SHAME ON YOU
The title of this article really only mentioned one thing, boobs, and that was enough to get you to click on it?
Were you hoping to catch a glimpse of boobs? Were you wondering if this was another preachy article about how the gaming industry shouldn’t talk about boobs? Did you, perhaps, click on the article for no reason other than the fact that the title very clearly said that “you will read this?” No matter how you answer those questions, you have fallen victim to something all too common in the world of gaming, a straight-up appeal to the lizard brain.
Now, there is nothing wrong with tastefully appealing to one’s lust for sex and violence. After all, we couldn’t have summer action blockbusters if it weren’t for grizzled action stars blowing up cars to get the girl. However, there is a big gap between The Fast and the Furious and Girls Gone Wild. One is a schlocky action flick that doesn’t have a lot of artistic merit but still can be a good time if only due to its appeal to your base senses, while the other is kind of a creepy mail-order video that offers nothing other than boob shots of teenage girls that are probably too drunk to realize their bare breasts will be on video record for all eternity. You probably won’t gain any respect for someone who asks you to watch The Fast and the Furious, but if the same person invited you over to watch Girls Gone Wild, you might feel more than a little bit awkward.
Similarly, the gaming world has more than its fair share of sex and violence. God of War is a good example, as it almost fuses the element of Greek Mythology with that of a classic grindhouse movie.
And we have our fair share of pervy trash as well. Just look at Dead Or Alive Extreme Beach Volleyball. There wasn’t much of a game there, and the in-game reward for pretty much anything was the ability to see the DOA girls in skimpier and skimpier outfits. Yet DOA Extreme Beach Volleyball holds this bizarre place in gaming history and is almost revered by a large section of the gaming populace. It hasn’t been criticized nearly as heavily as Girls Gone Wild or other similarly exploitive media.
And this tradition of exploitation doesn’t actually stop with DOA Extreme Beach Volleyball. Pretty much anywhere you look in the gaming world you will find gravity-defying breasts and outfits that are barely more than pieces of string. You see panty shots and jokes about panty shots in games that really don’t fit that tone (Resident Evil 4 comes to mind). You see boob jiggle physics advertised as selling points and posters that show nothing but a woman’s rack (SoulCalibur V, anyone?)
Why is this happening, and why is this acceptable? The obvious answer to the first part of that question is that the game industry markets to a male demographic. However, it actually goes a bit deeper than that. For example, a lot of the panty shot culture comes from Japanese anime and manga culture, which has a bizarre preoccupation with that specific brand of exploitation. You can watch any number of current day anime productions, ones that aren’t even necessarily marketed toward guys, and you’ll see all manner of girls blushing over the fact that their skirts are too short and their panties just so happen to be striped. In fact, there’s even an anime called Panty & Stocking with Garterbelt that… You know what? Just Google it. You probably wouldn’t believe me if I told you.
In the early days of post-Atari gaming, a lot of our gaming media was coming from Japan, and if you examine NES and SNES games from that time period, you can see a lot of this anime culture’s influence. As a result, this sort of exploitation became “acceptable,” and as it fused with more traditional American views on exploitation, we eventually formed the highly male-centric gaming market that we have today.
As for why this is acceptable, that is probably more complicated than you think. See, there is a lot of male-centric media out there, and this sort of exploitation doesn’t get a free pass in other mediums. So why video games? In a way, it’s because we still look at games as toys rather than actual artistic media. We don’t hold gaming up to the same standards as movies, music, and TV, because we hold a belief that gaming is an inherently inferior and childish art form. So there are few people out there who are getting upset when a game like DOA Extreme Beach Volleyball comes out, and plenty of people out there that choose to praise it. This praise only reinforces the belief that gamer culture is immature, childish, and boob-obsessed.
It’s a cyclical type of sensationalism that, I admit, I am guilty of as well. In fact, the title of this article is an example of how using boobs and other base desires can get readers to click on something they wouldn’t necessarily have read otherwise. The same thing goes for video games. A volleyball game could be cool on its own, but a volleyball game with breasts will fly off the shelves. Games may be able to stand on their own merit, but screaming “There is sex here!” will cause those sale figures to increase exponentially.
Frankly, it behooves us as a culture to start asking why these elements crop up so frequently in games. Do rampant cleavage shots actually add to the fighting game you are playing? Do high kicks and panty shots make your action game any better? Does that racer really need to wear a skirt that is more accurately described as a failed towel? Sometimes the answer will be yes. Sometimes designers actually set out to create grindhouse-style games that can actually be enhanced by tongue-in-cheek references to a time that was even more exploitative than our current day. However, most of the time, that answer will be no, and in these cases, developers need to know when enough is enough.
Angelo M. D’Argenio
Date: December 14, 2012