From unrealistic boob plated armour to Korean MMOs where females must cover less and less of their body for a confusingly higher defence rating, gaming hasn’t been kind to women in combat roles. Most would just prefer game developers be honest with us and tell us they like looking at a physics defying ass, but no. Game developers will either stay completely silent on the topic, or worse yet, use the same old tired clichés of “it helps her agility”, or “she uses sexiness as a weapon”. While these are bad enough, some developers have gone above and beyond in an attempt to justify their skimpily dressed warriors, and it’s these bizarre excuses that we’ll be looking at today.
Bayonetta – Bayonetta
Bayonetta is basically sexuality personified, and yet despite this, her armour is actually pretty apt – at least compared to everyone else on this list. Normally, Bayonetta doesn’t show much skin, if any at all. The problem? Bayonetta uses her hair to fuel attacks. Weird, yes, but for reasons I cannot begin to comprehend, the developers decided that her clothes would be made from the very same hair.
Obviously, if you’re fighting evil with your hair you’re going to need all the hair you can get – and that includes the hair you’re using for clothes. Every now and then when using particular special attacks, Bayonetta will just go completely naked to deal extra damage. It’s completely unnecessary, and portrays Bayonetta as little more than a fetishised caricature.
Cortana – Halo
While Platinum Games clearly went for a more far out there reasoning for Bayonetta’s nudity, Microsoft really did try to give a ‘believable’ justification for Halo A.I. Cortana’s nudity:
“One of the reasons she does it is to attract and demand attention. And she does it to put people off so they’re on their guard when they’re talking to her and that she has the upper hand in those conversations.” – Frank O’Connor, Halo Franchise Director.
Frank O’Connor went on to compare the situation to that of the classic nightmare where you show up to school nude; except, rather than feeling embarrassed and uncomfortable by the predicament, Cortana instead projects that feeling onto the person she’s talking to, and “wins intellectual points as a result”.
This logic, while shaky at best, falls apart when you realise it’s only the female A.I. who’re totally naked. Male A.I.s in the Halo universe have the luxury of being fully dressed, and the idea of them trying to win ‘intellectual points’ by being naked is completely ridiculous.
Reyvateils – Ar Tonelico Qoga
A list like this just wouldn’t be complete without at least one example of a game from the far east, and Japan has gained a reputation for this kind of behaviour to say the least. It’s not unusual for Japanese games to dress their women in next to nothing; it’s gotten so bad that the UN tried to formally ban Japan’s fetishisation of woman in games earlier this year – though of course, Japan flat out refused.
Ar Tibekuci Qiga involves an artificially-created race called “Reyvateils” who try to save the world. The race is comprised entirely of young girls because (and this is where the biology graduate in me cries) the Y chromosome “suppresses their racial magical powers”. Yeah, sure guys…
So what we have here is a race of adolescent magical girls. What could possibly go wrong? Turns out, a lot. The Reyvateils use “song magic” to battle and, of course, they absorb magical powers through exposed skin – dressing up, they say, would be a detriment to their fighting prowess.
To make the whole situation of naked pre-teens even worse, when getting ready for battle, these girls have to quite literally take their clothes off. This consists of over a minute of really creepy, Sailor Moon-esque transformation sequences where the clothes just evaporate right off these kids. It’s disgusting, demeaning, and downright perverted.
Quiet – Metal Gear Solid V
The holy grail of these awful excuses comes from Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. When the game was announced, images of the almost naked female character, Quiet, were released to much discomfort and outrage. And rightly so: bullets will be flying in every direction and this solider wears ripped tights and a bra – and not even a sports bra for Christ’s sake.
The now infamous Hideo Kojima took to twitter to explain the situation, stating that obviously there was a suitable reason for all of this, and we were fools for not seeing it:
“Once you recognize the secret reason for her exposure, you will feel ashamed of your words & deeds.” – Hideo Kojima
And that all-so-illusive, honourable reason? She breathes through her skin…
That’s the big reason that we’re meant to be ashamed about. After being infected with a parasite, Quiet is doomed to a life of “breathing through her skin”. The same parasites supposedly stop her from speaking, just to further portray this woman as more of an object and less of a human being, just in case that wasn’t clear enough to begin with.
To add further insult to injury, Metal Gear Solid doesn’t just give an awful excuse, it gives a hypocritical one as well. There are in fact males infected with the very same parasites, who like Quiet must breath through their skin to survive. Yet here’s the thing, they’re all fully clothed from head to foot. Males with these parasites can be found in Metal Gear 3, and even you yourself can get infected with these parasites – conveniently, this doesn’t force you to strip off your battle-armour and don a rather revealing jockstrap.
Having ‘sexy’ female characters is not necessarily wrong; there’s a fine line between sexy and sexism, and in pratice the two are very different. Female characters that are made to wear unpractical gear that would get them killed in real life, in favour of lingerie, can have severely negative real world consequences. It enforces the idea that woman can be measured by their sexual desirability alone. Most of all however, I wish game developers would stop beating around the bush with halfhearted justifications and paper-thin excuses, and just say “I like looking at boobs”.