Sexism in video games: Does it sell?
Sex stereotyping in marketing is no new story, but in the world of gaming, the strategy seems to fall flat with most male gamers
Now that we’re in the aftermath of Super Bowl XLVII, think back to some of the most memorable commercials. More often than not, these commercials depict half-naked women alluring men with a high emphasis on superficiality. Beer commercials are notoriously guilty of playing into this pattern. Evidently, this must be a winning formula, because we see the same type of commercials year after year. It makes one wonder: Are men so easily swayed? Is there any industry where selling sex doesn’t resonate with men?
With today’s video games being loaded with guns, blood, mutilation, swearing and competition, games tend to lean in the direction of traditional masculine gender roles. It does not come as a surprise when people qualify video games as something that men do as a form of a particular “boy’s club.” This has led to an increase in the depiction of women as sex objects or objects of desire in video games throughout this generation.
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The most popular example of this is the protagonist Lara Croft from the Tomb Raider series. For a bit of background information, Lara Croft is an archaeologist in search of ancient artifacts by platforming and shooting her way through labyrinth-style environments. Lara essentially became famous in the gaming world because of her unrealistically large breast size. Lara’s breasts caused such a stir that Core Design, the current developer, actually reduced the size of Lara’s breasts. The decision was also made to remove Lara’s skimpy outfits from the game. Both of these design decisions were an attempt to make Tomb Raider appeal to a broader female audience.
Another popular example is the Soul Calibur series. Soul Calibur is a series of fighting games known for its 3D fighting style and character customization. Like Tomb Raider, Soul Calibur has become famous for displaying women with exaggerated breast sizes and revealing outfits. Ivy, a series veteran, is a perfect example. Ivy reveals about 85 percent of her body and has breasts that are nearly the size of her head. On top of that, Ivy uses a weapon called a “snake-sword,” which is a phallic weapon that turns into a whip. Ivy also has a moveset that is very suggestive in nature, which essentially depicts her in the role of a dominatrix.
I mentioned earlier how the Soul Calibur series is known for its character customization. In this mode, players can take a character, equip them with different weapons and armor, change colors and, yes — change their breast size. Players can also choose to have their female fighters fight in lingerie.
If that wasn’t enough, if a player does choose to equip their female character with armor, it can be broken by a well-placed strike from an opposing player at any point in the fight. These features may seem insensitive because of the sexual hyperboles, but Soul Calibur still remains as a game enjoyed by many. This proves that even a game like Soul Calibur — a well-respected game in the video gaming community — still falls victim to depicting women as sex objects.
One of the most blatant examples of sexism in gaming is Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball. To put it bluntly, this game is nothing but large-breasted girls in bikinis playing volleyball on the beach. Needless to say, this game is not intended for volleyball enthusiasts. Search this game on YouTube and watch just one video. There is nothing more that needs to be said.
Video games like Tomb Raider, Soul Calibur, and Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball are helping perpetuate the notion that women continue to play the role of sex objects or eye candy in most forms of our entertainment today. These games continue to reinforce sex stereotypes and hinder progress toward equality in both the gaming world and the real world. But the question remains: Are men buying into all the sexuality?
Some of the most popular games right now, like Call of Duty: Black Ops II, Halo 4, Borderlands 2 and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, do not play into female stereotypes whatsoever. In fact, Final Fantasy XIII has a leading female protagonist who has a strong demeanor, and the game has sold exceptionally well.
So when game developers implement elements of extreme female sexuality, who is their target audience? Do the game developers really believe sex sells in the video game industry? Gamers have disproven that claim. Is it to satisfy the game developer’s personal sexual fantasies? That’s for you to decide.