I make bad assumptions every now and again, just like every other human being on the planet. My most recent bad assumption was that if I talked about fairness in the representation of men and women in video games, I’d get a crowd that was more agreeable than if I said something along the lines of ‘Put some clothes on those women!’. Boy, was I wrong.

The truth of the matter is this: I have nothing against sex. Nothing. At all. I advocate sex – and plenty of it. If you doubt me, take a look at the entirety of the beefcake category. To be perfectly honest, I don’t even have a huge problem with women wearing skimpy armor in video games, especially if they are given the choice. The problem comes when A) There is no choice, and B) When the opposite isn’t true.

So let me put you in the shoes of many women. So boys, brush the cobwebs out of your imaginations and try this on for size. It might give you just a little glimpse into what we see in video games.

You’ve heard about this great new fantasy game, and you’re really itching to play it. The day it comes out, you’re in line with all of the other people eager to buy the game. You come home and pop it into your console or PC, then turn it on.

At character select, you have a choice between four different female characters and one male character. The female characters are attractive, but they’re dressed as if they’re ready to do battle – no skimpy clothing here. They all have detailed stories as to why they’re out on their quest.

The first one seeks ancient tomes to return to her library back home in the hopes that she can crack an ancient spell that she’s been working on for some time. The second one saw her brother killed by the hands of the enemy, and now she seeks revenge of the most bloodthirsty sort. The third one is a mercenary, and she just wants to see blood spilled in exchange for enough drinking money, and the fourth one is seeking riches to build a castle and conquer the southlands.

After reading all of those, you get to the only male option in the game. His stats are the same as all the other characters, but his story is much different, and his clothing is much different. It turns out that his parents turned him out of the family farm because he didn’t want to get married at the age of majority like every other male. Thus, he’s been forced to take his finely-honed martial arts skill out adventuring so that he can find a date. His main weapon is a quarterstaff, and his avatar is dressed in a mesh shirt, leather speedos, and he sports a constant hardon.

You’re not too thrilled with the female avatars, and want to play something you can relate to a bit more. Unfortunately, the male avatar only fits the bill in so far as gender. He’ll just have to do. Maybe you’ll be able to find some armor along the way to cover up his protruding nipples and bulging sack. At least he’s muscular, that’s a plus.

So off you go. During the adventure, you meet plenty of eligible women. Unfortunately, you can’t control a lot of the dialog, and you find yourself shamelessly flirting with every one you come across, wiggling your ‘package’ at them whenever they come near. You find a few encounters during gameplay that actually engage in light-hearted sex acts, but unfortunately you find that your only options are to have sex with other males.

The armor situation doesn’t get any better, either. Every set of armor is skimpy at best, and something out of a BDSM homoerotic wet dream at worst. Once, you find a pair of greeves that actually covers up the gigantic, swaying package between your legs, making you feel a bit better. However, when you turn around, you find that your ass cheeks are bare and getting chapped by the wind.

When you come across other players in the online version, who have chosen the female avatars, you find that they’re wearing the exact same armor as you, but it covers them up and makes them look actually protected while still letting them be attractive. What’s worse, due to the nature of your avatar’s clothing, you get more than one solicitation by other males (or are they women playing male characters? you can never tell).

Now… to all of the heterosexual men out there who think us women that have a problem with the lack of fairness should just go away… would you play this game? What if it was the only game available? If every other game that exists right now ceased to exist and they were all replaced with versions of this game? DOA Xtreme Volleyball with well-packed men sporting bouncing hard-ons in speedos? Racing games where the driver is always a woman, and a horde of shirtless Chippendales dancers always greeting her in the winner’s circle?

Think it’s all a little far-fetched? It’s not. Every example I used above comes from my experience playing games for the last thirty years. I just changed which gender and sexual orientation the game is geared to.

If someone wants to make this game, I’ll volunteer to work on it. After all, turn about’s fair play.

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  1. If someone wants to make this game, I’ll volunteer to work on it. After all, turn about’s fair play.

    I’m in. And we should go to E3 to promote it with Booth Babes. You think some of the models from the beefcake section would be willing to walk around in nothing but a thong, leather sandals, and a big sword?


    tekanji    Dec 27, 02:21 PM    #
  2. Great, great post, Astarte!!


    Elayne Riggs    Dec 27, 02:33 PM    #
  3. I’m in, too. Maybe this would finally make it sink in? Plus, hey, about time we got some eye candy in a game, too!


    Moontyger    Dec 27, 06:44 PM    #
  4. It’s great to see games finally being made for boys to do things they enjoy… dress up, flirt, and most of all, just have some good harmless fun! Most of us aren’t lucky enough to have boyfriends who game, so this is just the type of game to get them into our hobby.


    Lake Desire    Dec 27, 11:41 PM    #
  5. You’ve made a game that my wife would like playing, I’m sure. The lack of good female romance plot-lines, limited skins and body types bugs her to no end.

    It’s probably a big reason she likes NWN so much. She can DM and tell the story she wants to tell, full of strong women, strong men and strong monsters.


    Troy Goodfellow    Jan 3, 02:40 PM    #
  6. This is a struggle which has existed since paper & pencil RPGs. We did what we could by putting as much feminism and gender turnabout in Yamara as possible and letting Dragon magazine seed the message to those most in need. And we’re doing what we can by reposting and extending the story again now online, but bear in mind that “fantasy” can be the ultimate expression of “lazy”: wish-fulfillment of the worst sort, bereft of consequences. How many paper RPG players have designed and gamed rape scenes in the quiet privacy of their homes?

    As for the turnabout VG you propose, go for it if you can. Don’t forget to keep that satiric nod toward the turnabout in it though: It will defuse the obtuse critics while heartening your sharp-witted faithful.


    Yamara    Jan 5, 09:27 PM    #
  7. If your post doesn’t make it sink in (on some level) with guys who insist that most (if not all) games treat the genders ‘fairly’, then they might just be hopeless!


    Twotails    Jan 10, 08:49 AM    #
  8. As a gay male who plays World of Warcraft, I must both agree and disagree.

    There’s more male eye candy in there than most realize- leather harnesses, nearly-crotchless pants- and some of it’s actually the best gear you can find for a given level.

    HOWEVER, because most of the players are straight men who don’t want to see their male characters wearing such, and such gear is decidedly in the minority compared to what females wear, (to say nothing of the male characters apparantly being eunuchs) you don’t see it anywhere near as often.

    On the agreeing part, I can definitely say WoW, like 99% of games out there, are geared with straight male hormones in mind. There was a point where my female paladin was wearing a notorious gear combination that shows maximum skin (“dual reinforced” leggings and warrior’s “embrace”) that sent me scrambling for a tabard, because the thin strip of cloth actually covered more.

    That said, while I’m not much of a programmer (and you don’t know me from Adam), if you need someone to help with dialogue or plot in your proposed game, look me up.


    Satyrwyld    Jan 12, 10:31 AM    #
  9. Hey Satyrwyld, we’re doing a ‘Men of Warcraft’ spread for Aurora and my’s blog. Wanna make some harnessed, crotchless, contributions? :)


    Astarte    Jan 12, 11:41 AM    #
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