FashioNessa here! What makes female game characters sexy, kick-ass, and approachable and what makes them annoying, over-sexualized, blow-up dolls? Despite popular opinion, it is NOT the amount of skin or the size of the chest. It isn’t that easy. We all like our characters to be alluring and attractive but when does it go too far? I put together a few examples of slutty versus sexy.
We’ll start with two women with very similar outfits. Both of them are covered nearly head to toe with little skin showing.
(Bayonetta from Bayonetta and Miranda Lawson from the Mass Effect Series.)
In Sega’s Bayonetta, this gun-toting witch takes every chance to spread her legs, crawl on the ground, and make orgasmic sounds during attacks. Her stiletto boots are actually guns and her “magic hair outfit” strips away occasionally to leave her twirling naked in a barrage of over-the-top combat effects. These things weren’t sexy, they were annoying. Not one person I saw play this game got through it without eye-rolls, groans, and head-shaking laughter at the stupidity. Which was too bad, because it took away from the strength and wit this character had.
Miranda Lawson is a similar character. Skin-tight clothes, incredibly smart, and a little bit of a bitch. But Bioware made her alluring without having her spread–eagle every time she shot her gun. Her movements within the game are subtle and well-animated with the occasional perfectly placed camera shot. This is a game where you can choose to have sex with this character and it is still classier than Bayonetta.
(Sonya Blade from Mortal Kombat vs Tifa Lockhart from Final Fantasy 7)
Can you spot the difference between these outfits? I’ll give you two guesses….
Both of these characters are wearing tight, white tops, black pants, and fighting gloves. They both have thin waists and large breasts. But it’s the little details that put Sonya into the less-than-desirable category. Outside of the gratuitous nipples, her shirt is suctioned to her body and her pants are lowered to show off a tan line and a bellybutton ring. (Which I can only image would get ripped out in a fight.) Tifa’s clothes are actually her size and look damn good on her.
These differences really impact the reactions of players, just like in real life. Imagine seeing someone walk down the street in Sonya’s clothes next to someone in Tifa’s. Which one would you find attractive and which one would you feel like you should dig out some dollar bills for? A little goes a long way in these cases.
(Ivy from Soul Caliber vs Cammy from Street Fighter)
Here’s a couple famous fighting-game characters. This particular comparison comes down to believability and symbolism. Ivy is, quite literally, strapped into her clothes. Her top is hanging on for dear life and the bottom is little more than a tissue. At least her neck and left arm is well protected….And after adding in the whip, the imagery of bondage and domination is loud and proud in this particular outfit.
Cammy, on the other hand, looks sexy in her painted-on outfit. She’s still showing skin and jutting out her chest, but even her face has more personality than Ivy. I trust that her clothes are going to stay on while I do flips around the screen and kick some Ryu face with her long, tattooed legs. Her tie and hat are symbols of authority, leadership, and professionalism. I’ll take Cammy’s nicely placed scar over Ivy’s outfit-matching lipstick any day.
(Shadee from Prince of Persia vs Nariko from Heavenly Sword)
There’s always a big controversy over how much skin a female character shows. I believe the real issue is HOW the skin is shown. There’s nothing wrong with being bare if you do it right. Bodies are beautiful and we are programmed to like looking at them. Lets just use a little bit of class.
Shadee is a typical example of ‘naked for no reason’. Her outfit is ridiculous, uncreative, and not even that aesthetically pleasing. Which is too bad, because her character could have been pretty fantastic. Nariko, another scantily-clad, duel-bladed vixen, does it right. Her clothes make sense in the world and work beautifully with her hair and movements. The outfit was designed to show off her body, and they did it elegantly. Now if only the game had been a little better….
(Harley Quinn from Arkham Asylum and Juliet from Lollipop Chainsaw vs The Mechromancer from Borderlands 2)
Our final comparison of the day is pigtails. Pigtails are a common symbol of youth and innocence and show up a little too often on sexualized characters. This trend either needs to die here and now or it needs to be done right.
Two examples of pigtails done poorly are above on the left. Harley Quinn (whose trashy look in the newest Batman title was a sad disappointment) dons the pigtails with her ‘childlike’ voice and mannerisms, obsession to play with toys, and does everything to please her strong, older man. Juliet starts the game off just turning the legal age of 18 while she giggles in her pigtails and plays with a sucker in her mouth….hmmm….can we say pedophilia anyone? These are examples of pigtails done wrong. Creepily wrong.
The Mechromancer from Gearbox’s Borderlands 2 may be young but she is a crazy, robot-controlling, trash-talking, punk. These aren’t Sailor Moon pigtails, they most likely have a trip-wire. Pigtails done right.
So there it is. There’s nothing wrong with wanting and playing sexy, female characters. They don’t need to be genderless to be strong and they don’t need to be naked to be attractive. Like anything else, making memorable characters takes a little moderation and a lot of thought.