Is it bad that videogame characters are sexualised?

Chaos Isaac

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It really depends on the character, context and setting.

For some characters it's okay. In some settings it's okay. But in other's it can just be distracting and ruin things.
 

Fappy

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The only time sexualization is stupid is when it's working at odds with the work it's featured in. It's all relative. If it's just mindless entertainment you can get away with almost anything without betraying your goal. Your goal is to entertain and appeal to "X". If you want to do more than that; if you want someone to take your story/game/whatever as a serious work of art, you've got to be considerate of how you represent your characters within the context of the world/story. There should be a good reason why characters are portrayed in the ways they are, whether it's evident in the work itself or an artistic decision that compliments the work in a more meta sense.

A lot of people get upset about over-sexualization in there media simply because it's so widespread. I personally appreciate media that can avoid using it in their marketing and in other uninspired ways. A character being sexy isn't a problem when it's called for; it's only a problem if they're sexy all the time when they probably shouldn't be.
 

Gorrath

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Beliyal said:
Gorrath said:
Basically, the only argument that I think is justified in most of these discussion is the argument that the tastes of many people are not well represented in games because of creative stagnation brought about by corporate meddling and outdated (or bizarre) ideas about what constitutes a viable game.
This is well said.


Gorrath said:
The arguments that a specific character are or are not sexy are, to me, pointless as they really don't demonstrate anything but the personal preferences of the person making the argument.
Though, I'll add to this that it isn't really about which character is sexy to someone, but was the character designed with the idea to make him or her look sexy to the core intended audience. And I wouldn't say that Kratos was designed with that idea. I can't imagine that his appearance stemmed from "Let's make a hot dude" rather than "Let's make a threatening murdering action-movie ideal dude". Of course, someone is going to find him sexy, there's a fetish for everything. But I doubt that was the main intention of his design. What also matters is the posing and the camera; Kratos never really poses around for ogling and I wouldn't say that the camera pans towards him in a way for us to get hot and bothered. It's more like that the entirety of his design tells us "This guy can rip you apart, he is dangerous and scary". Again, someone will find that sexy, no doubt. However, I wouldn't say that sexiness is in the core of his design and/or appeal.

Other than that, sexualization is not inherently bad, but there should be a time and a place for it. The problem is the abundance of it and when it's present in situations where it really makes no sense (when male armors are fully covered and female armors are not, for example. That smacks me in the face immediately, these characters clearly don't exist in the same universe). I'm generally not bothered by it, but there are far too many examples in all forms of media and at this point, it's just lazy and boring.
Well, as I've argued above, what the designers intended is meaningless because whether Kratos is intended to be, is thought of as, or was designed with sexiness in mind, it's all a giant red herring. There's this thought that there's a ledger of sexy, even objectified female characters which needs to be balanced by some equal number of sexy, even objectified male characters. Even if Kratos were designed from the ground up, like the characters in Free!, to appeal to a specific demographic not made up of straight males, it wouldn't somehow need DoA to justify its own existence.

What needs to happen is companies need to realize there's an under-served population with tastes that aren't being met. This fact is in no way bolstered by or contingent on any other population's tastes and whether those tastes are being met. Free! the game shouldn't be made because DoA exists, it should be made because there are probably a bunch of people that probably really want to play a game like that. Making this into an issue where we speculate on what the intent behind character designs were is pointless outside of art criticism discussions.
 

theSteamSupported

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In all sexual contexts, there are subjects and objects; subjects act and objects are acted upon. When it comes to sexual contexts in pretty much all fiction, including video games, it is explicitly the norm that men are depicted as subjects and women are depicted as objects. That is what is the actual problem, not that women in video games appear in a specific way, that has more to do with the fact that most vg artists are straight men or supervised by straight men.
 

Irick

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theSteamSupported said:
In all sexual contexts, there are subjects and objects; subjects act and objects are acted upon. When it comes to sexual contexts in pretty much all fiction, including video games, it is explicitly the norm that men are depicted as subjects and women are depicted as objects. That is what is the actual problem, not that women in video games appear in a specific way, that has more to do with the fact that most vg artists are straight men or supervised by straight men.
I find this somewhat unbelievable. The majority of art students are overwhelmingly female from two of the most prestigious schools I know of.
https://colleges.niche.com/rhode-island-school-of-design/statistics/
https://colleges.niche.com/san-francisco-art-institute/statistics/

Do you have a source for your assertion that video game artists are predominantly male?
 

Gorrath

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LifeCharacter said:
Gorrath said:
There is only one justification required for making a game; you, the artist, want to make it (even if "want" here is purely driven by profit.)
The "justification" isn't in the sense that developers needs justification to design-by-committee a game while their fans harp on artistic freedom, it's in the sense that people like to point to Kratos as a counterclaim to sexism in the industry. He's the counterweight to the DOA's plastic children in that people like pretending an ugly rage monster is just as sexualized as whatever dumb female character the industry vomited forth that week.

You seem to want to argue that developers are free to do whatever they want, but that's not really the conversation I was having. They can do whatever they want and gamers can fantasize about how the games industry is driven by artistic freedom and integrity and somehow work in the contradictory market forces somehow. It's just that neither of them get to claim the industry isn't sexist or that it doesn't disproportionately sexualize women by pointing to Kratos and pretending it's equal.
Well, as I've said, pointing to Kratos and saying that he somehow equalizes stuff like DoA is a stupid claim. It's not stupid because he's not sexy, it's stupid because the argument is totally illogical. DoA doesn't need a counterweight to justify its existence, so arguing that Kratos is that counterweight is illogical whether he's "sexy" or not. The sexy or not argument is just as pointless as the argument that it responds to. I'm not responding to your argument that he's "not sexy" because I agree with the argument that he is sexy, I'm responding to it because the claim that he isn't sexy is both subjective and pointless. Even if Kratos were designed to appeal to some large portion of female gamers as a sexualized caricature, he still wouldn't justify DoA or any other game full of sexualized female characters.

I do think there is a problem with sexism in the industry, but DoA is not the problem nor is a "sexy" Kratos a solution. As I've said, the solution is more execs in the industry waking up to the under-served portions of the market, not because they're under some social obligation to enforce the creation of art that appeal to specific demographics, but because it makes business sense.
 

Belaam

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slo said:
So, where's the fourth picture?
The one with the bare-chested man and fully clothed woman and "SEXIST: YES" written under it?
That one should be there too; I'm guess the artist ignored it because they couldn't really think of any example games where it happens.

Enlighten me, what does "attractive man" look like?
Um, generally fit, symmetrical features, stronger jawline tends to do well. Are you really unsure what an attractive man looks like? I mean, even if you're trying to play the whole "I'm so straight I can't tell if Drew Carey or Brad Pitt is more attractive" thing, I'd think at some level you'd have a clue.

Nimzabaat said:
Take the top picture. That is pretty indicative of real life in the gym I go to (well clothing instead of armor). The men with the buff bodies are usually wearing t-shirts and long pants, while the women are wearing almost a t-shirts worth of cloth placed strategically. That's real life for you.
If you were playing SimGym, I'd be with you (though maybe wonder how your gym got rid of the meatheads blowing kisses at their shirtless torsos while they curl). But it's not indicative of real life in the world of people expecting actual combat or danger. The Army doesn't put female soldiers in camo bikinis. Female police officers don't have a holster/thong and thigh high boots. A firefighter's coat for a female firefighter doesn't feature a bare midriff. Your argument isn't a bad argument for the -option- of fantasy cloth armor exposing more skin, but it makes no sense for medium or heavy armor of any sort.

The bigger issue for me is that I find it both insulting to women and to myself as a gamer. It's as though the developers are telling me that they don't think I'll have any interest in a female protagonist or as an NPC unless she's showing a lot of skin, and then showing that skin is all she really needs to do. If I am in the mood to enjoy some naked female company, I turn OFF the game. Many of the games that hyper-sexualize female characters seem to be doing so in the mindset that this is the only place male players will see female forms and that hanging out at the strip club in GTA is going to actually be arousing. Which is frankly a little insulting.
 

Beliyal

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Gorrath said:
Well, as I've argued above, what the designers intended is meaningless because whether Kratos is intended to be, is thought of as, or was designed with sexiness in mind, it's all a giant red herring. There's this thought that there's a ledger of sexy, even objectified female characters which needs to be balanced by some equal number of sexy, even objectified male characters. Even if Kratos were designed from the ground up, like the characters in Free!, to appeal to a specific demographic not made up of straight males, it wouldn't somehow need DoA to justify its own existence.
While I agree in essence, I still think that the designer's intention and the overall feel, style and genre of the piece of media in question is important when discussing the imbalance between sexualization of genders. Because Kratos gets thrown around as an example of male sexualization and while people can certainly find him sexy, I highly doubt that was the intention with the tone and design of the character. There are better examples of male sexualized characters that were designed and presented with the intention to appeal to people attracted to men (and of course, someone won't find them sexy). It's all too much about personal tastes, that's why the genre and the tone are important. All in all, I think discussing this one specific example is not really going to solve anything.

Gorrath said:
What needs to happen is companies need to realize there's an under-served population with tastes that aren't being met. This fact is in no way bolstered by or contingent on any other population's tastes and whether those tastes are being met. Free! the game shouldn't be made because DoA exists, it should be made because there are probably a bunch of people that probably really want to play a game like that. Making this into an issue where we speculate on what the intent behind character designs were is pointless outside of art criticism discussions.
I definitely agree about the untapped market though. But I still think the intention of the design matters after all. In a discussion like this at least. I mean, you can inadvertently make a sexy character even if it wasn't your intention, but no one is really ever angry about those I think. What matters is when you consciously go into creating content with the obvious intention to appeal to people sexually attracted to a certain something. Because, creating sexy bikini armor is certainly not an accident; you know that the majority will find it sexy and that is the sole purpose of making it like that, while making a well-known action hero barbarian trope is a completely different thing; you make it to appeal to people who like action barbarian heroes. People attracted to that are a bonus. Well, in my opinion at least.
 

EternallyBored

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slo said:
Silvanus said:
slo said:
So, where's the fourth picture?
The one with the bare-chested man and fully clothed woman and "SEXIST: YES" written under it?
It'll be introduced to the chart when that scenario actually happens.
[http://rghost.ru/58507470.view]
I guess it is about time.
As Silvanus already pointed out, DMC is an example of the third line in the picture, both men and women are dressed pretty absurdly in the series. There are probably a few examples of the inverse in gaming, but the fact that someone would have to reach pretty far to find an example that doesn't include both sexes is probably why the artist responsible for the picture didn't feel the need to include the fourth category.

Also, I doubt the artist was intending to make nuanced and deep social commentary with that sketch, much like it's nearly impossible to make a detailed argument over Twitter, I think we can forgive an artist for a sketch drawing that doesn't span the actuality of the complex realities of sexualization and gender representation in media.
 

theSteamSupported

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Irick said:
theSteamSupported said:
In all sexual contexts, there are subjects and objects; subjects act and objects are acted upon. When it comes to sexual contexts in pretty much all fiction, including video games, it is explicitly the norm that men are depicted as subjects and women are depicted as objects. That is what is the actual problem, not that women in video games appear in a specific way, that has more to do with the fact that most vg artists are straight men or supervised by straight men.
I find this somewhat unbelievable. The majority of art students are overwhelmingly female from two of the most prestigious schools I know of.
https://colleges.niche.com/rhode-island-school-of-design/statistics/
https://colleges.niche.com/san-francisco-art-institute/statistics/

Do you have a source for your assertion that video game artists are predominantly male?
No, I stand corrected. On that note, can you find some hard statistics on gender representation in video game art before I do?
 

JagermanXcell

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If it's fan service with context so dull that the character itself should feel ashamed/not even be a character, then yeah it can be pretty bad.

CAN. Because even sexualization can turn out good.

Luckily for video games, they've gone on record for sexualization done very very very very good:



 

Gorrath

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Beliyal said:
While I agree in essence, I still think that the designer's intention and the overall feel, style and genre of the piece of media in question is important when discussing the imbalance between sexualization of genders. Because Kratos gets thrown around as an example of male sexualization and while people can certainly find him sexy, I highly doubt that was the intention with the tone and design of the character. There are better examples of male sexualized characters that were designed and presented with the intention to appeal to people attracted to men (and of course, someone won't find them sexy). It's all too much about personal tastes, that's why the genre and the tone are important. All in all, I think discussing this one specific example is not really going to solve anything.

I definitely agree about the untapped market though. But I still think the intention of the design matters after all. In a discussion like this at least. I mean, you can inadvertently make a sexy character even if it wasn't your intention, but no one is really ever angry about those I think. What matters is when you consciously go into creating content with the obvious intention to appeal to people sexually attracted to a certain something. Because, creating sexy bikini armor is certainly not an accident; you know that the majority will find it sexy and that is the sole purpose of making it like that, while making a well-known action hero barbarian trope is a completely different thing; you make it to appeal to people who like action barbarian heroes. People attracted to that are a bonus. Well, in my opinion at least.
I don't think those intentions matter because I don't think of this issue as a zero sum game. There need not be an arbitrary demarcation of X% obviously made for Y people's tastes and Z% obviously made for V people's tastes. I think artistic intent issues are worthy of bringing up in a talk about art criticism, but not so useful in an argument about whether more games should exist for the V people.

More games should exist for the V people because there is an untapped market, not because the Y market exists. Production of products for these markets should be determined by market forces, not by some kind of engineered and pre-determined social answer, as if the we need to have a certain number of characters like those in Free! for every character like those In DoA. The intentions behind Kratos and his appearance have no bearing on whether or not a character like those from Free! should be made, as each character is meant to serve the tastes of its own demographic. For some, Kratos will fill the barbarian trope, for others he fills the sexy barbarian trope. It doesn't really make a difference if he was designed to fill the second group's needs or not, he does. He does not fill the needs of the Free! sexy young athlete trope, so the V people should get their own characters proportional to the market demand they create.

I agree with you that arguing over any one specific example is pointless, and that's why I wanted to engage in this discussion. I, as much as anyone I guess, WANT to see more of V market's desires met. Not because "games are sexist" or because the "games industry is sexist" but because it is good for everyone to have market needs filled. It's good for the game creators, it's good for the publishers, it's good for V market and it's even good for Y market. The publishers make more money, the creators get to create a wider variety of works, the V market gets representation equal to their demand and the Y market doesn't have to constantly fight off claims that every piece of boob-armor is an affront to women everywhere (or at least, there's presumably less of this because women get their eye-candy too, gross generalization but forgive for the sake of brevity please.)
 

Nimzabaat

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Belaam said:
Nimzabaat said:
Take the top picture. That is pretty indicative of real life in the gym I go to (well clothing instead of armor). The men with the buff bodies are usually wearing t-shirts and long pants, while the women are wearing almost a t-shirts worth of cloth placed strategically. That's real life for you.
If you were playing SimGym, I'd be with you (though maybe wonder how your gym got rid of the meatheads blowing kisses at their shirtless torsos while they curl). But it's not indicative of real life in the world of people expecting actual combat or danger. The Army doesn't put female soldiers in camo bikinis. Female police officers don't have a holster/thong and thigh high boots. A firefighter's coat for a female firefighter doesn't feature a bare midriff. Your argument isn't a bad argument for the -option- of fantasy cloth armor exposing more skin, but it makes no sense for medium or heavy armor of any sort.

The bigger issue for me is that I find it both insulting to women and to myself as a gamer. It's as though the developers are telling me that they don't think I'll have any interest in a female protagonist or as an NPC unless she's showing a lot of skin, and then showing that skin is all she really needs to do. If I am in the mood to enjoy some naked female company, I turn OFF the game. Many of the games that hyper-sexualize female characters seem to be doing so in the mindset that this is the only place male players will see female forms and that hanging out at the strip club in GTA is going to actually be arousing. Which is frankly a little insulting.
Good point. So it's only in a very narrow time frame that depicting women or men in such a way doesn't make sense (looking at you MGS!). Basically the modern age (I was going to mention realistic medieval but then I remember that some armies had warriors that went into battle naked). Then if you go to any type of fantasy games where the armor is magic anyways and the aura effect applies, or science fiction like Mass Effect where some people rely on personal shields more than armor, anything goes. Hell if you look at the trend in bikinis, a sci-fi game should have people in pasties with a shield generator. The western world is not ready for that though.

I just find that people go out of their way to get upset about things that aren't really that big of a deal if they stopped to think about it.

PS: My gym doesn't really have meat-heads blowing kisses at themselves. It does have a couple of women that are currently working towards competition who spend about 10 min of their workouts posing in front of the mirror though.
 

Dalisclock

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IceForce said:
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.
Not to mention her being "The perfect woman with the perfect body" is part of her character and if you talk to her for any length, she talks about how much it bothers her. She doesn't feel like she's earned anything because everything was given to her.

I'm slightly more distracted by the fact that Ash's breasts grew at least a size between ME2 and ME3(maybe it came with the promotion?).
 

Gorrath

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JagermanXcell said:
If it's fan service with context so dull that the character itself should feel ashamed/not even be a character, then yeah it can be pretty bad.

CAN. Because even sexualization can turn out good.

Luckily for video games, they've gone on record for sexualization done very very very very good:



I can get behind your examples here. Bayonetta is hot! And as a straight male, I don't balk at saying the same of Dante!
 

BadNewDingus

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Why not just have every game be moddable? Then have every character fully clothed, not even showing their ankles. That way, the modders can choose to make skimpy outfits for men or women. Of course, you'll see way more outfits for women ALA Skyrim. Haha.
 

Irick

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theSteamSupported said:
Irick said:
theSteamSupported said:
In all sexual contexts, there are subjects and objects; subjects act and objects are acted upon. When it comes to sexual contexts in pretty much all fiction, including video games, it is explicitly the norm that men are depicted as subjects and women are depicted as objects. That is what is the actual problem, not that women in video games appear in a specific way, that has more to do with the fact that most vg artists are straight men or supervised by straight men.
I find this somewhat unbelievable. The majority of art students are overwhelmingly female from two of the most prestigious schools I know of.
https://colleges.niche.com/rhode-island-school-of-design/statistics/
https://colleges.niche.com/san-francisco-art-institute/statistics/

Do you have a source for your assertion that video game artists are predominantly male?
No, I stand corrected. On that note, can you find some hard statistics on gender representation in video game art before I do?
I am unsure if you intended this as a challenge, but it appears that I can find at least hard data on the representation of characters. [http://ocw.metu.edu.tr/file.php/85/ceit706/week5/Williams_Martins_Consalvo_Ivory_Representation.pdf] Subjective aspects are understandably difficult to find hard statistics on.

Basicly, games closely follow TV in terms of gender representation and role.
 

mecegirl

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slo said:
But, I don't get to scream "strong jawline!" and call it sexualization and get people to agree with me, the way people do with "big boobs! sexualization!"
So I there's still no way to rigidly compare sexualization of characters in games.
In the manner of "X out of Y male characters have Z, sexualization is X/Y" and "A out of B female characters have D, sexualization is A/B".
Of course not...cuz that would be stupid. It's also not what people are doing.

Simply being an attractive character doesn't automatically make a chracter sexulized. Take for example Lulu from FFX vs the Sorceress from Dragon's Crown. Both are magic wielding busty ladies but one is obviously more sexulized than the other.