Fireside Discussion: Chapter: 5 Seductive Marketing Anyone?

Dec 31, 2012


Chapter 5: Red Hot Heroines

I come to you in an hour of uncertainty, in a time when game play, UI, controls, score, story and all other important parts of gaming seem to go by the wayside as sexy main characters captivate an audience so vast it covers socio-economic, gender and age barriers across multiple continents…

Heroes, whether they be male or female are important in any fantasy story be they movie, game or otherwise. It is as much their attributes as the shell that personifies them as being larger than life, yet relate-able. Particularly this effect is enhanced in video games as often times you get to control the character in all their glory.

First I’d like to cover Lara Croft. She defined “sex” in video games as being one of the first, over-the-top, big-busted heroines to hit the screen in Tomb Rader. Equipped with skimpy clothes a witty-playful personality and of course two 9mm cannons made her a desirable choice among gaming bandwagons. Of course this led to movies being produced, starring Angelina Jolie, some argued is even more stunning than the character she portrayed and even now some time after those films the name is recognized by men, women, adolescents and older gamers alike, was that their intent?

More refined and subliminal is Madison from Heavy Rain. Madison told a deeper story and was involved with Ethan (main character) in a way that showed her strength as well as empathy most often seen in female characters. Portrayed as “put together,” feminine, yet shielded by her clothes, values and the story, kept players from getting “too interested” in her as a sex symbol and more as an individual; although that began to change as you witness her in various stressful and tense situations in her apartment, the night club and the shower scene, the latter really stretched the normal boundaries of gaming in terms of expectations and creative expression but had astonishing effects on the tone being portrayed.

Some say that the character is enveloped within the “style” of the game and thus changes the way they are portrayed more naturally be it extreme or not. The examples above are very western and this next one will surprise no one but may shed some light on why it makes the list. Bayonetta is drastically different as compared to Lara and Madison in that she isn’t human by nature but is a women to the eyes and is drawn very differently being exceptionally tall and curvy. This doesn’t help you connect with her or tell her story any different but it does change the way you look at her and as a result the way you play. Let me explain this quickly and then get back to the witch-chick.

I can’t speak for everyone but Lara inevitably is played a certain way by most people (exactly as they see her), quick, to the point and brutal. Run and gun so to speak, slide to avoid damage but not because she or you is afraid of getting shot, it’s more what she would do because she’s badass, am I right? Madison is more fragile, reminds you of just a normal women but with motivation to trip a thief leaving a store or wrestle a purse out of the hands of a robber preying on those younger, older or unable to defend themselves. If Madison gets killed it feels different to you and by extension you play her cautiously maybe even to the point of hitting the reset button on the console so you have a happy ending… sounding eerily familiar anyone?

Back to the witch! Bayonetta is viewed as cruel, powerful and almost awe inspiring as we all fall prey to that “spell”. She is played like you would play Dante from DMC only with more flair and noise. Bayonetta can be victimized only when someone wrongs her or keeps her from exacting whatever torturous spell from hitting her target and she is viewed as that “goddess of power” by gamers, tall, sophisticated and perfect. This art both through story and imagery is very eastern as you would see in anime and some JRPG’s.

All this got me thinking, what affects me most in a heroine? Is it the look, the story, style, the way they are portrayed, the result of the game or some crude combination of everything depending on my age and mood that day? I can’t be sure now but I can say that my tastes for games have changed dramatically in alot of areas, this being one of them. It is only an opinion but I believe that superficiality surrounding sex in gaming is driven by age and nuanced looks into sexuality are being targeted more towards gamers in their mid 20’s to mid 30’s or older.

This led to yet another thought? Will sex in gaming always make a difference on my buying habits as I continue to change my gaming preferences? And if so, what types of games will those be and who will be gracing the cover? Will it affect you? A good example is the recent expression of Lara Croft, being more natural and “lady-like” whilst still seen as sexy.  Is that a  game changer for the older generation? In other words are they trying to get the attention of my generation, the first to experience the dual wielding, British, brunette bombshell; or did someone change the way she looks for no reason at all? Just food for thought, but play the game yourself and ask yourself after the fact, was Lara all you hoped she would be?  …. of course she was!