Over the years, the gaming community has been wracked with debates and controversies about the over-sexualization of gaming characters. Of course, many revel in the dubious tradition of parading out characters with outrageous body proportions in scantily clad outfits, dismissing it as nothing but a bit of diverting fanservice. For me, however, the problem extends beyond the fact that these choices are tasteless and degrading. They simply make no sense from a design and realism standpoint. Just take Firaxis’s Civilization VI as an example: Mohandas Gandhi’s outfit may be fun and sexy, but it would be completely worthless in the middle of a real battle.
It’s frustratingly typical now for developers to throw inexplicable sexualization into a game just to sell a few more copies, but this is a particularly egregious example. Civilization is supposed to be an RTS series steeped in realism and its historical accuracy, but those loose white robes alluringly draped around Gandhi’s shoulders wouldn’t so much as stop an arrow, let alone a sword or pike.
Ask yourself: What narrative purpose does Gandhi’s flirty outfit serve outside of gratifying the desires of a bunch of teenage fans lusting after the anti-colonial activist’s nymph-like little figure?
Now I know some of you might just dismiss all of this as a bunch of overly sensitive hand-wringing from a gamer who doesn’t know how to have fun. “Who cares if the developers want to give us a little eye candy with Gandhi’s bare midriff and wrinkled arms?” you might be saying. But this problem goes further than that.
Simply put, how am I supposed to get immersed in the gameplay and story when I have Gandhi in the corner of my screen constantly flashing me come-hither glances from behind those sexy little glasses?
All of this Gandhi nonsense takes what could be a great gaming experience and ruins it. Don’t even get me started on Firaxis transforming Philip II—a highly-respected military strategist, mind you—from a stately monarch into some pin-up doll with oiled facial hair and “fuck-me” frills. It distracts from what should be a battle of wits and strategy, turning the game into some 16-year-old schoolboy’s fantasy. If developers ever want to have their art taken seriously, they need to do some serious growing up and shift the focus back to the gameplay itself instead of arousing players like myself with lewd and seductive depictions of historical figures.
Removing smut like a skinny, half-naked Indian man from their games would be a great place to start.