In the middle ages, women rarely went into battle. Those who did often disguised themselves as men, dressed in male armor or fought alongside men out of pure necessity. However, none wore platemail thongs. And, if they were wearing bras or what passed for medieval lingerie, it was more than likely covered in several pounds of leather, chain, or plate.
Not so in video games. Female heroines regularly venture into dungeons clad in the slightest of armor, far more interested in generating smiles from players than protection from monsters, and even games set in modern or futuristic settings frequently feature what author and designer Sheri Graner Ray refers to as “hypersex ualized” females [GRay01]. In her book Gender Inclusive Game Design: Expanding the Market, Graner Ray notes that hypersexualized avatars are characterized by their accentuated features, the same features seen in women when they are sexually aroused. Their eyes look dreamy. Cheeks are flush. Breasts are high, and the nipples are erect. Their lips are full and red [GRay02].
Sexy avatars started to appear in video games in the early 1980s as the graphic processing power of computers evolved beyond two color choices. One such sys tem, the Atari 2600, was home to a highly controversial game, Mystique’s Custer’s Revenge. The game featured a fully nude woman, although the nature of the system made the nudity quite abstract. However, the point was not lost on feminists and anti-gaming crusaders who lashed out at the game for this and other, far more controversial reasons. The woman was tied to a post, and as his reward for avoiding a hail of arrows, Custer raped her. This game and controversy are covered in more detail in Chapter 2.
By the mid-1980s, sexy avatars in video games had developed momentum, and an oogling in-game supporter. Sierra’s landmark game, Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards™, was released quietly and with little fanfare in 1987. Through word of mouth, however, the title eventually caught on. Larry Laffer, the main character in the humorous game, constantly pursued buxom beauties with mixed success. The initial release was profitable enough that its publisher released multiple sequels, however.
By the 1990s, sexy avatars were common. However, it wasn’t until 1996 that a sexy avatar took the gaming world by storm. Lara Croft™ was suddenly everywhere. A buxom, gun-toting girl, Lara was loved by male and female gamers alike. She appeared on the cover of countless magazines, spawned fan sites, and inspired a wave of sexy female leads that would appear in games in the years to come. In 2001, Para mount Pictures brought the franchise to the big screen. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie, was largely panned by critics, but was successful enough that it spawned a sequel, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life in 2003.
By 2004, digital beauties had become mainstream sex symbols in and of them selves and required no actor to play the part. The October 2004 issue of Playboy magazine featured its first ever video game photo shoot, choosing Luba Licious of Leisure Suit Larry: Magna Cum Laude as its centerfold. The magazine also featured nude or seminude “photos” of Dixie from Playboy: The Mansion, Tala from Darkwatch: Curse of the West™, and BloodRayne from BloodRayne™ (Figure 1.3).
FIGURE 1.3 Majesco Entertainment’s BloodRayne.
© 2005 Majesco Entertainment, Inc. Reprinted with permission.
In 2005, G4TV hosted its first ever Video Game Vixens Awards, and handed the Vixen of the Year award to Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball’s Tina. Awards were also given for such categories as “Best Booty,” “Kinkiest Accessory,” and “Best Bounce” [G4TV01].