Embracing Adventure “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” ~~Hellen Keller

Female Video Game Characters and Body Image

Female Video Game Characters & Body Image. Created using Canva.comDid you know that today is National Video Games Day? I’m celebrating it in several ways. In person, I’m  playing Bioshock. I find it much more frustrating than Bioshock Infinite, which I played first, but yet manage to spend several hours on it each time I sit down to it. On my PhoenixxPhyre Creations page, I’m sharing an updated version of my Borderlands-inspired Claptrap gift tag and decided on another video game to be the subject of a quilled piece. On Fantasy Rantz, I’m sharing a post in which I defend the playing of video games. And here? I decided to respond to something that came to my attention: Bulimia.com photoshopped several popular female video game characters in order to more accurately reflect the average American body type using the CDC’s measurements of 63.8 inches in height, a weight of 166.2 pounds, and a 37.5 inch waist.

I can get behind Bulimia.com’s reason for doing this. They don’t want teenagers to see a plethora of skinny waists and unrealistic proportions and think that’s what they’re supposed to look like. I definitely don’t want girls or young women to play games and feel bad about themselves while playing or to carry that into real life and begin disordered eating patterns. However, I’m bothered by this recent trend of trying to make women “realistic” by equating “real” to “larger”. This kind of implies that women who are slender are not “real”.

Personally, I’ve never weighed more than 130 pounds, even when I tried to gain weight (because I was what a BMI chart considered underweight even when I wasn’t starving myself, although I have also done that, which I’ll also be posting about soon on my other blog). Although I have a smaller bust than many of the characters that had a makeover, I look closer to most of the before versions than the after ones. In some of the pictures, features from the originals that I could relate to were taken away. For example, they took the smallish breasts of Rikku from Final Fantasy X-2 and made them larger.

With the exception of Tifa Lockhart from Dissidia 012 Final Fantasy, all of their after pictures would actually be “unrealistic” and “unattainable” for me because their new bodies are not something I’m built to obtain. I do actually kind of like the new Tifa, because her legs look similar to how mine are looking lately. However, I also know girls who look similar in the legs to the way Tifa does originally, so I can’t really say that the after picture is any more “realistic”.

Some of the changes also make little sense in the context of the characters’ stories. Christie Monteiro of Tekken was given larger arms and a larger midsection. She’s supposed to be the granddaughter of a capoeira master and a fighter herself. Want to know what a real woman who practices capoeira looks like? Here’s one: Marcia Treidler, the founder of Abadá-Capoeira San Francisco, who was 47 at the time the photo in the linked article was taken. If they wanted to make Christie Monteiro more realistic, they should have given her more muscle, not less.

Similarly, Lara Croft is an adventurer. If we want to be “realistic” Lara’s boobs could certainly be smaller given the size of her waist and the ledges she tends to need to balance on. However, a realistic body type for a character who tends to hang off and move across ledges, swing on bars, and so on would be one that’s more athletic than not. Besides, Lara has actually been getting more realistic throughout the years, and even had more realistic muscles in the version they changed than she previously had, so I kind of wish they’d leave her alone. If you’re interested in the evolution of Lara Croft, check out this article. Personally, the 2013 model is pretty relatable for me.

I don’t have a problem with examining whether people can see themselves reflected in video games or media in general, and I’m all for discussing how they’re perceiving what they do see. I don’t have a problem with calling attention to proportions that literally cannot appear on real women. However, I do have a problem with the idea that the only way to make fictional women look more “real” is to make them larger overall, since that doesn’t necessarily reflect reality either and can inadvertently make girls who are naturally more slender and/or small in the bust feel like they “should” be bigger.

Rather than arguing over which proportion is more “realistic”, I’d rather we encouraged girls to know that, with the exception of proportions they might see that are literally unnatural, ALL body types are REAL for someone and can be appreciated and accepted. Rather than trying to change established characters to fit someone’s idea of what more “real” looks like, possibly to the exclusion of girls with body types just as real, perhaps we should encourage girls not to compare themselves to any fictional depiction of women, to include those that are made up and/or photoshopped.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below.

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3 Thoughts on “Female Video Game Characters and Body Image

  1. Pingback: In Defense of Video Games | Fantasy Rantz

  2. ko e this so much! It’s a discussion that we need to have and I appreciate your commentary on the issue!
    Mercedes recently posted…My Favorite Parenting PodcastsMy Profile

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