How Objectificiation Hurts Video Games

(Caution, main picture on the article is a little on the NSFW side)

Here’s an article that was posted on the NYTimes Live site. To be honest, it’s not the greatest article, but it brings about a good point and is worth questioning. The author’s main argument is that objectification in video games is hurting games and the industry. I this true? Is he wrong? Should we care? Are there any horse socks? Is anyone even listening?

The author contends that female characters are typically objectified to the point of them being nothing more than objects to save; the quest isn’t about saving an individual, it’s about retrieving an object.The article uses the example of Princess Peach to exemplify this objectification, not as a object of of sex appeal, but as a character who represents the nothingness of many created female characters. It’s true, what do we know about Peach besides the fact that she gets kidnapped a lot, likes to bake cakes, and is occasionally not in the castle she’s supposed to be in? Then again, Mario Characters (Or even Nintendo characters in general) probably aren’t the best example of fleshed out characters. But it’s true, a lot of female characters in video games tend to be fairly one dimensional (NOT 2D EVEN. HARDY HAR HAR) and stereotype based. You needn’t look further than most Japanese RPGs to prove this. Without  a doubt, these one-sided characters are hurting the representation of females in gaming, and not providing accurate role models and representations to gamers, but that’s not really the point the author is making.

The author is making the argument that this objectification of females in gaming is hurting developers where they care the most: the wallet.

We see a cover with a woman dressed in something that would give a stripper doubts, we automatically think “well that’s probably crap” and don’t buy it. This is a fairly big chunk of how women are portrayed on game covers, so publishers look at it and think the problem is women, not the portrayal of women.

HEY, THANKS FOR THAT QUOTE. Is this true of most gamers? I don’t I think it is. If we’ve learned anything from the media, it’s that sex sells. Would Dead Or Alive be as popular of a franchise without the complete objectification of women? Probably not. Hell, there’s even complete MMOs out there that were created on the idea “LET’S MAKE AN GAME WITH A BUNCH OF NAKED CHICKS”. Likewise, with a good portion of the gaming populace being teenage boys, it’s hard not to say that this gaming philosophy is working.

Speaking for myself, I agree with the author: games with large amount of “boob exposure” on the cover typically sway me away from looking further into them. Take Lollipop Chainsaw for example- a over the top, over-sexualized, ridiculous hack-in-slash that supposed to be decent

I will happily buy a game with such bad box art. I mean, sexiness aside, it’s still really ugly. Needless to say, not all games have women sexualized to this degree, and the game itself is a tad bit of a parody. However most gamers won’t know that, but will that sway them not buying the game? That wasn’t really the issue with this particular game, but it’s debatable.

So what should be done? Should sex appeal be removed from games all together? No. I wouldn’t say that. It has it’s place. Done correctly, a game that deals with themes of sexuality and objectification can actually be great.

Take for example Catherine on the PS3/360, a game where the cheating main character must make a decision between choosing his long term, less exciting girlfriend, or a very sexualized younger girl he has a one night stand with. Amongst many other themes, the game deals with subjects of infidelity, relationships, and objectification.It does it with great storytelling, consequences for your action, and interesting perspectives.

 

Unfortunately most games aren’t Catherine, and most developers are content with merely painting one dimensional characters with little remorse for the consequences. This isn’t an issue with female characters only, we should be asking more from our developers out of characters in general. Deeper characters = deeper experiences. That said, we should also be weary of games that are simply using sex to sell us a product.

So whether you agree with the author or not about whether objectification is hurting gaming developers, it certainly remains an issue in gaming and media in general.

 

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