Realistic Female Bodies in Video Games: Realistic to Who??

There's no one-size-fits-all for a "realistic" female body.

There has been a lot of clamoring about the representation of females in video games lately. From the lack of strong female leads in games, to their physical appearance, it seems like everyone has an opinion. So do I!

With regards to the physical appearance of women in video games, here are my thoughts:

Thought #1: One person's ideal is not representative of reality.

I am a woman. AND I'm real! Whoa! But according to a number of photoshopped images of iconic video game babes, "realistic" bodies are plus-size. All of them!

What? Hold up. I guess that means my body isn't "realistic"?

Hit the brakes.

Surely, by now, anyone with at least one functioning eyeball and a likewise functioning brain has noticed that are plenty of sizes and shapes of people. A sinewy, svelte slip of a woman is just as much a woman as one with a voluptuous figure. You prefer fuller figures? Cool. That doesn't make your preference the new "realistic". Nor does it make anyone's preference the new "realistic" (read "ideal"). Your opinions are yours.

The photoshopped images in question claim to represent these video game females as having bodies that represent the average American female's body. There might be just a few more Americans with voluptuous figures than in other countries, but for goodness' sake. I seriously doubt that any well-adjusted adult is going to self-combust if she sees a video game lady with a certain kind of figure.

Especially if that video game lady is a martial arts expert who spends her day beating people up. She's gonna look like someone who spends her day beating people up.

Thought #2: They're not real.

Let's just address this question: Who is going around telling video game designers what women should and shouldn't look like? A video game designer has the right to make their pixels look like anything they damn well want them to look like. It's their art. It's going to be stylized.

Some designers have taken efforts to make their characters look more photo-realistic, such as in Rise of the Tomb Raider. No matter the game, they're all man-made (or human-made, if you prefer). As humans, we're going to make our artwork in our style. If a designer wants to make some busty chick who has hair for clothes and legs a mile long, cool (lookin' at you, Bayonetta). If they want to make a character with more believable proportions and human imperfections, cool. Note: These proportions and imperfections are probably not going to be exactly like yours. Don't freak.



For those of us suffering from low self-esteem with regards to body image: These are not real bodies. They're pixels. Made by some dudes and dudettes whose jobs are to create concept art. Concept. Art. It's an idea represented by some pixels. Not a real person. Your body is the real one. Give yo'self a hug.

Thought #3: Guess what IS real? These people's jobs.

The people working in the video game industry are not just creating characters. They're building entire virtual worlds, designing gameplay, plot, writing dialogue, programming, de-bugging, recording motion sensors to understand how to animate movement. They're trying to meet a deadline and make money. They're trying to finish a game fast enough for this technology generation so they don't have to start from scratch for the next console.

I bet a lot of people want to make games where every single body is unique and imperfect, beautiful in its own way, and makes every single human gamer feel warm and fuzzy inside. I'm also betting that they have other priorities. Like maybe coming up with the next incredible feat of technological wonderment for our mass consumption so we can complain about it on the internets.

So those are my thoughts. I'm sure y'all have your own, so please weigh in!

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Published Jul. 24th 2015
  • bricko_1548
    If you -- male or female -- are basing your self-esteem in any way on cartoonish video game characters, or even idealized body types in popular media -- maybe try to grow up a little? If lots of people had ripped, beautiful bodies, they wouldn't be "ideals" -- they'd be the average schlub. I'm sorry the average schlub isn't a beauty ideal, but that's life. Expecting every body type to magically be treated and valued with aesthetic equality, so that your precious self-esteem is never ruffled in any way, is the height of narcissism.
  • David Fisher
    Featured Columnist
    Not to put the blame on the "victim" per se, but I think that the issue certainly roots itself in the very use of the word "victim". I find all sorts of "special interest groups" tend to spur on political issues more than they solve them nowadays, because I know even the most politically incorrect people that I have met tend to be fine with just about anyone as long as they "stay out of their way".

    I know that last part is going to get some attention but hear me out... You know how you tend to get offended or upset when someone disagrees with something that is important to you? Well that's how they feel all the time. In a world where traditional views are being erased at a staggering rate, can't you imagine how "scary" it would be for these people? In some countries people get killed over that kind of change. While it's a bit extreme to say that's the case in North America, I can imagine most "conservative" people feel attacked most of the time with these changes. Every time someone goes the step further to address them directly they're bound to flare up.

    The flip-side is that the "victims" tend to victimize themselves. While this seems paradoxical, it sort of makes sense based on the society we've come to sow. I mean, think about it... We love attention with the advent of social media, and what better way to get attention than to support or be part of these groups? It's a cancerous mindset that will prolong the fight for equality more than it will aid.

    And let's face it... in a capitalist market who do you think these groups are trying to help first: you, or their wallet? After all, their job relies on these issues going on forever. *cough* Medical research groups *cough*
  • Stan Rezaee
    Featured Contributor
    When it comes to realistic portrayal of the human body, video games are the last place anyone cares to see it. How the body look is the most irrelevant aspect of a game and this discussion started by a bunch of SJW who don't play video games finding something to nag about. If body image is that important to some people, than they should go play Saints Row The Third since you can be who ever you want.
  • UptownFunk
    "Especially if that video game lady is a martial arts expert who spends her day beating people up. She's gonna look like someone who spends her day beating people up."

    Yeah, that's a big issue too. Most of these female fighters DON'T look like they can realistically beat someone up. They're scrawny and not nearly as muscular as a peak-form physical athlete should be. Go look at the ESPN Body Issue. These characters should be jacked and have crazy leg and core muscles just like real athletes. The male characters already are jacked, let's get female characters more muscle-y too.
  • topher339
    I'm in agreement with the previous comments. There are plenty of games where the bodies match the game but there are those that don't as well. There are just as many men, if not more, as women in games with unrealistic bodies. It;s simply a matter of how much you let it bother you, how much you're willing to shrug off. Fact of the matter is, in most games, the hero simply cannot be overweight.
  • Acid Plague
    My two cents on this is that there are not many video games that have a plus sized female lead (such as Fat Princess) because if you look at what the character does in the game, they couldn't possibly be an overweight or even overly curvy person. It's just not possible.


    Mortal Kombat. They're fighters. They bend they flex they punch they kick. Theyre all in the same proportion as those girls that live zumba.

    Tomb Raider. She's a cave-delving, mountain-climbing, acrobatic spelunker who knows multiple hand to hand fighting styles. She isn't going to have a hardened body forged by twinkies, pizza, and ice cream.

    Mirror's Edge. Parkour? Has anyone seen an overweight person try to do parkour? The lead character wouldn't make it very far trying to infiltrate and evade if she couldn't bend over to touch her toes.

    As for your point being valid, though... yes, there are some games that are just completely unrealistic and seem geared to joystick playing other than the controller style. Dead or Alive I'm looking at you. There are some games out there that are just geared toward the male libido, but most games featuring a lead female role have an active, healthy, motivated female. If any woman lived the life of these leads, they would most likely share the physical attributes. And as for Bayonetta... well they are just basing that off the crazy stick-legged anime style like Vampire Hunter D where calves are possibly thicker than thighs, arms are waif-like, and the ass is non existent as legs seem to come directly out of the bottom of the rib cage.

    Sorry for any typos, phone escapades to comment like this tend to end with too many whoopsies, but I think my view has been expressed.
  • Durinn McFurren
    Yeah, I totally agree, and I'm glad to hear this coming from a woman as well. When I see these photoshops... I usually think 'I've seen women who looked like the original AND like the photoshop and all the way in between.' And as you point out, in an action game, it makes sense for the characters regardless of gender to be pretty fit. Maybe in a game featuring a female with a more sedentary profession it'd make sense to have her be less muscular and heavier.

    You also see a lot of unrealistic male bodies. How many men look like Duke Nukem? Or like the Prince of Persia? Or are as ripped as Ezio? We don't hear complaints about those (because males tend not to be so concerned over their body image, I think, and hence are pretty unlikely to go around thinking 'Oh no, I don't look like this character!'). Another problem is that, while giving the characters realistic waists in the photoshops, they often give them very unathletic limbs. Have you ever seem sportswomen, like, say, rugby players? Yeah, they have thicker wastes and maybe slightly thicker limbs than a lot of video game characters, but not the way these photoshops usually make them appear.

    And while I'm ranting about this, I hate when people complain about, say, Catwoman's low zipper. It seems like any time a female video game character exhibits any sexuality whatsoever, people attack it as a 'bad role model' and attack the developers for their 'juvinile male fantasies.' First, it's not just juvinile males who fantasize about women who exhibit their sexuality, I can assure you. Second and more importantly, there are women who enjoy going around in outfits that emphasize their sexuality. Why should there not be video game characters that do the same? And, why should male developers and writers not be allowed to incorporate such women into the game? It really comes down to the way I feel some people act as if they were feminists and want women to make their own choices - but then want to control women's sexuality just as much as our patriarchal culture tries to control them....

    What I do dislike is when photographers photoshop pictures of real models, partly because I just see no need for it.

    EDIT: One more thing - I will say I personally prefer the realistic look such as was given to the Tomb Raider reboot version of Lara Croft.
  • Rothalack
    Master O' Bugs
    "I seriously doubt that any well-adjusted adult is going to self-combust if she sees a video game lady with a certain kind of figure."

    This is the root of all of this. Poorly-adjusted adults without the capacity to see something and not be offended by it. Or even without the capacity to be offended by something and go *shrug* and move on with their lives.

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