Female Character Portrayal in Video Games
Thanks to Matt Maddock for raising this valid point whilst reflecting of the brilliant Metal Gear Solid 5. As Matt so eloquently puts it “in a game guaranteed to be in the top five grossing titles of the year, your flagship game, the pinnacle of an emblematic, legendary series, a genuine blast of an epic, you feel it’s necessary or justified to have your first, most visible, interesting female protagonist – a military sniper – be clad in a string bikini and ripped tights? Have we not got beyond this”.
It appears we haven’t or at least in the eyes of certain developers we’re still the same 13 year old boys that love a pair of pixelated bangers.
In what universe is that a valid, reasonable representation of a Female in a Video game?
On what level is that necessary?
Metal Gear Solid isn’t the only game to get it so horribly wrong in fact the vast majority of video games show women to be either overly busty, uderdessed eye candy or victims in need of protecting. Sure i get that the large majority of gamers are male but that still doesn’t explain why we appear to be stuck in the Dark ages. Even my beloved Halo could be accused of trying to overtly sexualise Cortana in Halo 4 by adding ridiculous breasts and an ass Beyonce would kill for.
Fighting games though….
I can only think of 1 game that has managed to get it right and that was 2013’s Tomb Raider which portrayed Lara as a powerful figure capable of taking anything thrown at her. Especially ironic when you consider how she used to be portrayed as a skinny, huge chested nerd fantasy figure. The handling of the “controversial” sexual assault scene is the perfect example of this mature representation. Naturally the press blew it out of all proportions and painted it as some exploitative scene when in fact it was the making of the modern Lara and symbolised her transformation from victim to powerful figure within her universe.
This makes the decision of Konami even more unfathomable even more ridiculous and even more out of touch. There is simply no need for how they portrayed quiet, no sense and it’s totally inappropriate for her character. You can go and look at dozens of titles across multiple genres and see the same tired, boring and out of touch representation of women in video-games even looking to Hollywood which sits within another heavily male dominated industry which seems years ahead of where we are today in term of portraying women in a more balanced manner. Sure women are often portrayed as the weaker sex in need of rescuing but for everyone of those films you have a Kill Bill or Desperado.
Where does the industry go from here?
It’s down to publishers to apply pressure to developers and of course having an industry so heavily male orientated is another source of problems. How many prominent women figures do you see in the Gaming industry? You have Bonnie Ross and Kiki Wolfkill at 343 and Jade Raymond at EA and formerly of Ubisoft and that’s about it. It’s the same story for the developers with a huge percentage being male and even down to us as the players. Women are a minority in many industries politics for example but that is no excuse for how they are often portrayed.
Gaming is scrabbling for more mainstream acceptance and desperate to get more female gamers involved but so long as they continue to represent female characters in this manner it’s tough to see how they will achieve either. So long as they are the victims in need of saving or the grossly exaggerated Caricatures they are all to frequently portrayed as gamings quest for the middle ground, for real social acceptance seems a long way off.