A couple weeks ago, I mostly gushed about Two Worlds II for very good reason: it’s a lot of fun and it gives you plenty of world to romp around in. However, there was one feature of TopWare’s game which left me scratching my head just a bit, but it didn't make the cut in my or anyone else's review. Ever since I first caught site of the game’s oracle, a sort of guide for your quest, I couldn’t stop asking myself why she was so damn buxom.
If you clicked the read more button expecting to see a list of the “Top 10 side-boobs in gaming” or the “Top 5 asses”, I’m sorry, there will be none of that here. Instead, hopefully you’ll leave this with a little bit of a critical eye towards how women are portrayed in video games. First, we all should recognize that how characters are physically represented can function as an important plot device in some instances. Much like her in-game history, Miranda (of Mass Effect 2) was very clearly designed in a way that both reflected and enhanced her backstory meaning there was artistic merit for how attractive she was. Similarly, Jack's past experiences with sex and men have left her with a carefree tattitude in regards to both, and her attire (or lack thereof) reflects that.
But what about the priestess from Two Worlds II (her name escapes me at the moment), Rachel from the Ninja Gaiden series, or even any of the many women in the God of War series who seem to clothe everything but their breasts? None of these serve to enhance the experience, but they do represent a couple of interesting trends, which, when unpacked, present a pretty interesting picture of what is going on within the industry. The first is the maturation of video games.
Everyone and their mother is aware that gamers are no longer 10 year old boys sitting around playing Atari, nor are they even 15 year old kids who are in the process of growing up. Gamers are now fully grown men and women who are able to deal with more mature content, and sometimes even demand sophistication. With this new found freedom, it seems that developers are pushing are boundaries of what’s acceptable and possible with the newfound power of modern gaming consoles. What's more, with all the discussion about games being art developers feel that they're able to do anything and just say OMG THEY'RE ART and hide from any possible criticism.
That still begs the question of why so much sexuality? The naïve answer that is often used is “well sex sells, so they’re just catering to their audience”. Frankly this is just a hair insulting. it presumes that, as a male, I will be so overwhelmed by the sight of breasts in my game that I'll overlook any other flaws and drop sixty dollars on it; this idea casts male gamers as a drooling idiots who sit around all day mumbling "tits hurr durr breasts" to each other. In fact, it is the exact type of reason that people give when they stereotype male gamers as societal drains who sit around wasting their time in front of a PlayStation(not that ANYONE would do that eh?).
If this idea is so terribly backwards, why does it continue to exist then? To an extent that's because the scantily clad, overly busty, female has become sort of an archetype to fall back on ever since DoA's inclusion of breast physics, and for a couple of good reasons: its been proven to drive discussion in some form. This makes throwing breasts into a game an easy tool to push a title. More than that though, much like setting a game in space, including a buxom female support character is a lazy design piece that allows developers to fill a necessary design area (a supporting character) without having to think outside the box or do anything new.
If video games are going to continue to progress as a medium some developers are going to step up to the plate and try and change this pattern. Is it risky to cast a solo female lead? Probably. Then again, it could be exactly what the industry needs to keep it from being an all-boys club where the same ideas get recycled year after year. The only question remaining is do any developers have the stones to take that risk or will they just fall back on sensationalism? Only time will tell on that one.