Is it bad that videogame characters are sexualised?

endtherapture

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Recently I've seen a lot of ripping on characters like Bayonetta, older Tomb Raiders, Liara in ME, Morrigan zero suit Samus, Tifa, even characters like Dante etc. for being "hyper sexualised". It is spoke about as a bad thing.

The wave of "pop culture" critics acting like it is awful, how dare you dress women in skimpy clothes, this is terrible, it distracts focus from the game. Now I'm not the kind of person to play these games and I think that stuff like bikini-chainmail looks stupid from a design point of view. But what is wrong with having female characters that are sexualised when it makes sense?

Inevitably, some men and women are going to be hot. Some of these are going to use their bodies and attractiveness as a weapon. What is so wrong with this? Isn't there a whole host of characters in fiction who are based around their great beauty? By complaining about "hyper-sexualisation" aren't we effectively slut-shaming these characters and those who dress skimpily, something the feminist sect complains about?
 

F.Dubois

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As in everything with this kind of discussion the question isn't whether or not it is a bad thing but if it is being done ad nausea and to the exclusion of anything else. If you read most all of the critics making a statement about it (except for the very adamant and sex negative people) they say that it is ok to take pleasure in such things as long as you don't overdo it.

I personally disagree that it is a rampant problem but I can also see how someone who spends a significant amount of time looking for such things might get the feeling that developers and writers use a pair of boobs and an ass instead of wasting energy and making an interesting character.

Like certain tropes and modes of presentation it is the vanilla of game design because it is a safe bet, and while I love me some vanilla I will never be pleasantly surprised by its flavour. People however that say it is inherently wrong and must be stopped immediately don't know what they are talking about or have an agenda.

An ice cream store without vanilla is a shitty ice cream store, whether I want to buy a scoop or not.
 

Bob_McMillan

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Whenever someone mentions sexism due to hyper-sexualization, I always think of a recent Mythbusters episode where they took on "sexist tropes". What they found is that bigger breasted baristas earn more tip, and richer mean are found more attractive by women, and a few other honestly less important findings. And they gave their own opinions on it. Kari herself said that she thought it would be misogynistic, but she says she now thinks that bigger breasts also mean better capability in taking care of offspring, and richer men means more stable living. So in my opinion, bigger boobs is totally fine. To me, its the behavior that matters in the game. Do they all act like "blonde airheads"? Are they only there to have random sex with the main character? Do they have nothing to contribute but eye candy? If so, I think then the game is sexist, and the characters are hyper-sexualized. Just my opinion I guess.
 

IceForce

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It becomes a problem when a character's sexualization is their only notable feature. When they have no other personality traits, other than their sexualization. When they serve no other purpose in the game, other than to be a sexualized object.

So, the sex cards in The Witcher are pretty bad, because they only exist to provide sexual titillation, and nothing else.

Miranda from ME2 is not quite so bad, because she at least does have a personality and a purpose in the story, beyond the obvious sexualization.
 

Irick

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No.

It's not bad that sexualised characters exist. It's not bad because non-sexualized characters exist.
The complex interactions that will eventually solidify the canon of our artform will give rise to interesting characters of every single body type. Every single style. Every single walk of life. Like in ancient mythology, sex is not something to fear. It is not something to reject. It is just part of a work that adds to the overall text.

Are some of the sexualised characters going to be uninteresting and just flat stand ins for the purpose of aesthetic appeal? Yeah. It's no worse or better than there being unreasonable portrayals of women in the media... except... it is. Games do not have to make pretence of reality. We know that games show impossible things. We could argue that this simple fact makes the sexualization or idealization of people in games better than it is in print, film, and other medium that achieve similar levels of realistic detail. There is no expectation of reality. Unlike a photo, we don't have the possibility of deception that this game character actually exists. That these features are obtainable.... but that's a lot of opinion and supposition.

In the end, I don't think the fact we have sexualised characters is bad. I think the fact that we have flat (in terms of development), uninteresting characters is bad. Luckily, there are a lot of well fleshed out characters that speak to us out there, so it doesn't bring me down too much :3
 

Here Comes Tomorrow

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Not The Bees said:
I feel like I've said this a dozen times, but it's probably been only a half dozen. But we have to remember that we aren't playing every game ever. Let me give you an example from another medium. Roger Ebert had to watch every romcom that came out. All of them. And as someone who loves to watch a cheesy romcom, there are a lot of really bad ones. He watched them enough times he hated them, he knew the tropes, he saw all the nit picking details that most of us would have missed, he saw the flaws in the story, all the things they borrowed from each other, the over used endings, etc.

Now, imagine you're a game reviewer. You're playing not one game a week, you're playing 6. And of those 6, 4 of them are sexualising women. Maybe not even in an over sexualised way. I mean, if we picked up one of those games it would just be, oh her outfit is a little revealing, but she seems like a decent character, but we can roll with it. But this is the 4th game out of 6 that is doing it. Not just that, the character is just like every other character, because lets face it, a lot of developers don't really bother to write stories because they want us to put ourselves into the game.

So we have 4 games with scantily clad women who have little to no personality (think Bella in Twilight), and they've played these all within 5 days. They have to take a day or two off right?

What I'm saying is they're going to notice patterns in games that we don't. They're going to notice trends that we can't see, either because we're not playing alllllll the games, or because we just don't care because we would never pick up that game. And because of that, they're going to nit pick these issues, which is their job. After 100 games that have the same character in the same clothes without any development, it becomes an issue that they can bring to our attention. It's not necessarily a political agenda, or trying to make things PC, or even trying to just irritate people, it's just seeing things we wouldn't normally notice and pointing it out to us.

That's not a bad thing. It may not always be something we want to hear, and can be annoying (if I have to hear about how nothing is scary in games any longer Yahtzee, I'm going to scream... so you've done your job!), but that's their job.

EDIT: I realize this was a bit off topic, but I thought I'd give a reason to why this keeps coming up in editorials and in critics reviews.
This would apply if game reviewers ACTUALLY played 6 games a week. As it stands, I'm iffy on if they even play 1 for even a few hours a day.

They complain about sexualization because it gets them clicks and positive comments. That's all. I doubt the Polygon reviewer that marked Bayonetta 2 down for Bayo's sexy, sexy ways really cares about it. It just follows the agenda laid out by the people in charge of them.
 

Caiphus

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Well, uh. It's not really a problem for me.

There are a number of reasons why some people might find it a problem. And whether and how those factor into your enjoyment of a game is naturally going to vary. The proportion of game characters, usually female ones, who are sexualised is potentially a concern. The proportion of sexy game characters who have not much else going for them is also potentially a concern. And depending on your tolerance level for boobs, or for characters that exist mainly to titillate, that could get annoying for you. My tolerance level for boobs tends to be impressively high, so.

I would hesitate to say that it's "bad" in the normal interpretation of the word, objectively speaking. Nobody's being directly hurt by it. You might be able to draw some sort of inferences that it contributes to body image problems or that sort of stuff. But that's probably difficult to prove in any totally conclusive way, and it would hardly be a problem found solely within video games. It's probably as "bad" as there being too many shooters, and shooters contributing to beliefs about how appropriate violence is when solving problems, or something.

Note my overbearing usage of words like "possibly". I'm not an expert on how video games affect behaviour or psychology, or really anything.
 

Irick

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slo said:
So, where's the fourth picture?
There were some... complications.
Of a tubular variety.
A rising tide, so to speak, caused by the repetitive doffing and donning of various degrees of effectiveness wargear.

Yes... unfortunately this angered the titans and they sent a tsunami to wipe out all of those involved with the project. They made some comment about being 'blue balled' for 'some actual action'.

Penis joke.

In all seriousness, yes, it's representative of an implicit double standard and that may be the tongue in cheek joke.
 

Zhukov

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Not inherently.

I get annoyed with it when they try to make me take the characters seriously or when it doesn't fit the context (usually a battle of some kind).

If the game has a silly tone going on then I'm not too fussed. Japanese fighting games for instance. Or if there's a story reason for it, like the characters are attending a ball or whatnot. Smite would be an example of both, since it's lighthearted in tone and the characters are literally gods who can wear whatever they wont and were often historically depicted nearly naked.

Of course, there's also cases where the story is an excuse for the sexualisation. "Of course the plucky female detective is in a shootout wearing a bikini and heels! She was undercover at a strip joint! Duh."

PS. Okay, maybe I'm just sticking up for a favourite character here, but how is Liara from ME hypersexualised? She's dressed pretty modestly (unless you have a thing for armoured lab coats) and she's relatively demure in personality.
 

Caiphus

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TopazFusion said:
I was wondering that too.

Maybe the OP meant to say Miranda, or possibly Samara.
I guess I remember a few people saying that the Asari themselves were sexualised because they're a race made entirely of bisexual, attractive women. In space!

As for Liara herself, though? Can't really see it.
 

Casual Shinji

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Zhukov said:
Okay, maybe I'm just sticking up for a favourite character here, but how is Liara from ME hypersexualised? She's dressed pretty modestly (unless you have a thing for armoured lab coats) and she's relatively demure in personality.
Yeah, but that's her "thing" though... The socially awkward, nerd girl. ;)

OT: Sexy is good. In fact, sexy is great. It all just depends on how it's presented. The Wolf Among Us for example handled it very well. And nobody complained about the sex appeal in that game, because it fit in perfectly with the setting and genre. Making someone sexy does require some actual work, you can't just throw in a pair of bouncy boobs and be done with it, like is usually the case in Japan.

I generally don't have much of an issue with sexualisation in games, but then I am the target demographic. The only time it gets on my nerves is when it's going for a fetish that is not applicable to me at all, like Bayonetta, or Jack from Mass Effect 2.
 

Autumnflame

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Sex and sexuality isnt inherently evil.

even though some hate their own and want others to hate themselves just as much.

Its like if you have a woman in a somewhat form fitting clothing your sexualising and demeaning her
while if shes too severely clothed your oppressing her sexuality and controlling her as a woman.

some will always read too much and SJW fight for things they don't really believe in or care about. they fight only to be doing it
On behalf of people that didn't ask them to.

Yes there are games, anime manga and such that are very fanservice based to attract certain demographics.
But nothing is forcing you to view them. and overbearing fanserivce is not a standard in the industry
 

Gorrath

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8bitOwl said:
I think this chart explains it so well there needn't to be any other comment:




In my opinion, as long as the videogame follows this chart in order to avoid sexism, all is well. I believe sexualized characters are a-ok as long as it's for both genders. Similarly, avoiding sexualization is good as long as it doesn't apply only to the male cast.
I don't agree with this chart, in that it seems to claim that any individual game is sexist. I think sexism in this instance would have to be a trend in the medium, not proved by way of single examples. What I mean is, if a few games are fanservicy, those games are not necessarily sexist in the broader meaning of the term. It'd be like saying the Anime Free! is sexist because it is designed from the ground up to appeal to a certain demographic with high levels of sexualization.

So is there a broader problem with in games with sexism? I'm inclined to say yes. The levels of female sexualization VS male sexualization seem to be out of proportion. This seems likely due to the belief by creatives and execs that males make up most of the audience for these types of games. I don't presume this is a social justice issue though; it is an issue of companies being needlessly (I believe) risk adverse driving outdated views and creative stagnation. Publishers need to get their heads out of their asses and take a few notes from other media. Anime, books and now more than ever movies have caught on to the fact that there is a huge mostly untapped market for female (and LGBT!) fanservice.
 

DaViller

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It's, as with any trope, only a problem if it happens ad nauseum or if it's done in particulary idiotic or cheap way. Fanservice has always existed and will always exist and thats cool, just becomes lame and boring if it is the only thing you ever see. In anime terms, lucky star on it's own is just stupid, lucky star among an infinite sea of vaguely sexualised underage moe girls doing cutesy stuff is part of a problem.