Video games have not always had the best track record when it comes to beauty standards. There are many issues to tackle that are also remotely connected to this issue, including misogyny when women play video games or how characters are portrayed. Still, today we’ll focus on what beauty is regarding video games and what that standard should be.
When it comes to video game characters, a plethora of video games feature the “standard” body shape or look. For men, they’re muscular, sharp-chinned, and so “strong and manly” that they’re able to punch boulders with their bare fists. Women have curves, tight-fitted suits, and always wear the sexiest makeup possible that can’t be removed with water.
Of course, this stems from beauty standards within media in general; an issue plaguing the entertainment industry since its birth. There seems to be a bit of a bump in the road, however, when it comes to video games’ progression.
One of the most notable examples that come to mind involves Horizon: Forbidden West’s Aloy. Her more masculine appearance was heavily criticized, with one fan comparing Aloy to a fanmade edit where she has a more “standard” look with glowing skin and heavy makeup. Another example is Lara from Tomb Raider, who has been objectified in her entire gaming existence but has seen improvement in her character arc and appearance in recent years. So, what does this mean?
Progression is happening, but a lot of people don’t like it.
Some companies, such as Dove and Epic Games, have partnered up to try including more “body positive” or “unrealistic beauty standard” avatars in games. Granted, it’s a good idea. Not to mention, many game developers have been trying to break the stereotypical appearances in recent games. It’s a significant improvement–at least to some.
Another common idea of subverting beauty standards is having more feminine protagonists lead games with compelling stories. Some include the Bayonetta series, Resident Evil 2 and 3, or Nier Automata, which all feature good-looking female protagonists with exceptional stories to go along with them. See? They can still be attractive, right?
Well, the issue there is people still believe the characters are being sexualized, regardless of a good character arc or story. So, what’s a good balance? What must video game developers do to get “beauty” correct?
As beauty standards evolve in the entertainment industry, the gaming industry will follow suit. And, unfortunately, that means that “beauty” is still struggling to break out of its old shell and into a new one. The struggle involves a change in the audience’s perception and the developer’s decisions–and it’s an uphill battle.
Optimistically, the gaming industry will evolve to where looks don’t matter, and all shapes, colors, and sizes are equally represented. However, it may still take some time to get there.