Male vs Female. Devs vs Gamers. Mainstream vs Gaming... Oh It Is ON!

The gaming industry has only heated up the debate on violence, sex and female representation. What's it going to take to cool off all the arguments?

The gaming community, well actually the world as a whole, has been focused on sexuality, gore, and the overall direction of the gaming industry. And of course: how we act online.

Isn't it time we all just took a chill pill? maybe go to bar, grab some brews and watch some hockey eh?

Ok... maybe it's a little too Canadian, but really, it's also kind of true.

Maybe all we need is to just go relax a bit and come back to these topics with a friendlier mindset. If only it were so simple.

Understandably, gamers need to do some venting. After all - we feel ripped off.

Devs creating shorter games to sell more "DLC" and scrape more money out of gamers is a topic that hits our wallets, and seeing as we live in a money-based society it's a topic no one takes lightly.

Case in point, Namco's Tales of [Insert possibly made up word here] series. Tales of Symphonia, had a slew of extra costumes that you earned by doing extra side quests, not only did you unlock extra styles for your characters you got to experience some fun filled times and this was all included with the purchase of the game. Now fast forward to 2013 and Tales of Xilla. It's still a great game, but their are no unlockable costumes. Instead you can get adornments to add a little flair to your character, but if you want the swimsuit costume you have to go to the online store and purchase it.

Not only are you paying for something you used to get for free, now there's also no funny cliché swim scene where the main male lead gets caught peeping after agreeing to the plan of his more perverted teammate (or what have you).

Speaking of Swimsuits... Let's talk about media, kids, and body image.

every other form of media has been giving kids stupid ideas way longer than video games and we've just come to accept it
The media and the children.

The industry as a whole is under constant scrutiny for relying on overly chiseled male leads and females that make the sports illustrated swimsuit calendar look like a department store catalogue in comparison. There are also all these claims that every time "jimmy" does something horrible, like killing the neighbors cat, that it's somehow the fault of video games. My official answer to that is that every other form of media has been giving kids stupid ideas way longer than video games and we've just come to accept it. There are a multitude of reasons why "Jimmy" did what he did, maybe we should focusing on helping the kid instead of using the video game industry as a scapegoat.

Now back to the scantily clad females.

Gamers are slowly showing that we want to see more practical attire on our female characters and the devs are listening. However this isn't going to magically change overnight, sex sells. So how do you guarantee a certain amount of sales? Target a bunch of teenage boys with raging hormones who are going to do unmentionable things while fantasizing about said scantily females. Is it fair... honestly yes. Is it disturbing? Hell yeah. But it's also a formula that's works, and usually if something works, we typically don't try to change it.

We gamers aren't helping
this problem is not exclusive to the gaming industry... it's present everywhere.

I support, and encourage others regardless of gender to support the notion of having better clothed females in video games. However, I also think that although small in comparison there are still women that use their sexuality to get ahead in gaming, wether it be to distract some poor shmuck while lining him up for a quick shot to the head with a sniper rifle, or using it to get some "phat loot" in a MMO and having a caravan of guys do all the work for them. However this problem is not exclusive to the gaming industry... it's present everywhere.

Harrasment - it's not just a female problem.

If your going to play an online game, harrasment is a given, I agree that it shouldn't be - but it is.

It doesn't matter if you playing World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy, Halo or Call of Duty. Feeling protected by this small window frame we call a monitor, and this preconception that "it's just a game" has enabled billions of people to say utterly stupid, cowardly, degrading, and sometimes just horrible things to other people.

The catch 22 here is that when a guy is online telling some poor girl about his wang, he could be self medicating because his girlfriend left him and he's trying to validate his existence (although usually he's just being an ... let's not finish that sentence). Unfortunately humans are very self-centered so we don't stop to think about how our actions are going to affect the recipient but instead on how these actions make us feel better. Who knows - that angry, stream of cuss words you just got through teamchat in Halo might just be because that guy just spent eight hours getting reamed out by his boss.

In any case, you need to have some pretty thick skin to put yourself out into the online world, again this problem isn't limited to gaming. Go look at social media; how many poor kids have committed suicide due to online bullying?

Don't answer that, because the answer should be zero, but we all know it's not.

Designing Leading Ladies for Games: Sometimes you just can't win!

I recently made a comment on another post about just how hard it is to write a female lead, I dabble a bit in writing a fanfiction novel in my spare time and it features a main female lead character and a large cast of strong women. I based it off my time playing Final Fantasy XI. I've tossed dozens of chapters, thousands of words because after re-reading through, it made some of the characters come of as either too "girly" or vice-versa "too manly". It's really difficult to hit that sweet spot when it comes to working with a female lead, especially if you want to draw off of classic works, most of which focus on a male lead.

Its just easier and faster to write a story for a male lead, because really, can a man be "too manly" or "too girly?" Yes, but its a lot harder to do.

Designing a lead female that will come off as "acceptable" is a very complex and perplexing thing to do.

I think Milla Maxwell makes a good example, she's strong-willed, seems wise beyond her years, however she has an over sized bust and wears an outfit showing a lot of skin and is seen more or less as a sexual stereotype. You'd have to actually play the game to find out how awesome of a character she really is, just looking at the box you see a busty blonde with a sword. If she had a smaller bust and more appropriate attire I think she could have been viewed as a way more appealing character to everyone.

So at the end of the day what does it all amount too?

Well I think that at the end of the day, while these issues are indeed something we need to keep in our minds and on the table for discussion. I hope, and the goal of this article is to get people to think about these issues seriously but also take a step back and take some of the raw emotion out of it. Take some time relax yourself from the issue and focus on enjoying games for what they are. We ARE making a difference, our voice's are being heard but these issues are present everywhere, not just in gaming and if we want to see a difference we have to realize the changes are going to be slow, but we need to keep speaking our minds, but be respectful to other gamers and devs alike and slowly these changes will happen. 

Published Feb. 24th 2014
  • Amy White
    Former Editor in Chief
    I remember the good old days when unlocking things in Tales of the Abyss / Tales of Symphonia / Tales of Vesperia was 50% of the fun of the game (great storyline, party play dynamics, and voice acting aside).


    Sad to see one of my favorite series DLC-ify one of the best parts of their series. Not a change I'm excited about.
  • Cortalia
    I Tales of Vesperia had it right to be honest.

    The costumes, ect were all there in the games, but also available via DLC for those that didn't want to do the extra quests (wither it be for lack of time, difficulty, wanted them faster, or what have you).
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    One thing about DLC:

    The idea that developers are always cutting content out of games so they can sell it later as DLC is incorrect. If it happens at all, it's at the behest of the publisher.

    Developers are gamers, too. I've spoken to a great many of them. They always want to create the very best game they can; they're not sitting around trying to figure out what to cut OUT. They're trying to figure out what they can fit in with the allotted resources and budget.

    Furthermore, I have to say that I've never finished a game and felt short-changed, as if something was missing, or the experience was just incomplete. It's only because certain people are always looking for the conspiracy that they feel this way.

    As for the stereotypical characters, I refer you to my article on the subject-
  • Cortalia
    DLC: is what it is, the numbers don't lie at least the numbers at the bottom of my bank statements that show a bill for 99 bucks for DLC costumes for Tales of Xilla don't lie.

    Maybe the problem is as you say since in alot of cases publishers own dev studios, they get to stick their nose into development and "suggest" alterations in order to make the game more profitable since they are usually the ones footing the bill and or dealing with investors.

    If I'm misplacing my pointing finger, my bad and I plead guilty to following the masses, we see "namco" as the developer of Tales, not the tales studio which in turn is owned by the publisher namco. Unless I somehow slept through more of my developer-publisher class in school than I thought.

    On to stereotypical characters, I'm just going to ask.. how many games, besides mario feature a guy that doesn't seem "fit". The vast majority of both male and female leads have body types that make your average person feel inferior. They may not be to the extreme of "Duke Nukem" or "just about everybody in gears of war". I go to the gym on a regular basis, its a part of my life but I will never match the body tone of most game characters, theirs blood related medical reason's in there (go see ) however it can lead to body comfort issues with a lot of people, so even characters that aren't over the top get put into the category.

    So I guess im saying that these stereotype categories have different limits for different people. Some people see it as just the "Duke Nukem"s while others like myself would put Snow Villiars, Cloud, Booker, Ethan and others into that category.

    However the point i was making is that the gaming industry is constantly getting scrutinized for it, yet we all line up to watch an action flick and it seems perfectly acceptable that the lead actors body figures are beyond normal, especially with the growing CG in movies its getting easier and easier to make actors look buffer than they really are, and when it is "natural" its not, the person playing that role subjects themselves to brutal training sessions and harsh diets, supplements and the like, which isn't "normal and in comparison it just seems accepted.

    Which segways into me taking the time to applaud Ke$ha, for coming out and saying "im not happy with what i went through to please my fans" she admitted to developing a eating disorder after losing alot of weight for the music video "Timber" which was after her fans or social media hounds, whatever you want to call them, had basically bullied her about her weight previously. It takes alot of guts to call out and basically say "hey, I shouldn't be expected to look a certain way just because I'm a star" (i may not like her music but I still have deep respect for her)
    - This is something every media industry can take something from.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Well, you bought that DLC. Nobody forced you to, and the game by itself wasn't incomplete without it. As I said, publishers may have a directive a studio has to follow in terms of DLC, but no developer on earth wants to shortchange a gamer.

    As for the male/female characters, no, I don't think the majority are inordinately formed. Maybe by TODAY'S standards, where everyone seems to be overweight or riddled with some sort of physical/mental issue (or both), but there was a time in human history when people did look like that.

    And there's a gigantic difference between a Nathan Drake and a Duke Nukem. What about Drake should make you feel bad about yourself? He's not some giant, ripped guy; he's just a normal shape with plenty of athletic ability. So what? If you're in poor health, ANY video game character is going to make you feel that way because you're self-conscious, and it's unrealistic to have some dude with a giant beer gut shimmying along canyon walls.

    Even the revamped Lara Croft isn't unrealistic at all if someone just took care of themselves. We shouldn't blame the industry for bringing attention to our pathetically bad health; we should be looking at ourselves and trying to improve our situation.
  • Cortalia
    If we as consumers don't voice out that were not happy with DLC that was initially part of previous installments, like the costumes in Tales of XIlla, how are publishers/development studios going to learn that maybe they should do something about it Before losing clientele? I didn't have to buy that DLC, but I do support the tales development team so I still purchased it, however im not alone in the fact that I feel ripped off, and if it continues down the path more and more people will simply abandon the game altogether, so why not voice an opinion before that happens?

    You say that a developer doesn't want to shortchange a gamer, and your right, I'm not saying they aren't they wan't the gamer to be happy, they want to be proud of their work. but in the same fashion, by collectively stating we don't like the way certain DLC is being handled are we not being responsible consumers?

    And for the record, I've beat every lifespan equation the doctors have given me, and while not super fit, im also not overly obese, Overall I'm happy with myself, especially when you take what i've been through into consideration. I was merely pointing out that even the non duke-nukem characters do leave some people feeling self conscious. Both males and females, the point is the gaming industry seems to be under more scrutiny that mainstream media, however its also leading the other media forms in actually listening to the consumer. Am I saying that we need hank hill to replace master chief? nope, just saying the scrutiny is there.

    However on the flip side there are an abundance of characters that could use a little tone down, especially on the female side, as I already explained with Milla Maxwell, She's an excellent character, but I'm afraid alot of people won't see past her busty body. Which is why I closed the article saying that we are being heard, we are inflicting change but its going to be slow, its not going to magically change overnight.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    Feel free to voice your opinion all you want. The majority of gamers like DLC because typically, it sells very well. If they didn't like it, it wouldn't sell, and we wouldn't be seeing a lot of it. This is business. If the publishers don't make any money on it, they can't pursue the endeavor...obviously, they're making money on it, so obviously, people are paying for it.

    You can't keep paying for something and at the same time say you don't want it. That's hypocritical.

    Lastly, a person's self-esteem is not a developer's responsibility. It's not the responsibility of any artist to be on the lookout for everyone's self-image. If somebody feels self-conscious because they're playing a video game character who appears to be in better health, that's their own problem. Has nothing whatsoever to do with the designers. Again, if we all took better care of ourselves, none of this would be as big of an issue as it is.
  • Cortalia
    Say what you will, but stating my displeasure with a product i've already purchased while comparing it to similar products by the same company doesn't make me a hypocrite.

    Now if I went and bought all the similar DLC for Tales of XIlla 2 (if / when we get it) that would make me a hypocrite.
  • Fathoms_4209
    Featured Columnist
    I wasn't referring to you personally. I'm saying that everyone seems to hate on DLC and yet, it continues to sell extremely well. The only reason we're seeing this phenomenon is because it works; it sells.

    People are buying into it, so you can't blame the publishers. It's just that simple.

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