Power, sex, and video game tropes

5 Jul

Brandon Sheffield, a video game industry professional, boiled down the “Are women in games overly sexualized?” arguments into one simple equation: Sex vs Power.

Sure, no one looks like that guy – but his appearance is about power, not sex appeal like Lara Croft’s appearance.

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.


2 Responses to “Power, sex, and video game tropes”

  1. Andi Enns July 10, 2012 at 10:42 am #

    Exactly, ratchet7764 – the focus isn’t on his body, even though he has a hyper-masculine figure. But, the focus is on Lara Croft’s body more than her character because people want to *protect* her instead of *be* her. Even in the screencaps and promo photos, she doesn’t have a whole lot of emotion, because she’s not really considered a person.

  2. ratchet7764 July 8, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Hmm, very interesting. The article raises a very good point: people like to look at Lara Croft while people want to be Kratos. That said, Kratos’ character is based on his eternal rage, not his body.

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