Breaking Balls: Gender Politics in Media [Game Sexuality]

I have a strong stance against the use of the word “feminism”. To me, the notion of fixing issues between the genders by focusing on the problems and tribulations of only one is at best inefficient while at worst just completely ridiculous.  There was an age of the Patriarchy, this I won’t even try to deny but as we become more enlightened as a species and are able to hear views and opinions of the world community due to the internet recently becoming a staple, the idea that we can fix one group’s problems and by doing so the whole issue is ludicrous. For years men have also had issues but a societal stigma has been formed that these are unimportant, which is also a product of the Patriarchy but, since I don’t believe there is such a thing anymore, I digress.

You may wonder why I bring up the term feminism. As of lately, I’ve become much more socially conscious than I ever have been before about gender politics and roles between the sexes and I think it’s important that while I am against the idea of feminism specifically, I do believe there are strong sexist issues in media these days that have to be addressed by looking at the WHOLE issue. For the time being, let’s take a look at some video games.

I grew up with video games; Mortal Kombat was our sport, Road Rash was my driving teacher and Diablo was “spending quality time with friends”. This being said, it wasn’t until the last year or so that I really began to take a look into some of the things most people might overlook. There are many female gamers out there (hell, one of my best friends schools my ass in almost any retro RPG) and due to blogging and social media, there are many great articles detailing issues women have with sexism in gaming and the industry at large. But what about for us dudes? Do any of us ever look around to see how maybe their problems affect us? Let’s just jump right in.

Tomb Raider by Eidos came out in 1996. A classic game known to many at my age that paved the way for many great “treasure seeking” adventure games such as the Uncharted series but what was the real draw for me?  Lara. In the midst of my adolescence and puberty hitting like a brick wall, a ‘sexy’ female character with giant boobs and English accent? Forget about it.  Now, we all recognize how ridiculous Lara’s proportions were in the day (hell, even up to this console generation for that matter) but what would the motivation for these be? Think about it… in 1996 women who played video games weren’t even near half of the male numbers. Lara was created to please (and attract) male audiences while also offering a stepping-stone for female attention. I personally don’t know a single guy at the time who wasn’t more exhilarated at the idea that there was a cheat to make Lara naked (Nude Raider code) than the actual game.

A female protagonist can be a great step in the right direction; women would like to identify with a strong avatar they can impose their own personalities on and I have yet to meet a man who doesn’t love the hell out of a strong female character kicking some ass. For example, Samus was even more awesome upon the revelation that she was a woman and The Boss from Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater is likely the best female character in video game history and lives up to her codename.

ivy-valentine-sword.jpg

There’s a fine line between what one may consider a character strong with her sexuality and being a hussy (technical term, don’t worry about it) and what’s even worse is that line narrows or broadens according to the specific person. A case that, in my opinion, is blatantly over the line is Ivy Valentine from the Soul Calibur fighting game series. It’s hard to deny that the only thing she has going for her at first glance is the fact that she has a chest that would snap a normal woman of her stature in half and, more importantly, she’s barely dressed! Does this add any game play? Not really since default attire doesn’t have any effect on the stats of a character. Does this make Ivy a good fighter? No, she’s long been regarded as my personal worst playing character in game (until they fixed some issues I had in Soul Calibur 4). So why is it that for many advertisements that Ivy take the forefront?

“Get dat chick wit dem hot knockers on dere.”

By this point, you’re no doubt asking what my problem with boobs are. The short answer would be “nothing” with the perhaps too personal suffix of “they’re one of my favorite body parts”. The issue here is how little video game companies think of their audience. Rather than make a good game with a strong female protagonist who can take care of herself with personality, they appeal to the smaller head knowing that their fans are nothing more than a bunch of stupid, horny animals that they can leash with the promise of tits. Adversely, women get a disgusting Frankenstein’s monster of self-esteem issues, poor body image and unrealistic goals all wrapped up in one avatar. The scary thing about this? It works.

Let’s fast-forward to a recent issue. As I write this, E3 is currently in full effect and that means press conferences. Some controversy has been making it’s rounds the social media (specifically twitter as that’s where I first heard it) due to the trailer for Far Cry 3 presented during the Ubisoft press conference starting off with a topless, apparently aboriginal woman having her breasts fondled before going into some exposition and the trailer actually having a purpose. Now, a lot of people don’t seem bothered by this but this is just blatant proof to me of that Ubisoft believes only lemmings who follow their dicks make up their core demographic. Real nice.

The line DOES begins to blur to a point, though. Let’s take a look at 2010s Bayonetta. The whole basis for the character of Bayonetta is that she’s essentially a teen boy’s wet dream; a sexy, older woman who beats the holy shit out of angels and demon’s by getting naked, posing and throwing her demonic hair around. So why am I not ripping this game apart as all? The self-awareness of Bayonetta makes it hard to really take issue with unless you’re the type of person who takes issue with Saturday Night Live skits as I see it more as a satirical parody of actual offending games. Also, and it’s an extremely narrow point, Bayonetta never really uses her sexuality in a degrading way against women but still flaunts herself as a sex symbol in an over-the-top way.

Now, if this was to be a longer breakdown of more sexist issues, some things I would bring up off the top of my head are: “Helpless” Princesses, rape in video games and misogynistic tendencies during online play but unfortunately I’m writing this while at work and need to focus solely on sexuality. A write up on such issues will come up as I can get to them but for now I would like to finish this particular topic with an admittance and question: Suda51’s newest game Lollipop Chainsaw is on the near horizon and , in standard hypocritical way I will likely be purchasing it day one and YES the main character being a cheerleader has some to do with that. My question to you is, where is the line for you that separates exploitation? Who are some of your favorite female protagonists and what makes them so great to you?