MMORPG Female Character Clichés and Why They Need to Stop
By, M. Hauschel
Two things are certain in life –death and taxes; another thing that could be added to the list are hyper-sexualized female characters in games. When playing video games in the genre of Anime, Fantasy, or Post-Apocalyptic, one trend that is often reoccurring across the board- sexualized characters. You may be wondering, “What’s wrong with a sexy character?” to which I’d respond, “Why is she sexy?” Is she sexy because of what she’s wearing? Is she sexy because she has enormous breasts? Is she sexy because of how she carries herself? Or is she sexy because she was created for the sole purpose to tantalize the male audience?
If these characters are created for the male audience, what is that to suggest? With Laura Mulvey’s theory on Male Gaze, describes depictions of the female body that are meant to create pleasure for the heterosexual male audience. The male is a voyeur, as women are objects for the male to view. While this theory was developed for the depiction of women on film 37 years ago, it very well can be applied to video games of today. Visual representation of women in media reflects how women are seen in society. If the vast majority of characters are seen as sexual objects instead of a complex character, women in society are still seen as objects that exist to please men, sexually or in other ways.
The Anime girl, with much emphasis on girl, is not only a cliché in anime series, but has leaked into the world of gaming as well (Lucent Heart and Aion). She is petite, youthful, and often accompanied with an infantilized voice (In case the point of her being young was not hitting you over the head quite enough.). With her petite figure, she is well endowed with ridiculously large breasts. Her fun bags are often spilling out of her tiny outfit, as she runs around and battles foes. Speaking of battles, she will wield a weapon that her tiny frame obviously could not support. She’s simultaneously hyper-sexualized and innocent, which is just a bizarre combination. She not only satisfies Loli fans, but fans of anime will appreciate her as well.
This character has become dated and overdone. She is a leftover of the invasion of Japan in the 80s and 90s into the culture. The innocent schoolgirl personality with kick-ass abilities has become a formula so over processed that my eyes will glaze over when I see examples.
The Sexy Mage, often found in fantasy-style MMORPGS (Tera, Perfect World, and Age of Conan, etc.); she is a mystical creature, that is human-like, but obviously not a human. She does not require the need of armour or clothes, because she is a magical being. The fewer clothes you see, the more magical they are! She’s sexy not only because she has an awesome body, but also because she is foreign. She conjures up a desire for the exotic. She’s mysterious, and comes from a world that is unknown to you!
The Sexy Mage invokes the idea of a lonely basement dweller painting his Warhammer figurines. She embodies sultry sexiness, magical abilities, and a revealing outfit; an image the lonely basement dweller could conjure up to allow him to escape his grim reality. In reality, players who play a Sexy Mage character may not be live a life anywhere close to the stereotype, but that stereotype will always be attached to this character.
If you think games set in the future have finally mastered female representation, you’ve guessed wrong. While Mass Effect has shown that females and males can have similar functional outfits, and have the characters remain attractive, there are examples of titles that have gone into the opposite direction. Set in the future, whether it is a sci-fi or post-apocalyptic (Fallen Earth, Firefall, etc.) and following the trend of having aesthetically pleasing characters, females in the future are often given bizarre outfits for dangerous environments. While most characters in Firefall do not have extreme cases of sexualized characteristics, their female engineer has an odd choice of attire. While the male engineer has a full outfit, with one arm revealed, the female has a similar outfit, with one arm and one leg revealed. By one leg, I mean the entire leg and half of a butt revealed. Why? Engineers need to be half-naked, I guess. The focus of having attractive female characters caused Fallen Earth to redesign the faces of females to make them more feminine after complaints from players.
While having attractive characters to play can make a game enjoyable, blatant sexualized characters in order to please the heterosexual male players is quite another thing. If you do enjoy having characters with revealing clothes, let that be an option of a skin; but having it as the default mode is a questionable choice of the developer. Of course, these are all games that are made for us to escape reality into a different world. That world may be a place of sexy nymphs and burly giants, but when you incorporate reality into games, you may need to follow the rules of reality.