Sometimes, there are a handful of games made within our beloved male-dominated video games industry where it’s obvious that one gender is put over the other. In many cases, women are overwhelmingly represented as little more than sex objects or helpless damsels, and men as hulking, muscular characters who are only heroes if they're blowing shit up.
Video games are a form of entertainment, plain and simple. But just like film or television, there is ongoing criticism that many video games are sexist and promote unhealthy stereotypes and attitudes, with the Lara Croft reboot and its developers the latest under fire for their use of rape as a plot device in relation to the female protagonist.
Though there has been many developments against these stereotypes and plenty more which have proved critics otherwise, there are still games this generation which have fueled the fire of the sexist video game debate. Here are 5 undeniably sexist or otherwise sexually stereotypical video games of this generation.
Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball 2
DoA: Extreme Beach Volleyball 2 should have just been named Dead or Alive: Extreme Bouncing Mammary Simulation. Words cannot describe how hilariously baffling DoA: Extreme Beach Volleyball 2 and its existence as a video game is.
A spin-off of the Dead or Alive fighting franchise, Extreme Beach Volleyball 2 and its predecessor focused on putting the entire female fighting roster onto an island to compete in a Volleyball tournament, all without other males and all in tight little bikinis and swimwear for the player’s viewing pleasure. No real storyline, no real characterisation; just virtual girls to ogle at.
Interestingly, the game’s engine has complex, dedicated jiggle physics for each individual female character’s breasts, as well as a fully implemented tan line system. Volleyball seemed to have been used as necessary context to create the game for the... DoA Volleyball fans. Who knew there were so many to warrant a spin-off?
There is simply no justifying this game as fun or purchase worthy when the breast physics evidently received more attention than the shallow Volleyball gameplay, “friendship” system and several meaningless mini-games. No true gamer can convince me they bought this game solely for fun rather than a sad perv.
If you’ve played Bayonetta, or even seen the titular character, I really don’t need to elaborate too much on this one. Hypersexualised from head to toe, the depiction of Bayonetta is the typical ultra-sexy, anatomically disproportionate and unrealistically curvy, unstoppable heroine who utilises or otherwise flaunts her sexuality as her power.
The head director of the game, Hideki Kamiya stated that the core of the game and its protagonist’s attacks is "sexiness", and that the character of Bayonetta and her ability to transfer into a panther was reflective of the development team’s desire to create a “sexy witch”. Well, that explains that, I suppose.
I personally enjoyed what little time I had with Bayonetta back when it first released, but it was hard not to notice or at least cringe at many of the combat moves, which position her in sexually suggestive poses, and just the general ridiculousness of it all. Fortunately for Bayonetta, its developers gave the game’s combat, modes and customisation systems a level of depth and fun many other titles on this list can’t boast about.
Onechanbara: Bikini Samurai Squad
Maybe for a certain audience, Onechanbara is awesome fun and completely understandable. But making a game that revolves around mindlessly killing zombies as women who only can wear bikinis and underwear and who have as much character development as a brick wall, well, it just asked for trouble.
It didn’t help that it received unanimous negative reviews on its portrayal of women, and most criticised its graphics as terrible and its gameplay as absolutely horrid, with no depth or true fun factor at all. The story revolved around two sisters and their dormant powers from a cursed bloodline which manifests itself once more when zombies suddenly invade Tokyo. The gameplay is absolutely awful and is as boring as the premise. Dead Rising is a much better alternative for fun zombie killing than Onechanbara ever could hope to achieve.
Onechanbara is probably one of the worst Xbox 360 exclusives out there, and one of the more obvious examples of why video gaming is still not taken seriously by many, and still regarded, often wrongly, but often understandably, as a medium which facilitates immature and outdated representations of women.
Look, it’s okay. You can admit it. Chainsaws and zombies are awesome, but we know why you bought Lollipop Chainsaw. Yeah yeah, it's because it's "cool", riiight, whatever; it's because Juliet is your dream girl.
An eighteen year-old cheerleader that kills zombies with a chainsaw and other crazy awesome moves and weapons is appealing to many, but it's hard to deny or at least acknowledge the shallowness or ridiculous level of underlying stereotype embodied within Juliet. Her overly sexualised and hyper-feminised costumes, her ditzy mannerisms, suggestive poses; Suda has a style for his games and a particular audience, so it’s understandable that Lollipop Chainsaw contains short skirts, crazy humour, ridiculous amounts of gore and a lack of seriousness.
But if you bought it expecting otherwise (again, I doubt it), it wasn't exactly a smart buy. It's not really a thought-provoking game to begin with, anyway.
Duke Nukem Forever
After over a decade of development hell, DNF finally came, saw... and has mostly destroyed any love the Duke Nukem franchise once had with fans. With its horrible, unbalanced gameplay, outdated engine and attempted tongue-in-cheek sexism that isn't even remotely amusing as it admittedly sometimes was, Duke and his charm wasn’t how everyone remembered him, save for the crude humour. DNF was otherwise destined for doom.
Duke is a funny character if you don’t take him too seriously. But it’s hard sometimes to not take notice of the way the game crudely treats him or its female characters, or “babes”, almost like everyone is sub-human. Whether it’s subtly, like one scene featuring a strip club with an in-game advertisement for “tampon night”, or the more in-your-face sexism and objectification that Duke Nukem is well known for, such as the slappable wall-boobs, Duke does and has always reeked of some pretty intense sexism and objectification of women. Doesn't matter that it's his signature style; it still is terribly cringe-worthy stuff.
It isn’t just the babes, though. The character of Duke has always been the epitome of male objectification; tall, hyper-muscular, obsessed with and concerned only with sex. Is it possible for a male protagonist to be a hero or a "man" if he’s not testosterone-filled, physically muscular, or otherwise saving "babes" in distress? Duke, doesn't think so. He ain’t got time to bleed anyway.
I am guilty of having a laugh at Duke’s past sexist antics, but there is a line and 3D Realms and Gearbox certainly crossed it in some aspects.
What do you think about some of these games listed? Agree or disagree? Are there any other games of this gen which take it too far? Tell us below.
Nathan Misa is the senior games writer, reviewer and contributor for MMGN.com and GamesFix. He is an avid RPG gamer and general nutcase when it comes to anything Japanese. You can hear his ramblings and thoughts here on MMGN, Google+ and Twitter.