Last week, Sony and Guerilla Games hosted a State of Play event for Horizon Forbidden West, the upcoming sequel to Sony’s breakaway hit Horizon Zero Dawn. The State of Play itself was great, showcasing a lot of features from new gaming mechanics, to combat, and lush new environments. Another feature on display was the updated character models from the one-time PlayStation 4 exclusive. Just like in other games that have crossed into the next generation of consoles (Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4 a prime example), series protagonist Aloy sported a more updated look in which some sectors of the internet couldn’t help themselves but to be vocal about it.
This specific outrage I’m about to speak about occurs at least once a quarter, or at least it seems like it happens once a season. Currently, it almost always happens when a title from any of the Sony Studios comes out that features more realistic or lifelike storylines. When a game gets announced or gets a spotlight event to detail new features and content you almost always see it. You know what I’m talking about, right?
I’m sure you’ve had to have seen it at least once in the past two years; I’m talking about the misogyny and sexism that’s become rampant within the gaming community. It’s becoming more and more commonplace nowadays that you will see this particularly harmful rhetoric certain types of men will bring to gaming.
Across the internet, there’s this uncanny knack of seeing a male gamer — or sometimes, it’s a gaming critic or journalist — talking about, or talking at things that equate to “femininity” in the overall gaming sphere. Personally, for me, I’ve witnessed things from male gamers over the years that I can only sum up as either “cringe” or just outright “sexist”, and it doesn’t ever seem to get stopped, or even get better despite how much people try to educate others on it, or try to combat it. Here are some of the examples I’ve seen throughout my long time as a gamer:
“I had a lot of fun playing that game until I realized the hero was not a man.”
“Why are almost all of the main characters nothing but women?”
“Girls can’t be great gamers. They only worry about cutesy and unrealistic stuff.”
“It was a good story until the lesbian agenda crept in and took over the rest of the game.”
“That studio is making their lead female character look masculine as hell…”
If you recognized a few of those, you probably played a few of the games where those remarks were aimed at, or possibly been a person that they were “alluded” to. Let’s take a moment though and focus on that last comment highlighted above.
To directly quote a now-deleted tweet (that may need some grammatical critiques), “is it me or Sony be making their lead female protagonist look masculine as hell..barely no curves or rough non feminine features..Unlike the average woman. Like *cough cough..TLOU2’s Ellie…etc. Just saying #My2cents”. The tweet even included a picture of Aloy from the game alongside a fan made picture showing a photoshopped face of a woman with less weathered features, makeup, and a glowing smile, and included a statement saying “hire fans lol”.
I’m going to take a moment and explain, hopefully with logic, why this is a truly bad take. Roughly on thousand years in Horizon Zero Dawn’s future, humanity has survived an apocalyptic cataclysm, and the remnants of who we are has never returned to the mecca of post-modernism techno marvels that we bask in right now during year 2021. Is it a little too far-fetched to think that women would be more muscular, own much more willpower, and have a richly honed sense of survival in a world with giant mechanized monsters and uncivilized people trying to wreck your life on a daily basis?
Aloy’s look in the new-generation of consoles isn’t anything major. I checked out the comparisons of Aloy in Horizon Zero Dawn, versus what we were shown in Horizon Forbidden West, and the updates with her looks aren’t anything drastic. Take a look at Nathan Drake in Uncharted 4. He looks much different (yet still much the same) than his outings in Uncharted 1, 2, and 3 (where his look barely evolved). I remember seeing the gameplay reveal for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End at E3 2015, and almost didn’t recognize the main character despite all of the other main characters from the series barely getting a wrinkle (I’m looking at you, Sully).
So, yet again, misogyny rears its ugly head, and here we are wondering why men are like this. Sexist overtones in the conversation about women in gaming isn’t anything new. We see it all the time and probably see it more than we’d care. Could a reason for this mode of thought be because, for decades we’ve been bombarded with (testosterone fueled) depictions of unrealistic women in unrealistic situations?
From fighting games, to adventure games, and all the way to puzzle games, we’ve seen females in the gaming featured in some of the most unflattering, yet highly sexualized and objectified getups. Looking back, it’s been going on for years and seemed like it was never an issue. At least, it was never an issue for us male gamers. Characters such as Lara Croft, who was unofficially revered for an era as the First Lady of Adventure Gaming started off as practically a sex symbol in the original Tomb Raider game. You know exactly what I’m talking about, but Google search “Tomb Raider 1 Lara Croft” if you need a refresher.
Fast-forward to the here and now, more and more games feature female lead characters, and heroes that are not traditionally male. Video games are coming to represent more of who and what we look like as a society currently (even expanding to include LGBTQ characters). But with that progression, suddenly we are seeing a crying of foul where the more anatomically correct woman is an affront. If her looks aren’t aesthetically pleasing enough, it’s a problem.
Question: Are male gamers okay?
No, really. Are male gamers okay? I can’t speak for how women should be, nor can I speak for how women should look. It’s not my place.
I have my own ideal on femininity but, as a man, I make sure to keep them to myself and I’m very cautious about sharing my thoughts when asked about this topic by a woman. Why? Because I’m a self-identified member of the male species, and I cannot tell anyone of the opposite gender how to look, carry themselves, or be like a woman. I’ll even go as far to hazard a guess that other women, who are far more qualified at being women than I am, shouldn’t go around telling other women how to be feminine or ladylike.
Women make up a larger portion of modern-day gamers compared to where we were at the turn of the century. Men, you aren’t adding anything constructive to making games better when the only thing that comes out of your mouth is stuff that’s problematic with the opposite gender. It’s time to stop being stupid about this.
Games can be completely fantasy when they want to be as well as completely mimic life’s realism and emotion all the same. If you are a person (male or female) that can go online, or open your mouth in public spaces and say things like what was mentioned above, it’s time to take a long look at yourself and find out what made you this way.
If you have a moment, check out our State of Play Recap of Horizon Forbidden West by Logan Corkins. As we always say here at Boss Rush Games: Be Better.
LeRon is a content creator and contributor at Boss Rush Games. He’s a big fan of Monster Hunter, Mass Effect, Star Trek, Marvel, and various other nerdy media. When he’s not hunting monsters or trying to travel at warp speed, you can find LeRon writing fiction, watching more Star Trek, and creating more content on Twitch and YouTube.