Sexualization in Video Games and Why People Should Stop Taking Offense

Video Games have always been at the center of some form of controversy, whether that be violence, racism, sexism or sexualization of characters, there’s always something about some game that people don’t like and that’s fine, we all have our own opinions. However, what has become more apparent in the past year or so is that the video game industry allows itself to be subjected to political correctness. It’s the minority of people who at times spoil gaming for the majority of us. Frankly, I’m sick and fed up of people taking offense and expecting things to be changed just because they say so. A perfect example of this is “sexualization” in video games.

Take the recent saga with Overwatch and Blizzard’s removal of the “sexualized” pose from Tracer. There will be people who disagree but I think I speak for the majority of people when I say that an issue was created out of nothing. I’ve sat back and watched numerous stories like this unravel over the years, but I’ve never felt compelled enough to speak out. But I think we have reached a stage now where the industry is starting to turn into one big PC joke. I mean, what exactly was sexualized about this particular pose?

Sure she has a butt, but so does everyone right? Yeah, it’s toned but so what? Everywhere you look in the world, guys and girls have butts. It’s a part of nature and they can be viewed as attractive, it’s just who we are. I look at that picture and I just see a girl’s butt. If you look at that picture and think that it reduces Tracer to another female sex symbol, I have to question what exactly is your definition of a sex symbol? If this is sexual to you, I think you may need to look in the mirror. And if this image provokes any stronger emotions or reactions, well…I don’t know anymore. What seems obvious to me though is that people seem to have a habit of thinking inappropriately and then blaming it on game developers.

However, Overwatch is a video game. A video game! Films and music videos are a thousand times more sexual than Tracer or pretty much any other female video game character out there, maybe with the exception of Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball, of course. In fact, that goes for men too. How many men are sexualized in films and music videos? Yet, they don’t buckle to the same pressure that the video game industry seems to. I don’t believe that in this instance Blizzard’s decision to remove the pose was as a direct result of this post alone, I take their word that they were unsure about it and was therefore easy to replace once this was brought up. The pose to begin with isn’t the greatest, but it has nothing to do with making Tracer a “sex symbol”. I mean, there are plenty of other characters with this exact pose in the game. Aren’t we getting a little pathetic here now, guys?

What really strikes me though is how sexualization in video games only seems to work one way. Can’t men be viewed as being sexy as well by women? If they didn’t, humanity would cease to exist. We live in a world where unfortunately, looks seem to be everything. At least, that is what is shoved down our throats, but it is equally difficult being a man in 2016 as it is being a woman when it comes to sexualization and how we look. This isn’t an issue about gender inequality, Overwatch has an equal number of male and female characters for a start, and for that I praise Blizzard. Anything developers can do to make more people feel included is great for gaming and society as a whole. But the same pressures that are on women to be sexy, toned, and attractive are there for men as well. Look at some of the male characters from Overwatch. Take Hanzo for example. He’s strong, he’s muscly, he’s covered in tattoos. I’m sure that to some women he may be a dream come true! You see these kind of stereotypical male characters in nearly every video game. They aren’t weak, covered in spots with a dodgy haircut. Of course, that’s not an issue though because it’s a man.

If anyone follows music, have you noticed how nearly everyone at a One Direction concert is a teenage girl who is probably more interested in how cute they are rather than their singing ability? But go to any female artist’s concert and you won’t find the place swarming with teenage boys drooling at the mouth at how “fit” Taylor Swift is. It almost feels like it is only men who can do wrong when it comes to sexualization and objectifying, and I’m not pretending it doesn’t exist. It does exist. But we have to remember that the majority of men are normal and don’t get a stiffy everytime they see a video game character with a bit of cleavage. Women will also sexualize men and male characters and if they don’t, that’s just a lie.

There also seems to be this big emphasis on creating strong female characters. Whether you create a strong or weak female character, they will always be female and as human nature will probably have it, someone somewhere will find a way to sexualize them. As an industry, developers are pushed to include female characters but they are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Give a female character a pair of breasts and you’re sexualizing them. Give them a butt and you’re sexualizing. Make them half attractive and you’re sexualizing them. Don’t include female characters and you’re sexist.  I know that to the majority of people, the above won’t be the case.

Let’s allow developers of games to have total control and freedom over their games from the art style to the characters themselves. If they want to make a sexy, badass female character, let them. If they want to create a character a little more conservative, let them do it. If you disagree with them, don’t play the game. Play something else or create your own game, but you probably won’t. We all have opinions and we can share them, that’s the beauty with freedom of speech. However, it becomes an issue when to them their view is the only right view and we must all adopt their changes and way of thinking. It’s that small minority who do take offense to these things that are making gaming, and to a larger degree society, suffer negatively.

Moving on from Overwatch, what about Lara Croft, arguably the most famous female video game character of all-time? While to some her outfits may be too “revealing”, you have to understand the type of character she is. To be doing the things she is doing you need be a strong character. Why does showing some skin make you any less empowering as a character? The truth is, it doesn’t. I’ve never had an issue with how Lara Croft dresses and I’ve never really played Tomb Raider. The game just doesn’t interest me.

When the first Tomb Raider released though, the market was more male dominated than it is today, both with regards to developers and consumers. Would a character who was less attractive have got a mainly male dominated market interested in the series? Maybe not. Therefore, I understand the argument about creating a “sexual” Lara Croft so it sells. This is an issue though that is represented in every form of media, ever. Why is it then that the video game industry seems to draw the biggest and loudest critics? I’m sure though that the majority of us, both male and female, will have no issues with how Lara Croft used to look and how she looks today.

Offense is not given, it is taken. As an industry, can we not get so hung up on issues such as this? If you feel really that strongly about something in a game that you disagree with, perhaps just don’t play that game? Let’s not expect double standards or argue only when it suits us. There are two sides to every issue and currently, it’s only one side who seems to be listening too.

We have to accept that everyone is different. We have skinny people, fat people, and people in between. We have attractive people and those who are less attractive. We have people who are ripped and muscly and those who are not. There are those people who are quite happy flaunting their body while others less so. Let’s try and represent every part of that spectrum and not take offense when we see something we don’t deem to be correct.

Can we not accept the diversity of the human species in both real-life and video games? Let’s stop being hypocrites and get rid of this “offense” culture.

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16 Comment

Sebine March 30, 2016 - 15:34

This is the video game side of SJW Victim and Oppression Olympics.

It’s sad.
It’s pathetic.
It should die in a fire.

Sebine March 30, 2016 - 15:34

This is the video game side of SJW Victim and Oppression Olympics.

It’s sad.
It’s pathetic.
It should die in a fire.

yourbestguest March 30, 2016 - 20:21

I’m for whatever makes sense for the character and that characters motivation

lapierred March 31, 2016 - 02:46

You’ve taken a lot of your examples out of context and made a strawman argument out of them. Yeah, Tracer has a terrific butt. But the issue wasn’t that Blizzard gave her that sweet ass it was that they gave her a pose that flaunted it when its not something that her character (based on her canon and development would do). Blizzard literally said that was the issue and that’s what MOST of the outcry was about. Because when you take a character who wouldn’t do something like show off her butt and then make her do it anyways it isn’t just sexualization its needless sexualization. And that’s the issue. Had Widowmaker been given a pose that was even remotely sexual, no one would care because, yeah, Widowmaker would do that. Don’t make tracerbuttgate out to be something its not. And its not like Blizzard said “fiiiiine, guys. We’ll change it”. They straight up agreed and have stated that they already thought that pose was out of character.

And for the love of god don’t say that men deal with sexualization as much as women do in 2016… I’m not saying it isn’t an issue for males but its pretty different.

You’ve also wildly misinterpreted this big emphasis on strong female characters and no one ever said “showing some skin” makes someone less empowered. The point is, you can’t throw a women into a bikini for no reason. It has to make sense or its bad game design. There is a reason LoL’s Sejuani doesn’t wear a metal bikini anymore…its called living in the arctic and common sense.

Lara Croft is a good example, but you wouldn’t know that because as you said, you didn’t play the game. Her character development supports her outfits.

Let me be clear: there is nothing wrong with video game characters doing sexual things. Unless, hey, it doesn’t make sense.

But even then, a scantily clad woman who doesn’t make sense isn’t going to make or break a game nor is it inherently evil. But it has, and will, keep women out of gaming and it also basically says that as a society, we’re cool with just using women for their looks.

There is a bigger picture here. Bottom line is that over-sexualization (not sexualization itself) is an issue because a) its bad storytelling and b) it supports the idea that its ok for real women to be thought of this way.

Also, yeah, people did make too big of a deal about Tracer’s butt. But its also a really shitty example of a legitimate problem.

Maniate May 5, 2016 - 22:13

b) it supports the idea that its ok for real women to be thought of this way.

Entertainment media doesn’t affect us.

Cherubiel Cherub June 22, 2016 - 15:58

exactly. well said

Kayle Simpson March 31, 2016 - 10:59

You should be ashamed to call yourself a journalist. This isn’t good content- this is every argument every Facebook troll has used ever and put into more legible language.

It is absolutely insulting that you’ve called sexualization “a problem made of nothing” when it’s safe to assume you’ve never experienced sexualization or objectification yourself. Tell every person who has ever been cat called, sexually harassed, or raped that they’ve made a problem out of nothing and then get back to me, because those things are all a result of extreme objectification.

And to your point about One Direction- why, yes, women ARE sexual beings beyond being sexual for men’s sake! Imagine that! But to compare the adoration of a band to systematic objectification is called “false equivalence” – which I assume is something I’m going to have to explain to you.

False equivalence is a logical fallacy when two things are expressed to be equal when they are, in fact, unequal. For instance, a black person being called the n word is terrible and racist because black people have had the n word thrown at them primarily in times where they were not treated as real human beings. Calling a white person a “cracker” is not quite the same thing because white people were never referred to as “crackers” during a time where they were treated as lesser humans, and is a relatively modern word. So saying calling a white person a “cracker” is not the same as calling a black person the n word, and to say so would be- you guessed it- false equivalence.

So yes, girls love One Direction because the members are cute. So? Girls only get this kind of “for girls” entertainment every once in a while, and it is often ridiculed to the point of trivialization. Where as when men get similar entertainment- it becomes an extremely successful restaurant (Hooters), they get it at an industry networking party held by Microsoft, they get it at every convention ever in the form of booth babes- and these are just a couple examples. The best you’ve got to argue with for women is…One Direction? Come on.

Stephen March 31, 2016 - 11:42

You’ve made this article out to be something it is not. I condemn everything you said that I claim to be a problem made out of nothing. This article is talking about video games, not the issue in society as a whole. That is a whole other topic but I am ashamed of the way men behave in that regards, but it still doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen to men. Is it more scary when it happens to a man? Probably not, but it does happen and it doesn’t make it any more worse than when it happens to women. Giving a video game character a toned butt or a cleavage though doesn’t make a man cat call, sexual harass or rape a women. That is an issue with their upbringing and what they perceive to be right and wrong. To me and the majority of men, that behaviour is unacceptable.

I never said that sexualization was a problem made out of nothing. I said that the whole thing with Tracer was made out of nothing.

I have to ask you, do you find the image of tracer to be “too sexual”? I don’t and many other people do not but that is one of the points in this article I focused on. To me, it seems trivial that we are getting worked up over an in-game characters “sexualization” when there is a greater issue out there with society as a whole.

When you mention about men getting their entertainment, none of that is forced. That it conducted by women who have chosen to take part in those activities. There are women who have no issue getting their clothes off while others will be more conservative. There’s nothing wrong with that. Who are we to say what is right and what is wrong?

I don’t agree that my comments regarding Music and One Direction is a false equivalence as that’s not the point I am making. My point is men find women attractive and cute, women find men attractive and cute. It makes the world go round. But it seems that only men can do wrong when it comes to sexualization and that is just not the case. You don’t know anything about me or what I have been through. How do you know that I haven’t felt sexualized or objectified by women, or even men?

As an industry, yes we need to do more to make women feel more welcome and included. As an industry and society have we done enough? Hell no. But this isn’t an issue just with video games. It’s an issue with society. So please don’t try to make out that I am advocate of such behaviour and sexualization because I certainly am not. What I am against is people getting worked up over stuff like Tracer’s butt as it is “sexual” and wanting it to be removed as they perceive it to be sexual.

Kayle Simpson March 31, 2016 - 17:10

More straw arguments. Let me leave you with this:

If you want to make the games industry and society as a whole more welcoming and including for women, maybe actually listen to them when they have stuff to say about issues that concern them – instead of telling them how they should think. That includes me, with my comment that you clearly missed 100% of the point on, and the people who found the image of Tracer objectifying, which you belittled by writing this article. By not listening, you are indirectly an advocate for these things. By writing an article saying that people (women) should be less sensitive is indirectly advocating for what they are insisting people be more sensitive to. If you, and others like you, can’t do that – absolutely no progress can be made.

Stephen March 31, 2016 - 17:19

Oh please. Are they straw arguments because you don’t agree with me? That’s fine. I don’t agree with you but I don’t say that your points are any less meaningful as they are clearly meaningful to you. As are mine to me.

But you’re accusing me of doing exactly what you are doing. You’ve put words into my mouth and made the incorrect assumptions, for example by saying that I claimed that sexualization is “a problem made of nothing”. Totally misinformed and nowhere did I state that. If you want to talk about society, I can think of plenty of examples where certain sectors need to be more welcoming to men, it doesn’t only affect women you know. I appreciate that women have had it harder but by pretending that it is a one way street really doesn’t help anyone.

You want me to listen? I am listening. I’ve listened to you. But because I have written an opinion which you seem to not agree with, that’s fine, I’m the one who isn’t listening?

Why are you assuming that I mean women should be less sensitive? I haven’t assumed anywhere that it is women who are the only ones being sensitive to this topic. It is men as well. It it both genders. Please don’t make out that I am trying to put down women in anyway because that is just not true.

Maybe you should practice what you preach? We’re all civil human beings yet it seems that no one these days can understand why people think the way they do and accept that we can agree and disagree.

What exactly am I an advocate of? I would be enlightened if you could tell me please.

NovaSethyr (´・ω・`) May 6, 2016 - 03:17

Oh dear, it’s been quite a while since you beat this idiot’s argument out of the water and she hasn’t really answered ANY of the questions you posed. Seems like she can’t handle different opinions.

PrettiestLilAngelYoullEverReve September 18, 2016 - 05:48

I didn’t bother reading through all of that. Here is my issue. Men aren’t sexualized in mainstream video games. If Men were equally sexualized I would shut up and not have a single issue with it. but right now with an hours worth of time I can show you thousands of video games that sexualize women to the extreme. It is not a good message for girls and damages males’ views of women and makes them have less respect for women. It is not okay. It is not okay that the point of almost every mainstream video game, music video, magazine, movie, TV show is to give men boners. You are correct about overwatch. That wasn’t bad at all. Maybe the tiniest bit sexualizing but not in your face, if you watch this and you’re straight your mind is definitely going to nasty places sexualized like almost ALL of the video games these days. You can’t compare men being tall and built, and attractive to women literally having their boobs be twice the size of any normal woman’s boobs and only being cover by a small strip of fabric, like what can be found in Dead or Alive or almost any FInal Fantasy Game. Women are people. We shouldn’t be reduced to things who’s only purpose is to get men hard, even in video games where the women are fake.

thEndnoEnd April 28, 2016 - 20:39

if you’re one of the people who think video games are too sexualized,then its probably because you don’t feel sexy yourself lol

thEndnoEnd April 28, 2016 - 20:39

if you’re one of the people who think video games are too sexualized,then its probably because you don’t feel sexy yourself lol

chelle June 30, 2016 - 17:52

Any of you who are concerned about the issue expressed in the article please have a look at my petition

chelle June 30, 2016 - 17:52

Any of you who are concerned about the issue expressed in the article please have a look at my petition

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