In the gaming industry, character creation suffers from a severe case of unrealistic gender portrayal. Finding a well written female character is quite difficult, and the only qualification that female PCs or NPCs seem to have is the necessity of exaggerated physical attractiveness. You’ll have better luck finding a good personality in a male character, but even they don’t escape poor design clichés. Men also fall victim to poor portrayal with bodies that are one flex away from hulking out of their clothes and meathead attitudes coupled with an insatiable taste for violence.
Is this really what gamers want? Do bulging muscles and heaving D-cups (not on the same character, hopefully) create a lasting and successful impression upon gamers, leaving them clamoring for more? Or is the gaming community more mature than we give them credit for? What does stir the loins of a typical gamer?
In the hopes of answering those questions, 20 male gamers and 20 female gamers between the ages of 21 – 35 were polled and asked who they thought were the five most attractive/appealing video game characters. They were then asked to presume what the opposite gender might think. The answers have been compiled into a top five for both sexes.
The women. As any gentleman might suggest, we’re going with the ladies first. The women named 53 unique characters from 35 different series, and here are their top five.
He’s vengeance, he’s the night, he’s also number five on the ladies list of most attractive male video game characters. Batman swooped in with 4 female votes, and 3 men gave the dark knight the thumbs up.
The fourth video game character that gets ladies swooning is the badass Prince from Prince of Persia, garnering 6 votes. Maybe it’s Jake Gyllenhaal’s portrayal, but male participants agreed, coming up with 5 votes.
Coming in third is Link from Zelda. Refrain from getting creeped out, 8 women stressed that the Link they were attracted to was the adult version from Twilight Princess. Men had the same idea and gave Link 5 votes, although some men still think Link is really a girl.
Second in line for the ladies is the rugged Alistair from Dragon Age with 9 female votes. He’s definitely the cutest romance option in Origins, but managed to fly under the radar for the men, and only saw 1 vote.
And finally, making the lady gamers squeal and faint in his wake, females almost collectively agreed with each other and gave Nathan Drake from the Uncharted series the stamp of approval with 15 votes. Men agreed, some more enthusiastically than others, and came up with 16 votes.
The men. Their opinion was scattered amongst 55 female video game characters in 39 different series, and the results are quite interesting.
The number five spot was a tie for the men, with each of these women garnering 4 votes. The daring and unapologetic Elena Fisher from the Uncharted series and the brave and beautiful Jade from Beyond Good and Evil start off the male countdown, but no votes came in for these characters from the females.
It’s no surprise that the premiere video game female protagonist has found a place on this list. Lara Croft from the (do I really even need to say it?) Tomb Raider series takes home only 6 votes, putting her in fourth place for the men. She was the most anticipated answer from the ladies with 13 votes.
Metroid’s own Samus Aran pulled in 7 votes, most men specifically requesting zero-suit Samus. She was also tied for the second most guessed character by the females and acquired 7 votes from them as well.
The nimble and athletic Runner Faith Connors from Mirror’s Edge brought in 8 votes from the male gamers, and only 1 vote from the ladies. Men love a woman who can deftly escape a crime scene.
Cute and smart, independent, and also well dressed, Alyx Vance took the top spot for men with 9 votes. As probably the poster child of video game crushes, Alyx is truly the perfect girlfriend most male gamers wish they had. She was also the underdog for the fairer sex, only garnering two votes from the women.
So what does this all say? The reality of this poll is that it’s too small to say anything conclusively, but large enough to give gamers, both male and female, some food for thought. The top five picks for women were quite understandable. Characters they have gotten to know over time, ones that are powerful with a generous side of emotion, and can also be based in reality, all were given as reasoning for choices made.
The male characters chosen are strong but also with a conscience, men who are adventurous with a sense of responsibility, and some men who have emotional attachments that drive them toward success. None of the characters could be classified as thoughtless, overly violent, or busting with muscles. Male characters need to be interesting and complex to appeal to women, not one sided kill machines.
Most men chose a few characters that have been boosted into the limelight as model female characters, women who can think and fight for themselves. More importantly, men picked the kind of characters that female gamers want to see more of in video games. Surprisingly, save for zero-suit Samus and early Lara Croft, these women have realistic proportions. They don’t fit into the overly sexualized mold most female characters are criticized for, in fact, they are the standards women hope future characters are created by.
One of the biggest fights happening for female gamers is the war on sexism in games. How the minimal representation of independent, feminine, thoughtful, smart, and appropriately clothed women is damaging to the overall perception of females. If this poll stays constant over a larger group, it would prove that the female characters that stick with men are the well written ones. That hastily creating a female with defining characteristics such as tits and ass, will quickly drop into obscurity.
Take what you will from this small sampling of gamer opinion. I’ll be using it to accurately place the light at the end of the tunnel.