In the past few days, thanks to our dysfunctional political system, the talk of sexual assault and general sexism towards women is front in center. Now I am not going to talk about any one politics but this seems like a good time for personal reflection. Three years ago I wrote an article about Sexism in Gaming. In the time that has passed my views on many things have changed and have become more diverse. I also feel during this time the video game industry has gotten better about how female characters are portrayed.
An example of this gradual improvement is the female character design from Mortal Kombat 9 to 10. In MK 9, all the female characters essentially had the same body type of a large breasted supermodel. Plus, their base outfits were basically character specific bikinis. An ideal game for a young boy or girl who just hit puberty. But not ideal for getting past the idea that women are eye candy. Though for me personally, I do not fault Mortal Kombat 9 for not having women with realistic figures mostly because the entire game is not based in reality. There is a four armed behemoth that can tear people apart. Or characters can receive major trauma to major organs and get back up like nothing happened. So having women in a bikini that can cut people into tiny pieces is not out of place for this game. With that said, having all the women’s breasts defy gravity was not necessary to improve the game play.
Now in Mortal Kombat 10 I feel that there were many intentional design changes for all the female characters. For example, all of the female characters have their own believable body types, instead of copying and pasting like in MK 9. Also there are no female skins that are just blatant eye candy. Now there are several skins that show some skin but nothing that’s just screams “fan service”. Another thing about the skins is that pretty much all of them would be practical to wear in a fight. Which is nice as long as you are not the one to have a fatality used on them. At that point it really doesn’t matter what one wears.
This is just one of many games that have come out in the past three years that show women more than just objects. Other examples would include Overwatch and the Call of Duty Franchise. Each of these games have playable female characters that are not just there to fill time. Now there are some people who will say that even, for example, Overwatch’s female characters are still to sexualized. Or that there is not enough diversity with female characters. To those people I say “get over yourself”.
Has the industry as a whole gotten better about having respectable and interesting female characters? Yes. Does the industry still have female characters that appeal to young boys or girls, if they swing that way, that are hitting puberty? Yes. Can the industry do more to have more women in their ranks to make games to appeal to women? Yes. Will the sexualization of women ever completely go away in gaming? No. But can we all push for more games that don’t just show one dimension of an individual or group? Yes.