The above screenshot is a compilation of two images from the upcoming PS3 game, Infamous 2. On the left, a darker skinned scantily-clad women wears tight leather (or is it pleather?) pants, what appears to be a tribal coif of sorts, tall combat boots, and a piece of draping fabric barely covering her breasts. Her tightly-toned midriff shows and she stands with a pose that conveys confidence. On the right, an Asian woman with short (or slicked back) hair wears a black pantsuit with a white button-up shirt underneath. Aside from her lower forearms, hands, face, and neck, no skin is showing. She stands calmly, looking approachable.
Two very different women here, both of them with a motive in the plotline. The woman on the left, Nix, is a “”hedonistic guide that coaxes Cole into not thinking about the consequences of his actions.” Kuo, the woman on the right, a “NSA agent working to help Cole defeat the Beast.” In other words, evil = barely dressed temptress, good = fully clothed businesswoman.
There are a few things wrong with this. The biggest issue that I have with it is how a woman’s clothing is used to determine her moral standards within the game. If we took the same situation but used male characters, would the evil character be any less dressed? How often is the quantity of clothing that a man wears used to determine whether he is evil or good in a game? Never. You would know a man is evil based on his interaction with the protagonist, his dialog, his place within the story, his facial expressions. However, the easy way out for a woman is simply to dress her with the male gaze in mind. It’s a lazy way to make shallow female characters.
We’ve also talked on the Border House about how a woman’s sexuality is so often used as a plotline and a major indicator of the character’s personality and role within games. The woman who coaxes the protagonist into ill circumstances is the sexual character, using her body as a weapon. The woman who is deemed “good” by the plot is fully covered and modestly dressed. This does nothing but reinforce stereotypes that women who protect their sexuality by hiding their femininity are chaste and pure, and women who choose to be sexual are inherently evil. Your thoughts?