It is well known that for sometime now video games have had rater misogynistic portrayals of women, what with women being made generally more idealized to Western beauty standards, armor being more revealing, and so forth. As this article from Forbes states, the lack of women in the game design industry is a massive issue in equity for game design, which most have agreed to be the root cause of the aforementioned issue. If there are little to no women in charge of designing women, then it is far less likely that the female characters in the games can be accurately recreated by someone without similar experiences as a woman. Now, this issue has had some promotion in the past five or so years, and as such the amount of female game designers has risen, however we still see this issue present in numerous games.
Before we dig into games that go against this trend in one way or another, let’s provide some context for games that fall into this trap of misogyny. As much as I adore the game, Skyrim has some rather unrealistic design for armor for the female models; while not all falls under the problematic category, there’s a number of heavy armor involving plate in which the torso plate has breasts, which is an unrealistic caricature as most plate armors for women involved binding or a somewhat removed torso plate that gave some space, not full on sculpted breasts though. The infamous World of Warcraft has been known for a while to have male characters dressed in bulky and encompassing suits of armor, women can be seen in more revealing armor, which can often include more or less a set of underwear with some minor pieces of armor like a breast plate, pauldrons, boots, and gauntlets. Both of these games also make their women more conventionally attractive via western beauty standards; women are generally slimmer (regardless of strength or class), shorter than the male models, curvier in certain areas, and less signs of ageing or generally skin blemishes such as acne. While not everything is necessarily required for the sake of equity, such as acne, one expects at least varying models of women like is usually done with the male models.
In contrast, more recent games have begun to defy this tradition of sexism in new ways, most notably is games like Fallout 4 or Horizon Zero Dawn. Fallout 4 made headway in reducing sexism by having new options for character creation, which also gave more options to men. The games system allowed for option features for adding various blemishes, such as acne, as well as allowing different types of skin to convey different signs of ageing more aligned with reality. There’s also a feature that allows one to change the body shape along a triangular scale, with the three ends being the extremes of thin, muscular, and heavier weight, which effectively allows for even more representation in diversity. Horizon Zero Dawn‘s production studio, Guerrilla Games, also broke part of the history of sexism in the industry by doubling it’s female workforce for it’s company, which allowed for the game developers to create what is one of the most highly appraised female characters- and protagonist -in gaming history, furthermore the game itself is highly praised, having won an award for Writers Guild of America Awards, as well as various praise throughout the gaming community. This game proves that more female representation in game development can drastically improve the quality of the game, especially when it comes to designing female characters. Ultimately, sexism in the game industry is changing, however slowly, and the popularity of many games featuring female protagonists has only increased the amount of positive female representation in the gaming community.