Brandon Sheffield, a video game industry professional, boiled down the “Are women in games overly sexualized?” arguments into one simple equation: Sex vs Power.
It’s not that male characters in games don’t have exaggerated features that make them more visually appealing – it’s that their exaggerations make them look appear powerful instead of a sexual object.
You want to be as cool and powerful as Kratos. Nobody wants to be Lara Croft all the time.
Players want to be Marcus Fenix from Gears of War. The camera doesn’t play seductively over his biceps. He’s a leader. He doesn’t need your protection or your pity, because he is a wall of man.
But players don’t want to be Lara Croft. Not even female players, because Croft is meant to be looked at. When you look at another person, you have the power – you’re doing the action and they are receiving it. Even female characters in games exist to give a feeling of power to male players.
As producer Ron Rosenberg told Kotaku, “When people play Lara, they don’t really project themselves into the character, they’re more like, ‘I want to protect her.’ There’s this sort of dynamic of, ‘I’m going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her.’”
Why don’t people project themselves onto Lara? Because “people” means males. Nobody (well, almost nobody) wants to be Lara Croft, not even women, because Lara is very much the subject of Male Gaze in her games, and who wants to open themselves up to that sort of scrutiny? Getting a bit deeper, while many women do want to be attractive to males, which is part of why women’s magazines often take a Male Gaze perspective as well, they don’t want to be only that. They don’t want to be stared at all the time, by everyone. Lara is at no point “just a person.”
It’s an awesome article. Go read the rest.