[Note: this is a work in progress. Don’t be surprised if you see this changed/expanded in the next little while.]
Hi, there. If you’ve found your way here, it’s probable that you fit into one of two categories; either you were linked to this blog somewhere , or you’re someone looking for material to address a certain point regarding sexism in gaming. Since the two cases are pretty different, I’ll address them separately.
If you identify as a feminist or ally, great! Welcome! Please read this guide here that will help you find your way around.
If you don’t feel you identify as a feminist or ally, that’s great, too! You can read this post right here addressing possibilities for why you were linked here. It’ll also give you some good directions for where to get started even if you weren’t linked here and are just curious.
Before we start: this isn’t about you
There are a lot of popular misconceptions out there regarding sexism in the gaming world. A lot of the time, it can be hard to confront the reality that something we love can be sexist, because that might mean that we are sexist for liking it, right? So let me be clear that this blog isn’t about judging people for their individual tastes. It’s about judging people who systematically stereotype and dehumanize women for personal gain and profit – the devs, the game studios, the game artists, and even the game journalists. This blog isn’t about judging you. That would be useless and counter-productive, to say the least.
Now let’s move on…
Before we move on to anything else, you should really read the original article that I wrote looking at unequal depictions of women in game art of all kinds. The article clearly lays out how women are consistently under-represented, depicted in more sexualized outfits, and depicted in more passive and less combat-able roles in game art from all areas of gaming. This includes an exhaustive number of numbers, charts, and a clear description of my methodology and reasoning should anyone wish to try to reproduce my results.
It might be that you find yourself having disagreements with things set out in the article. And that’s cool. I suggest reading this post here, which responds to the most common arguments I received against the results I set out.
Other categories that might interest you could include…
Once you’ve read the initial article, you might be interested in reading follow-up posts that use the same methods applied to other areas of gaming. To that end, any of my posts tagged as “numbers“ will help you out, but here’s a list of specific posts for those of you looking for something in particular:
- My original article: examining art from MMOs, console games, CCGs, and D&D 4th Edition
- World of Warcraft: Part 1: raw numbers, Part 2: caveats, Part 3: unequal class depictions)
- Major gaming fansites & misogynist language: Part 1: initial numbers, Part 2: correcting for flawed methods, Part 3: conclusions
- Magic:The Gathering: Part 1: trends in sexist art over time, numbers, Part 2: (side debate) male mages versus female mages, Part 3: actual pictures and caveats
- Dragon Magazine (D&D fan magazine published by WotC): Sexist trends in artwork in Dragon Magazine for 2010.
One of the biggest issues that plagues women in game art is the way in which they are frequently distorted beyond what is anatomically possible in order to emphasize their sexy bits so as to appeal to a presumed straight male viewer. The reason this is problematic is because video game men get anatomy+ – anatomy in which certain characteristics are emphasized and exaggerated in order to make them heroic. But video game women get anatomy-, literally becoming less human in order to be read as heroic.
These depictions become so ubiquitous that we often have trouble seeing just how inhuman a lot of these video game women have become. So one of the things that I make a point of doing here is using my knowledge of anatomy to analyze game art and illustrate just how impossibly distorted video game women are and explain the many reasons why they simply couldn’t exist in real life.
- Soul Calibur: Taki: torpedo breasts and lack of internal organs
- Street Fighter: Chun Li: waifish arms, ridiculously exaggerated legs, lack of internal organs or ribcage
- World of Warcraft: Human mage: disembodied arm, lack of internal organs/ribcage, anti-gravity boobs
- Magic: the Gathering: Azure Mage – Magic 2012: arm disconnected from body, non-Euclidian ribcage, impossible cleavage
- Forsaken World: Promo art: 80 year old breasts, anorexic torso, obese butt and thighs, freakily distorted Dhalsim arms
- Blade and Soul: ridiculously exaggerated legs, lack of internal organs/ribcage, ginormous boobs, ridiculously small head
Something else you might find helpful in learning about the unequal depictions of women in game art are posts in which I took female video game characters in sexualized poses and costumes and swapped their gender to turn them into men. I could write 10,000 words about why the things we take for granted in our depictions of women are actually pretty ridiculous, but this is an instance where a picture is worth (at least) 1000 words.
- FFXIII: Vanille -> Van
- World of Warcraft: gender-swapping “Crapping Frost Mage” (most successful BY FAR)
- Hyung Tae Kim: Magna Carta gender-swap
- FFXII: Balthier & Fran -> Balthiera & Frank
- FFIX/FFX-2: Yuna & Kuja
- Civilization the board game: Abraham Lincoln (not quite a gender-swap, but close enough)
Other excellent places to start
Here are some other miscellaneous posts that can serve as a good jumping-off point for understanding common gaming-related gender fails:
- Game art fail: A look at positive depictions of women next to awful depictions of women in D&D
- Game art fail: Double-standards in Dragon Magazine art (see also: unequal class depictions WoW game art)
- Advertising fail: Why porn as game advertising is inherently ridiculous and counter-productive
- Advertising fail: How online game publishers literally advertise their games with women’s body parts
- Argument fail: Why the idealization of men in video games (Marcus Fenix, WoW men, etc) is not and never will be the same as the rampant sexualization of female characters (related: no sexy men with open shirts and low cut pants are not “as bad” as women wearing two spangles and a thong)
- Argument fail: Why Bayonetta is not a positive female character
- Harrassment of women in gaming: Why GenCon and other major gaming conventions need detailed anti-harassment policies
- Harrassment of women in gaming: why hate speech against female bloggers is a big deal
- Harrassment of women in gaming: Dead Island Shitstorm: Why misconduct from major game studios matters
- Bad business decisions: why sexualizing strong female characters insults female fans and is a bad business decision
- Link: a great basic video you should watch (a 5 minute summary of issues of sexism as it pertains to gaming)