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my thoughts

I can't believe that what I feel is really happening to me
Make it hurt
And point the finger at my insecurities
Well I guess I just don't understand about those complexities in your mind
And I guess I just don't understand why this world seems so unkind
Maybe just once I get what's coming to me.

**"Maybe Just Once" - Nine Inch Nails**

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Girls like video games too! Okay, so maybe not as many girls are as into gaming as boys but I am one of those girls. I would pick gaming over eating and/or sleeping. I love video games. However, since I am female, there really aren't that many games out there geared towards me. Last night, I was having a bit of an argument with someone. Well, I'm not sure if it could be considered an "argument" but he was getting pissy and I wasn't.

We were going on about female characters and the outfits they get stuck wearing in video games. It started because he was telling me about a game he was designing with a friend of his and he asked me to help him come up with a weapon for a female character. I got all concerned that she would end up stereotypically female, with no physical attack strength and dumb-blonde good looks. We ended up talking about the game Final Fantasy X-2 (which I have yet to play, but I have played X and done a good deal of reading about X-2 so I think I'm okay).

If you don't know anything about the game, it centres around 3 gun-toting female characters (Yuna, Rikku & Paine). The story takes place a couple years after FFX wraps up. It's the only sequel ever put out for a Final Fantasy game before and, since I am in luv with X, I'm pretty sure I'll be diggin' X-2 as well whenever I get a chance to play it. The sooner X is complete, the sooner X-2 can be played!

What we were arguing about centred around the characters' costumes. I think that female characters in video games are dressed way too slutty. It seems that men are threatened by a strong, assertive female character and so, to partially eliminate that threat, they have her dress like a whore.

In a feminist class I took in OAC, Lauren and I did our final project on how females are portrayed in video games. We played a variety of games, filming each one, and concentrated on how the female characters look and act in relation to the male characters. Females (I can't say "women" as not all of the characters are human) are generally weaker, act like ditzes (through voice-acting or through animation) and dress in overly revealing clothing. For example, in FFVIII, when we first meet the character of Selphie, she runs up to the screen and promptly trips over her own two feet, stumbling down a small hill and giggles stupidly. Does this happen with any of the other characters? No. The introductions for the male characters are mostly about a protrayal of strength. The indroduction for Quistis, one of the other female characters, is also not full of giggling idiocy but instead she is quiet and mature.

Lauren and I played a few fighting games (one-on-one arcade style combat) and, in those games, the female characters seem to get by wearing next to nothing and a few even fight in stilettos. In the game Marvel vs Capcom, after each battle, the characters all have a finishing screen in which they say something taunting to goad you into another battle. Here is a screenshot of Morrigan's blatantly sexual screen: CLICK. Her character's design has her breasts barely contained inside that "top". Her battle stance is not something threatening, but instead it is something that gives off nothing but sex. This character was never meant to fight. She was meant to lie on her back with her legs spread.

Back to FFX-2. In this game, unlike most of the newer FF games, you have the ability to change jobs (i.e. Mage, Thief, Warrior, etc). With each job, you get a new costume. There are 17 to choose from, including 3 that only one character each gets (Yuna - Floral Fallal, Paine - Full Throttle, Rikku - Machina Maw). What I was so pissy about was that most of the costumes are blatantly sexual even though none of these girls are past the age of 20. By clicking this link, you can see all the dress spheres that are located in the left sidebar. Some of the costumes, such as Lady Luck and Thief don't even need any help when it comes to the 'whore' category. Other costumes, like Berserker and Dark Knight are much more acceptable.

Some of last night's argument ran around the fact that, if a female character is not dressed sexily, one would not be able to tell that she is female. The point I was trying to get across was that of femininity/sensuality vs slut/whore. The Black Mage costumes are a fairly good example of this. The girls are mostly covered but there is no mistaking that any of them could ever possibly be a boy (without some serious redesign). The Samurai outfit is also very good, save for the fact that Yuna is wearing a long skirt, which would be highly impractical if one were a Samurai warrior. The Trainer costumes involve long skirts but, with those, the girls themselves do not do any fighting and so wearing a skirt or pants does not matter.

Yes, I do realize that I've put way too much thought into all of this. I rather enjoy my video games and, being female, there really aren't many games out there geared toward me. X-2 seemed like a pretty good prospect as all 3 of the main characters are female and gun-toting fighters. Game design is heavily male-dominated and so I expect female characters to be sexualized no matter what their age (Rikku is 15 years old in FFX and 17 in X-2). I do not have any problem with them showing a bit of skin as long as the outfit is practical, involves no stilettos (unlike Aya from Parasite Eve who spends the entire game in an evening gown), and she wouldn't be considered a streetwalker. But, come on, there's even a bikini scene in X-2!

I play these games and I can identify more readily with the female characters than I can with the male characters. In X I despise both Yuna and Rikku but I very much enjoy Lulu even though she dresses a bit provocatively with her dress split open up the front practically revealing her underwear. She does always carry around a small creature, such as the Moogle in the picture (but she can attack with it), which could be likened to a little girl with a teddy bear, but we'll leave that be and just focus on the outfits. Like most female characters in fantasy Role-Playing Games (RPGs), Lulu does not use physical attacks but instead is an accomplished Black Mage. Here, white and black do not mean good and evil; a Black Mage's power lies in offensive attacks while a White Mage's lie in defense.

Wow, I've gone off on quite the tangent. Since you are all aware that I am a huge nerd now, I suppose I will just go on to say that the way females are portrayed in video games ticks me off. It's one thing to make them look good, but another thing entirely to make them all look trampy. Yes, the male characters are also perfectly chiseled and tightly-clothed, but they are not ridiculed into virtually no clothing or mindless giggles or personality deficits. There are way more unattractive non-human male characters who are not sexualized. In Mortal Kombat 3, the most unattractive female character is Shiva (thanks for the pic, Aleem!), and she still has massive breasts and is wearing a thong.

Imagine the message this must be passing to little girls who grow up playing video games (like me). The princess is helpless and must be rescued (but is always in another castle... ha ha ha), women are not meant to use big & powerful weapons, if you want to be a success you have to dress like a tramp. I'm not saying that jeans and a sweater will be sexy, but you don't have to look like Lara Croft either. There must be a happy medium somewhere for a woman to give off sex appeal while not appearing like someone you'd call for late-night bedroom antics.

I should just design my own game. Are there any other female (or even male) gamers out there who agree with me? I know Merrick games and I'm pretty sure she's played enough to know where I'm coming from. To reiterate, I have no problem with the female characters being sexy. I do have a problem with them coming off as stupid, impractical and whorish. Where out there is a smart, strong female character who keeps her intimate areas a mystery?

[update] Seems I'm not the only one who notices something off about females in video games. Here is an excerpt from a review of the game "Death By Degrees" written by Ivan Sulic and found on ign.com.
February 3, 2005 - Apparently there are certain prerequisites a woman must meet before becoming the star of her own videogame. Tekken's Nina Williams quite thoroughly fulfills each of these obligatory requirements.

First, she must have been constructed with no sense of proportional symmetry. Nina's breasts create gravitational fields of their own, her behind is roughly the size of her back, her stomach could double as a Twizzler, and her legs outstretch a giraffe's... Go ahead and scratch off check box number one because she has abnormal sex appeal covered.

Second, all digital heroines must have the pointed faces of supermodels and the determined squints of jet fighter pilots. Nina's eyes pierce steel and her face sells Revlon, so she certainly meets criteria number two.

Third, all female leads aspiring to attain videogame stardom should allow themselves to be dressed as promiscuous streetwalkers with untreated anime addictions. At one point in Namco's Death by Degrees, Nina walks into a giant closet of clothing and picks out (of all things) a tight vinyl suit with a fishnet front and some kicking high heels. Damn, baby!

Finally, all hard-hitting hotties must possess supernatural ninja-wrestling powers that totally contradict their easy-breezy manner. Our disproportionate, soft, stern, harlot-dressed ultra-heroine can shatter a man's skull with just a light punch, so hell yeah to that one.

Given her effortless achievements in the field of videogame vixen-ing, Nina should theoretically make the perfect heroine for the perfect action game. She certainly meets all the qualifications, anyway. There's just one problem with being queen of the digital ball: it's a terribly generic sash that you have to wear.

However, if video games aren't your thing, here's a post Jay did about the portrayal of females in Disney movies: LINKY GOODNESS. Also, click THIS to see what a little rant can do for your schools.

*stupid link of the day* Vivid Colour: does your dog make you think of the 80s? If so, this is the torture device for you!
JeN's mind ejaculated @ 2:43 PM | | permalink
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