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?

Tracer

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.

Lara Croft

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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