armor that protects through sheer sexiness. It confuses opponents into missing.
    Hell it worked for Cory Everson on Hercules!

    I think they should all look like this:
    http://www.nbc.com/American_Gladiators/images/photos/scet/1918/hellga_0259.jpg
    Or take a damage/HP Penalty!

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