Thursday, 7 May 2009

Tits, Guns and Plummeting Sales Figures

If I was a futuristic saviour of our time, or a brave-bordering-on-suicidal adventuress hell-bent on killing those ever-present bad guys, I'd probably wear a stab vest. You know, something with a bit of bulk. It might not protect me from a sniper rifle or a frag mine, but at least with a helmet and some sort of heavy armour, I'd feel a bit safer. Of course, swinging from coincidentally-useful vines and running at any sort of speed might become a bit more difficult, but I think I'd prefer to be a little bit over encumbered than to get caught out by a pack of tigers whilst only wearing my bikini and some hot pants.

When Lara Croft first leapt bustily into gaming culture, she caused a bit of a stir. I can remember watching a short investigative TV programme about her at the time - it was like Dispatches for kids. I remember thinking "That looks interesting, I'd like to do that kind of thing when I grow up". Anyhow, fond nostalgic flashbacks aside, the young reporter who presented the show (who must have only been about 14 at the time, come to think of it) was gravely concerned about how Lara's appearance could influence the way women are regarded in society. The show took us to some offices where presumably some sort of important games development-type people worked. It was a long time ago. The plucky reporter confronted one of the men in charge of Lara's appearance, asking him (to his slight but tangible amusement) whether or not he thought that her unrealistic figure was derogatory towards women. He said no. He was then asked "But don't you think her boobs are just far too big? Isn't it a bit excessive?", to which he replied "Well, it's all just a bit of fun, isn't it? And young kids shouldn't be playing the game anyway, so it technically won't be damaging their perceptions."

Of course, this is all vaguely-remembered anecdotal evidence. Realistically, i shouldn't have even brought it up because I have no formal referencing on it, and could have quite convincingly dreamed up this entire scenario. If it didn't provide me with a very important life-altering decision, I would quite happily agree that I'd fabricated it to fit in with this blog. However, referencing or not, I'm ploughing on with the ideas it brings up, because I have more interesting information on the subject to add later. See, I'm not really that lazy. Just tired.

An article I found in the Guardian the other day (yes, the Guardian again, sorry) points out that over the years, gamers have become less and less interested in computer-generated arses. This could be down to a number of factors - for instance, the number of female gamers flooding the market has increased dramatically since the 1996 release of Tomb Raider. According to the Entertainment Software Association, about 40% of gamers are of the fairer sex. With an increase too in the number of females going into the games development industry, is it any surprise that jiggle physics isn't doing too well on the market anymore? I have another question though; can we really just put it down to girls playing games that has changed the trends? Surely that's a bit patronising towards gaming's most loyal demographic - the guys. Perhaps everyone just wants games that have interesting plots and characters with depth and charisma. Maybe everyone's gotten a bit bored with tits and guns. Maybe those games were just a bit crap.



[Courtesty of testfreaks.com]

These days, if a game's going to be successful, it needs to have style, substance, and it needs to be interesting. Spending upwards of 20 hours in front of a screen has to somehow feel "worthwhile", which is why games such as Fallout 3, the Halflife series and Bioshock to name just three are so immensely popular. Just having an attractive main character doesn't cut it (although in a damning exposé I can reveal that I do indeed have a tiny penchant for Gordon Freeman...does this count as the same kind of shallow exploitation? Hmm.) There will always be a space for unrealistically attractive/disproportionate women in games, - just look at Streets of Rage or Tekken for evidence of this, Chun Li's thighs have gotten even more monstrous in the newest installment of Street Fighter. Ever since Princess Peach, female counterparts have been guiltily lusted after. It's just nice to see that the truly groundbreaking and interesting titles that have been created in recent years are generating the respect and enthusiasm that they deserve.



[Courtesy of Gamedaily.com]

Some gamers I spoke to seemed to share the view that games have grown up over the years, and that this is essentially a good thing. "It's weird because it's now proved that 50% of game publishers' ideologies is wrong" said Matt D of the changing faces of Lara Croft over the years. Similarly, Martin H agreed that sex doesn't necessarily sell in today's gaming market. "Mirror's Edge is a good example. Mind you,I have played Rumble Roses." Others tended to feel that it didn't really bother them either way if a girl character was scantily clad or not. "I'm usually in a rather asexual frame of mind when gaming." said James C. "Sex seems incongruous. Like putting tits & arse into Cluedo." So there we have it. In the very own words of gamers themselves, sex in games? Take it or leave it. I'll leave you with the sage words of Matt M: "[I'm just] glad that us gamers are treated less like sex starved pervs and that developers are producing better female characters." Well said.

*If you're a female gamer and would like to have your say on the subject in a future entry, please email me your thoughts on k.taylor.cronshaw@gmail.com or leave a comment below*

11 comments:

L said...

I don’t really remember sex in video games being an issue when I was little. Either I was too young to notice in the C64 days, or developers just didn’t bother trying to create buxom female leads as it’s kinda difficult to create the perfectly round shapes required when you’ve only got a limited amount of pixels. Unless, of course, people got really turned on by Centipedes back in the 80’s.

I bought into the Tomb Raider franchise the second it came out. Finally I could live my dreams of being a kick ass heroine. Lara Croft had bewbies beyond belief (these were actually made smaller as the franchise went on) but she had brains too. Female characters in fighting games such as Street Fighter and Tekken never phased me either. Sure, they had to be a little bit titular but they were mean and muscular too and could kick ass just as well as the male characters. Another game that springs to mind is Golden Axe. I always played the female character, even though she was clad in a really impractical bikini and most probably designed with pre-pubescent boys in mind. I guess I just wanted to relate to the character I was controlling, even if gender was the only thing we had in common.

Hell, I even enjoy franchises like GTA where the main premise is guns, money and ho’s and I’ll be the first to admit I opted for a Porn Star career in Fallout 2 and regularly had sex with Joey round the back of Becky’s Casino. Sometimes I do just want to play a character that’s really detached from my real life persona. After all, that’s what video games are for, right? Delving into the realms of ridiculous fantasy and role play.

And let’s not deny we’ve all done a bit of in-game perving ourselves, ladies. The Final Fantasy franchise is often very good at producing lust-worthy male characters (well, the ones who aren’t teenagers. Ahem). Basch von Rosenburg, anyone?

Generally though, as a female gamer I just want amazing graphics with good gameplay. I’m not going to get my knickers in a twist if a female character is portrayed as a bit of a flaky bimbo. I probably would have missed out on playing so many titles over the years if I had taken that attitude.

Yeah. I’m not even sure that any of this waffle is relevant. I just like talking about games :/

(Bimbo_Butterkek off the Twitterz)

Katie said...

I agree, games are for getting away from reality, and if you choose to live out your fantsy life as a pornstar for a few hours, then fair play to you! Personally I'm not really bothered whether the character I'm playing is a girl or not - in fact I have this AWFUL inbuilt feeling that girls are weaker than guys....sexist, I know, but it's there. Most of the time it doesn't matter anyway. Unless you scroll out (I play my games on my PC) you can't see the person anyway.

The Final Fantasy franchise definitely plays up to it's large female players demographic - I've enevr seen so many effeminately coiffured men-boys before - but I'd go as far as to say that most other games have a ruggedly attractive main character. Guys wanna be 'em, girls wanna screw 'em. Am I right? Did you ever get to see Master Chief's face? Because his outfit was HAWT.

lol.

L said...

I think that to see Master Chief's face would cause your head to explode. Much like when Bartleby and Loki finally hear God's voice in Dogma. The sight would be too much for the brain to compute. BOOM!

Generally your are right about the rugged male characters, except in the case of maybe Duke Nukem. He's a bit of an ass.

Katie said...

Treu true, I see what you're saying!
I dunno, It's just all the ruthlessly silent killing and the armour. I'm a sucker for it.

Martin Higgins said...

Excellent post Katie. Very interesting to hear the female gamer's perspective on this.

Also now I know women are into combat armour I can continue work on my CATF Stealth Armour(Cardboard And Tin Foil). Woo hoo!

Katie said...

Glad you like it Martin! Post pics of stealth armour, kthnx?

Jimbotfu said...

Splendid thoughtful stuff.

And that James C sure knows what he's talking about.

Katie said...

Aww, thanks!
Your comment was pretty damn good, I have to say. I particularly nommed the word "incongruous".

Bailey's Beads said...

Alex definitely is the most attractive woman in the history of video games. Ridiculously attractive yes, unrealistic stereotype, not at all. She's older then the standard computer chick, her breasts are smaller and well, and her hybrid ethnicity is very refreshing as well.

Valve wasn't above in putting her in the 'damsel in distress' role several times though. I guess they made that up with the maniacal pyro from TF2.

A worse example would be Gears of War, where obviously lots of effort went into making the characters look as diverse as possible but they're still big men on steroids, the only female character in the entire game remains safe in the chopper at all times. Why aren't there female gears?

Bailey's Beads said...

There's your female gears

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IZBmDFlwDM

Katie said...

Ooooooh! How amazing!

Also - is the pyro from TF2 a girl? I totally never thought of that!

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