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“Realistic” Versions of Female Videogame Characters

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Bulimia.com, an eating disorder support group and info site, recently added their own contribution to the ongoing discussion of gender within the gaming industry – notably, how female characters are drawn. The idea was to promote a sense of realism, eliminating “impossible” body standards and pushing the “acceptance at any size” narrative that’s been making its way through the health community.

And you know, I’ve gotta say. The first problem with this article (and the one that’s been brought up frequently) is the fact that every character they fixed is a fighter of some sort.

“Some gaming studios boast their hyper-realistic lighting techniques, touting natural cloud movements as the latest features of their games,” the article stated. “And with that kind of attention to detail, it makes us wonder, why can’t they accurately portray the female body? For example, plus-sized women are a rarity in video games, and when one does show up, she’s typically unusual looking. More often it seems video games are home to ultra-slim waistlines only.”

Let’s look at a few of their “improvements”.

Christie’s fighting theme is based off of the Capoeira style of dancing. It typically involves a lot of jumping, kicking, and powerful sweeping movements of the legs and arms, which obviously would have required a great deal of exercise and training. There’s no way Christie would have that much body fat on her, especially around her middle, doing that kind of movement for a living.

Here’s another example of an “unrealistic” figure that’s apparently impossible to get. She doesn’t even have abs, just a well-kept body. Do the people at Bulimia.com just ignore the existence of gyms and jogging routines?

When you feel the need to use the 2003 version of Lara Croft to shame videogame artists for drawing skinny women because the 2014 version was already too realistic for you to properly bitch about, you’re doing something wrong with your life.

It’s Tomb Raider, for the love of God. It’s pretty self explanatory why she’s skinny and athletic. Now, granted, we weren’t as developed in terms of 3D art back in 2003, so she’s around the level of stick-thin as your average Disney princess. But to exaggerate the fat addition like that is a bit much.

Oh, Christ. There’s reaching, and then there’s this.

Yeah, sure. Let’s give her 50% more fat, bigger breasts, and what looks like a height adjustment, because as we’ve seen above, people who regularly partake in intense physical activity with athletic figures are Satan’s children. But to make sure you understand that, let’s enlarge her head, puff out her thighs, and zoom in to the point where she looks more like someone turned on Big Head mode in the game settings. I’m not too sure what they were trying to accomplish here by making her a chubby dwarf with no neck.

Honestly? This redesign looks so much better than the others.

She has a bit of stomach fat, yes. But it isn’t a full-blown beer gut as we saw in the others. I feel like they took a bit too much muscle away from her, but she still looks fairly similar to the original.

Let me just say that I’m not trying to demean or dismiss those who struggle with bulimia in any form or fashion. However, I do feel as if articles like these don’t really do much in terms of promoting body acceptance. You’re taking characters who lead extremely active lifestyles and making them look as if they’ve been couch potatoes for a few years, thus implying that losing weight and gaining muscle is a bad thing.

So, no – these aren’t “realistic” versions of female videogame characters. It isn’t even bulimia awareness. This is shameless (and unhealthy) pandering to the “beauty at every size” crowd, with an additional “fit people are the enemy” message tacked on at the very beginning.

Nice try, I guess?

About Deborah Crocker

Deborah is a 22 year old semi-hermit currently plodding through her senior year of college and getting her feet wet in game journalism. She has a somewhat unhealthy obsession with high fantasy, video games, novels, and Elder Scrolls. When she's not in front of a screen, she enjoys singing and a bit of beading. She's also currently on the hunt for the restaurant with the best cheeseburger.

  • Damien Whisenant

    Yes because there are no unrealistic male body images in gaming I know me and every other guy in the world looks like Marcus from gears of war

    • SenatorShockwave

      Jokes on you, I have the body of Optimus Prime from FoC bruh.

    • Redsandjunkie

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but the over sexualizing argument is always going to be one sided because men don’t have the problem of regularly being the prizes of female characters to be won, or being victimized as a damsel in distress or someone who needs the protection of a female character, making it seem like they are incapable of protecting themselves. It’s almost always the other way around. Plus the fact that many female characters are made to have unrealistic body proportions and skimpy outfits that don’t make much sense in terms of armor or protective clothing. The article that bulimia.com made does nothing to support this point. All it says to me is “all female characters are unrealistic unless they’re fat.”

      • The point is that unrealistic standards are set for men as well, where men are supposed to be these muscle-bound fearless entities capable of amazing feats of strength and endurance. Men don’t get pissy about it because they understand it’s not real.

      • Zak

        Plenty of games have strong and independent female characters, some even have the girl fighting for the prize of a man (FF X-2). There isnt even a very huge amount of games that deal with a male lead fighting to save/win a female character (zelda? mario? kingdom hearts?). Even still the video game industry has a higher percentage of men designing than woman, and a larger amount of men that actively play games than females so theyre going to design what they like and what they think will appeal to the market base. Dont really see why its an issue. Not to mention plenty of games carry the he-man archetype who wears practically no clothes into combat while maintaining a generally unattainable steroid physique.

      • ThePokeMaster

        They usually change the subject from ‘unrealistic standards’ to ‘oversexualization’ whenever someone calls them out on ignoring unrealistic male physique portrayed in games and comics.

    • Jon Stone

      There are plenty of realistic male body images though – from Mario onwards. Girls? Not so much.

      • Charlie Goldstein

        MARIO IS A REALISTIC BODY TYPE???

    • Austin Arthur Olson

      I occasionally wear a doo rag, yes.

  • Raphael Kennedy

    Spot on, the article though made with the best intentions was really very stupid and missinformed.

  • Steve Ward

    Clear case of lack of responsibility, I’m unhappy about how I look but its not my fault its societies standards. Get your ass to the gym, eat healthy or suck it up. Either way take responsibility for yourself, I don’t cry every time Channin Tatum or Chris Hemsworth take off their tops and I certainly don’t judge myself by Duke Nukem or Johnny Cage’s standards.

  • Kitty Alexandra Ania

    This article is stupid and misinformed. Most of the Characters you picked have healthy athletic bodies, all the artist did was make them overweight.

    • Artorias Caestus

      That was the entire point of the article…..

      They have healthy, athletic bodies from living very active lives.

      Then the artist made them overweight, which is incredibly unrealistic considering the amount of exercise the characters actually get.

      I’m less active than them and in better shape than the redesigned ones.

      This writer didn’t pick the characters either.

      That was another author on another webpage. This article is criticizing the flaws in the original.

    • Alex

      have you read the article? It was criticizing the re-design.

  • Jonathan Evan Stern
    • Nicole Boder

      I slightly disagree with you. Her breasts look to be about a B cup. It’s completely realistic for a 13-14 year old to have breasts that size. I personally started puberty at 8 and my breasts were B cups by the time I was 10.

      • Jonathan Evan Stern

        Okay, but remember her level of athleticism. I’ve little doubt that you are in decent shape, and were during adolescence, but she’s in god-fighting shape.

        • Zak

          Supposedly Rikku was 15 in FF10, thatd put her at 17 in X-2 ? Which is when that animation is from. Rikku is actually very moderately proportioned for a female character and even looks like a lot of girls I knew in highschool.

          • Jonathan Evan Stern

            Okay, for some reason I thought she was significantly younger. My mistake.

        • Nicole Boder

          That’s why I said slightly. I agree with you on every point except that her breast size is unrealistic.

  • Blake Rains

    You all are stupid Video games are made for fun and getting away from the world and having fun. Also remember all the male bodies that a normal man like me that can’t get to. I don’t complain about it because I know the game if for fun. If you want bodies like this. How about make your own game. You dick weeds.

    • Who are you talking to? Did you actually read the article?

  • Charlie Goldstein

    There are plenty of realistic female and male characters, but some people stop relating to them from a fantasy stand point and start comparing themselves to fictitious creations. Go outside long enough to learn a thing or two about the world first hand before trying to escape it with a reality built to reflect our biggest wants and dreams. Games aren’t meant to be realistic visually, they’re meant to inspire you through content, struggle, and the feeling of accomplishment that comes with progressing and adapting to each situation.

  • dTRON

    All ya did was make those game models look lazy. They are fighters. Fighters are tone with muscles. Not saying they are all the same in the waist like laura but shit. You made them unrealistic by adding extra weight were it wasn’t needed too much. Plenty of non American women who look like that all over. Stop trying to make lazy American women feel better. It’s a fucking video game. Christ.

  • Marylis Jodoin

    Seriously, realistic is not ”chubby”…

  • Kimberly Heise

    I didn’t think these were so far off. In my own exercise experience, gaining muscle means gaining fat. Only builders who do shows train to look trim. it requires excessive cardio, and reducing food and water, and the performer only does it for a few weeks before the show and then returns to a normal weight and physique afterwards. I was surprised at how my body changed once I started gaining muscle. I guess it was because I was eating more, but I looked very much like some of these re-draws. besides generally making the characters heavier in the redraws, the author of this article fails to mention that they have also been corrected in their other proportions. Female characters are often made with legs that are too long and a rib cage that is too small. those where corrected in the redraws as well, and I think that is worth some merit.

    • Zak

      AS the article said, all the characters represented here are EXTREMELY athletic, their initial proportions are more accurate than the redraw, Rikku wasn’t even terribly proportioned beforehand with a lanky/lean physique, nor was bikkini girl for that matter. Of course you would gain fat while gaining muscle if youre eating more to sustain muscle growth, bulking and cutting run in cycles so its not really relevant when characters who would do a lot of consistent cardio are used to represent the idea.

  • Austin Arthur Olson

    I mean, I totally understand that our society tend to have unrealistic standards, and there is certainly nothing wrong with being full figured or having a little chub in either gender, but really? Do you really expect these character to be able to believably do what they do and look they way they were redesigned? Stick with the supermodels, for God’s sake.

  • russ

    Sorry to say it but the author seemed a bit salty to me. Look truth of the matter is it’s a video game, If your judging yourself image and confidence according to what a fictional universe is selling your pretty much a self loathing idiot. You should keep in mind that if you wanted you could change the appearance of your body at any time through multiple methods (I would suggest less sodas and McDonald’s and get off the fucking computer/tablet/smart phone and RUN or swim!!! Who would’ve guessed fucking exercise would cure that *great Scott’s Batman*) To be fair I think majority of super models present a false image of beauty by being tiny little sticks but that being said if you base your self appearance off of someone else’s your again an idiot. At the end of the day the question is are you comfortable in your own skin and 90% of people aren’t and 63% of those people want to blame someone or something else. YOU have to work for and find that spot with your body that you are comfortable with. My wife has a tummy (she had two kids) and guess what I still wanna do nasty things to her on a regular basis and still find her attractive and still find her beautiful. I don’t expect anything from her. If she is comfortable I am too. If she wants to work and change her body I support that too. Stop worrying about everyone else and worry about yourself find that confidence in yourself. It took me years to be confident and even now I need some reassurance from time to time but I am confident in my body weight. I have a tummy and I have some man tits. But idgaf never have I played football, baseball, track, power lifting and when i feel like im getting alittle pudgier than i should i go run!!! And watch my diet. I dont starve myself i eat healthy proportioned meals. Not Mcdoubles and French fries and pizza though I love pizza. Any who love yourself and know your worth cause if you don’t no one else will. Just my two cents

  • Jace OfSpades

    You know the stupid crap is that they edited the GTA V girl so she can have a”realistic” body… They need to do their research first because the GTA V chick is based off of an actual model already, so guess what, her body is as realistic as it gets

    • Scarybrite

      lol @ thinking models have natural and realistic bodies. just lol.

      • ThePokeMaster

        So her body is artificial and not “real” enough?

        I’m not sure you know what those words mean.

  • Akutra Cea

    This is a lie, most of my girlfriends are at least as skinny if not even skinnier than the ‘skinny’ versions. I believe they should adhere to diet and exercise anyway if they have put on a little weight, it is not everyone elses fault you put on some pounds.

  • Rod Giese

    Boop

  • Mojdak

    I don’t get it, why pick on women in games where the women themselves are strong, powerful and independent? Are the evil just because they happen to look beautiful in the process?

  • ThePokeMaster

    “Realistic” and “out of shape” are not interchangeable terms.
    Just look at that Rikku^ and now google Rikku cosplayers. Now tell those women that their bodies are not “real” enough, whatever that means nowadays.

  • Piper312

    Wow. This girl is like the Herman Cain of video games journalism. Good for you Uncle Tom! Haha.

  • Lothian117

    What the hell. If you want to denounce anything, attack magazines ans TVshows that always show “perfect” women. When i see people attack game characters just for their body, that’s just terribly stupid.

    The most selected characters stories gives them an athletic body, that’s just terribly logical. And when i saw Cortana, damn. Her model is a real female and she’s not anorexic. If you just stop your judgment to “oh. Boobs. Ass.” Damn you’re stupid. Cortana is just my favorite character and that’s not for her boobies. Devs gave her feelings and an history, if you’re not able to follow the story before the boobies, just don’t play videogames.

  • That Person

    I’m sorry, but you have no idea of what you’re talking about. All they did was match the characters with a the average measurements of women today. Also, do you actually know how human anatomy works? That even if someone is athletic, they can still be over-weight, not to mention that they are not at an unhealthy weight? Seriously, the fact that these characters look more human when they are impossibly proportioned just shows how little averaged sized women are seen as normal. I’m sorry if i sound angry, but ignorance likes this is what perpetuates the very thing Bulimia.com is trying to fight against! So many people are literally KILLING THEMSELVES because of shit like this, and everyone knows it! The fact that no one is doing anything at all to fight against it is even worse! Stuff like this takes something that is trying to do what little good can be done and diminish it, shun away any kind of change in mindset, and that is just regressive. Again, I’m sorry if this seems like an angry rant, but this really makes me upset.

  • How does making someone look fat translate to realism, you’re just making them fat. That’s all.