The other day I was at the auto shop getting the oil changed on my car. I was sitting in the lobby reading a magazine and the article was yet another rendition of how magazines are the main cause of bulimia and anorexia in young women. I won’t go into the irony of this story being in a magazine, but you know the article I’m talking about. The one that tells how fashion models, catalogs and Victoria’s Secret Angels make all women want to look like Heidi Klum. To hear them tell it, all women are so stupid that they think they either need to vomit 4 times a day or eat notebook paper in order to be attractive.
To get to the point, this got me thinking about this theory in terms of video games, but from the opposite perspective – or rather the male perspective.
Think about it. Just as all those models are siliconized and airbrushed, so the “Girls of Gaming” are endowed by their creators with teeny-tiny waists, perky buttocks and daunting cup sizes. In other words, female video game characters are unrealistically endowed, and undeniably attractive to most male gamers.
Now I’m not trying to exclude the gamer chicks here, but come on. I think we can all agree that there are a goodly number of butt-ugly male video game characters, but virtually all female characters are attractive. Even when they are not overly abundant in the chest luggage department (a la Faith from Mirror’s Edge) they are still quite pretty.
So my question is this:
Does this all-you-can-eat buffet of beauty skew the male gamer’s perception of female attractiveness?
Do we, as gamers, now look for these unrealistic sexual qualities in our real life relationships?
It’s not a large leap of comparison from the cover of a fashion magazine to the cover art on a game case. If you have any doubts about this, check out the cover art for X-Blades. This tactic of overtly gorgeous female imagery is also a common practice between the fashion industry and the gaming industry. If you don’t believe it, again check out the background story of the X-Blades cover art and Ayumi’s incredible shrinking thong.
I understand that this practice, as applied to the gaming industry, is not causing young men to trigger their own gag reflex, or suck on a piece of leather for nourishment. The real question is what else, if anything, is it doing? Perhaps young men are getting an overly inflated idea of what is attractive in women. Or perhaps not. It might also be that seeing this imagery while youngsters sets them up for not being satisfied by a real relationship later in life.
Of course this brings up the next topic in line, which is common sense. The ability to distinguish between what is real and what is not. Those with common sense can enjoy the, how shall I put it, visual stimulation of female imagery in games and still realize that they are never going to see a rack like that on their girlfriend. The same can be said of the female victims of the fashion industry. Young women with common sense know that the woman on the cover of Vogue doesn’t roll out of bed looking like that. I suppose the real question might be, is there a line to be drawn? Is there a point where someone needs to say, “OK, this is over the line.”? But then just exactly where do you draw that line?
The fashion industry has already drawn some self-imposed lines of its own by restricting models under a certain size from runway modeling and many magazines have followed suit. Women of a more Junoesque physique are now much more common in catalogs and magazines as well. Of course this may be due to the rapidly expanding beltlines of average people as much as anything else, but you see my point.
The gaming industry has yet to impose any restriction on sexuality other than ratings. This is probably due to the fact that no one has complained loudly enough yet, but that will eventually happen. When it does happen, what might those restriction be? No female characters with less than a 22 inch waist or more than a D cup? No more than "x" percentage of exposed skin?
You can educate people until your blue in the face, but it's much harder to get them to actually understand something. There is a yawning abyss between knowing and understanding. I think what it all comes down to is that you just can’t teach people common sense. You either have it, or you eat paper. You either have it, or you’re depressed that your girlfriend isn’t blue like Liara T’Soni.