Tag Archives: body types

Back to Gender and Videogames

Figured it’s about time to score another feminist gamer post. I’ve often appreciated MovieBob’s strong statements on body types in gaming, and so when another video blogger on the Escapist had one I thought I’d throw in.

Jimquisition is an admittedly awkward guy, especially compared to Yahtzee or Bob, but really this particular site is all about the nerdery, so I happily give him props for things like his complaints against absurd DRM. His latest, however, left me in a bit of a tangle:

I mean, he’s right, we should have more female characters represented in games like this. But what I’m sure he knows is that there’s a cultural dimension beyond production costs and hit boxes. I’d like to believe I’m a pretty level-headed feminist, but if you showed me a video of a woman getting punched in the face and then a man getting smacked in the very same manner – all context suspended – I’d probably feel worse about the woman. I know that’s a potentially sexist reaction, but I think it probably ports to games – our fantasies get busted up if we see women getting shot, cut and blown up in games. I already think it’s quite unfortunate we’re so immune to fantasy violence, I’m not sure that I want us to be immune to fantasy violence against women. And, likely, Jimquisition would agree, given his stance against rape in fantasy games and his identification of women as simultaneously sexualized and brutalized in games.

I also worry that the addition of female body types risks what Professor Lisa Nakamura posited as identity tourism. Given that many (read: most) women are turned off by the gore and sheer aggression present in many FPS games I think we’d be looking at a lot more guys playing female models. This might not be a problem, necessarily, but if these guys start to fulfill sexist stereotypes in the women they play (see Lori Kendall’s statement in Hanging Out in the Virtual Pub… or just take a look at the play guides for Janna in League of Legends, the biggest online game these days) then we risk worsening the situation.

So what’s my opinion? Well, I think we should have more female body types in games, but please, could we work on toning back the violence? These spoiled 14 year old boys immersed in Call of Duty end up as engineering students forced to take my classes and have no idea how to have empathy for other human beings. It’s hard work repairing them – they don’t really like listening to a “pussy” like me when they’re too busy “raping” their math exams. I’m not saying the violence in videogames is directly linked to sexism, I just find the hyper-competitive survival-of-the-fittest ultra-aggressive types feast on that ish.

Or, at least, often that’s my perception. Happy Monday all!

Body types in video games revisited

Most feminists who have played or seen videogames have noticed the frequent lack of diversity in available character body types. Typically characters in games take on super-human forms, for men this means huge muscles and for women this means big boobs and impossibly thin waists. Instead of ragging on about this I thought I’d point out Blizzard’s Diablo 3 has some unusual elements of body diversity:

Here we have a female barbarian, who is quite muscular and without ‘perfect’ hair and…

also here is witch doctor class who is a little overweight, hunched over and is also a person of color. The male monk (not pictured) might also be similar to someone of middle eastern ethnic decent.

Now this is not to say we can’t find some of the typical body forms within their array of characters (the super tall & thin Demon Hunter female, for instance), but I think it’s a small step forward.

I should also point out that the witch doctor stereotype is potentially problematic. I’d argue it furthers the ‘othering’ of non-whiteness, continuing with the racist tradition of relegating people of color to  “primitive” archetypes and associations. It’s no coincidence that the female wizard isn’t black or male barbarian isn’t Asian.

So more work ahead of us, but evidence of progress, in my opinion.