Friday, October 2, 2009

Gender and Video Games

I used to love G.I. Joe action figures as a kid. My father, new to the United States, felt it was a great way to get me to appreciate this wonderful country by emulating those who defended it. Many hours were spent creating war strategies; making forts behind mounds of sand and mapping covert operations around ant hills. Feeding Cobra to my dog. Sigh. When I was young, G.I. Joe toys used to look like this:

And now they look like this:

See a difference? Growing up in an increasingly cynical youth culture, I've heard the old adage about the portrayal of women in the media a lot. I've heard about the model photos, the "sex sells" ads, and of course, how video games continue to perpetuate an unrealistic standard of beauty. And I'm not saying I disagree. I mean, not to pick on them, but Platinum Games' new heroine Bayonetta, is a butt-kicking scenester, complete with thick rimmed black glasses, pale skin, a beauty mark...and a suit made out of her own hair. Her design was very intentional, and the undeniable sexuality of her character is far from accidental. All the way down to her butt. Yeah.

But guys see a lot of images in gaming too. There was a time when long eared archers who didn't wear pants were the norm, whereas now, with the aide of the Unreal 3 engine, the likes of Marcus Fenix riddle the gaming universe. Doesn't look good does it?
Get a FREE Playstation 3! (if you're not a sexist)

But here's the facts: I'm a young twenty-something who will never EVER look like Marcus Fenix. My girlfriend does NOT look like Bayonetta (or Lara Croft for that matter), and I don't expect her to ever do so. And from what I can from all the relationships I know of, there just aren't many women out there who expect guys to look like Fenix (or to have guns with chainsaws on it). Yet we can all play these games, full of these images, and not have it affect our realistic expectations of beauty. And Gears of War 2 was all kinds of fun. I mean, if you play games right now you're not automatically a sexist right?

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