Inequality in Video Games

Earlier this year Square Enix unveiled their next game in the Final Fantasy series, Mobius Final Fantasy. To their dismay many fans disliked the sexual appearance of Wal, the game’s male protagonist.

Mobius-FF-Shot-03Mike Williams, author of the usgamer article Mobius Final Fantasy’s Hero Was “Too Sexy” Before, Now He’s Better, discussed Wal’s new toned down fashion. Williams elaborated on the main problems fan had with design when stated,

“What we were originally shown was a male character in ill-fitting armor and a sliced-up swimsuit. It was essentially the same design aesthetic normally applied to female characters. It wasn’t something completely new for Square Enix”

This was not their first attempt at risqué male fashion. In 2000 Square Enix (then Square Soft) developed FFIX (Final Fantasy IX). It contained Kuja, a flamboyant male antagonist who was famed for wearing – what many call – a thong. Yet within the fifteen years of the appearance of Kuja’s and Wal’s risqué fashion an uncountable amount of female characters were created and sexualized or even objectified in similar if not worse ways without a second thought.

There is misconceived problem in video games that Females and Males are equally sexualized and objectified; this is far from the truth. For too long it has been acceptable to objectify a female’s sexual characteristics even though male characters are rarely treated in the same manner. Jim Sterling, a video game journalist, points out in his video Objectification And… Men? that “mainstream game development is predominately designed by men, for men.” Sterling then argued that men are not objectified, but “idealized. They are heroes of what men are supposed to want to be.” This is especially apparent when the ideal traits include ”physical strength, mobility, [and] bravery” all of which are desirable traits by both genders. Sterling also notes that even when playable female characters are given such traits they are still objectified. Such actions illustrate the acceptance to objectify female characters while perpetuating the status quo of male characters being anything but objectified or sexualized. So while it is not as apparent many male characters seem to have been bestowed invisible armor against objectification and sexualization.

Yet some gamers will argue that some male characters are sexualized. Lately One prime example is the remake of Dante the main character from the series Devil May Cry. Dante is played as a demon slayer whose goal is to avenge his deceased mother. Within the first ten minutes of the game Dante answered the door of his trailer nude, to a warning of an imminent demon attack. Seconds after a full view of his bare pectorals and chiseled abs, he narrowly dodges the demon’s first strike then gets dressed in a single action packed motion right before his trailer is destroyed. It is here many would claim his Dante is sexualized for having toned muscles. It can be understandable that toned muscles are an unrealistic standard, but nothing about Dante was sexualized.

Bex, an editor of the blog Feminine Miss Geek, defined what it mean to sexualize something in her article Idealized Sex Objects and the Meaning of Words. Bex asserted that it is not enough for a character to be labeled as sexualized just by showing skin. She then elaborated with her own image by stating,nood

“[S]he isn’t sexualized until the final image. There she has big hair, make-up, a see through shirt, as well as an arched back and pouted lips while her hands stroke her breasts.”

Nowhere in the game is Dante found posed in such a way. Thus, Dante is mislabeled as sexualized like many other males who whose attire reveal skin similar to Vaan from Final Fantasy XII, or Kratos from God of War, all because each character’s attire exposed their bare chest. The few sexualized examples that do exist, like the earlier mentioned Kuja, are few and far between in comparison to women.

Most if not all major video game companies are responsible for such unequal treatment. Square Enix is no exception and although they did attempt to equalize the playing field with the sexualization of Wal, it does not erase the sexualized women they have created over the years e.g., Fran from FFXII and Cloud of Darkness from FFIII. Two wrongs do not make a right. What video games need are more in-depth characters who do not require sexualization to perk interest. No matter the setting, video games are essentially fantasy but just because it exist in the real world – in this case sexualized people – does not mean it needs to exist in fantasy.

By: E. Velasquez

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