10 lies games tell us about women

Did they think we wouldn't notice?

Over the past few months we've been recounting some of the lies video games have been telling us over the decades. Mostly they tend to get away with those lies because gamers have no experience in areas like space, war, and the apocalypse.

Perhaps the most insidious lies of all, however, are about women, because many (arguably most) of us are women. One would think this would make it really easy to notice the falsehoods--or to avoid them getting into the game at all--but in this case the game industry's latent prejudice is still constantly seeping through the cracks.

The average bust size is EE

You know the video game industry has a problem with how women are presented when a female character getting average-sized breasts was considered news, and a subject for months of forum debate.

The problem hardly stops at Lara Croft though. On this issue, the prime-evil is no doubt Team Ninja. Their Dead or Alive series was once known for its "jiggle physics," a physics engine that was about as true-to-life as Mario Galaxy. And who could forget Rachel from Ninja Gaiden, (read: everyone) who embodies just about every problem on this list.

Women account for 1/5 of the population

This problem exists across all media, but it's just as prominent in video games: the token woman. It is exceedingly rare to find a video game in which 50% of the characters are of the female gender. More often than not, there is one woman in a sea of men. Most of whom are trying to date her.

More often than not, you'll have four male soldiers alongside one female. Yes, there are more men than women in the military so there are certain times when that makes some sense, but when your game takes place hundreds of years in the future in space you really shouldnt be striving for a gender makeup that mirrors 21st century America. It makes even less sense in RPGs or apocalyptic games. We can guarantee you that more than 1/5 of women would want to pick up a gun/blade/gunblade to defend existence.

They're completely and utterly helpless

Some appearances of this trope are mostly accidental. Sometimes the game's AI is just terrible, causing the escort mission to be a frustrating mess as the lady you're escorting stands around getting shot. Other times the entire game is purposefully built around the idea of the woman being helpless, as in Ico where Yorda plays essentially the same role as Baby Mario in Yoshis Island.

The very point of an escort mission is completely bonkers in the first place though. Why do game developers seem to think we need to hold their hand the entire way back. Couldn't we just say, "OK, the exit is like, four doors down, take a right after the Coke machines. My car's right outside, you can't miss it. It's the one that's the Batmobile." That's not the half of it, either. Other baseless tropes include: the princess who's never been outside the castle, the ditzy blonde, the woman who "just can't take it anymore," and of course the naive optimist.

...or they're world-weary and sarcastic

Not every female character is inept, but if they're not incapable of walking down the street without a brave man helping them they're a world-weary soldier who has nothing left to believe in or a sarcastic jerk who has seen it all. Optional additions include: dark secrets, or a nurturing heart deep beneath the gruff exterior that only needs to be reawakened by the warm manly embrace of compassion.

In an attempt to get away from the old-school princess/worried mother stereotypes, many newer female characters jumped to the exact opposite side of the emotional spectrum and became just as ridiculous in the process. Little known fact: Women do, actually, possess the capacity to be more than bipolar set pieces.

Common female occupations include Attractive Scientist and Daughter of Important Man

Women living in video games have a relatively small pool of jobs to pick from. Maybe they'll find themselves a clipboard and a pair of cute glasses to become Attractive Female Scientist, earning their keep by knowing passwords to doors you need to open. The most alluring position for most of these characters, however, is to be born as the daughter of someone important, such as a King or President. They rarely get to be important in their own right.

This explains why so many women choose to join up with male adventurers to save the world. With such scant employment options available, the chance to get a much-needed resume bullet point must seem very enticing. They're not party members; they're interns.

Approximately 75% of women are blonde Caucasians

Male video game characters have enough problems with getting equal representation of all races and body types, but women have got it even worse. Weve already established that in the world of video games women represent just 20% of the population. And now weve discovered that 75% of those are blonde Caucasians.

So that leaves just 5% of the video game population for all the women of Earth that arent descended from Northern Europe. And that doesnt even begin to address the roles that those 5% of women play. For instance, 100% of South American video game women are leaders of revolutions. Who knew?

Ladies lack strength, but make up for it with gymnastics training

This might be the most prevalent lie on this list. We've all seen it. The female RPG character whose strength stat is at 3, but her agility is 14. Or the action game character who can't wield the bazooka, but has a special move where she cartwheels onto the enemy's head and breaks his neck with her mighty, dangerous crotch.

The real-world differences between man-strength and woman-strength is pretty slim. Yes, sometimes men can open jars that women have trouble with. But there are also women who have ripped biceps. So yes, on average you might find a small bump in strength among average, but if you think you're going to beat Michelle Obama in an arm wrestling match then you're sorely mistaken.

Latex is armor for women

We won't be the first people to comment on the absurd outfits game developers put their women characters into, but it's worth dredging up this sore subject one more time. Video game ladies run off to battle in outfits that look more like they're headed to a Zumba class than a war.

This is to heighten their gymnastics capabilities, which as we discussed are universally formidable. You can't crotch anybody's neck in a bulky suit of armor, after all--that's just silly.

Then again, latex would be a step up for some game characters...

Women battle demons while nude

Latex may not be the optimal battle raiment, but at least it might protect you from a few scuffs, bruises, and scrapes. Some game developers don't even have the courtesy to give their characters a t-shirt before sending them off to fight the prime evils.

In the image above, X-blades' Ayumi is running into a sword fight with her thighs extremely well armored (what is it with game devs and thighs? See also: Cammy, Sonya Blade, Chun-Li etc.) Meanwhile, the rest of her body is covered with naught but a few pieces of rope and some nipple cloth.

Their gender defines their entire existence

Take a look at some average video game ladies, and a striking pattern begins to emerge: They're almost universally driven by the fact that they're women. The following is a collection of the usual character motivations of the average video game woman, usually said through fountains of tears: "Because I'm his mother!" "Because I love him!" "Because he's my husband!" "Because I can't have babies so I have no reason to liiiiiiive!"

Being a wife/mother/daughter/niece/love interest are generally the only traits average video game women have, and it's what drives them. While men get to be war criminals, duty-driven soldiers, pioneers, engineers, secret agents, Kings, princes, chosen ones, etc. Oh, and if she's a villain, watch out because we guarantee she has an alternate form where she turns into a monster that looks like a vagina.

Every attractive female character is a male fantasy

The worst lie that video games have been perpetuating is that these traits are something men actually desire. The phrase "male fantasy" is used far too much to describe unrealistically vapid and obnoxious characters with no traits that might make them desirable to any sort of companion.

These aren't fantasies; they're just bad characters with big boobs. The "male fantasy" part is an excuse employed to cover up the fact that they have failed to create a character that is compelling on any level.

And if you're looking for more, check out our article on the lies video games have told us about outer space and war.

Andrew Groen

Andrew is a freelance video game journalist, writing for sites like Wired and GamesRadar. Andrew has also written a book called EMPIRES OF EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online.