Eating disorder support website bulimia.com has released a series of photoshopped images showcasing what they feel are better representations for how female video game characters should look.
So, I’m going to be a bit harsh here—but before I do, let me say that I’m not opposed to this idea overall. Women and girls are constantly bombarded by worrisome messages on body image, and gaming is rife with female characters that have been designed not to represent a properly-proportioned body type, but instead one meant to specifically be sexually appealing to heterosexual male gamers. (Not something I’m saying is evil, to be clear.) Thus, showcasing some of the terrible examples that appear in video games—and re-imagining them as being more realistically-proportioned—is a great subject.
Sure, there’s the argument that characters in gaming represent what we want to be–not what we are—and I don’t discount that level of fantasy fulfillment one bit. You have to face the reality, however, that people who don’t see themselves represented in a form of media can end up feeling as if said media isn’t welcoming to them. So, I’m always up for a better variety of character types in our games, so long as they aren’t forced in due to misguided attempts at political correctness.
With all of that said, though, here’s my problem: bulimia.com made some terrible choices in which female characters to feature. Let’s run down the list of the ones I take serious issue with. (You can see a few examples of the site’s efforts below, but for the full list, hit the link at the bottom of this story.)
- Christie participates in a high-impact style of fighting crossed with dancing, so it makes sense that she’d be toned.
- Cortana is an AI-driven hologram—there’s no reason whatsoever she wouldn’t be made to look like a “perfect” human unless her in-game creator specifically didn’t want that.
- Bikini Girl is modeled after a real-life person who is built like that. Also, come visit Souther California—we have oodles of beach-going girls here that look the same.
- Jade, like Christie, is a fighter who has to do a lot of training to keep up with her opponents. Why wouldn’t she be toned?
- Lara’s design, first of all, is based off the old Lara—a model that’s now outdated and no longer used. So, that’s already an unfair start. And then there’s the fact that Lara is an adventurer who routinely does things like rock climbing or swimming or surviving various natural hazards. With all of the activity she does and need for the muscle tone to do so, she’d never look like that “after”.
- Sonya—again, fighter. Do you see any female boxers or MMA fighters who look more like the alternated version instead of the original? And she’s part of the military to boot. The only thing unrealistic about her is that outfit, not her body.
- Tifa is on this list, but I don’t have anything critical to say about her—I just wanted to gush about how much I like their revised version of her. Well, other than the unnecessary change in chest size. Why the obsession with that across so many of these characters? Are more “realistically proportioned” women not allowed to have anything but small chests?
The problem, as I’ve pointed out, is that so many of the examples used are characters where it makes sense for them to be at that specific level of being in shape / that particular body type. There’s a great point to make here, but it’s ruined by offering up so many choices that make no logical sense. Had the characters used been chosen better, the point bulimia.com was trying to make would have had so much more strength behind it. As it stands, it ends up feeling more like—ironically enough—thin-shaming.