Like women, men are also objectified in gaming.

How many are playing roles that increase their disposability? How many seem focused on work-life balance?


*l to r: Top: Solid Snake (mercenary killer); Chris Redfield (of Resident Evil); Kratos (violent God of War series); Hawke (Dragon Age II);

l to r: Bottom: Ken Masters (Street Fighter); Leon Kennedy (Resident Evil 4); Geralt of Rivia (the Witcher); Brick (kills with bolts on fists)

So what do you think?




2 thoughts on “Like women, men are also objectified in gaming.”

  1. I’m afraid that this is really a matter of “only skin deep.” So it’s true that the depiction of men physically is significantly aberrant from what men actually look like. However, this has been the case for women in TV and everywhere for a VERY long time. In particular, very beautiful and surgically mutated women have been paired with not such attractive men in TV and movies millennia past. But the problem with this argument is not the physical attractiveness quotient here. I fully support the notion that we should NOT be encouraging everyone, men and women to achieve this sort of idealized and completely unrealistic image of physical attractiveness.

    However, I believe that this argument simply doesn’t work well. The title of this graphic, “Like women, men are also objectified in gaming,” suggests that men are sexually objectified in video games because in these games they do not physically appear like real men. Right. However, in order to truly be sexually objectified, one has to be the object of a sexual fantasy and men in these games are not the objects of sexual fantasies, or we’d be dealing much more with homosexual gamers, and by the way, these men probably wouldn’t look much like this if they were appealing to homosexual gamers. No, women in video games are designed to please the straight male gaze. These men are not the objects of sexual fantasies among the players (very much the domain of men and not women). They are not designed to be fantasies for women gamers (those men look and act totally differently than these men do). Rather these men are put into games in this way as a power fantasy for the male players. In addition, this analysis falls down any time a video game woman is saved. Too often women in games are still not depicted as wise, powerful, and independent. As with films, the women in video games too often continue to be depicted as weak and needy. This is, again, necessary for the appeal to the straight male video gamer market. We all know sex sells, in this case, we’re selling damsels in distress who are saved by bulging muscles.

    To be clear here, depictions of irrational physical attributes of men in video games do not make male gamers feel insecure (which is the net effect of most depictions of irrational physical attributes of women in games, films, magazines, etc.), rather these images make male gamers feel more confident in their abilities to solve the world’s problems. This is pretty much an anatomical argument, and creating anatomically inaccurate depictions of men and women in video games (and elsewhere in the world) is definitely not a good idea; it is something we need to, and should, address, but to call it discriminatory toward men is carrying the argument into a political realm that simply becomes polemic and ideological rather than strong, rational argument. I think if we were only looking at the physical attributes, we are able to say that they are unfair in both cases, for both genders, but as soon as we look beyond their skins, we’re on sinking quicksand to suggest that these two errors have the same net effect on the genders.

    Now the subtexts about whether these men are working on work life balance, or playing roles that increase their disposability is a good one. I think we could see that probably for all genders in all popular media. Film, TV, books, rarely does the drama that pleases the masses also create any semblance of good healthy roles. This is definitely a question worthy of critical reflection.

    1. I am very much pro-gaming. In my work as a psychotherapist when an issue arises in a young man’s family about his gaming I will often suggest that the parents/grandparents get the young man to teach them his favorite game. This gives the young man a new and unique platform where he is now the expert and his parents are the newbs. This role switch often delights the young man and if the parents succeed in learning the game the dynamics of issues around the game change drastically as the parents are now much more informed. I have seen repeatedly the bonding of parents and more often grandparents with the young man as they learn the game together and then go on to partner in their play online. This process gives the young man serious practice at mentoring and encouraging the success of another in an area of his own expertise. The young men usually love this! At family gatherings the grandparents and sons quickly seek each other out to compare notes on their latest quests. This of course plays into the boys’ interest in intimacy via shoulder to shoulder action. It’s a win/win.

      With that said….

      Ali, I think you are making a common and understandable mistake in assuming that the objectification of men follows the same framework as the objectification of women and is about sexuality. You said “suggests that men are sexually objectified in video games because in these games they do not physically appear like real men.” No, it’s not so much about sexuality, it’s about disposability. Let me explain. The objectification of women as sex objects ignores the uniqueness of girls/women while focusing exclusively on their attractiveness. For men it’s a little different. The objectification of men involves the act of disregarding the personal needs and interests of the man and reducing a man’s worth or role in society to that of an instrument, not of attractiveness, but rather solely for success. This is what Warren Farrell calls a “Success Object.” There is little question that gaming focuses on success at all costs, even dying repeatedly to get there. Risk everything for success. This is the objectification of men through gaming. The characters in the video games are shown as focusing one-pointedly on succeeding at their task and killing to succeed at all costs in the process. This is the extreme of the male sex role of provide and protect and while it may be a good model for being a warrior it lacks value in honoring the many aspects of a man’s life that create a mature man. The message is not take care of yourself instead it is more like: Be a beast and take huge risks to win at all costs. I think he is portrayed as having only one goal and that may indeed by saving the pretty girl but look underneath that goal and what you see is the implication that he should be serving others, saving others, providing for others, making others safe while risking his own life and limb. There is no mention of any interest in seeking out his own needs, his own safety, or finding what might make him happy or fulfilled. Just like the male sex role, it is all about serving rather than being. The objectification of men flows from the exaggeration of their sex role of provide and protect and encouraging him to be a “success object.” Of course gaming is just one of a multitude of places in our culture that pushes that message.

      “Too often women in games are still not depicted as wise, powerful, and independent. As with films, the women in video games too often continue to be depicted as weak and needy.”

      Weak and needy? This isn’t my experience of today’s games where the lead character can often be male or female with identical power. Can you tell me some popular games today where the lead women characters are depicted as weak and needy?

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