Females in video games and how they are portrayed has been an industry-wide issue for a long time. With more females playing video games in a male dominated industry, has the portrayal of female characters improved?
Personally, I am not a gamer who, whilst playing a game, looks at what a female character looks like when compared to her male counterpart. With so many different games out there, with so many different styles, there is never going to be a solid consistency on how a female will be portrayed in each game. However, what can be difficult when playing games is seeing that a female can be portrayed in a very stereotypical manner but reassured that this is okay, as it is only a video game!
In the years I have played video games, there are females who have been portrayed very well. A prime example which comes to my head is Lara Croft, but I am not really talking the original Croft. When Lara Croft was first thought out, she was still a kick ass hero, but she had the biggest boobs around! She was not known for her fighting skills, her amazing mansion or her ability to enter tombs, she was more known for having massive boobs and wearing tight shorts.
Modern day Lara Croft however, is not a character I feel ashamed by the portrayal of. Lara Croft is still a skinny little thing, but she is not just a pair of boobs wandering around the place. She is skilled, she can survive, she can fight anything, she saves the world, she is a classic heroine. She is the type of hero who you can feel proud of as a female and gives female characters a bit of pride as she starts to break up that stereotype.
Yet, for every female character I can think of who is giving a boost for female characters, there tends to be another who is reinforcing the stereotype. Metal Gear Solid V had a character called Quiet, who is this scantily clad woman who wears a bikini, despite being the skimpiest bikini possible, somehow manages to hold in her boobs. Kojima turned around and said this was not to make her look sexy because she has a condition in which she breathes through her skin, obviously! That is why she cannot wear so many clothes, it's because if she does she would suffocate herself! Really, that should be the excuse for the Dead Or Alive Xtreme team as well, they need to wear little bikinis so they can get more air into their bodies to play the best game of volleyball ever!
Naturally, the idea that Quiet needs to wear less clothes because she needs to breathe is clearly a good idea, I mean, it makes sense to me! It equally makes sense why there are scenes where she has a shower in front of the motherbase, rolls around in the rain and crawls up to Snake, so you can full on see her boobs and you can even her a cheeky look at her arse. That is all equally a part of her condition, obviously! I mean, that's not sexist or sexualization of Quiet at all... right?!
This is before we even starting thinking of the world of graphic novels and anime porn games, in which every girl is wearing a skimpy outfit, a short skirt and a low cut top with abnormally huge boobs. These girls are never satisfied and it's up to you to make them feel sexual please that they have never felt before! Yet, despite this stereotype that anime porn games can really bring into gaming, especially when it comes to how the women physically look, it can equally bring across diversity. Games such as Katawa Shoujo have different women within their games, but they all have some sort of disability, with a range of having no legs, no arm and deaf. There is still that sexual objectification within the game, but at least there is a diversity within it.
Another good graphic novel which showed a good portrayal of women was Long Live The Queen, which was about a young girl called Elodie who has to learn how to start ruling her country. There is not a lot of sexualisation, because she is just not that type of character, she does get marriage proposals but the story is not run just be a romance. You are teaching a young girl how to become a queen, to get the right skills, she has attitude, she does not always follow the orders she is given and she is a good character. It is a style of game which shows you do not need to have a girl who looks sexual for a game to be good.
I am not saying that every female character needs to wear high button tops, long trousers, have no figure and act like a male, because that is equally a wrong representation. When Tracer from Overwatch was criticised by fans for having a winning pose that looks like she was showing off her arse, I laughed. It did not look like an overly-sexualized pose, it suited her character and it looks cute. It was equally funny as a lot of the other characters, including male characters, had the same pose and they kept their pose! A female has curves, a female has a butt and females have boobs, I have no problem with these features on a woman, it's when they start becoming the main feature of the character rather than just her appearance that it becomes an issue.
If there is one female character I have to look at for being a fantastic representation it is Elizabeth from Bioshock Infinite; she is the perfect mixture of witty, strong, emotional and she's a survivor. Elizabeth is one of the main characters in the game, but she is not playable, yet she does not just sit on the side and do nothing for the whole game. In the game she is always scavenging for resources, picking locks, creating portals to other dimensions and reviving you if you die. She is clever, always trying to find the solution for issues, but she equally shows vulnerability during emotional parts of the game. Irrational Games showed that it was possible to make a female character who is hard to mock, is not just a body, she is a vital part of the game and brings in different elements to BioShock Infinite.
There are many different ways to portray females within games, and it can go from many different extremes. Sometimes, I do not want to play a game with a female character who has massive boobs, has barely any clothes on and is just a bit of eye candy, but these games can be popular. I do think there are a range of female characters within gaming who are fantastic and there are studios who are trying to break the mould of how female characters are portrayed. There is no such thing as the perfect female character, as there is no such thing as having one type of female.
The games industry has moved on a lot with character portrayal and equality, however, it still has a little way to go.