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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