Posts Tagged ‘Star Trek Online’

The Uncanny Silicone Valley

Friday, February 5th, 2010

I’ve always appreciated the amount of character customization that Cryptic provides in their games. There are so many options and choices available that creating a hero in their City is almost a mini game in itself.

Because of this precedent, I eagerly looked forward to the character creation portion of their new MMO, Star Trek Online. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed. If I want to create an 8′ tall blue hermaphrodite alien named Tapioca, with antennae and fake boobs, I can do it.

What? Wait a minute… Why does Tapioca have fake boobs?

Or, a better question might be: Why do developers feel the need to provide an option for breast size in their games?

Ok, let’s for a moment try to pretend that we’re all adults, shall we? Breasts are certainly part of the human female anatomy. And I suppose the argument could be made that allowing for changes in breast size provides a greater degree of individuality for your avatar. But what I don’t understand is why the inevitable video game breast-slider ranges in sizes from ‘above average’ to ‘pontOOns’.

In every MMO that I’ve played, I attempt to create an avatar that looks as much like me as possible. I’m 5’9″ tall, weigh 150 lbs., and according to the friendly staff at Victoria’s Secret, I wear a size 36B bra. (Yes, I know – way more information that you could possible ever want about me, but there’s a point to this.) Rarely am I able to create an avatar that comes even close to resembling my real-life measurements. Surprisingly, Aion provided the widest range of sizes, with a slider that actually allowed for – gasp – small breasts!

The crotch slider.

At its core, I believe that the existence of the breast slider speaks more to the inherent sexism that still exists in gaming today, than to any desire to provide more customization options. You never see a ‘crotch slider’ to change the size of the male avatar’s bulge, do you? And if you really wanted to offer players a wider range of choices, why not provide the breast slider for avatars of either gender? After all, most of these games are about fantasy and fiction, aren’t they? Why should this fantasy potential only cater to adolescent boys?

Maybe someday in the future video games will be an equal opportunity playground, where the female form is not objectified to any greater degree than the male form.

And maybe someday the word ‘noob’ will be considered quaint and old-fashioned.