Women are being ‘hyper-sexualised’ in video games: Australian academic

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HIDEO Kojima’s recent decision to sexualise Quiet, a female character appearing in the forthcoming Metal Gear Solid 5 game, has prompted a prominent Australian academic to issue a reality check to the industry.

Kojima was originally quoted as saying he wanted to create a more ‘erotic’ character when Quiet, a female protagonist in MGS5, appeared scantily in ‘combat’ gear.

He later clarified that he meant ‘sexy’ – but does that make Kojima’s intentions any better or worse?

Australian gender studies expert Dr Liz Conor from Monash University says no.

“Imagery of women can be compelling without needing to resort to soft porn conventions,” she told Gamer Thumb.

“I think the game designer in this case is indeed cynically exploiting his predominant audience of young men, who will of course be compelled by more sexualised imagery.

“Overall, representations of women are hyper-sexualised in game design and this is reductive, and given their combat activities, completely irrelevant.”

Conor’s comments might sound abrasive but they are in fact a healthy food for thought: whilst male characters are also the beneficiaries of exaggerated muscles and combat gear, you’ll find that their exaggerations would actually benefit their combat performance.

Quiet, on the other hand, is clearly wearing less, and despite no proper body armour or camo gear, is able to lug some rather large guns around while wearing her pants below a g-string.

Conor told Gamer Thumb that she felt sex and violence were ‘indelibly’ linked in video games – something that needed to be addressed.

“We all need to commit to an absolute rejection of all forms of violence, and then a more critical stance towards any representation that sexualises violence,” she said.

“But whether the gaming industry as a whole could survive under these demands is doubtful.”

Shaun’s analysis

As a gaming critic having covered: the recent launch of Press Select, a publishing house devoted to long-form criticism; the unique puzzler Shape Shuffle; the brilliance of Rayman Legends, a hand-drawn 2D platformer; and the recent rise of political participation in games, I disagree that the industry as a whole wouldn’t survive – in fact, it might prosper if it can move past its Peter Pan complex and become more mature.

I say this because we’ve seen women hyper-sexualised in some – but certainly not all – games since Lara Croft’s inflated assets and skimpy tomb-raiding kit, and we really do have to ask ourselves what it’s all for when the inclusions are superfluous to the overall experience.

So what role, if any, can we play as critics, developers, publishers, consumers and gamers in setting standards?

My questions to you are:

  • Has sexual imagery ever compelled you to buy a game?
  • And do you agree with Dr Conor’s assessments of sex, violence, and the gaming industry?
  • And what would you do to solve the problem?

Sound off below.

I’d like to thank Dr Liz Conor for her time, especially with such as complex topic.

To read more of Dr Conor’s work in the gender studies field, read here:

http://lizconorcomment.blogspot.com.au/

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