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+2 Cha -2 Str

A Simple Illustration To Tell When A Video Game Is Being Sexist

Have you ever started putting together your character for a game, flipped through the possible choices, landed on the (most likely lone) female and gone, “WHY ISN’T SHE WEARING ANY CLOTHES?!?” If so, the following illustration, by Redditor stareattheart is for you. 

I’d say to be fair there should be one more “Yes” image with the man in the skimpy outfit and the woman in the full armor but when does that actually happen, right? Are there games where the female player characters aren’t treated this way? Sure. But Mass Effect and modern World of Warcraft are the only two that immediately come to mind.

Not a set rule for the entire video game industry of course but this image sure does make me shake my head for truth and frustration. However, this Reddit comment made me chuckle, “That settles it: all RPGs from henceforth shall make everyone naked. Everyone.”

(Reddit (where the comments are fun) via Kotaku (where the comments will make you want to froth at the mouth))

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  • Ryan Quavey Havers

    Brilliant :3

  • Anonymous

    As much as I love Mass Effect, even it doesn’t have a perfect history. Seriously, the gender-neutral species all look like women? Oh, and they mostly seem to have jobs as strippers and escorts? Compared to the species that look like toads, which are all male (because females are so rare we never even see one?) Or the other species that looks like a prickly lizard?  Classy.

    At least we have our FemShep.

  •!/haversam [A]

    I don’t understand reddit — it’s a text site? with images hidden somewhere? I could never get it right. But the image is fun. Kinda.

  • Wulfy

    I think the first post on the original Kotaku, by Seoul Sister, makes a good point, so I’ll reproduce a tl:dr version here: The bottom image of 2 scantily-clad individuals can still be seen as problematic, because the shirtless Conan chap is a male fantasy of how they would like to be. Not all men of course, and not saying that people don’t like to look at the shirtless muscled man, its just that a game along these lines is still very much in keeping with male gaze.

    Discuss. :P

  • Pauline Mulkerrins

    I feel terrible, but I like my female characters to look like that. I mean, not overtly over the top but for instance, in Skyrim, Janessa the dark elf came on to me (I play a female wood elf- not as cute as I would like her to be, moves like a dude and the armor- so ugly) and not Aela, the hot female hunter with the side boob. I have the amulet of Mara which means I’m “open to marriage” and I’m sad now because my wife won’t be hot. I would marry a dude but they are all awful and dumb. This argument is horrible and I get it. I know I shouldn’t want this as a semi-feminist but really I grew up on games like Dead or Alive and Tomb Raider. Ok I’m gonna stop now. 

  • Anonymous

    Agree completely.  The androgynous species being very clearly ‘woman-bodied’ and all about sexuality and sex really annoyed the bejeezus out of me.  (And um, the Matriarch’s boob window?)  And I really wanted a female Wrex at some point.  Loved that character.  BioWare is really, really imperfect.  They put a little bit more effort into some areas of egalitarianism, but it’s obviously not a concerted, company wide effort to be better than other developers, and there are obviously a lot of guys who develop BioWare games who clearly see women as sexual objects. 

    And WoW isn’t as bad as ‘classic’ DnD style RPG’s where women wear bikinis for armour, but there’s enough gendered differences in clothing, last time I played at least, that I wouldn’t give them a pass.

    Love the picture though.  :)

  • Anonymous

    I guess the old “Sex is a Weapon” argument isn’t gonna fly here, right?

    Forget I mentioned it.

  • Sean Seger

    Let me open a window into my sad pathetic life.  Most of the time when I play RPGs I play scantily clad buxom females. I rationalize it that if I’m going to spend time playing a game where I stare at a character for hours I might as well enjoy it.  Of course not long into the game I’m not really paying attention to my character unless I get new gear. Of course when my daughter plays I view it differently, but for me…well yeah…

  • Jennifer Horigan

    Wouldn’t the poster woman for “video game characters that wear proper armor” be Samus Aran? I know there’s not a male counterpart to compare her to, but I’m guessing he would be properly armored as well.

  • Darwayne Michael Coburn III

    agreed..but as for Red Sonja her armor is magical as most in World of Warcraft..and in history The pikes barbarians of  northern england there men and women fought the Romans naked with nothing but war paint and weapons and beat the off the islands. Must have freak out the Romans seeing a army of naked people yelling and and chopping them up. Now for the movie Arthur with Clive Owens..They had them wrap in very skimpy leather gear armor..infact nothing in that movie his historically correct only the map at the very very very beginning.  But agree video games take it too far. But if you look thru out history there nude warriors fighting fully armored people. Where do you you think get the term berserker  from a naked Germanic Barbarian on a bridge in bear fur fighting armored knights by himself took out tons of of them and was cut up before he died its also were we get the term berserker rage. Oh and he won defended the bridge to the death.  

  • Anonymous

    The Chief maybe? I see Samus and MC’s armor compared from time to time.

  • Robyn

    First – that last image is wrong. See reference:  
    Second – WoW is not a good example. What appears as full pants on a man is a thong on women. What is a full shirt on a man, bikini on a woman.

  • Kisai

    Ehh, the problem with games is that you have limited customization, and the only games that offer significant possibility are MMORPG’s and single player sandbox games like The Sims.

    Part of this is attributed to the platform itself, a MMO can be infinitely updated (SWTOR is like 30GB) if the users complain enough about something being sexist, but often the limitation is with the game models themselves. iOS/Android games are not going to have anywhere near the amount of customization.

    In video games, they usually have one model for the head/face and then use completely different models, one per armor. To save disc space they remove armor sets that aren’t going to be used (or don’t create them in the first place) and then “reskin” or tint others. So unless you want the male and female characters to look exactly the same, you kinda get stuck with what the developers and playtesters provided feedback on. 

    I remember back when the Ultima games were sold. Here’s a game that made some effort to be gender neutral in it’s conversations all the way from the first game, but only U7 part2 actually went the entire way and had separate art assets for the male and female player. There are some skimpy or naked clothed NPC’s, NPC’s that you can have a fling with as either gender and these are things that we only really see as new in Dragon Age because they hit some uncanny valley. 

    Costumes are entirely cosmetic in current games and character wearing a thong for some reason provides as much armor as a full plate set if the thong has enough “armor points” despite the character being effectively naked.

  • Robyn

    Apparently we do see a female Krogan, but we only see her dead, under a sheet which, in itself is kinda wtf. I get we will see them in the future, but the structure of that society is just a mess. Tho, ME3 – Krogan Princess!

  • Anonymous

    I’m female and I admit I like my characters, male or female, to be aesthetically pleasing but not always in the conventional way.  Maybe giving the gamer more control over how each armor piece can be worn (unrealistically nakedsuper functional) would be an interesting (if not unrealistic) concept to allow for even more visual diversity in games.  It could be considered another role playing character aspect of the player’s avatar aspect–of course she’s wearing full armor, she’s a kick-ass barbarian!! or something like that.  I love character creation (what does this scar or hairstyle say about my avatar?) and I would always be on board for MORE options.  If the options to look like a BDSM model existed for all or none I feel like that would level the gender playing field…oh how I would love to play a scantly clad male avatar muahahaha!

  • Adil Kurji

    1 Why does the appropriately clothed female in the graphic have to be frowning? Are we to believe girls characters only have a good time when scantily clad? I know its sort of pedantic, but its an odd choice and subtly a wrong cue. 
    2 Those N’s seriously look like H’s on first glance, and then the interpretation is wildly different…

  • Anonymous

    Smart move.

  • Anonymous

    It’s your own personal time, who cares. It’s the double standard that’s offensive: “yes babes, BOO HUNKS!” I would be totally fine with situation #3, but it’s constantly met with scorn (from men.)

  • Nick Gaston

    For the record, what if I make a female fantasy character who’s dressed like the first example, but I add features to make it non-sexy—like a completely crazed, bloodthirsty look in her eyes, have her covered with steaming blood, coupla arrows jutting unnoticed out of her shoulder, and she hasn’t shaved?

    (In practice, though, I’d probably just make a female character who looked like the second example. But encrusted with blood, berserker glee in eyes, etc.)

  • Anonymous

    They’re both grimacing in the #2, though, right? I think it was to demonstrate that a woman could have a disposition that isn’t either sexy-with-her-mouth-open and 100%-always-happy. I certainly don’t think it was the intention to make her unhappy being dressed. But if it was, good catch.

  • Anonymous

    They pretty much all look like they’re frowning. Or maybe that’s a “war face.”

  • Anonymous

    How can you be a “semi-”feminist? =P Nevermind. Off topic.

    You don’t have to feel bad for wanting your characters too look like that. The graphic wasn’t split into only females with the #1&#3 woman as “sexist” and the #2 as not. It was showing that, in relation to their environment (i.e. other people), it’s sexist because they’re the only ones exploited. It’s unfair, cuz some of us want to see some guys in chainmail thongs, too. Who, me? Maybe.

  • Anonymous

    All nude RPGs would probably be a pretty good marketing gimmick, at least for awhile.

  • Shard Aerliss

    I wonder how many pixelated ogre penises the average gamer could handle before they plucked out their eyes?

  • Amanda

    So far SWTOR seems to be pretty good. I enjoyed seeing my trooper girl in armor. And when my Jedi got a cute little sleeveless hoodie that gave her a bare tummy, I noticed a guy in the same hoodie and they hadn’t changed the graphic to be more covered, they just fit it to his more manly physique. I thought it looked better on my curvy Jedi girl though… but I appreciated that the graphic was the same on either gender. It looked like they made clothing gender-neutral, or at least made some that might look better on girls and some that might look better on guys, but either way kept it the same graphic.
    Then again, I only played the first 12 levels so I haven’t seen if they changed their methods for their epic armor, but so far so good.

  • Shard Aerliss

    Warning; I am about to go ever so slightly off topic.

    Someone above mentioned they rationalised choosing sexy female characters to play as because they’re going to have to be staring at them for hours on end. Are there any adorable fluffy races to play in any of the big RPGs? I only play freebies… and then until I’m about level 20 and bored of the grinding (and the whole MM thing… gamers can be such wankers) and a lot of them come with ZOMG CUTE THING to play as (bastard Eden Eternal won’t work on my laptop though).

    Does my desire to watch cute fluffy things do damage unto heathen monsters in adorable ways fulfil any kind of bigotry bias?

    Okay, I’ll get back in my box…

  • Joanna

    Mine is a female wood elf too =D  She’s got black hair and white eyes and looks damn bad ass in her blades armor.  
    I grew up with Tomb Raider and stuff too so I’m a little immune to the chain mail bikini thing.  Personally, I prefer my female character to look fucking bad ass more than anything XD

  • Anonymous

    So far SWTOR seems to be pretty good.

    Meh.  Pretty good, in as much as most BioWare games are ‘pretty good’.  I honestly don’t recall any sith robes that were belly-showing tops on men.  My toon ran around in one or two for quite a while though.  And the Twi’Lek dancers in every corner of every cantina, as well as a holodancer Twi’Lek as an in-game gift for Digital Deluxe and CE edition buyers.  Yuck.  I hope I can blast it to bits in protest.  I’d make some comments about the companions, but I don’t have a lot of experience with Mako and Vette who both seem problematic from the outset, so I’ll just say at the outset their setup makes me so very uneasy.  SWTOR has the same amount of male gaze and sexualization of women fails as most other BioWare games do.  I really, really dislike how heavily they rely on Twi’Leks as a particularly sexualized race in that game.  Smacks as nothing so much as a bunch of white guys who see foreign women (particularly foreign women from certain parts of the planet) as ‘exotic’, in a really racist and sexist way, and are transferring that into the SWTOR universe.

  • Terence Ng

    FF tactics comes to mind. The picture of both fully armored and nearly sexless reminded me of my FFT squires.

    Also, based on the last image, I would say FFXII was doing it right. Yowza on all the man-flesh there…

  • Anonymous

    World of warcraft is borderline sexist imo. The most gender equal game I have played has to be skyrim. I’m talking about numbers. Bandits, guards, shop keepers, leaders. Both genders are represented fairly equally.

    Do you know why the designers did this? Because there are abilities you unlock that allow you to do more damage or get better shop prices vs the opposite gender. Hence the split needs to be equal or players character of one gender would have an unfair advantage over the other.

  • Anonymous

    Also see: Miranda’s ass-cam and Samara’s weird strawberry boobie outfit. And that horrible Liara statue.

  • MissFruitypie

    You must have played a different World of Warcraft than I did. Blizzard’s over the top sexism is only one of many, many terrible things about their attitude regarding game design.

    Dark Age of Camelot (anyone remember that title? 10 years old now), conversely, was A+ in this regard. Armor for female characters looked practical and modest.

  • JoAnna Luffman

    I expected this to be overly simplistic, as it’s a graphic. 

    What about those of us that WANT our avatars to be incredibly hot, and don’t care if the armor is logical? I’m not playing a medieval sim, I’m playing high fantasy (in WoW). I want to appear incredibly hot, since in the real world I’m at best average. 

  • Anonymous

    Just throwing a mention for Dark Souls, which is really good about having practical looking armor for both genders.

  • Anonymous

    I hated Miranda’s ass-cam, but at least it more or less fit her origin story. I was most pissed about the DLC for the Shadow Broker; it took me through the Asari brothel and my FemShep said something completely douchy about wanting to, basically, sleep with all the Asari, too. I can’t remember the exact comment, but it had me screaming “MY Shep would never say that!” to the screen.

  • Bel

    Like what you like.  Don’t beat yourself up for your preferences, it doesn’t help anyone.  I don’t think anyone wants to see female characters like that gone forever – just more variety so everyone can have what they like.

  • Bel

    I’d think it was cool, TBH.  I’ve always wanted to see shirtless women barbarians to match the shirtless men barbarians, but with the same level of wildness to them.

  • Bel

    Eh, I think context matters, but I’m the kind of person who liked Bayonetta (and incidentally, my standard litmus test is “is this more absurd than Bayonetta’s default outfit?”).  I can’t believe that it’s Mass Effect and WoW that come to you, though, for all the reasons outlined above in the comments.

  • Anonymous

    WoW is definitely not 100% clear of weird gender depictions in their design (hellloooo extreme sexual dimorphism!), but as someone who’s played continuously since vanilla I’ve found that the stereotypical chain mail biniki that morphs into full plate on a male character went by the wayside two expansion ago. Since Wrath of the Lich King I’ve seen very few oddly bared midriffs or plate pants that inexplicably stop half way up the thigh. Cataclysm even replaced all of the lvl 1-60 quest armor with updated models that equally cover both genders. 

    Now here’s where somebody is going to comment with a wowhead link to some armor set I’ve never seen before and blow my argument out of the water. 

  • Sean Seger

    Yay for affirmation!  Also, yeah I honestly wouldn’t care if option number 2 or 3 were the only ones available (although I’d prefer #3), but I do see the double standard there.

  • Robyn

    The weirdest thing to me? The boob-cam on MY femshep during the Kasumi DLC. Kasumi and Shep get out of the car at the party and there is a full stop convo that frames Shep’s boobs, no face — which doesnt even make any sense? Unless Kasumi likes ladies, then they are objectifying MY femShep for… me?  What?!

  • The Lewd Ood

    I’d be more concerned with the sketched warrioress’s horrible case of pigeon-toe more than her outfit selection.

    And who knows, that boob-holder she’s wearing might be very well-armored.

  • Laura

    The problem isn’t that you like your female characters to look like that, the problem is that there aren’t other options for people who DON’T like their female characters to always look like that.

  • Joanna

    Actually, what creeps me out in Skyrim is the fact that the lizard ladies have mammary glands @.@

  • Maple

    Interestingly, Jim Sterling also suggested the same thing in one of his Jimquisition episodes over at  I think the episode title’s “Solving the Sexism Situation”.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, but as it turns out, it wasn’t genuine. Here’s the Mary-Sue’s take on it:

  • Anonymous

    This graph isn’t about armor itself being sexist. It’s about armor in relation to everyone else’s armor, as designed by a game team.

  • Smav Martin

    It is my duty as a rpg grrl gamer that I make all my male characters wear skimpy clothes to make up for years of injustice. And that’s the only reason. I promise. ;)

  • Terence Ng

    Samus is interesting. She’s fully armored in her initial appearance and the audience is supposed to believe she’s a man until the reveal at the end of the game. The shock is that she’s a woman and as an indication of that, she’s in an 8-bit bikini. It’s a great flip on assumed gender roles, but still one tinged with the idea that she still has to have sex appeal. As a buxom 8-bit reveal, what were the reasons to put her in a bikini rather than her later body suit?

    Samus’ later appearances are generally been quite positive, much like her portrayal int he first game. I think they take pains to design her as being less overtly sexual and emphasize her calm bad-assery: simple hair style, lack of cheesecake posing, full body suit. The only thing you might question is the quintessential boob socks in the suit.

    If Samus had been revealed to be a man in the 8-bit game, would he be revealed wearing an 8-bit speedo? Possibly, if the idea was that the operator is bare underneath the armor. But maybe he would have been fully clothed. Likewise, in later appearances, would the character have a noticeable crotch in that body suit? Or would be be obviously cupped/flat there? Would he even be wearing a tight body suit?

  • Terence Ng

    Agreed. If the character was portrayed as described above, it would make sense: Anyone wearing that would probably have a few arrows jutting out of them and care less about being protected and be more focused on offense. The ludicrousness of these costumes is when the character is supposed to be “armored” and someone makes it through battles unscathed.

  • Terence Ng

    Likewise, it’s about the hot, implausible female character/costume being the ONLY available female character/costume. I would make my characters ludicrously hot and naked for the fun of it, but I don’t want it to be the ONLY option. If I’m looking to make a bad ass female character like all my bad ass male characters, who range in options from full armor to light clothing to possibly Square Enix fetish wear, it’s an issue if HER only options are Cloth Thong 1, Metal Thong 2, Bikini Top, and +3 Vit Boob Window.

  • Terence Ng


  • Anonymous

    The Matriarch’s boob window was flat out distracting. I didn’t even realize she was voiced by Marina Sirtis until the 5th time I beat the game because I was always thinking “I can’t believe they put this in here…”

  • Anonymous

    That’s certainly not 100% Bioware’s blame though. Twi’Leks have been like that since their very first appearance. Certainly not saying it’s acceptable, but treating Twi’Leks like that has been pretty much standard operating procedure for Twi’Leks since there were Twi’Leks. 

  • Anonymous

    The Elder Scrolls games have been pretty good.  Here’s the male heavy armour in Oblivion:

    and here’s the female steel armour:

    More or less identical, no?  Even the armour sets with significant divergences in gender like the chainmail set aren’t nearly as pronounced as they are in other games:

    Funnily enough, Skyrim also adheres to the third type, since both the male and female versions of one variety of Fur Armor. Couldn’t find pictures, sadly, but the women are probably showing even less skin than their male counterparts.

  • Anonymous

    I love how that image chooses a bona-fide Robert E. Howard character (Red Sonya, not to be confused with Red Sonja) for the “realistic female.”  It’s missing the chainmail shirt and bascinet she wore in the story, but still.  *Fist pump*

  • Palli Singh

    okay so women followed men to gaming and started nagging in here too…where should we find solace?

  • Anonymous

    Have you tried finding a bridge and then jumping off? That usually works.

  • Frodo Baggins

    I mean, in 8-bit, how else could you even convey that she’s a woman? Not like you can detect subtleties of proportion and anatomy at that resolution.

  • Laser Spanner

    A) You are not entitled to be free from having people point out your double standards. You are not entitled to ‘solace’ from opinions different to your own. Why would you think this? Did your parents protect you from the big bad world all your life and now you’re struggling to deal with living in it? If you don’t like different opinions there are plenty of isolated caves for you to go live in.
    B) It doesn’t matter what particular class of people engaged in an activity first.  Everybody is allowed to have an opinion. You don’t own gaming because you have a penis. Seriously. You really don’t. Half the population of the planet doesn’t have to keep quiet just because you’re sensitive about your faults. C) Nobody cares if you feel ‘nagged’. People are allowed to stand up for themselves regardless of how you feel about it, you poor precious sensitive little flower.D) Where can you go? How about you go running to mommy and daddy like the massive crybaby you clearly are? “Wahhhh, some girls pointed out my faults and I didn’t like it! Protect me from my own stupidity, world!”E) Singh, huh? Would you like to talk about the routine murder of female infants in the country that name originates from and how this utter devaluation of human life in female form has influenced your outlook on women generally?What a total loser.

  • Shard Aerliss

    I was right with you until the whole Singh thing… not cool.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for posting those pictures. I like that the steel armor is identical. As for the chainmail armor, one the one hand, at least it’s not a Frazetta Bikini,  but on the other, I’d kinda like my armor to prevent my arms being severed at the shoulder. Theoretically. You know.
    Also, THIS

  • Alex Davidson

    hey you can’t forget about half-life or any other valve game for that matter

  • Shard Aerliss

    Are you saying Valve are or are not sexist? As I thought L4D and Portal were pretty egalitarian franchises.

  • Corinne Marie M

    Probably not on a website devoted to female geeks? Just sayin…

  • Jeremy Dwiggins

    Great post. League of Legends is all over the map, both good and bad. There are female characters like Morganna, whose top stays up (I think) because she’s a magic user, and Leona or Kayle, both of whom sport some of the fullest-coverage armor in the game. 

  • Pauline Mulkerrins

    That makes me feel much better Laura! As in I did feel guilty that I don’t mind my female characters having sex appeal, but they still must be functional. I guess Aela the Hunter’s sideboob in Skyrim is a good example of what is awesome. 

  • Anonymous

  • Raittahb Dancer

    Have you ever started putting together your character for a game,
    flipped through the possible choices, landed on the (most likely lone)
    female and gone, “WHY ISN’T SHE WEARING ANY CLOTHES?!?” If so, the
    following illustration, by Redditor  is for you.

  • Anonymous

    you dont see many fat balding men in sweaty vest either. its art why wouldnt you want then to look good. You sad little people need to get a life and stop worrying about the costumes of fictional characters in non existant worlds. sad thats all i can say sad sad sad sad sad.

  • Anonymous

    Ps have you ever noted how sexist hotmail accounts are. Why cant the women have hotwomen accounts. sad sad sad sad sad sad.

  • Trixi Vengai
  • yourmomonmyd

    you dumb fkrs the female body is a work of art! why wouldnt yall want to show that off? you were born naked so stop crying.
    just stfu because in rl its the same way so go to the fkn gym and you will be amazed how much better you will feel about your rpg fatass. you know if you looked and felt good you would show some skin too unless your a nun or a bulldike. FYI SEX SALES FKN NOOBS

  • Anonymous

    That armor must be heavy; it’s crushing their poor spines! I think the artist was actually trying to demonstrate, (in the first example) that men in this game are idiots, wanting to protect themselves by wearing lead-plate for some odd reason, while the females had a bit of common sense.