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WayForward: Sexy game characters aren’t necessarily attractive

Thursday, 10th February 2011 08:18 GMT By Nathan Grayson

Sex sells. It’s marketing 101. Give people something nice to stare at/drool over. Make them stop thinking with their brains and start thinking with their, well, you know.

WayForward’s Sean Velasco, however, argues that – where videogame characters are concerned – it’s not so simple.

“We like our characters to be attractive and appealing, but it’s important to let the personality dictate the look. It’s easy to make a sexy-looking design, but not necessarily an attractive character. Discerning audiences can tell the difference, and it’s easy to turn people off,” he told Destructoid.

It’s an interesting notion, and one that many of the industry’s chainmail bikini-obsessed designers could stand to consider. There’s also the matter of feeling downright embarrassed to play a game around other people because, yeah, that character could be hopping up and down while covered in whipped cream and still be more subtle.

Currently, WayForward is designing Mighty Milky Way, a DSiWare puzzler that sees you use “a magical staff to create and destroy planets on a whim” while fending off “vicious space monsters, avoiding sizzling electric barriers, and grabbing all the delicious planet candy you can.” Oh, there’s also specific mention of “a choral T-Rex anthem and a J-Pop ballad.” You can’t make this stuff up. Knowing the developer’s track record, however, we think it’s definitely one to keep an eye on.

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11 Comments

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  1. BraveArse

    It really is easy to turn people off – especially as the market expands and goes ever more mainstream. I know it’s something that turns my Mrs off of a lot of games, and she’s been a proper gamer ever since I’ve known her. I think it’s probably one of the more positive aspects of mainstream involvement, in that pretty soon character design and story design is going to have a grow up, a lot, if they’re going to be taken seriously.

    ( He says, ignoring the sales figures for The Sun, viewing figures for Big Brother and the fact that The Hangover grossed nearly $500 MILLION worldwide )

    /shoots self

    #1 3 years ago
  2. YoungZer0

    I totally agree. This has been a huge turn off for me ever since i was getting more and more into art. The way videogames show off female characters – especially japanese videogames – is a fucking disaster. This is exactly why i absolutely refuse to play big turds like Bayonetta or ANYTHING made by Team Ninja (those guys probably never spend time with an actual human female). I don’t care about gameplay and all that when the character i play has breasts the size of three heads or looks like a fucked-up Sarah-Palin-Barbie Doll.

    Design and Character-Design is getting more and more important. For me it can even save boring gameplay. Which is probably why i enjoy games like Kane & Lynch more than the average Joe.

    I can not wait to see what Eidos is going to do with the New Tomb Raider game.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. Michael O’Connor

    @2 I find it interesting that you choose to target those two games in particular, considering that Bayonetta was never meant to look realistic (she is stylistically designed that way on purpose), and Ninja Theory’s women are some of the most realistically proportioned and designed in the industry.

    There are far, far worse companies than these two.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. YoungZer0

    @3: You can design a character ‘stylistically’ without making her look like a retard. What’s up with her using her hair as a suit? And then totally get buttnaked whenever she pulls off a big ass attack? That’s part of the design too.

    And i said TEAM NINJA (Ninja Gaiden), not NINJA THEORY. Ninja Theory probably has the best Artists in the videogame industry right now.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. Aimless

    I was checking out Dragon Age mods last night with a view to playing it through again before the sequel comes out, an experience that would suggest the player base has just as warped a view of what constitutes “sexy” as any developer.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. OrbitMonkey

    A quick glimpse at this site here…
    http://fatuglyorslutty.com/
    Gives you a very depressing idea of what a fair few male gamers expect.

    #6 3 years ago
  7. Michael O’Connor

    @4 Oh wait, right, you did say Team Ninja. Whoops, my bad! Good to see we agree on that one. =P

    I think you’ve completely missed the point with Bayonetta though. It’s a bit like criticising Monty Python for not being high-brow humour.

    #7 3 years ago
  8. YoungZer0

    @7 Don’t know. Could be. What’s the point of it? I’m not trying to be a prick here, this question is actually serious.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. Michael O’Connor

    @8 Do you watch a comedy expecting a serious storyline? Do you want an action movie for its compelling character developement?

    Bayonetta is intentionally, unapologetically camp, and no character in the game exemplifies this more than she does. I understand exactly what you mean about over-sexualising characters, and the Japanese devs with their sex-doll designs are some of the worst for doing this, but Bayonetta’s design goes so far beyond hyper-real that the character’s design becomes a caricature of the very over-sexualising problem you’re talking about.

    Bayonetta doesn’t just have long legs. She doesn’t just have a slender waist -She has legs longer than her entire body, that end practically at her shoulders. It’s so intentionally ridiculous and over the top that you no longer see it as a hypersexualised character. Bayonetta is as theatrically excessive as the game itself, and she would feel lout of play in the game worlds if she wasn’t.

    Strong female characters in video games are some of my favourite. Strong female characters being portrayed as real women with real thoughts and strong personalities. April Ryan ranks up there as my favourite video game persona ever conceived.

    Bayonetta is not meant to be that type of character. I have had this conversation with a few gamer woman in the past, and many of them actually think that Bayonetta is awesome.

    Instead of creating a character that is a man-but-with-breasts, Bayonetta deliberately overblows qualities of the female gender, much like Marcus Fenix overblown what is “cool” about the male gender. You cannot masculinize or feminize someone without sexualizing them. Try it, and show me proof if you believe that point isn’t true.

    The designs of games like Dead of Alive are just vapid sex dolls. Their are average anime-like designs transposed into a 3D world, with little to no distinctive effort put into the visual style at all.

    Do you see the difference?

    #9 3 years ago
  10. YoungZer0

    Hm, to be honest i kind of saw this one coming. Basically: It’s all over the top.

    I can understand that. Totally. But that just doesn’t work for me. I can’t laugh or smirk ’bout that.

    I can’t get into things like that. Just like GeoW. Or movies like Transformers 2. I’m not looking for compelling character development when i watch action movies. That doesn’t mean i want to be insulted. Not saying Bayonetta does that, but movies like Transformers 2 do. I rather watch stuff like the Dark Knight or Inception. And i rather play games like Enslaved than Bayonetta.

    To be honest i haven’t spend much time with Bayonetta. I played it for a few hours, thought it was too much over-the-top-ness, and gave it back.

    It’s actually the comment base that led me to believe that this is just another Sex-Doll. “She’s so fucking hot” and all that. And i was like: “What the fuck man, just look at her legs, she’s a fucking alien.”

    It’s a joke alright. But i just can’t laugh about it. The whole way through …

    Just a question: If Bayonetta is basically a caricature, what’s that huge-breasted thing from Ninja Gaiden then?

    #10 3 years ago
  11. Michael O’Connor

    @10 A juvenile attempt at titillation.

    See, the thing about Bayonetta, it has the single handedly most fluid and reactive controls I’ve ever seen in a video game. Ever. The character is simply an affront to that gameplay.

    And when it comes to video game, gameplay comes before *everything* for me. If it wasn’t for the gameplay, I wouldn’t even give it a second look.

    #11 3 years ago