Visual Gender Stereotypes in Video Games

Posted: March 4, 2012 in INFR 2330
Tags: , , , ,

Today I will be discussing the visual stereotypes in video games through the design aspect. Even though how a character looks plays an important role in setting the theme and mood of a game, in many of the recent games released, women and men are visualized in an over sexualized manner. Originally, games in the beginning of the industry were created as humble and family friendly games. Though as time progressed, how women and men are visualized has changed dramatically.

In the beginning:

These were the simple days, with 2D 8-16bit characters and provided hours of fun. A good example is Mario and Peach. Mario, is a short stubby Italian plumber. There’s nothing scary or frightening about Mario. He’s simply a character everyone likes and plays with.

Peach is also a humble and modest looking character designed back in the beginning of console video games. Just like Mario, there is nothing sexual or “jump out at you” characteristics about Peach.

The characters are cartoonish and friendly.

Times start to change:

Then around the time Super Nintendo games came out, characters started to look better in games, but were also designed as muscular hulk of men along with busty 2D 16 bit characters. The design of fighting game characters such as Poison from Final Fight or the main male characters of Final Fight (the fact that Poison is transgender is irrelevant in this example, I’m just pointing out she was designed to have a large bust).

Here the characters displayed are very muscular. They make Mario look like an infant. 

The art of Poison from Final Fight that was released with the game.

Where are we now with women and men in games?

Now with all the new technology, the situation has evolved into an even worse problem. Though there are distinct games that are over the top in their representation of men and women, while others are concentrating on the aesthetics of the game rather than how muscular or how big a female character’s breasts are.

A prime example of this problem getting out of hand is Ivy from the Soul Calibur series.

Notice her overly exaggerated bust size along with provocative and revealing clothing. 

Whoa, but why is this exactly a problem? As a guy I love boobs! Or as a girl, I love ripped hunks! 

This is because many games now are basing them entirely on good looking, unrealistic and “sexy” characters. While focusing entirely on a female or males looks, they fail to concentrate on the actual content of the game itself. Yea we get it, sex sells, but so do GOOD GAMES. Stop this madness with the over sexualized characters and make games with actual good content!!! The good developers are getting the idea that, no you don’t need a woman with H-Cup boobs or a man with pectorals the size of hills and tanks for each abdominal muscle. A good example of balance is Resident Evil 5’s Sheva. Yea she has boobs, but they’re not over the top, so she can still be considered sexy, but not unrealistic.

Capcom got it right this time, focusing on the game, rather than making an overly busty character

But then there are the games that rely solely on a good looking character to get their sales. A good example would be X Blades. A lot of you probably haven’t heard of it, since it didn’t sell that well because of the mediocre review it received (6/10. The game’s main heroine is a young scantily clad woman who treasure hunts. That pretty much sums up the game. The studio making the game even promoted the video game with seductive wallpapers on their website.

The game was based entirely on how the girl looked in my opinion. Is that a thong I see?


The aesthetics of games need to stop being based on how big a woman’s boobs are, or how young and flawless they look. Or on the other side of the spectrum how muscular and fit a male character is. Great games don’t need super sexual characters. They can be good looking yes, but there needs to be some boundaries, some realism. Another good example of normal looking, good looking character in a great game is Drake from the Uncharted.

Normal looking guy, covering up his body, no need to show off giant muscles. 

A bit unnecessary (Rock from Soul Calibur 4)

So overall, we don’t need all this nonsense! Or else guys will start to look like this from all those muscles:

Left 4 Dead Tank

We all like to escape and have fantasy characters in our minds every once in a while, but we really don’t need them in all of our games. In contrast we need a bit of a sense of realism too, not H-Cup boobs bouncing around on screen all the time. So stop sitting in your basement and playing busty babe games (you know who you are).

  1. ZachStock says:

    You mean people don’t actually look like that? In all seriousness, very well written. I touched on this a bit myself in my post “Game Design: What NOT To Do” but you’ve expanded on it greatly.
    I think Ivy was the best example up there… especially since she’s been in something like 5 or 6 games now. Ridiculous.

    I’m going to make a game about a nun. Nothing revealing at all. I’m think “Trigger Happy Nun”. Your thoughts?

  2. MsK says:

    Thank you! I will use this in my teaching when discussing gender stereotypes.

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