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September 24, 2017
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Don't overthink female characters!

by Javier Degirolmo on 05/12/15 01:45:00 pm   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

Here's something I was thinking the other day, so expect this to feel like a rambling :P

Every so often you'll find an article by some game developer talking about how they made a female character that they consider isn't oversexualized and go into depth as to how they designed her. Also every time I tend to dislike such articles. Putting aside the fact that it's bragging about something that should be expected, there's also the problem that the kind of thinking that led to such decisions is usually wrong for starters.

Off the top of my head (and this is my opinion, so I'm probably wrong somewhere):

  • Usually what happens is that the character ends up being female just to be able to claim doing an "antitrope", rather than because it fits the character better. Also it has the ironic implication of bringing up attention to how much (little) she's sexualized, which is like the opposite of what one wants in the first place!
  • Usually they seem to think that the way to avoid sexualization is to reduce how much skin is shown and for some reason apparently also avoiding long hair (dunno why this seems so common) when all they really had to do was to just use normal clothes. Also they focus so much on this aspect that they may overlook oversexualization in other parts.
  • In many cases the character is also made overly serious and "strong" (whatever that means), just to show how she doesn't depend on others. Don't expect to see many cheerful characters from this, even though it's perfectly possible to have a cheerful girl who isn't somebody else's toy.

Essentially, in an attempt to try to make the game more inclusive, these designers end up overthinking it and the end result backfires. This is probably why the suggestion is to just get a woman on board (even if just to make comments!).

If for whatever reason you insist on doing it but you can't find a woman available for commenting (let's face it, not everybody wants to be involved in a game or has enough time to be involved in one) then probably the best is to design the character like you'd design a male one then gender flip the resulting concept (and work on that). I know it sounds stupid but it works if you aren't trying to think too much about it:

(here we would show the sprites of a caveman with green hair, carrying a club and a bit of clothing covering his legs, then below a cavewoman that looks similar but with just different haircut and the clothes modified to cover her chest)

In other words: next time you design a female character, just don't overthink it and go design her like you'd design anybody else. And please consider before talking about it because chances are you'll just coming around as some chap who likes to brag for no reason (better focus on talking why you like the character instead!).


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