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The Issues Of Modern Female Character Design

“All Female Characters Need To Look Cute”

Female Character Design

We could have seen a much cooler looking Tae, but no.

For those who aren’t aware, The Art of Persona 5 book was just released in the US. While many fans are likely rejoicing (who wouldn’t be, the Persona games are amazing) there’s some troubling developments coming from the book that raise questions about design choices for certain characters. Female characters, to be specific.

In a quote from Shigenori Soejima, character designer for the third, fourth, and fifth Persona games, we learn that Tae Takemi from Persona 5 originally had a very different look. The character originally featured “murderous” eyes and an all around unapproachable demeanor. This was nixed, however, when Director Katsura Hashino stated the following: “All female characters should basically be on the cute side.” As a result of this, the design for Tae was softened to ultimately be more appealing.

Now, this by itself doesn’t sound too bad, right? Hashino isn’t being directly offensive, after all, and it’s not as though he’s demanding the characters be extraordinarily, mind blowingly, unattainably “hot”. So what’s the big deal? Well, in the end, Hashino’s comment is very indicative of female character design problems in the industry at large. Needless to say, while we are slowly inching toward less than the standard in terms of the conventionally attractive and that representation, the medium still has a long way to go. These design choices, and those similar to them, greatly hurt the industry in terms of that representation.

Do Female Lead Games Make Less Money?

Female Character Design

Zarya from Overwatch fits almost zero beauty standards, but she’s a small selection of playable female game characters that fits this category.

It’s no secret that the video game industry has a major issue with female representation. Say what you will about the amount of female characters that games like Overwatch receive, or insanely popular female protagonist lead games like Life is Strange. The amount of games that don’t allow you to create your own character still predominantly feature male leads, and these games are still the majority. Furthermore, they are more often that not white male leads. WOC (women of color) protagonists exist, but are even rarer. Add to this that when you see most of the women featured in these games, you’ll notice one thing: nearly all of them are the standard definition of “attractive”. Button noses, slim yet slightly muscled physiques, tight fitted clothes, white, and so forth.

The fact is that many women don’t look like that, myself among them! So why are we putting in the effort to make women in games not look like the women that play them? For these answers, we’re going to have to take a closer step toward the reasons that are given for not having female protagonists at all.

One of these answers (I use the word “answer” loosely here) is marketing. In instances like the BioShock: Infinite debacle, where Elizabeth was not featured on the game’s front cover despite being a major character, cover appeal is a giant factor that is considered in this decision. It is inherently believed by developers, publishers, and marketers alike that games featuring female leads sell badly, and by that estimate are not wanted by the consumer. Yet it is also true that games with female leads receive less funding for marketing than their male lead counterparts. Who then is to be believed?

But Why Do Almost All Characters Have To Be “Sexy”?

Female Character Design

On the left we have Shelob as she as known throughout Lord of the Rings lore. On the right we have…whatever this is. “Pretty” Shelob. Whatever.

So now we know that just getting female characters into games is hard enough already. Developers have confessed to having to fight tooth and nail to do so, such as in the case of Jean-Max Moris of Dontnod Entertainment (Remember Me, Life is Strange). Yet just getting them into games, and having them be front and center is just half the battle. Or, maybe 40% of the battle. Now what happens when we want to have women that are conventionally unattractive? Well, that’s a bit more of a push apparently. For starters, it seems that not having attractive female characters is nigh impossible, even when the characters aren’t supposed to be sexy.

For example, Monolith’s latest release Shadow of War transforms Shelob from giant spider extraordinaire to sexy dark female. Now, reasons about her being a god or “godlike” were floated as excuses for this transformation, but why was it necessary? The player base is dealing with a giant spider, why not leave her as such? Isn’t she more interesting as a spider? Or is it because her manipulation attempts, her ability to be sympathetic, her relatable-ness, are more likely if she’s attractive? Is she more valued because she’s attractive?

This is ultimately the crux of the issue. In the end, a female character is taken more seriously when she’s attractive over when she isn’t. Her words, her actions, all of these command more respect if she’s beautiful, because her value is perceived as higher.

Not to go too far off on a tangent here, but to make matters worse, Shelob’s entire storyline is based off of vengeance at having become a jilted lover of Sauron’s during the second age. Ergo, her whole storyline is basically revolving around a man. Great.

But Why Is This Bad?

Female Character Design

The evolution of Cortana over the course of the Halo series. Her updates apparently increased certain – ahem- assets.

One could argue that hypersexualization of female characters has declined since the nineties, and said person would be correct. Outside of fighting games like the Dead or Alive series and Mortal Kombat, hypersexualization is going down. But that’s not the argument here. The argument is that women, when allowed to be in video games and are in positions of import, must be attractive. Or at the very least “cute”. This is also disguised as “approachable” from time to time. It’s why Shelob has a human form and why Mileena wears a face mask most of the time. Sure, Miranda Lawson can be a hard up bitch, but her tight bodysuit and three inch heels still gives you enough courage to go up to her and choose the renegade option. It doesn’t hurt that she was genetically modified to be who she is, because women like that never occur naturally (minus the biotics, obviously). I’m not saying that sexy female characters are inherently bad, mind you.

In fact, I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Believe it or not, women enjoy power fantasy narratives as much as men do – and we often like making characters that look nothing like ourselves to further this fantasy. But the fact that these are more often than not the only kinds of female characters we see is disheartening. I’m a white woman who is slightly overweight, insanely awkward, overexcitable, but still often heavily burdened by bouts of social anxiety. How many video game characters out there represent me? I can’t even imagine what black, latina, asian, and indigenous women feel when they play games. Don’t even get me started on gay or trans women’s representation. Going down this list you’ll find less entries for each demographic, because they don’t fit the definition for attractive outside of fetishization.

To Make Women Objects Is To Make Them Not Matter

Female Character Design

Don’t even get me started on this garbage. You can stick it where the sun doesn’t shine, Kojima. Cotton breathes. She can at least wear a t-shirt.

If I’m still not making my point clear, here it is: if a desired identity is sacrificed for the sake of attractability, then we aren’t making these characters human. We’re making them objects. Objects that, even in their own stories, are relegated to the backs of game boxes (or erased entirely) for sales purposes. Objects that can be dressed up or down to our liking, but never have an ounce of depth to them – minus how deeply their pants ride into their crotch. Objects that can’t have stories that don’t revolve around the demographic of people those stories are trying to be sold to (men).

No one wants an object if it isn’t pretty, as in the case with most people. And that’s fine, if we were actually dealing with objects. But we aren’t. We’re dealing with the representation of human beings. Humans that make up a hefty portion of the video game market, and a growing portion of the industry, myself among them. Objectifying us is telling us we’re not people, or that our dollars don’t matter. And since it’s of a common consensus that our money is what talks for us, we’re now silenced because we’re not being given the chance to spend our money on anything other than what’s already being shoveled down our throats. Because publishers think we don’t want it. (This goes for men too, by the way. While there’s less objectification among male characters than female, this representation is damaging to all involved.)

In the end, it won’t really stop until the industry is called out for behaviors and directions like that of Hashino. While sexy can be okay, it shouldn’t be the norm. Women are varied beyond their body types, but physical appearance is still the only major consideration behind our design. After all, we can’t be objectified if we aren’t sexy, or at the very least, cute.

 

Beth Meadows
A graduate of Full Sail University in the field of Game Design, Beth currently works at a small game development studio as a QA Engineer (a fancy name for a QA Tester - which means she plays video games for a living). Beth is obsessed with Heroclix and loves all things BioWare. In her spare time she enjoys gaming, reading, writing, and playing with her dogs (yes, she's a crazy dog mom). She's also quite a big fan of sleeping and eating and is trying to figure out how to combine these abilities.
  • Truthslayer

    Nothing to see here people, just a female b*tching about irrelevant sh*t.

    • Mike

      Speaking of bitching.

    • Jesse Victor Lee Collins

      No no. I wanna snapshot this misogyny to frame alongside the last time I was called a racial slur.

      This guy hides behind a profile picture and username, but I can easily see this as the same person that bothers to read a title/headline and heads to the comment section to bitch. Because KEYBOARD WARRIORS. Backs down the first time someone calls him out in real life. Well, they would, if he wasn’t too busy tipping his hat and calling women “M’lady”.

      Go back to your little wooden dog house. Bitch.

      • Yannick Lapointe

        Ugly feminists should seriously mind their own business and do their own games to catter to their “target audience”(or themselves).

        #SneakyMaleFeminist
        #ToxicFemininity

        • Jesse Victor Lee Collins

          See, the fact that you started the entire sentence with “Ugly” means I’m going to ignore your opinion past that. I guess we can “Catter” to those that don’t speel so good. #dumbasses

          • Yannick Lapointe

            English isnt my first or even my second language, so let see how fluent you can be in Japanese OR French, then i will point out the typing mistakes like if it was an argument, ok? BTW, triggered at ugly? REALLY? 99% of feminists are in fact FUGLY, so bite me Betty.

          • Jesse Victor Lee Collins

            Hate to break it to you, but most women out there are feminists. Oh, and your precious game industry is made up of a very large portion of LGBTQ and women. You’d be out numbered the second you were to go into a Game Developers Conference. Sorry to break it to you, old chum.

          • Yannick Lapointe

            “most women out there are feminists” not really, the feminist movement have been hijacked and dont represent what feminism used to mean, right now its more about misandry than equality.

          • Jesse Victor Lee Collins

            You’re wrong and your opinion is trash. Just hot garbage. Every female in the entire game industry is a feminist. And most of them get talked down to daily by neckbeards like yourself and told they mean nothing. They’re making your favorite games. They’re keeping your favorite industry alive. And they’re doing it while trolls swarm them daily calling them ugly. Go back under your bridge, troll, I’m done replying to you.

            I have a day job and don’t live in my mother’s basement playing Everquest all day, so don’t expect a response again. (Go ahead and get your “last word in”, because you totally can’t help yourself and be a bigger man, amirite?)

          • Yannick Lapointe

            did you just assumed my gender? how tolerant of you!

            #CombatHelicopterDontHaveBeard

          • Lermpy

            Va te faire futre, putain.

            How’s my French?

          • Yannick Lapointe

            Vas te faire foutre, putain.

            That’s how you should write it, nice attempt.(now let’s see your japanese)

          • Lermpy

            Ouais! I’ll take it!

          • Yannick Lapointe

            ダサい

          • Lermpy

            If an angry Frenchman on the internet insults you in Japanese, does anyone hear it?

          • Yannick Lapointe

            It depend, if there’s beta male feminists READING it.

          • Lermpy

            Alors… non?

          • Yannick Lapointe

            peut-être que oui, peut-être que non, sa depend du contexte et de ceux qui veulent le lire.

          • Lermpy

            Zoot allors! *twists mustache*

          • J.j. Barrington

            “Hate to break it to you, but most women out there are feminists.”

            Citation needed.

            “Oh, and your precious game industry is made up of a very large portion of LGBTQ and women.”

            Citation needed.

          • J.j. Barrington

            Hey, still waiting on these facts to support this claim of yours.

        • Francis DiPersio

          “Catter”? “Do their own games”? Do you type in crayon?

      • J.j. Barrington

        I’m curious: where do you see the misogyny? I see someone calling out a rather self-centered point of view, not an indictment of all women.

        Talk about a keyboard warrior.

  • HurtingYourFeelings

    “Don’t even get me started on gay or trans women’s representation.”

    We need to have transsexuals in games now!?

    O.o

    • Jesse Victor Lee Collins

      “We need white guys in games now?” You sound silly, stop it.

      Plus, your beloved game industry has really been shaped by LGBTQ community, historically speaking. If we cut the gays and the trans folks out of games altogether, you’d be outside riding a bike and playing football. So, giving them some representation, you should be thanking them.

      • [ InsaneChronos ]

        My beloved game indutsry has been shaped by game designers, scenario writers and composers. Fuсk your LGBTQ community.

        • Francis DiPersio

          So, are you implying there are no LGBTQ game designers, scenario writers, or composers? Do you realize how ridiculous that statement is?

          • Yannick Lapointe

            But why should we care if you like to hump rocks or prefer to date black chinnese blind albinos transgender in a wheelchair? just creat a good product and peoples will be interested in it if its THAT good to beggin with, if you like to shove cactus up your ass….. then whatever float your boat, just dont try to act virtuous and try to control what others should do or not do in THEIR game.

          • Jesse Victor Lee Collins

            No, honestly, minus the horrible mental visuals I have right now from that, you’re absolutely correct. But, stories are told all the time where the man and the woman get together. If you’re not a fan of Queer As Folk (the TV show), you’re probably just going to ignore it or move on, right? Why not the same with a game built with gay or trans people in the story?

            Are we saying that a story should ALWAYS progress for straight cis people? Or can we just agree that it was fun seducing Liara in Mass Effect, no matter what gender you were?

          • Yannick Lapointe

            “horrible mental visuals” How rude!!! Black chinnese blind albinos transgender in a wheelchair can be beautiful too!

          • Jesse Victor Lee Collins

            No no, I meant “shove cactus up your ass”. Not my kinda thing. But, if it’s yours, more power to ya.

          • Yannick Lapointe

            “Or can we just agree that it was fun seducing Liara in Mass Effect, no matter what gender you were?”
            But no cactus option.., Polygon should consider writing an article on how alienating it is for peoples that are into cactus, #CACTUSLIVEMATTER

        • Jesse Victor Lee Collins

          Should I tell him? Oh man, if I had all day… Your favorite games are all made by the gays! The industry is full of gays, trans, feminists…. Oh, and nearly the entire core industry is comprised of SUPER liberal Democrats.

  • Lermpy

    Love it. Well written, solid points made. Please remember that if and when you sift through the doo-doo comments left by doo-doo people.

    • Beth Meadows

      You’re too kind. Thank you!

  • SourPuck

    Doesn’t really apply to Persona 5, the boys are equally attractive.

  • Skittlebrau

    So long as it isn’t some nonsense marketing ploy to “cuteify” the character for the sake of appeal, I’m good with whatever the game designer chooses to do in order to represent his characters. Of course, I also have the means to vote with my dollars as to whether or not I appreciate said depictions. I liked Tae in Persona 5. Hell, she was the first social link that I maxed out. But, hearing that her design was changed into this solely because some numbers guy felt that she needed to be cuter for the sake of appeal is honestly a downer.

    With that said, variety is the spice of life and that applies to video game characters as well. Everyone wants to feel somewhat represented in some way within the gaming medium and no one should feel surprised that someone would audibly state this. It would be great to see more diversity in our main characters. More minority characters. More minority LEAD characters. More female characters of varying types both lead and support. Female characters that can actually pass the Bechdel Test.

    Now, I don’t want them FORCED into games for the sake of marketing because otherwise it will be no better than the earlier mentioned Tae example. I want them written into them with as much care as characters are written in at present (well…more or less). It may take a new perspective for current writers. It may take fresh talent bringing that new perspective into the industry. But it is definitely possible. We’ve already been seeing far more of it than back in the 90s and even 00s so that’s a start. Here’s to hoping that it ramps up over the next few years.

  • YuriFan

    I’m okay with all of the girls being cute in Persona 5. But why can you date all of them? Especially the grown ups.

    • YuriFan

      Especially since we all only dated Futaba.

      • Francis DiPersio

        Yeeeeah, I did find that kind of weird. Definitely a good point there. Gotta admit, even my wife dated Futaba with the quickness.

        • J.j. Barrington

          Because Futaba is awesome.

          • Francis DiPersio

            Yes. Yes she is.

          • J.j. Barrington

            Tae was number 2, though.

          • Danny DeMent

            Ann was my #2 oddly enough. Though part of me wished her friend had had a route.

          • J.j. Barrington

            Ann was further down my list. Makoto was third, so Takamaki couldn’t be any higher than fourth, but I think I just ranked everybody after third as fourth. I wish Sae had a route, honestly, but there’s no way that would fit within the storyline.

          • Danny DeMent

            Sae was ok. Shiho, though, was cute and made me feel for her and part of me had hoped it might be a thing.

            But then I found Futaba. lol

            So it wound up Futaba, Ann, Kawakami, the psychic girl whose name escapes me, Tae, Haru, the Shogi girl, Makoto, and the drunk journalist chick.

            Though tbh idk if I’d ever romance any of the “adults” in-game. Immersion-wise it felt a tad creepy.

          • J.j. Barrington

            That’s mostly only because it’s more taboo here in the west than there. In a society where it isn’t automatic jail time, it wouldn’t be so creepy.

          • Danny DeMent

            Nah. Just feels unethical even if legal.

          • J.j. Barrington

            In the case of Kawakami, I’d get that. That’s about the one thing that’d be frowned upon, as far as MC dating an adult is concerned. The rest… might be frowned upon a bit by certain people, but they’d otherwise still be accepted, socially.

            Personally, I think there are some age limits, but otherwise I just can’t be bothered.

  • lunawolve

    Unfortunately, a lot of male characters are good looking too. Broad shoulders, no baldness, muscles, no belly, deep voice…
    It makes me sick, and makes me want to puke in their shoes

  • John C

    As I will continue to point out……
    SJW groups and other agendas should not change what the developers want to do with the game. This has already happened in the industry, and it is quite sad. I personally do not mind valid points, but it is hard for me to take many of these groups seriously when all they want to do is complain because they must be offended by something. If the story and gameplay is hurt by an agenda in the game, then it is a huge problem.

  • J.j. Barrington

    Sorry, but this is tired, old, and pointless.

    Sex sells.

    Attractive people sell. The vast majority of your non-attractive characters will be villains and even that isn’t true for every bad guy. The cast is full of pretty people, both male and female; why don’t you have anything to say about all the pretty men?

    Better yet, why don’t you acknowledge the reality behind these design choices?

    • Jonathan Trussler

      I feel like you’ve either not read or completely misunderstood the article. It’s not saying there’s anything wrong with “sexy” or “attractive” characters. It’s saying it’d be nice to have female characters who aren’t exactly the same and wear clothes that are consistent with the world they’re in.

      • J.j. Barrington

        And Tae is supposed to be the example? What about her doesn’t fit the world they’re in?

        • Beth Meadows

          Tae was intended to be the base example in the extended argument the article presents, one of which in fact IS the reality behind these choices.
          Also, while I do briefly touch on the topic of male characters suffering from the same design issues, it’s simply not the topic of my article. My not addressing it isn’t a refusal to acknowledge it or saying it doesn’t exist. It does. But I’m a woman writing from a woman’s perspective on womens’ character representation. Let a man write a man’s perspective on male character design. You don’t have to like what I say, but I’ve already answered your questions.

          • J.j. Barrington

            “Also, while I do briefly touch on the topic of male characters suffering from the same design issues, it’s simply not the topic of my article.”

            The problem is that when you only address how women are depicted, you’re painting it as some sort of slight against women, some misogynistic agenda or proof that gaming is inherently sexist. That, like your article, this has been oft stated over these past few years while pointedly ignoring- or explaining away- that the same treatment is given to male characters is a huge issue.

            “Let a man write a man’s perspective on male character design.”

            It’s done. Every time this argument is brought up, it’s done. Put in the most simple terms: we just don’t care. We don’t get offended that some polygons in a game are an idealized masculine form designed to titillate. It doesn’t bother me that there aren’t more 5’9″, 175lb black guys in games, because I’m not playing to look for myself there. I’m looking for myself in the characters’ personalities, not their looks. Otherwise I’d never have become a JRPG fan.

            If everything else were the same, but she ran around in a metal bikini, would Aloy be less awesome? Sure, it’d be impractical, and it’d look highly silly if she were the only one wearing such a thing, but would it change her attitude?

            You also make some leaps of logic in your article that don’t make sense.

            “The fact is that many women don’t look like that, myself among them!”

            Many men don’t look like the protagonists, either. So what? Are you claiming that a disproportionate amount of games should feature characters that look like a small amount of the people that play them? JRPGs should feature more Hispanic people just because?

            ” It is inherently believed by developers, publishers, and marketers alike that games featuring female leads sell badly”

            You cite an article that… doesn’t list the franchises. I was selling video games back then. You know what the biggest titles were? FIFA, Call of Duty, Halo, Mario. Outside of Pokemon, they’re the largest IPs of the gen, some with numerous entries through that generation. Don’t you think that would skew the results quite a bit?

            “So now we know that just getting female characters into games is hard enough already.”

            That’s a leap. From games with female leads on the cover to games with female characters at all is a large leap, and wrong. There probably IS a bit more issue with female leads in certain genres, or tackling certain subject matter, though; chalk that up to what target audiences expect.

            ” Isn’t she more interesting as a spider? Or is it because her manipulation attempts, her ability to be sympathetic, her relatable-ness, are more likely if she’s attractive? Is she more valued because she’s attractive?”

            Why jump to that, and not to idea that she’s more easily relatable AS A HUMAN, PERIOD? Changes from book to screen frequently do such things because it’s easier to get into a character when you’re reading them; not so much when viewing them on a screen. But you totally ignore that angle to push what you want people to think about the subject. Which is fine, I guess, but not very honest.

            ” In the end, a female character is taken more seriously when she’s attractive over when she isn’t. Her words, her actions, all of these command more respect if she’s beautiful, because her value is perceived as higher.”

            Welcome to the real world. It’s not just limited to women, either: more attractive people are taken more seriously, given more weight. That’s not even a social construct, because it’s true across societies and civilizations. It’s not limited to women in gaming, or gaming at all; it’s human nature.

            “The argument is that women, when allowed to be in video games and are in positions of import, must be attractive. Or at the very least “cute”.”

            Like the men, which negates most of what you’re complaining about. If it’s a problem for one gender, then it’s a problem for both… unless it’s not a problem at all. It’s not a problem that Supergirl airs and, at least at the beginning, all the men are incompetent and insufferable, because the women are powerful and capable(for the record, I enjoy the show and am watching season 2 as I type this; that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize what’s going on, though). No one will get up in arms and write articles about something like that. But it’d be virtually impossible to revere the roles, gender-wise, and not have someone flip their lids.

            “It doesn’t hurt that she was genetically modified to be who she is, because women like that never occur naturally”

            Except they do. Thinking like this craps all over people who DO look that, and whose only “enhancements” are regular exercise and maybe some good genetics from their parents.

            ” Going down this list you’ll find less entries for each demographic, because they don’t fit the definition for attractive outside of fetishization.”

            OR going down the list you’ll find less and less of those minorities buying those games. You might also find less and less people that really care, and are just looking for great games and characters.

            “If I’m still not making my point clear, here it is: if a desired identity is sacrificed for the sake of attractability, then we aren’t making these characters human.”

            But YOU’RE doing that by determining that the most important factor in these characters is their looks. Who cares that Cortana grows and becomes more human over the course of the Halo games; the only thing that matters is that she got more attractive(due in large part to the increase in graphical fidelity over the years, but let’s ignore that, too). What does it matter if she’s actually an interesting character if you can see Quiet’s boobs?

            I don’t see Hollywood having to change; why is that? Even in books, the same is true. Your main characters are pretty, cute, beautiful, sexy, attractive. That’s how we’re wired as humans.

            Don’t get me wrong; we’re not limited to what we’re wired for, obviously. But to complain about nature rearing its head in one avenue while nobody cares about EVERYWHERE ELSE that the same thing exists… well, it’s not gonna gain you much support.

            Again, I don’t play games to see a black guy like me on screen. (And when there’s a chance, I create female characters, anyway.) Most minorities are the same. If you ask people if they wouldn’t mind more people that look like them, you probably won’t find anybody that would be bothered. But there is no significant number of people who take issue with characters- male or female, white or otherwise- looking the way they generally do.

            Which, frankly, means that it isn’t a gaming problem: it’s a YOU problem.

          • Jonathan Trussler

            Actually, as a man I’ll have to take some issue with you there mate. I don’t really like it when all the male characters in a game are very similar because lack of diversity is BORING. Final Fantasy 7 had a very interesting cast of characters because the male party members were younger and older, black and white, human and non-human, biological and mechanical – one of them even living with a disability. Though there was plenty to like about FF15, I found it kinda boring how the party members were all male models at the same age and with the same life experiences.

            Diversity makes games richer and more interesting as well as making a wider range of people who play them feel represented. It’s a win/win scenario really.

            But let me ask you this: if I was to write an article as man talking about how I didn’t like how regimented and repetitive some male character design was, do you think I would get anything resembling the nastiness you see in some of the comments here?

            Of course not. And when you understand why that is, then you understand what the real problem is.

          • J.j. Barrington

            “I don’t really like it when all the male characters in a game are very similar because lack of diversity is BORING.”

            I’m sorry, where did I give the impression that I liked all the characters to be the same? And why do you assume that appearance is the most important facet of diversity? Since we’re on the subject of that franchise, VIII is my favorite FF in the series, and the diversity of its cast has NOTHING to do with their looks, and everything to do with their personalities. The problem I have with articles like this one- and comments like yours- is that unique characters are being judged purely based on their looks.

            “Though there was plenty to like about FF15, I found it kinda boring how the party members were all male models at the same age and with the same life experiences.”

            Not sure you played XV, honestly, if that’s what you think. Noctis is just about a spoiled prince. Prompto is a commoner with quite a dark past, actually. Gladio is a soldier, sworn to give his life in service to the prince. Ignis’ purpose in life is to be Noctis’ servant. If you think these four had the same life experiences…

            “do you think I would get anything resembling the nastiness you see in some of the comments here?”

            Though I’d answer with the caveat that it depends on how you worded your article, no, I don’t think so.

            “And when you understand why that is, then you understand what the real problem is.”

            I understand that you think there’s only one possible reason, when there are more. For example, there’s the fact that gaming- both on the developer/publisher side, and on the consumer side- has been accused of being sexist for years, and many gamers are just tired of that. It’s annoying to keep getting called misogynist because you like a certain game or character. It’s maddening to hear that actions you’ve been dealing with since forever are suddenly more important because they happened to a woman.

            Another reason your might be met with less vitriol is because people just wouldn’t care. Women might attack you, making light of your problems, saying that women are treated worse in gaming, so you’d have nothing to complain about. Men… by and large, we just don’t care. A cool design is cool, but if you go asking black guys if they’re bothered by the lack of black male protagonists in games, you probably won’t get much.

            The REAL problem is that, while it’s true that this is an issue for some people, it ISN’T a problem for most gamers, and it ISN’T some inherent distaste for women.

          • Jonathan Trussler

            I don’t see why you think I’m making this about looks. If anything, I’m arguing against that kind of superficiality. How a character looks is that byproduct of what a character is, not the other way around. If Red was a human or Cid was younger or Barrett didn’t lose his arm then would they have the same personalities? Of course not. If someone from on high declared that all the characters had to be human, young with model good looks because it’s more “sexy” and “appealing” or whatever, then obviously the characters wouldn’t be the ones we both love. If characters have to look similar for marketing purposes then usually the byproduct is that they’re less diverse in personality and life experiences as well.

            Also, there can’t be any excuses for that sort of behavior. Harassment and abuse against someone for stating their opinion is wrong, no matter who is doing it, for whatever “reason”. If someone gets called a sexist and their response is to call a random woman online a stupid bitch, then whoever called them a sexist in the first place is clearly right! Abuse and harassment isn’t exclusively towards women, but in my experience and from the experience of people I know in the industry – translators, developers, journalists, PR people – women tend to get the worst of it.

          • J.j. Barrington

            “If someone gets called a sexist and their response is to call a random woman online a stupid bitch, then whoever called them a sexist in the first place is clearly right!”

            False. All you can tell is that person has little regard for the person calling them sexist. If they are- and they usually are- the same type of people that call men names in games, then they don’t call a woman a stupid bitch because she’s a woman; quite obviously, they do it because they’re trolls.

            That’s an online thing. Has been pretty much since the birth of online. To attribute people being a-holes to sexism is myopic at best. At worst, it’s intentionally misrepresenting facts to spin a specific narrative.

            “I don’t see why you think I’m making this about looks.”

            Because that’s what this IS about. This argument, since people have been bringing it up, has been extensively about how these characters LOOK. Everyone from Sarkeesian forward has been fixated on how the characters- only the female characters- look. Even this article dispenses with characters’ personalities and focuses only on what they look like.

            “How a character looks is that byproduct of what a character is, not the other way around.”

            False. Or, rather, not always true. I don’t create video games, but as a writer and(rather poor) artist, design influences character as much as the other way around. I created a character fully around her heterochromia; quite a few based around their peculiar eyes, actually. Some because of unique hair. An entire group of antiheroes whose personalities are or will be based on their looks(because not all their identities have been refined yet). I’ve created characters with their weapons or abilities as the crux of their personality. I DO often do it the other way around, but there’s no set way to create a character. I’ll thank you to not act as if your suppositions were fact.

            “If someone from on high declared that all the characters had to be human, young with model good looks because it’s more “sexy” and “appealing” or whatever, then obviously the characters wouldn’t be the ones we both love.”

            No, they’d be different characters, but not necessarily characters we wouldn’t come to love. Changing that much would change the game on a fundamental level, because you’re changing race, not just level of attractiveness. Furthermore, you’re asserting a lot, and acting as if it’ an every game, every character occurrence. To use P5 as an example, they don’t all look like models, though some of them are. Kawakami wouldn’t pass for one, certainly. They’re mostly attractive people, though… and yet the cast is still insanely diverse. Making Tae less cold-looking didn’t ruin her character; most everybody being pretty didn’t doom the cast to all being similar.

            “compared to the diversity of characters in FF games of the past, they have very similar life experiences.”

            Because that’s the story of this game. It’s not one in which you gather allies from around the world as you go. It’s not a game containing other sentient, humanoid races(or non-humanoid, for that matter). It’s the story of four lifelong friends who save the world. Gladio isn’t a pretty boy, but cut from the Auron/Arngrim cloth: ruggedly handsome. He has more in common with Nathan Drake than his comrades, aesthetically speaking.

            Do you notice? You keep playing down their differences to play up their similarities. You keep talking about how good they look, and keep trying to make them sound like they don’t have any differences in personality because they grew up together. If you want to gloss over them all, then do so, but be honest about it.

          • Jonathan Trussler

            Every artist has their own creative process, and you can be pedantic about my wording if you like, but that doesn’t invalidate the substance of what I’m saying. Creativity can get stifled by the money men. Quite often the they demand that characters have to fit a certain marketable archetype (whether in looks, personality, background or whatever) and the potential richness of the character gets sacrificed. Because the criterion of what is “marketable” in female character design is narrower, women often get the worst of it. The author of this article has seen this plenty. I just think it would be nice if the money men would ease off because diverse characters can – and have – been popular, and there’s no reason not have more of them.

            If you got some profound sense of what rich, distinct lives XV’s party members had then good for you, I suppose. In VII characters have grown up on different sides of the planet and you get an insight into the differing cultures and places they’ve lived in. In XV you get a couple stray sentences of backstory here and there (unless you bought the DLC, I guess), and it didn’t feel like these characters came from very different backgrounds at all.

            Sure, their basic personalities are different (if fairly archetypal), but I never said they weren’t. I’m saying it would be nice to see the starkly different lives behind those personalities. I don’t see what I have to be more “honest” about.

            You seem to have this suspicion that what I say has some kind of “agenda” or is “pushing a narrative”. What on earth do I have to gain by doing that? What’s my super secret plan here? In reality, I’m just a regular human being with opinions. Wanting to see more diversity doesn’t automatically make someone part of some secretive “SJW” cabal (I review anime booby games on a regular basis). If that was more widely understood, perhaps then there would be more concern about harassment and abuse in the industry than trying to find mysterious shadowy agendas in everything.

          • J.j. Barrington

            lol, okay dude. Seems like you’re ready to shift the meaning of what you say each time when it’s convenient for you, so I’ll let you have it.

          • Jonathan Trussler

            If you can show me where I’ve done that, feel free. If not then fine. I’ve got other things to do.

  • J.j. Barrington

    Oh, also: would a harder-looking Tae than the one we got have worked with her character? “Murderous” eyes wouldn’t fit her, but the often cold ones she has now are pretty perfect.

  • Specter Von Baren

    Zarya is brought up as being from a game that doesn’t make less money for having her… but this is ignoring the other female characters in the game that ARE more “cute”. Zarya is not the most popular character in Overwatch. I see the comment from Katsura Hashino being a marketing comment to make the characters more appealing to the consumers.

    • J.j. Barrington

      Isn’t that natural, though? Isn’t that what everybody does with all characters? They make them appeal to people to a certain degree, or create designs that are intended to drum up certain emotions. It has nothing to do with misogyny, or discriminating against women, unless they’re doing the same to men.

  • Lol. cunty rant

    • Beth Meadows

      So sorry to displease what is apparently a literal garbage can.

  • QUIMICOMORTAL

    What can I say? I understand why women are not to be used as objects! yet, I still preffer to watch prettey male and female characters than ugly ones on my games.

    Why dont you complain about not enough fat men on videogames? only a personal agenda to fullfill?

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