The debate of whether or not female in-game characters should be sexualized is one that has been raging since people first noticed that certain pixels had been composed to look like breasts. But is it really a problem? Well, let’s take a dive and look for the answer. But first, let’s make some things clear so that we are on the same page.
- In-game Characters: These are any characters within the world of the video game you are playing. They include the playable leads, the non-playable ones, the background characters, etc.
- Being sexy: By definition, it implies that the person, creature (we are talking video games, after all), or thing is sexually attractive. Sexy characters are often referred to as eye candy. It is all subjective, but there are stereotypically appealing features that make a character sexy.
- Being sexualized: This is when a character is explicitly designed to be sexy. They often have stereotypically hot assets like curves and scanty clothing.
The Sexy Female Character
Sex appeal sells products. Things are no different in the video game industry. However, this may not have been the goal for female leading characters at first (e.g., Samus from “Super Metroid”) since all characters were just spot-looking pixels. Now, game developers can craft detailed female bodies that have jumped into the realm of stereotype.
The stereotypical view of the sexualized female:
- Big boobs or booty;
- Short skirts;
- Looking cute, sexy, or pretty (think of the old controversy regarding female battle armor in games);
- Often little to no personality;
- Being a background or supportive character to the male protagonists.
While male and female gamers (as well as the rest of the population) are into good-looking folks, this should not be the only purpose behind a character. Many male characters are designed to be attractive — Nathan Drake (“Uncharted”) comes to mind — but they have a personality and charm. Female characters back in the day only looked good, with little to no personality. This is not a character but an object. Also, it makes sexy in-game characters problematic.
Sexy vs. Sexualized
Yes, gamers do like to partake in empowering fantasy narratives by making their character look a certain way. But, when you do not have the chance to customize assets, are you really that empowered when the female protagonist just looks good and nothing more? Well, there are two sides to this debate.
The one side is that no, girls are not as empowered as they should be when playing sexualized characters. There can be a slight limitation on relatability since not all real people see themselves as sexy or attractive. Therefore, sexy characters may come across as objects that some of the players cannot connect with.
However, some people believe that sexy female in-game characters are empowering as hell. This can tie back to the notion of fantasy empowerment narrative. Therefore, sexualizing a character can work in the gamer’s (and the developer’s) favor in this case.
The thing with being able to create your character is that they are a blank slate in terms of personality. A blank slate means that the player can create their avatar’s personality or impose their own into them. Therefore, the customized character is not an object but an actual character even if they do not speak. Here, you can create your strong female character in whatever way you want. But nowadays, there are many established non-customizable strong female leads that women and men can play as.
The Rise of the New In-Game Females
Game devs don’t necessarily sexualize the female leads, but they still end up being sexy. But things are changing. An example can be Chun Li from “Street Fighter” (1987). She is attractive, but she has a ton of skills, making her a challenge to beat.
Then there is Lara Croft from “Tomb Raider” (1996). She had big boobs (due to a joke), but more importantly, she had sass, intelligence, and personality. She had skills and something extra. That is what made her stand out.
Many games seem to have taken note (even if on a subconscious level), such as “Horizon Zero Dawn” with their lead Aloy. She is sarcastic, sassy, skillful, and her outfit covers her body. Plus, she does not have stereotypically exaggerated curves.
It would seem that the new female MCs are getting more and more human. Their skills and emotions are put forward, while the sexualization is slowly getting toned down. They are still attractive because people like to look at pretty characters, though.
If they are sexy, it is often due to personal taste. If they are sexualized, it has to do with sexiness being used as a skill, a way to progress in the story.
Female In-Game Characters That Players Find Sexy
No talk of sexy characters would be complete without a short list of the sexiest in-game characters and protags. But, to not objectify them, we will point out their traits that lie beneath the surface of their physical attractiveness. So the top five sexy in-game characters in no particular order (since it is subjective):
- Tifa Lockheart from “Final Fantasy VII” — She is a bouncer at the bar that she runs. Plus, she is someone who supports others (more than herself) and tries to keep them happy.
- Triss Merigold from “The Witcher” — Triss is often described as a femme fatale with tons of magical powers. She is selfish but, at times, caring. Also, she is full of wisdom and can easily seduce if need be.
- Bayonetta from “Bayonetta” — She is powerful but also has a cool, collective disposition, which could give the vibe of an intelligent dominatrix.
- Sylvanas Windrunner from “World Of Warcraft” — From a slave to a leader! Windrunner gained strength and leadership skills by overcoming her struggles.
- Cassie Cage from “Mortal Kombat 11” — While new to the well-known fighting franchise, this character is quick-witted, funny, and a skilled marksman. And she has a sidekick drone!
Good-looking people are attractive, but characterization makes players come back for more. Sexy or sexualized female in-game characters don’t have to be a problem if we do it the righ way. If females in video games are people first, then we are on the right path. Sexualization should add to the character, not make them an object. We are slowly getting there, it seems, and we’re seeing the rise of new in-game female characters!