Month: April 2012

Gowns to Guns – A Look At Female Video Game Characters.

Gaming has been always something of a male dominant hobby, there’s no denying it. With many males being the main characters of games and even more males playing the games conversely, we’re seeing more females enter the ranks in both players and characters and are starting to form a league of their own. In this article, I will be discussing the rise of female video game characters and consider both the male and female gaming communities’ thoughts of the way these female characters are portrayed.

Before we do that, let’s start when female characters were introduced into games. Females within a video game started off as the ‘damsel in distress’ type. Look at Princess Peach through out of the Mario games for instance, always getting kidnapped and poor Mario having to chase after her going through multiple castles. In saying that, without these females always getting kidnapped; we wouldn’t have a backbone to some of our games, but was this deemed as portraying females as being inadequate to look after themselves?

Fast forward a few years and female characters are becoming more and more independent and less vulnerable, in other words, totally kicking ass. A few of the first woman that were seen as this type were Samus from the Metroid series and Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider games. Now where Samus remained a respectable female within the gaming world without flaunting too much of the goodies, shall we put it, Lara Croft was the opposite, excelling in showcasing her femininity. In all fairness, Samus was being shown to us in 2D where Croft was in 3D, so was this the turning point on how female characters were going to be shown to us?

Wearing a tank top that was fitting to say the least, a pair of shorts and the ability to handle duel-wielding pistols, there is no denying that Lara Croft was appealing to the eye, but when did this start? Yes, she showed up some of the male characters as she took on the various climates, animals and puzzles; which displayed her as an independent woman who could take care of herself. Then again, was she being seen as more of an eye candy than this independent woman? With suggestive cut-scenes showcasing Lara’s physique and with the third person view (Guys, do not lie that you didn’t have the sneaky peek at her rear-end while she ran!), was this really the way to introduce females into the gaming world – as sex symbols almost and very little innocence to be seen coming from their personalities?

Since then, we’ve only really seen more and more of females being showcased as ‘eye candy’ in the video game world. Games like Bayonetta and the continuation of the Tomb Raider series has kept this image of females being created with minimal clothing and ‘boosted’ features in our minds. So what do we think about this?

Speaking as part of the female gamers community and on my own behalf, I can see this image going down one of two ways with females. On the one hand, some may be offended by the fact that females are only being portrayed as these sex symbols and nothing more, but on the other hand, those of us who don’t think highly of ourselves in appearance and don’t have much confidence in ourselves could perhaps enjoy playing as these characters as a way of fulfilling some emptiness that we cannot seem to gain in our own personal lives. After all, isn’t that what video games are meant to be about – being able to be whatever you want to be in a fantasy world?

With that in mind, do the males like these characters or just want them off their TV screens? My first thoughts would be that all males would love these attractive women being able to handle guns and take on missions that you would normally be seeing male protagonists doing, but is that honestly the case? I decided to ask a couple of males on their thoughts on the matter and I was taken aback with their responses. The response from them was that they didn’t like the way that females were being showcased as sex symbols and would prefer to see someone more realistic, to a certain extent, being used.
With the recent release of Mass Effect 3 concentrating more on the female Shepard side of the story, instead of male Shepard, regarding advertising of the game before release, are we beginning to see the start of a more respectable female video game protagonist? One that doesn’t require to wear minimal clothing and have accented features (*cough* boobs *cough), but one that can still maintain
that level of ass-kicking that previous females have accomplished in the eyes of gamers and remain noticed as a female. As for Fem Shep starting this somewhat new image of female video game characters, we’ve still to see what the new Tomb Raider game is like. With the reveal of the new game being announced at last year’s E3, the game looked nothing but spectacular along with a more ‘grungier’ Lara however still the same person we’ve grown to love over the years underneath the more covered up body. This image is not just being recognized throughout main characters as well, Bioshock Infinite’s Elizabeth helping you with her offering you guidance and help when needed. Is this something that games of the future are starting to pick up on and recognize that the gaming community is after when they’re playing games?

What are your thoughts on the topic? Do you like the females that are show off more skin or prefer them to be covered up and more respectable? Leave a comment below.