Criticisms of big-bosomed ladies in video games have been going on for some time. It’s an issue that comes up time and time again, whether in response to Team Ninja’s latest release, booth babes, or, more recently, the art of Dragon’s Crown. Many writers have piled criticisms on games like this, calling them adolescent, perverted, sexist, misogynist, and more. I’m guilty of it as well, but I’ve had a change of heart.
The conversation surrounding Dragon’s Crown has had its ugly moments on both sides. Kotaku’s initial criticisms of its artwork were blunt and insulting when they could have been more measured. Dragon’s Crown artist George Kamitani fired back with a “playful” gay joke that he immediately regretted. It has sparked some interesting conversations, but I have to wonder if we’re accomplishing anything.
When one criticizes game characters they find unpleasant, what are they really trying to accomplish? You could go as far as to assume censorship. They’re saying “Stop doing this; this is immature.” And if enough people speak up, those kinds of characters stop being profitable and stop appearing, right? Except, they don’t ever stop and we keep having this conversation.
Those characters don’t stop appearing because a lot of people, both men and women, find the exaggerated features and artwork of Dragon’s Crown appealing. Some people like watching the boobs bounce around in Dead or Alive. Hell, my girlfriend got the achievement for looking up Juliet’s skirt in Lollipop Chainsaw naturally, without knowing it was an achievement. We have explored the human body in both accurate and exaggerated ways throughout all of time, showcasing some of the most disproportional boobs and butts in our most famous art museums.
But I don’t think censorship is truly at the heart of the issue. I think if anyone criticizing these games really thought about it, they’d realize that the world would be a somewhat less interesting place without the wild artwork of Dragon’s Crown. By harping on these games that seem perverted, we are potentially limiting variety, and that’s a lot worse than drawing some cartoon boobs once in a while.
In fact, these criticisms seem like misguided energy. As game journalists, it can be easy to focus on the negatives. In fact, a lot of reviewers are at their best when they’re tearing apart a game that has it coming. A news writer with a critical eye will find the darker side of a story and bring light to issues you may not have considered. It’s important for the press to maintain that edge, but it’s also important for them to carefully consider whether or not they’re aiming it in the right direction.
The negative energy and criticism aimed at Dragon’s Crown and its like is wasted positive energy. It’s energy that can be better spent seeking out those games that balance out the sexy witches and bouncing boobs. The discussion shouldn’t be how Dragon’s Crown could be a more palatable game, but how Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite could. We should be asking whether games that actually seek to offer strong female characters, explore feminism, and approach equality successfully accomplish those goals. You could write an entire book on the conflicted bouts between feminism and misogyny in the Mass Effect series, but it's another example of games making progress in these areas.
In a more developed medium, this immature content would simply exist in a sea of variety. For every trashy vampire novel there are ten works of art, for every Piranha 3DD there’s a Persepolis or a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Other mediums have balance and boundless variety, and that’s the thing I think fans of games ultimately desire. So let’s spend less time stifling the types of game characters people can make and instead celebrate and discuss the ones that are moving the medium forward.
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