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Tameem Antoniades and the trouble with tits

Thursday, 22 March 2012 06:46 GMT By Brenna Hillier

An outrageous quote from Ninja Theory boss Tameem Antoniades has highlighted a problem plaguing the games industry: an assumption that all of us are teenage willy wavers or desperately lonely man children.

He’s speaking to a particular audience here, and an audience that is not necessarily representative of all, or even the majority of, gamers: the kind of gamer who is looking for a girlfriend.

Tameem Antoniades is the head of a developer known for its restrained, respectful narratives, now in charge of a franchise somewhat notorious for being the opposite of that in every way.

Speaking to PSM3, Antoniades said his team had thrown out the Devil May Cry’s previous approach to female character design because it’s not actually that attractive.

“If it’s true that the average console gamer is over 30 – which I totally believe – then you can’t use those cheap tricks to titillate people into wanting to buy your game,” he said.

“I’ve nothing against big tits – I’d rather have my head resting on a pair right now – but if you’re going to try and stimulate someone on different levels, there’s better ways to do it. If you look at the stars in movies, the women people find really attractive are often not the ones with the biggest tits. You’ve got to be attractive on a different level.

“We did that in Enslaved with Trip. People loved her, not because she had big breasts and high heels, but because she felt like someone who could be your girlfriend. That to me is more attractive than a prostitute walking around with a big gun. Not to demean prostitutes.”

CVG dutifully reprinted the whole interview, and Kotaku picked the quote, which makes for a fantastic headline. It’ll be everywhere by the end of the week, I suspect.

In some ways what Antoniades said has hit the nail bang on the head and he deserves our applause. The average age of gamers is rising. The industry’s reliance on over-sexualised, impossible female design is somewhat insulting to those who’ve grown past the point of getting erections from passing bra stores. A man (or woman, let’s not forget) of a certain age might admire a rounded bosom or rump but a sparkling personality on an attractive lady of more reasonably sized assets takes a short cut right to the libido. It’s to Antoniades’s credit that he acknowledges that we’re not all slavering sex addicts.

But at the same time, he’s speaking to a particular audience here, and an audience that is not necessarily representative of all, or even the majority of, gamers: the kind of gamer who is looking for a girlfriend.

That’s nice love, now put it away

It’s bad enough that a lot of games assume that their target demographic of straight blokes think of women as having no greater value than as repositories for your genitals, and enjoys their constant depiction as such. But many of the games that manage to put that behind them do so with the idea that we’re all sad, lonely gits who just want to be loved by virtual maidens.

There’s growing evidence that the hardcore gaming demographic – formerly almost entirely composed of straight, young males – is increasingly varied. Gamers aren’t nerdy, under-sexed youths locked up in their bedrooms fapping over cover art any more. They’re happily married. They’re dads. They’re straight women. They’re gay men. They’re hundreds of different kinds of people who – and this is the key point – don’t necessarily view women as potential mates first, and people second.

It’s human nature to judge people based on their sexual and romantically attractive qualities. We all do it, don’t we? You don’t have to be a mad lecherous sex fiend to make a snap judgement on whether you would or wouldn’t. There’s no shame in that. It doesn’t mean you think of the person you’re viewing as nothing more than a piece of meat, an outlet for your needs – it’s biology. It’s a split second reaction and it rapidly takes a back seat to more pressing concerns, like conducting whatever business brought you into contact with them.

Games aren’t dating services and they aren’t pornography, two things that have an important role in our society which is adequately provisioned for outside the games industry. It’s time the whole industry got that through its head and moved on.

Where games – and many other media – go wrong is by assuming that appealing to this initial snap judgement is all you need to do to create a great female character. For those poor sods at home without companionship in their lives, maybe it is, but for the rest of us, we want the female party members to contribute something. We want them to be somebody, and to have a reason for existing beyond looking good in minuscule amounts of leather bikini or being there to hold our hands and have our babies.

It’s insulting to all gamers that so many depictions of women in gaming are just eye candy. It assumes we’re too stupid to see that a pair of big tits doesn’t make up for shitty writing, or a total lack of characterisation. It assumes we’re all wired up to our genitals so strongly that we’ll let everything else slide. But even when we get past that rubbish and get to what they’ve got between their ears, it’s insulting to assume that what we want is life companionship – “girlfriend material”.

Surely most gamers don’t play video games because they’re looking for female companionship. They play games because they want to blow something up, or drive a fast car, or be enthralled by a beautifully realised fantasy world. Even acknowledgements like Antoniades’s, which give us some credit for adult taste, fail to take in the fact that we can enjoy female characters as people who exist in a greater capacity than as romantic interests.

Games aren’t dating services and they aren’t pornography, two things that have an important role in our society which is adequately provisioned for outside the games industry. It’s time the whole industry got that through its head and moved on.

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26 Comments

  1. JPickford

    What was the outrageous quote?

    #1 3 years ago
  2. KAP

    Don’t look at us mate look at the artists who make these characters, there the lonely man-child.
    Only today, there getting paid to design what they used to wank to.

    Personally no gamer asks for a shaved head space marine or a big chested 14 year old school girl, its what they think might sell.

    Freeman & Shepard* are testiment to that.

    *Fem shep obviously.

    #2 3 years ago
  3. The_Red

    Well spoken words. I think every game dev should remember this part: “Games aren’t dating services and they aren’t pornography”

    Bayonetta was an UBER sexualized character with over the top personality that didn’t even remotely try to be a girlfriend and yet she is the best female character made during the entirety of this generation (At least in my humble opinion). It was 3 things at the same time: A satire of sexulizied game heroines, A tribute to AND example of the said sexualization and finally, a decent example of a powerful female character with a few feminist elements (I know, outrageous but that’s how I felt about that character and her game).

    #3 3 years ago
  4. sb319

    A bit unfair to take a comment out of context and then proceed construct a one-sided argument about issues the original quote never intended. Did you ask Tameem for further comment?

    The original point is entirely reasonable. To create an interesting, engaging, attractive female lead character with sex appeal we should look beyond the rather dumb busty vixens so omni-present in Japanese titles and try for more nuanced characters.

    Personally I think Tameem over-estimates Ninja Theory’s own success: Trip in Enslaved DID look a bit too much like a perfectly made-up glamour-puss / page three girl (with an ability for computers, admittedly), as did Nariko in Heavenly Sword.

    #4 3 years ago
  5. TimClark

    Really enjoyed this, but politely wonder whether the provocative use of ‘tits’ in the title (rather than say ‘sexism’) isn’t all about hooking the same sort of audience Tameem is accused of talking to in the original PSM3 piece.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. OrbitMonkey

    I think the silliest piece of tit-ilation I’ve seen was in Lost PLanet. A icy, cold world, but the ladies still wore artic gear that showed off the fun bags…. Er, I mean fun bags in a totally respectful way obviously ;-)

    #6 3 years ago
  7. knuck

    I’ve been a VG247 reader for a good while now. I love this site, it’s my #1 place for gaming news. It used to be Kotaku, but I left it because of all the tabloid bullshit they kept posting. Like this article.

    Please VG247, I BEG YOU, don’t become just another shitty videogame tabloid, leave that to Kotaku! :(

    #7 3 years ago
  8. silkvg247

    Best female character in a game ever? Alis, from Phantasy Star. :)

    Well not “best”, but I’d argue the first that wasn’t sexualised. Also first ever RPG female lead character..

    We dont’ have enough strong female role models. I’d like to see that change, for sure. And by strong I don’t mean burly biceps, I mean a strong personality, a heroine.

    #8 3 years ago
  9. YoungZer0

    @2: You obviously don’t know how this works. The artists usually listen to what the directors tell them, and they tell your what their directors tell them.

    Really? You’re bringing up Shepard? Considering that her boob-size grew with every entry?

    #9 3 years ago
  10. viralshag

    Like #1 said, what was the “outrageous” quote? I think this is taking a fairly obvious quote, that any normal gamer would say, and blowing it up a little bit.

    #10 3 years ago
  11. OlderGamer

    If the only music you every heard was American County Western. You would listen to it. And you would enjoy it. It wouldn’t make the music good. Or bad. It would be all you would know.

    Thats a lot like objectifying females in video games. You accept it because you don’t know any better. Even expect it. Works the same in other mediums as well. From music, magazines, web, tv, movies, just about everything. I am sure it has some deeply rooted fruedian motivations. Mostly it is just human nature. The games industry is feeding that.

    Never going to change, not in games or anything else.

    #11 3 years ago
  12. Freek

    The outragouse quote being that all gamers are looking for a girlfriend bitt.
    Thinking that replacing one stereotype with another stereotype is the basis for good character design is missing the mark and showing a profound misunderstanding of who your audiance actually is and what he/she is looking for in a game and/or a story.

    #12 3 years ago
  13. YoungZer0

    Oh and i’m with him on the whole topic and i applaud what he said. And yes, while Trip was sexy she never was that porn-actress that we’ve seen in previous titles.

    It’s not even the design that pisses me off. It’s the representation. Just remind yourself how Sheva in RE5 was introduced. Exactly, she wasn’t. Her ass was. The first thing we saw of her, was her ass. Then some guard touches her ass or something and she’s all like “Oh no didn’t!” Like in some parallel universe this would be a strong women or something.

    She’s supposed to be a soldier for fucks sake. Have you ever seen a female soldier on the battlefield wearing high heels? I blame the director of RE4 for this one. It was his idea to let Ada wear a red dress in a middle of a infected village. With high heels.

    Best example of everything what’s wrong about female character-design is the new Kingdoms Under Fire. G-Sized tits with Nipple-Armor an ridiculous breast-physics. What kind of women would want to look like that?

    #13 3 years ago
  14. viralshag

    @11, Honestly, what on earth are you basing that on? We have plenty of female film, music and even game stars/characters that are not over-sexualised , attractive maybe, but not with a pair of boobs over-flowing from their outfits.

    #14 3 years ago
  15. OlderGamer

    See thats the trouble with the internet, viralshag. Every word is taken, by someone, to be exact. There is no allowence for generalities. Sure there are strong female leads in film. One of my all time fav lines is “Get away from her you bitch!”, Aliens, S. Weaver. She is drenched in sweat, holding a child in one arm, and huge gun in the other and staring down a monster that would make most people(man or women) run the other way.

    There are examples for both sides of the coin. For every Riply there is some scantily clad late teen/early twenty something female on the screen. Sex sells. And considering your demigraphic is important. A teen scream/slasher movie is going to have a lot of sex compared to a mystry film aimed at 50somethings.

    So, of course I was speaking in generalities.

    As gamers we should be slightly offended at what games offer. The devs/pubs must think we are all a bunch of teens. As a general rule we are sold female sex objects. Yes there are examples of games that treat females like regular people.

    Also, I have voice some concern over the influence it has over younger gamers. Both boys and girls. Its not healthy for girls to think they need to look like L. Croft from Tomb Raider. Its unatainable for the overwhelming majority of real females. Just as it is for boys to expect that their someday female parteners will look or act like video game chars. And yes same problem exsists across most mediums(that was my point btw). We can see some steps being made here and there like trying to make it hard from runway models to be clinicly anerexic(sp) and still model.

    I think it is an issue. Not just in games.

    #15 3 years ago
  16. viralshag

    Well I’m sorry if you were talking in generalities but my main concern was your last line of “Never going to change, not in games or anything else.”

    That’s a pretty finite sentence. One which I don’t really believe in. Considering the quote this entire story is based on. That and the fact that most people, based on the comments here, do not turn around and simply say “you’re all wrong, sexy big boobed women are the best!”

    I would agree there is an issue overall but I personally do not find the games industry to be the worst culprit.

    #16 3 years ago
  17. absolutezero

    “The average age of gamers is rising.”

    Exactly and you know what, theres far more pressing problems surrounding this than simply bad female character design.

    When was the last time that a game had an actual adult storyline, not just aimed at late teenagers. The mature tag is thrown about a hell of alot but when your games story reads like it was written by a 16 year old who the fuck cares if its mature or not?

    Also this entire article could more or less be flipped on its head about male designs. No one gives a shit about that though. ONWARDS!

    #17 3 years ago
  18. minxamo

    As much as I hate this guy, he’s absolutely fucking right.

    #18 3 years ago
  19. YoungZer0

    @17: I thought Witcher 2 had a pretty mature story.

    #19 3 years ago
  20. absolutezero

    It had casual sex in it though.

    MY MIND HAS BEEN BLOWN.

    #20 3 years ago
  21. Freek

    Yes, but not a silly way. The Witcher operates in that kind of shady world and he’s a bitt of a playboy, but in a believable way. The depth of the world and the character probably has allot to do with the fact that it’s an RPG based on a book series. It was a good story with interesting characters before it became a game.

    #21 3 years ago
  22. absolutezero

    I know I was just being an ass. The Witcher 1 and 2 both contain overtly sexual female characters, not in the girlfriend mode but out and out sexual beings. It never suffered because of this. Well the first game suffered from that horrible card collecting mechanic which was insulting. What im trying to say is that having the big breasted sterotype does not instantly lessen the quality of your game.

    That and the far more important issue of an ageing majority for a player base. If developers cannot create games aimed at their largest market what use is there in homing in one precise fault?

    More games like The Witcher 2 more games like the best of Human Revolution (and less of the worst parts please).

    #22 3 years ago
  23. fearmonkey

    I would argue that the Spike video game awards and what G4TV has become is much worse than being titillated in a video game. Adult scenes such as what is found in the witcher games, Mass effect series, etc arent that much different than a PG-13 to NC-17 movie these days.
    If a non gamer watches Soul Calibur, Bayonetta or the Dead or Alive series being played they might roll their eyes, and view it as the same as modern comic books. If a non gamer watches Spike TV’s VGA’s or attack of the show they would think far worse of us

    #23 3 years ago
  24. Dragon246

    Personally I like characters like Alicia from Valkyria Chronicles. Characters who have rewarding qualities in their character. They are not the people who I would like a relationship ( they are unfortunately just fictional characters) but you feel a bond with these kind of people and hope that they get a good life (a good ending in a game). A character made just to arouse sexual feelings cant possibly generate feelings like that.

    #24 3 years ago
  25. jldoom

    @Oldergamer I can see what you mean by it will never change. Not just talking about videogames here either, it’s every where. You’ve heard it before and you’ll never stop hearing it, sex sells. Doesn’t matter if it’s in videogames, movies, music etc. It’s just the way the media portrays everyone, male and female alike.

    Honestly though, I feel as if it’s one sided, but it’s as another poster mentioned, no one says shit about the over developed male characters. Going back to RE5, Chris, are you kidding me? This guy looks like Arnold in his prime. Which he was hitting the gym 2 times a day, 5 days a week, sometimes 6. He’s a soldier mostly deployed in the field, how the hell does he keep up such a muscular frame? Maybe I’m looking into it too much, but you can’t really mention one and not the other. Leon on the other hand makes sense, he look’s athletic, and fit. Not like a contender for the Mr. Olympia.

    Either way, it really doesn’t matter to me whether the female has G sized breasts, or an A cup. As long as the game is fun, I’m comfortable enough with my sexuality that they can show whatever the hell they want in videogames, it doesn’t affect me in the slightest.

    #25 3 years ago
  26. Mike

    I really think you’ve over-interpreted here. The girlfriend thing is just a short, perhaps lazy, way of saying “realistic, intelligent, humourous, deep, caring, sensitive.” Which is basically what you’re saying you want in a female character; someone who isn’t 2-dimensional, and is just there to keep the chaps happy.

    Now, your other argument about females being portrayed in games in general is valid, but I can’t see what Tameem says is wrong. I, too, a gamer of over 30 years, a real job, house and two kids, want the females in my games to be attractive. (attractive i it’s literal sense not sexy, or lewd).

    If I’m going to spend a lot of time with a female character, then she’s going to have to be someone whom I’d want to spend time with – you know, like a girlfriend. Doesn’t mean it’s a requisite that my character will sleep with her – but then again, in tales with heroes and heroines that’s often the case, and so what?

    Again, I’m not really following here.

    #26 3 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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