Friday, July 24, 2015

Frankly, I'm Okay With How Most Women Look in Video Games

Since this was linked numerous times on my Facebook page and my feed, and subsequently hidden because I didn't need to be attached to every posting - seriously guys, too much - people have been seeking out my opinion. What about? Bulimia.com, and yes that is a real website, did a reverse photoshop of video game characters, women specifically. In doing so, they are letting the world know that not being a size 0 is perfectly okay. In fact, it's pretty darn normal given the current waist size for men in the US is nearly 40 inches, and almost 38 for women. But women portrayed in the media, real and digital, have unrealistic body proportions. Longer legs, thin waists, hefty busts, essentially Barbie - which is not anatomically possible. You'd have health issues your entire life.

So the website took it upon themselves to address the concerns that they have with video game women. I know what some of you are thinking. That as a feminist I should be on board with these changes. That game developers are perpetuating stereotypes and images about the female body and those people should be ashamed of themselves.

Honestly? I'm passive about the whole thing. I mean, yeah, great. You took some known female characters and tried to make them more "real" to what a woman in the US would typically look like.

Altering the looks of the fighting characters is silly. I realize that athletic women come in multiple shapes and sizes, but the ones who had muscles got an improper makeover. The women who had healthy bodies like Jade from Mortal Kombat after the reverse photoshop now no longer hold the figure of a martial arts expert. And I watch a lot of real-world tournaments to know how men and women look in the arena. She may be busty, but Jade has the form of a black belt who trains daily.

Even shopping the bikini clad woman on the GTA V cover seems a bit silly. She wasn't overkill on the standards to begin with. She looked healthy. Her chest wasn't busting out. She had a bit of thigh and butt fat, and looked happy. The altered version isn't bad either, but I didn't see an issue with the original. You could argue that my brain has been warped by the media to think this way, but I've been studying film and television for 16 years. It's amazing how little I can be persuaded by a 15 second commercial. Instead I'll sit there and critically review it to determine it's affects on the population at large.

Also shopping Nabooru was poor taste. She's not even human. Yes her body is completely unrealistic for a HUMAN female, but again...not human. So we'll ignore that attempt to photoshop.

My other concern is that this could send the wrong message to the women who are naturally thin and whispy. Who have bodies like Rikku from Final Fantasy X-2 or Cortana from Halo, because yes - those women exist. I have that figure. And it's just the way that my body was built. I've TRIED to put on weight. I have been for years. But it's incredibly difficult. Maybe that'll change when my metabolism slows down, or they find a fix for my digestive problems. I don't know. But to call out the men and women who are healthy and have those types of bodies can only do harm.

Many people may not know this but an eating disorder is not just about the loss of weight to an extreme level (where it can cause irreversible damage to your body or death). It's is an unhealthy view of food and your body. That includes over-eating. If a young man or woman with a body like the biki-clad woman from GTA5 were to come across this site and see that their body is not "right," and they have to be like the photoshop version, it could cause an eating disorder to form.

That may sound silly to a few of you, but it does happen. I have been picked on since I was eight for being too thin. Yeah. Eight years old. I was too thin at eight when I was still growing up. When I started modelling. Go fig! And I've been teased about my thin arms and waist ever since then. "Eat a hamburger," is something I commonly heard throughout high school. Today I make fun of my size because I know I'm thin. I like food. It's the way my body is. Your words don't affect me. I eat healthy and I make choices that work for my body. But as a child or a teenager, hell even as an adult, if you don't have that mentality starting off to love yourself, you're going to be affected by messages like the ones Bulimia.com was attempting to convey. Thus, a negative impact.

From a gaming perspective, I look to these characters as fantasy representations. They're not real people, or animals, or aliens, or whatever. If the game were on Earth with human beings, okay having "real" bodies would make more sense. But when you're on another planet, time period, with creatures that have 3 arms, purple skin, and big noses, I'm not going to expect "ideal" body proportions. Let's pick our battles in the appropriate frame-work. And let's not dismiss the developers that are providing us with awesome characters that fit with today's body. Horizon: Zero Dawn which premiered at E3 this year looks glorious. And all the humans look pretty darn real in size, shape, colors, you name it. It also helps that the story takes place on a future dystopian Earth.

As a feminist, I don't really have too much issue with how women look in video games. Yes most of them could use a breast reduction because ZOMG you would have eternal back problems with some of those boobs. My problem is with how men, women, gay, straight, black, white, Muslim, Catholic, and everything in between, are emotionally and narratively portrayed in games. Stereotypes. That's what should be the central focus. We can worry about the boob size later.

And pants that go below the thigh. Real pants would be nice to see every once in a while.


Update 7/27/15: Some additional reading - Forbes sees where I'm going with this one.

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