A Discussion On Female Body Diversity In Games

A Discussion On Female Body Diversity In Games

Last week, critic Anita Sarkeesian published a video about female body diversity in games. “All the Slender Ladies” examines why games often showcase thin, young, humanoid women but rarely feature lady rock creatures or skeletal female priestesses. Male video game characters more often deviate from standards of male attractiveness, she explains.

Feminist Frequency’s “All the Slender Ladies”

“It’s as if male characters are free to embody whichever physique best communicates their personality or abilities,” Sarkeesian said, in comments that echoed a talk she gave in 2015 about the things she’d like to see change in video games. “But when it comes to the design of female characters, that kind of imagination or creativity doesn’t seem to exist.”

When female game characters, and especially playable characters, are uniformly thin, young and attractive, Sarkeesian argues, it reinforces the idea that a woman’s value is tied to this body type. Game designers staying true to the trope may be pleasing a large part of their audience, but are simultaneously shooting themselves in the foot: Diverse personalities are better mirrored by diverse character designs. Your game isn’t that fun if everyone’s the same.

On the player side, a dearth of body-type diversity can affect self-perception. Dmitri Williams, a new media professor at the University of South Carolina who studies video games, told me over email that body type diversity is important because “representations matter to both genders, and especially to young players learning what ‘normal’ is and wondering how they do or don’t fit”. When “normal” in video games doesn’t reflect “normal” in real-life, younger gamers can feel marginalised on a day-to-day level.

In her video Sarkessian spotlights the character-driven FPS Overwatch, citing some shortcomings in its roster’s diversity. It’s an interesting choice to critique, as the game is often praised for its diverse character roster.

At 2014’s BlizzCon, when Overwatch was revealed, Blizzard teased the male characters Reinhardt, Torbjörn, Hanzo and Winston, whose respective body types are muscular, stocky, sinewy and… gorilla. On the female side, Tracer, Mercy, Symmetra, Widowmaker and Pharah were showcased, all of whom are thin, Sarkeesian points out in her video.

“For all the apparent variety and diversity in the heroes Blizzard showed off at the game’s debut,” Sarkeesian comments, “there wasn’t much diversity to be seen in the body types represented by female characters.”

The game’s current line-up, which includes one character added since launch, is laudably more diverse. In Overwatch today, 12 heroes are male, nine are female and one is without gender. Of the women, Zarya has the physique of a bodybuilder, Mei is larger and Ana has the body type of an old woman. The gender ratio isn’t 50/50, but 1/3 of the women deviate from female body norms in gaming. Overwatch is certainly getting there.

Nicole Martins, a professor of media at Indiana University, co-authored a 2009 study on female body imagery in video games, and more recently, one last June on how hyper-idealised video game bodies affect men and women. “In our [2009] study, we analyzed over 8,000 human characters across 150 game titles. Only 358 were female (less than 5% of the video game population).” Noting the full diversity of Overwatch’s current roster, she added that Overwatch is a “great step in the right direction”.

Rabindra Ratan, who researches the psychological experience of video games at the University of Maryland, told me over email that body type diversity in Overwatch shows how far the game industry has come. “The wild success of Overwatch illustrates that most of the gaming public does not care to preserve gaming as a male-centric space, where characters are designed to satisfy macho instincts,” Dr Ratan told me.

Sarkeesian’s video points out that there’s still a lot of room for improvement when it come to body type in games. I’ll add, though, that three and a half months after Overwatch’s release, I’m still appreciating its character design, along with its its seven million players.


  • While games tend to feature feats of physical prowess which would warrant someone looking fit (ergo, more likely to fall within the bounds of what is typically considered attractive), size, shape and colour diversity are definitely something I’d like to see more of. I mean, really, very few games warrant realism, there’s no real reason for everyone to be a hot, thin, white(ish) person is there?
    It seems the only time you consistently see oversize characters are in fighting games and those (almost always male) characters are the slow-moving heavy hitters. In games like Dead or Alive (which let’s face it, aren’t really doing a lot to subvert tropes about female sexuality in video games to begin with) nearly every female character is the fast/light type, with a couple of exceptions like Tina who uses a wrestling fight style.
    Compare that with the male character diversity. Fewer fast/light with more heavy hitters and wrestlers. Same goes for Soul Calibur. Probably Street Fighter as well, but I think the last Street Fighter I played had only just added Cammy, who apparently goes to battle in a one-piece swimming costume. Without googling I couldn’t tell you how many females are even on the Street Fighter roster.

  • Argh my comment got ate.

    Basically, it’s good to see Sarkeesian still putting these out. There’s nothing wrong with requesting more diversity in the medium.

    If it’s as mature and legitimate as we say it is, then it’s a no brainer.

    • Nothing wrong with requesting it, but nothing wrong with developers deciding not to do it. People infer racism, ageism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia… blah blah blah, but unless a developer comes out and says, ‘oh no we don’t want any old or fat chicks in the game, that would be gross,’ its only speculation and entitlement talking.

      As for people who want more diversity, there’s nothing stopping them from supporting creators who do make a point of promoting that diversity, or even becoming creators themselves, rather than whining about not being able to identify with characters in a particular piece of entertainment media.

      • My original comment expanding a bit on that.

        I can infer whatever I want into a game that I don’t want to play. Feminist Frequency most definitely has engaged with the entertainment media it concerns itself with. So it can critique Overwatch however it bloody well wants.

        Sarkeesian has been targeted by the grossest elements of the toxic anonymous fringe for years now – I’d say they are doing their best to ‘stop’ her and anybody who is like-minded.

        You contradict yourself.

        • If you actually know anything about it (and don’t just listen to Kotaku writings on it, who are heavily in her pocket.) She has her own Goonies that are just as bad.

          A lot of her arguments can be countered and if done a different way, certain people would still find a way to be offended.

          I remember when a gawker media site wrote an article complaining about the lack of a female main character in ac Unity, then wrote another about the newest one complaining that the female character was token.

          Just keep an open mind. Some level of middle ground is likely the correct way to go about this. There are insane illogical zealots on both sides which will hurt the artform.

          • I’ll keep saying it – I had something else written up but the site logged out me out and it didn’t go through. That’s no biggie, but I tried my damndest to not come across as saying that.

            “Both sides are at fault” and all that – what is the point then, that’s what you’re saying.

            Taking ‘both sides’ to its logical extension, means we shouldn’t be discussing it.

            At all.

            “Now that’s censorship.”

            Can you imagine how idiotic I’d sound if I said that?

          • Uh. So your saying that me telling you to keep an open view is trying to tell you to not say anything? Im a bit confused.

            Im not saying there is no point. I’m saying there’s not much point in discussing things with the zealot factions on both sides, but other more sane people exist.

        • No-one is stopping anyone from inferring, but the tail shouldn’t wag the dog. At the end of the day, the developer is going to make (a) what he/she wants to make, and (b) what he/she thinks will bring the best economic outcome. This is also true for Feminist Frequency. Sarkeesian isn’t doing critiques out of the goodness of her heart. People support her because she says what they want to hear. People support mainstream games because (inclusively representative or not) they are games that they want to play. The alternative is to regulate, which I think most people would agree is antithetical to the creative process as well as entrepreneurial spirit.

          • The alternative isn’t to regulate, but to engage and learn from those who have already paid you money. The customer is always right, and if the customer – in this case it’s not Sarkeesian it’s just some average normal-body shaped woman, Sarkeesian is just the vehicle to voice their concerns with.

            The money bit always comes first. That’s kinda accepted.

            If the developer listens, they might actually MAKE MORE MONEY.

            That’s the best part!

            Both of you seem to want to play the man, not the ball. If you’ll forgive the sporting analogy.

            There’s a reason the headline calls this a discussion. It’s a conversation, not an edict or instruction from hairy bra-burning feminazis. Believe me I’ve met some.

          • I don’t know about making more money. I’m happy to be proven wrong, but Ubisoft (eventually) listened to people wanting female assassins and sales did not seem to increase. Syndicate actually performed poorer than Unity in its first week but then managed to make up ground. Neither release did anywhere near Black Flag’s numbers, even allowing that it was a cross-gen title. Ubisoft noted that Unity’s problems had impacted Syndicates sales, but when they included a female protagonist (and marketed the game heavily emphasising the dual protagonists) there was no noticeable jump in sales. Maybe there are a number of potential customers who would buy a more inclusive game, but I think that generally people will buy a game based on its overall premise and whether it is good or not, rather than on whether the protagonist is male or female, or what body type the characters have.

          • Ubisoft and Assassin’s Creed is a weird example, but ok. The video even gives a bouquet to it amongst the brickbats.

            I’ve not played one in a while and I generally don’t like the franchise really. I don’t expect the heavy-set character who owns the assassin’s hideout to get a starring role in the next game, nor should anybody.

            Would you consider a female protagonist in the next GTA or COD campaign a result of listening to this vocal minority, and then point out its them to blame if those games don’t match the numbers of the previous games?

            We’re talking in the realm of millions of dollars right?

          • All I’m suggesting there is that inclusiveness doesn’t necessarily equal better sales across the board. I’ve been trying to find an example of where a game in a series has become more inclusive and has done better sales-wise. The Witcher 3 also included a playable female protagonist for part of the game. although the game wasn’t to my knowledge marketed based on this fact, so difficult to say if it had an effect on sales. Same with The Last of Us.

  • Half the problem is that every other kind of media (Magazines, TV, movies, etc.) is constantly telling us what the socially acceptable female looks like so if video games don’t show us that we’re programmed to instantly dislike it becuase it isn’t the ideal. It’s a chicken and egg problem though because the only way things are going to change is if society starts changing its view to be more accepting of other body types.

    • I think there’s a difference between being accepting of other body types and being interested in media featuring those body types. Most people naturally feel attracted to certain body types, being those that appear healthy, fecund and voluptuous (women) or healthy, athletic and strong (men).

      • This. And it isn’t odd that she chose overwatch. She chose the game which has the most male diversity. Seriously, most Hero’s in games have a physique I could never achieve. These are fantasy engagements where people embody a persona that they want to be, not a persona they have already. This is like people who not pick the science in Star Wars. It’s a fantasy most people enjoy. Stop whining. (P.s love how you throw up the image of league characters that are sterotypically hot and leave off the swathe of other female characters that don’t fall into this zone. Good clickbait, you’re just as bad as the rest of the media you admonish kotaku).

  • I think Fire Emblem Fates did pretty well for the females. You’ve got ox-like (Effie), busty (Camilla, Charlotte, Kagerou), waif-like (Midori, Mozu), flat-chested (Hinoka, Selena), child-like (Elise, Nyx), well-muscled (Rinkah) etc.

    The only criticisms could be that the females are all ‘young’ and ‘attractive’, but I’ve always thought that this is a bullshit argument. It’s quite unusual to put unattractive women in any sort of entertainment media unless they are purposely designated the ‘hag’, ‘villain’ or ‘frumpy’ character. Age is merely a function of attractiveness rather than the other way around. There are plenty of actresses who are older than the typical 20-something starlet who get great roles and who are very attractive. Some of the arguments that older women aren’t represented in entertainment media discount older women who are attractive as an inconvenient presence. Case in point: Monica Belucci, who is 51 and still one of the hottest women on the planet 😉

    • You’re doing a dis-service to that game and its developers by hand-waving (hand-wanking?) away its female characters based on how hot they make you, champ.

      • Hang on, aren’t we only talking about body types here? I’m not trying to dismiss the characters as two-dimensional by any means.

        My second paragraph was not in relation to the game per se, but rather having a go at generalised criticisms of media containing only young/attractive females.

  • Of course, men have other problems with representation. Characters are almost always heroic and scruffy. Where’s the guy who likes to study fashion? the soft and talkative one? short and chubby?

    Regulated to the gag character roles and assumed to be gay. Which is where all the trans, fluid, and non- peeps would end up in games. If they existed.

    Yet again the problem is not females in games, it’s diversity. All sexuality, romantic, and gender identities need to be improved. The world could always use more heroes, but you can only have so many of one before you start going down the ranks.

    • She’s not claiming to dissect tropes and criticise games as a whole, she’s taking a very narrow approach and identifying what she feels are specifically tropes that disservice women.
      She’s not pretending that these issues don’t exist for other genders and various sexualities, these just aren’t pertinent to her project.
      Unfortunately every time I’ve seen a “tropes vs. men” video it’s been a weak parody of the Tropes vs. Women video du jour, and only serves to mock or discredit Anita’s platform instead of being a genuine discussion in it’s own right. This unfortunately fuels the sarcastic “but what about the menzzz?!!” response to the argument, pointing out that men have always had the loudest voice and best representation in media through history, so any problems we claim to experience today are trivial by comparison.

      • And women are the popular oppression group, so people who have legitimate problems but don’t sell media are considered to be whiners. We’re all getting shit on, we should be working as a collective to get out of it, not competing about who smells the worst.

        Anna as an individual is basically worthless as an authority, but it is an important discussion. I was hoping it could be turned into something of value. We really shouldn’t need to be explaining segregation in diversity discussions but here we are.

        And my point was to highlight there’s more to the discussion than boys and girls, but yet again I suppose we don’t matter, do we?

        • I said Anna didn’t set out to attend to all tropes, or attempt to address all genders or sexualitilies, and that all the “men vs tropes” response videos have been disasters. I’m yet to see anyone attempt to make an LGBT vs tropes video so I didn’t include it in my comment.

          I’d listen to that side of the discussion, if you’d care to point out the resources or create some.

    • Fire Emblem Fates does a good job of representation. For example, the character of Forrest is a male who loves cuteness and dresses as a female. He isn’t gay or trans as far as we know, just a cross-dresser. We’ve also got Hayato (very young and scrawny – unless you make him a berserker), Dwyer (very emo-looking), Gunter (the old man), Benny (scary, scarred and buff), Percy (the boy hero) and many others. There are even your stereotypes like Xander (Greek god), Leo (beautiful boy) and Silas (standard heroic). Nothing will ever be perfectly representative of all types/races but no-one ever said every product has to be a ‘fit’ for every potential customer.

      • The young bit makes sense at least. Can’t have old unfit soldiers going to war, Gunter being the exception.

  • What about the diversity in Dragon’s Crown? On the male side you’ve got your musclebound gorilla, your knight in shining armour and your tall dark and handsome. On the female side you’ve got your muscular amazon, your young and slender and your buxom beauty.

    3 common fantasies and stereotypes for each gender, plenty for everyone, yet nobody seems to see past the sorceress?

  • I can’t think of any male Overwatch characters aside from Roadhog or Torbjorn that really go against the standard macho guy body type and they’re pretty cliched. Ignoring the robots and the monkey, everyone else is implied or shown to be fairly active and having a physically appropriate body type. I think even Reinhardt is still in decent shape despite being an old man.

    Body diversity is a good thing to strive for when it makes sense. You wouldn’t really expect Nathan Drake to be Tubbs McGee for the same reason you don’t expect unfit people to get into the army. Considering the majority of video games are action-focused with a lot of stuff that appears to be physically demanding, I’m not surprised that both men and women are shown as being, for the most part, slim, toned, and physically fit. That said, video games are escapist fiction so all power to people that want to make games starring male and female couch potatoes doing ninja flips or parkour or something cool.

    • It reminds me of a recent one. I can’t remember who it was but it was a feminist critic who criticised Uncharted 4 because they didn’t change Nathan Drake to a female character for the last game. I can understand why she would like more female representation in games but UC4 introduced one of the strongest female characters and changing the main character in the series is one of the most flawed arguments I’ve seen.

  • I understand both sides of the argument and think both have validity. When it comes to something like Battlefield 1 for example, having many female soldiers on the front lines wouldn’t be representative of the game. You could argue that Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate made the error of trying to meet diversity quota rather than trying to be realistic. But then again, Assassin’s Creed isn’t the most realistic game and I played right through it without noticing the gender quota until Sarkeesian brought it up as a triumph for equality. It’s odd that only after it’s pointed out that I notice how inaccurate it is for the time setting.

    Overwatch is something else. We have a game set in a non-existent alternate world where anything can be true. You could argue that a character who spends all their time running around fighting isn’t going to be overweight, but at the same time they’re probably not going to be skinny without muscle. Overwatch is one of those games where they can push for whatever standard they want. I will first and foremost support a developer for doing what they want to do. If they want all their female and male characters to be supermodels then good on them. If they want to meet a gender equality standard then I’ll praise them for being progressive. But it’s their choice, and I won’t support any critic who picks on someone for not meeting the critic’s standards of gender equality against realism.

    • It’s kinda the point that you didn’t notice the diversity in AC. It’s natural and well done.

    • Realism in games is at best an affection, the developer emulating systems from the real world to create passable familiarity. Taking elements of history or lived experience and whacking them into a positive feedback loop of interactions doesn’t automatically confer accuracy or gravitas.

      This formulation of “X game is historically accurate” is flat, and linear, and a lazy defence for something that doesn’t need defending. It is an arbitrary determination that women shouldn’t exist, in any shape or form, in a historically-influenced work of fiction. Even outside of games that ape realism, imposing restrictions on body types in fantasy worlds is nonsense. Yeah, trying to justify body types with in-universe explanations about physiology and musculature in arcade-styled games is nonsense.

      • True. My point is that with something like AC:Syndicate it may not be historically accurate but it works for the game as it’s the result the developer wanted. When critics say that developers don’t break historical accuracy to include more females, it’s ridiculous. The developers can aim for historical accuracy or they can aim for partial historical accuracy. They can aim the game at their target audience, or they can attempt to expand the audience through more inclusive features. In the end they’re making what they want to make. Not because they’re sexist, because they have a vision for a product they want and they don’t want to be bogged down by politics.

        • Your point is that whatever the dev says should be accepted without critique or question.
          Why shouldn’t their decisions be questioned? Examination of the development process, mechanically and artistically, and surrounding facets of the industry isn’t a bad thing.

          Also, regardless of what decisions or features are implemented, the target audience is still the target audience e.g. if a game has “more inclusive features” then the target audience is already accounted for an no expansion occurs. It’s an odd detail but it’s divisive and speaks to a core demographic that accepts all games at face value, which is clearly not true (Dear Esther and Gone Home.)

          • “Your point is that whatever the dev says should be accepted without critique or question.”

            Nope. Not even remotely my point. My point was that it’s ridiculous when critics call a developer “sexist” for not changing the game to include more female characters. A game is about two things. Artistic expression and making money. The first is a case of the developer making the game they want. People are free to criticise it but it shouldn’t be assumed that a developer is sexist based on the gender of their characters.

            The second point you mentioned yourself. Target audience. You want sales you make a game that appeals to a target audience. A good example of this is the Bioware games that attempt to appeal to a wider audience. A bad example is when a critic complains about the main character in UC4 being a straight white male.

            If marketing thinks that an overweight female character will sell the game then they’ll incorporate an overweight female character. If they think that a strong young male character will sell the game well then they’ll incorporate a strong young male character. They can choose to spend time and money allowing for the player to choose if they can play a female or a male, but if marketing doesn’t think it’s very profitable then why would they spend a lot of money and time on something that doesn’t fit into their artistic vision and won’t increase profits?

  • I’m all for diversity in video games however this issue isn’t specific to just skinny women vs realism. I’ve said this before on kotaku (many years ago) but to date I can probably count on one hand the number of characters I’ve played as that I actually related or felt represented my body type/race type.

    Equality isn’t just making sure women are equally represented.

  • Just jumping in here to thank everyone so far for being reasoned, civil and chilled in the comments. <3.

  • She won’t be happy it seems until all games have 50/50 gender representation.
    I’m sorry but life isn’t like that. There are both male and female dominated interest, jobs etc. By forcing diversity you aren’t making anyone equal just resented.
    Games are opening up now but they are still male dominated, what is wrong with targeting your audience. Female characters used to be a token effort but now days they are as big a part in games as the male characters the market has led this push. Some fighting games the women are some of the best ones. Isnt that a good thing? And there attractiveness does mean more male players will choose womem as well. We still have a way to go but they seem to be going ok on there own.

    • Some fighting games the women are some of the best ones. Isnt that a good thing?

      According to Game Theory, being an attractive fighter is actually a psychologically provable tactic.

    • And there attractiveness does mean more male players will choose womem as well.

      Misuse of “there” aside, that’s part of her argument: they’re just there as eyecandy.

      The 50/50 split isn’t even what this current bit’s about, but that you rarely see a character who isn’t the “perfect” body shape. We need more muscle bound women (Zaraya) more “big” women, women older than their mid twenties…

      • Depends heavily on the subject of the game. For example, in a fighting game I wouldn’t expect there to be a 90 year old unfit woman, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see a muscle woman like Zaraya. When they put in characters that don’t really fit with the lore then it’s generally for comedic value. It would probably be more disrespectful to include an overweight female character for comedic value.

        • For example, in a fighting game I wouldn’t expect there to be a 90 year old unfit woman

          Uet we still have fit old men (Henhachi)

          • The key word being “fit”. A 90 year old fit female character also wouldn’t be out of place.

          • Mortal Kombat. You have Sindel who’s a fit old woman, or you have Katana who is over 1,000 years old.

          • I’ll pay Sindel fir having the gret hair, but Katana still looks like she’s in her early 20’s. Not even a wrinkle.

          • @mic yeah, she’s definitely had some work done. Maybe being covered in blood is rejuvenating.

      • Thanks for the grammar correction for no reason. The pseudo intellectualism will make me respect to your comments a lot more.

        The author touches on male to female ratios so why is it not a valid point for discussion?

        Most games run off stereotypes. The old Kung fu master. The young fit male. The skinny young girl. Universal stereotypes. Besides going an Amazonia way there is no real muscle bound female stereotype that would work for an international audience.
        Hell even female professional fighters are still thin and lean. While there are some male fighters easily classified as over weight.
        You could add more diversity for females in games, but would it sell? At the end of the day it’s all about sales and appealing to your market and games with young thin women sell. Not just to males but to women as well. At this stage I’d see more baby steps taken towards other female body types as the author has said over watch is doing. But we have to give it some time as well you don’t want to make a game full of other types and have it fail then no one will do it at all. Small steps are better than nothing.

        • The old Kung fu master. The young fit male. The skinny young girl. Universal stereotypes

          The stingy jew, the bushwacking Australian, the flaming homosexual. They’re fairly universal. They’re also played out as hell, not to mention offensive.

          That said, looking at your suggestions, why not have the old kung-fu master be female? The skinny young man? (Thanks TF2! 😀 ) Subvert the stereotype.

          Besides going an Amazonia way there is no real muscle bound female stereotype that would work for an international audience.

          Zarya from Overwatch.

  • Need to get ready for a software release so while I don’t have time to watch the video, I’d like to chime in with a point I have.

    When female game characters, and especially playable characters, are uniformly thin, young and attractive, Sarkeesian argues, it reinforces the idea that a woman’s value is tied to this body type.

    If I may counter; doesn’t that indicate a problem in the person (often an adult male) and his (or her) upbringing and not the game?

    It’s the old question, nature vs nurture.

    That aside, I’d like to focus more on her methods of analysis that I’ve seen in her other videos.

    While some games tend to have slim, buxom females purely for the fan-service there are many cases where that feature is way down on the list of the character’s worth.

    An example of which is right behind her in the thumbnail; Lara Croft.

    Yes, she is curvy. Yes, she has the following trope of wearing two square feet of fabric or even less.

    But who, especially the males, think of that first while playing the game?

    Can’t speak for others but I for one don’t because Croft has stronger traits than being eye candy for 14 year olds.

    One is playing a character that is raiding tombs, climbing walls that would have firemen and astronauts shy from, gunning down beasts that would have Steve Urwin crying into a teddy bear if he was still alive while showing a backbone (independence) that sometimes isn’t even seen in male characters.

    Croft as a character is also up there with Samus Aran; another sex symbol if I may use the term but both broke a common mould in gaming. Both stood put in a medium that was dominated by male leads.

    So when Sarkeesian looks at the fan service of such characters, I find it hard to tune in with her as in the process she herself is devaluing some of the best examples of female leads in gaming.

    One last example I’d like to leave with is her claim that Ocarina of Time eventually disempowered Zelda near the end.

    All I could saw was, “Wait… what?! No freaking way!”

    In the game’s lore, Ganondorf had been tearing Hyrule apart trying to find Zelda. So what if she got captured when she let her guard down. If that had happened to a male character no-one would bat an eye so why should Zelda be different?

    Also, again within the lore, Zelda’s elusion from Ganondorf isn’t a sign of disempowerment; she eluding someone with all that power for years is a strong and notable trait yet gets devalued implying the game disempowers her in the end.

    Anyhow, that’s my $0.02. Don’t get me wrong, Sarkeesian is allowed to imply such things but I feel more often than not her methodology is counter productive and in looking for sexism of females in games she’s inadvertently pushing into the background values that make them stand out.

    Once work is done, I hope to be in a state to watch the video and come with a objective analysis of it.

    • Another thing I’d point out about characters like Lara Croft or Samus Aran, is that they are very physically active characters. It’s natural to expect that they would have athletic body types. It would be completely unrealistic and also send dangerous messages about exercise and fitness if Lara Croft was portrayed as overweight with the amount of running and jumping she does.

  • Seriously, though – it’s clearly not terribly difficult for Blizzard to release new skins for the heroes – surely it can’t be too difficult to provide a male/female spinoff for each character & add a few extra voice lines? I’d love to play the female version of Torbjorn

    • If they want to. But it’s like asking the author of a book to write a version with an interchangeable lead.

      Now for games that don’t have characters in the multiplayer, but are like scifi super soldier 1-50. That’s different and it should be a choice there. (As long as it isn’t trying to be historically accurate etc.)

      • Well I think that if there’s one thing that games such as Fallout/Mass Effect have shown it’s that you *can* have completely interchangeable genders who retain the same character’s personality & lines however with a similar voice actor/actress…

        Granted, yes if you want to call this out during games who want to be historically accurate about the likelihood of reversed gender roles in those sorts of times then yes that’s going to be difficult but I still reckon it’s completely feasible to achieve especially in games that make different character models/skins available purely for cosmetic purposes.

        • Sure but I mean. Bioware games are not exactly the highest form of story telling. Like Shepard as a character is a pretty generic nobody.

        • It’s plausible. In the end they just have to ask how much effort it would be and if it’s worth the effort. For a game like Overwatch I’m sure there would still be a lot of effort (new character models, new voice actors, testing). It’s a lot of work. For other games, especially single player narratives, it’s a lot more work. That’s why I praise companies like Bioware that put that extra effort in.

          But as I said, for a game like Overwatch it comes it “is it worth it?”

          If they spend all this money and time creating female versions of the male characters and male versions of the female characters, will it enhance sales of the game?

          • Probably not but then again does adding in Olympics skins & voice lines as random drops enhance the sales of the game?

          • Good point. Skins are fairly easy to do in comparison to actually changing models and voices but incorporating a new game mode wouldn’t be that easy.

    • Man, I wish I had a link, from someone who was annoyed at Anitas claims and she pointed out that the women in Overwatch did have a variety of body types before Zarya and Mei. They were just swept under the ‘skinny’ rug.

      This is the problem I have with her videos; she is very selective and I don’t feel the full picture is considered when he does her videos. Like the examples I listed early; they both prove her point but when I bring the complete picture in, I cannot help but feel she is inadvertently devaluing good role models for games (male and female).

    • The point doesn’t stand when the greatest distinctions are minor variations in height, bust, and posterior size. Compared to the initial male characters in Overwatch, the females had a vastly reduced range of physiques. Which is the point: not much diversity.

      Article said a lot more about the author’s ideology than the subject at hand.

    • Just read that, and the link you put below too. They were great. She seems to have actually considered everything about women in games, and even the male counterparts in many cases, to come to her point, instead of just selecting the examples that suit a specific narrative.

  • How about not demanding to be included, but creating our own space in the gaming world? Someone just needs to come along and make a successful game catering to all these such critiques. I don’t think the current developers/artists need to compromise their vision to be more inclusive. I know that’s probably potentially a sexist thing to say but above all else video games are art, and sure they sometimes use sexualisation to greater market but those are cases of bad art. A progressive visionary should be able to cater to such audiences. And if there truly is a demand for video games with less slender female body types then there is a market for it.

    But I think it’s just not productive complaining about the current state, more productive asking for what you want and hoping you get it, and even more productive creating that thing. Current companies who are making money on their tried and true formula really don’t need to make a change, but if there’s a demand then someone can innovate, or someone can come fill the niche. Popular indie games can help influence big budget games, even.

    Just my thoughts. No hate!

    • The thing is, there are already very talented creators out there in the indie scene making games involving any number of minority representations. It’s just that the people who do the complaining want to force the mainstream to change to accommodate their particular preference. They’ll never be happy, because it will never happen. The mainstream is driven by market forces, end of story.

      • There’s a difference between “must force every AAA game to have a black, lesbian, Jewish, vertically challenged, blind, mute protagonist” and “hey, it’d be cool if AAA games also had characters from other backgrounds instead of just (or primarily) straight white males”.

        Why is it just indie developers should be inclusive? Why shouldn’t AAA developers be as well? There’s plenty of female/people of colour/Asian/you name it gamers out there too. Why aren’t they considered a market force?

        Seriously, “SJWs” aren’t some evil force out there trying to make every single developer ever only cast minority characters in every role, full stop.

        There’s a balance to be struck between your point of view and someone like Anita’s. It’s that happy medium we should be striving for. Realistic levels of diversity isn’t a personal preference.

        That doesn’t mean there needs to be a token representation of every minority in all games – but it does mean there should (not must, but should) be a realistic mix at least. That doesn’t mean shoehorning minorities into preexisting lead roles. That’s silly. But it does mean there should be more diverse characters created from scratch.

        You’re happy with the status quo, that’s cool. But not everyone is, and that doesn’t just include “extremists” like Anita.

  • I am starting to get tired of her. We get it, we have a long way for equality,but can we stop feeding her with attention?

  • …whose respective body types are muscular, stocky, sinewy and… gorilla.

    Isn’t this all just different measures of “muscular”? You don’t see scrawny or badly overweight men. Which, mind you, is reasonable, because these are characters who either have martial prowess or are constantly active, carrying huge loads such as weapons, ammo, etc. A certain amount of muscle development or at least toning is to be expected from both male and females in this kind of games. And I think that’s fine. They are action heroes (or villains), and as such, they represent something to strive towards, an ideal of what we could be. As nice whatever little validation could we get from seeing that the people kicking ass in our screens have the same bodies that we’ve cultivated by sitting on a couch 24/7 eating crap and never lifting a finger, it’s both unrealistic and uninspiring.

  • Sarkeesian is spot on. I don’t care if you think she’s complaining about things that don’t matter (complaining about someone else complaining is invariably more petty, and it does matter), I don’t care if you don’t always agree with her on every point, she is bloody well spot on and I don’t think it’s even open to debate here.

    Male characters do see more diverse representation than female ones (as ridiculous as that seems given the amount of games with a brown haired white man with gun and stubble as the protagonist) and such repeated representation of the same body types does have a tangible, and negative, impact on the people that fall outside of the represented ones (both male and female, but women, as usual, get the short end of the stick here, hence the term feminism instead of equalism or humanism, even if the latter names might be a better description for what most interpretations of feminism strive for).

    As I see it that’s all you can talk about and if you are arguing against it you must be trying to deliberately misinterpret what she is saying.

  • The interesting aspect of represtation and diversity in games is the whole push and pull of business and art. It’s a struggle that often happens when art is mass produced.

    As games cost millions to make, the business side wants to do as much as possible to ensure recouperation and then profit. The tendency is often to cast the widest, most appealing net, so protagonists tend to be the most appealing. And what is the most appealing? Unfortunately one of the paths of least resistance (and usually least artistic) is to appeal to our most simplest biological urges.

    As humans, our basic goal is to further our species. The majority of us are heterosexual so furthering our species means mating and raising little humans. We are very naturally wired to seek out the optimal mating partner.

    For men and women this means very different things. Men are looking for the most fertile and capable of breeding, this includes indicators of youth such as smooth, blemish free skin, larger eyes etc and breeding capabilities revolve around physical attributes such as full perky breasts for feeding and pronounced hips/buttocks for child birth. Women are looking for providers, so things like strength, power and wealth are indicators of provision. Broad shoulders and chest suggest a man can build, hunt and defend whilst social indicators of wealth and authority are sought after attributes that relate to providing food and shelter. It’s why women wear make up that makes eyes appear larger, lipstick and blush that simulate the flow of blood that occurs during sex and clothing that highlights their waist/breasts/hips. And it’s why men with large arms and shoulders are hot and it’s why men with fancy cars, big bank accounts and brand name watches can get away with being sexy if they aren’t physically stunning. It’s all just biology, it happens in the animal kingdom all the time and humans are not exempt.

    Obviously, we as humans have transcended a lot of these primative attitudes and practices but they’re still just a part of our nature. So, when you look at the marketing of video games, it’s hardly surprising that people want to make their protagonists look like ideal representations of what we’re biologically wired to be attracted to. And thus, the push and pull of business and art. We want escapism and virtual experiences and publishers want to make their money back and generate success.

    I think we as consumers should push for the more artistic experiences to be favoured. People complain that SJWs are trying to impose diversity on developers and that bothers me because I think a legion of white, square jawed triangular shaped male protagonists and mannequin shaped swimsuit model female protagonists have more to do with highly targeted (and biologically exploitative) marketing and focus groups than they do with artistic vision. That’s the kind of imagery used to sell material shit like sports cars and soft drinks, we should expect more from art.

    Note: I think we’re on the right path, I think games and their protagonists are becoming more diverse. We have some ways to go, but we need to keep addressing it if we want to keep the ball rolling.

    • My question is why people expect the AAA space to eschew the pursuit of profit (going down the well-established route you set out above) in favour of being inclusive. There are plenty of ‘artistic’ and inclusive games that don’t prioritise commercial success. By and large people complaining about lack of inclusive games ignore these, perhaps because they are low-profile, but it seems easier to attack the big players rather than to seek out and support the little ones. People like Anna Antropy have been plugging away for a while, making games for people outside the male-dominated hetero-normative sphere.

      • The simple answer is because inclusiveness and profitability aren’t mutually exclusive. We can have a future where games of all budgets are inclusive. why should art be limited by profit?

        • It’s the age-old question. Most artists make poor business-people, whereas someone who is driven by making a profit doesn’t give a stuff about people’s ‘feelings’ if is doesn’t benefit the bottom line. That’s where philanthropy comes in.

          A company like EA or Activision is going to sales data and focus-group testing to shape a product, not artistic attributes. The devs are the people who have the most sway in making a game inclusive. The bigger the game and the budget, though, the more the devs have to bow to the publishers’ wishes.

          I think there is more opportunity for grass-roots ‘inclusiveness’ by devs using crowd-funding to show proof of interest and also by indies self-funding the development of a game. If one of these games is a commercial success, you’ll find the big publishers more willing to take a chance on them. Publishers tend to be risk-averse, which is demonstrated by CoD, Battlefield and AC following a standard formula. The biggest risk EA has taken recently is going to WWI for Battlefield, but it will still follow the standard MP FPS formula as sales data shows that this works.

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