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Over The Edge

Body Diversity In Video Games

Colin Slark | Team Member

Somebody asked me a question recently that I had a hard time answering. She asked me if I could think of any female video game characters that are ugly, non-conventionally attractive, or really muscular–that are not antagonists. I thought that there must be. There are so many video games, on so many platforms that there should be some examples and there are some, but they are underwhelming.

There’s a girl in the first Danganronpa game that is very buff and her body is covered in jagged scars, but she’s a minor character. Professor Layton vs. Ace Attorney features a background character that is an overweight baker. EDI, the artificial intelligence from the Mass Effect games, identifies as female and is only represented by a glowing blue sphere in the second game, but in the third game she acquires a sexy robot body to house her consciousness. Catherine features a transgender woman, but she is the object of a joke by her friends who think it is hilarious to encourage a man, who doesn’t know about her gender identity, to go pursue her romantically.

Games with in-depth character creation tools like the Saints Row games sometimes feature the option to make women with varying looks and body types, but that is a choice on the part of the player and not the developer.

It is exceedingly difficult to think of a female character that is portrayed positively, is not an antagonist, and is not made to look like the ideal of beauty. I do believe there is a problem having most female protagonists. It puts a certain kind of woman on a pedestal, fetishizing them at the cost of others. It creates an unreal expectation of how women should be in real life.

It could be argued that a similar thing is happening with male characters in video games, creating an ideal of a buff, handsome hero. If anything, what needs to change about men in video games is the ultra tough manly man stereotype. However, you get more variety in body types with male characters.

Look, for example, at the most enduring video game of all time; Mario is chubby and is no model. Male characters get to be scarred, buff, and ugly while still being able to affect the plot positively. There should be a wide variety of female characters, especially protagonists, with a variety of body types to better reflect reality.