Why is the game industry still fixated on breasts?

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You may recognise this buxom beach volleyball player from E121, AKA the girl issue, published in February 2003. Have the attitudes to women in games improved over the 10 years since?

Gaming’s obsession with breasts is part of a juvenile medium’s awkward process of floundering towards mature themes. We saw the same thing happen in comic books. Anyone over 30 who grew up reading Marvel superheroes vividly remembers the moment in the late ’80s when suddenly breasts got very big and costumes very small, as though comics themselves had violently hit puberty. By the early ’90s, women heroes were grotesquely thin, bulbous, swaybacked creatures.

Videogames, arriving much later but evolving much faster, were dying to get in on the action even before the technology got up to speed. As early as 1982, people ploughed through the abysmal Atari 2600 title Custer’s Revenge for the ‘reward’ of glimpsing a few pink pixels in the rough outline of a breast. In 1992, the rumour of nude breasts was enough to propel FMV slasher Night Trap to notoriety, and it wasn’t even true. In 1994’s Killer Instinct, one glimpse of Black Orchid’s malformed plastic nubs struck opponents dead with horror.

Dead Island publisher Deep Silver subsequently made a public apology for its taudry merchandising

This line between objectification and violence remains thin today. To their credit, many expressed outrage upon learning that the collector’s edition of Dead Island Riptide would come with a statue of a dismembered torso in a region-appropriate bikini, every trace of identity torn away, with horrible wounds all over bar for the large, round breasts.

From the concubines of God Of War and the strippers of Duke Nukem to the topless NPCs of Elder Scrolls and the steamy showers of Heavy Rain, bared breasts are now an important but invisible bullet point on the back of many a game box, no longer the sole province of cult niches such as the Leisure Suit Larry series. Playboy publishes a semi-annual Girls Of Gaming feature, with characters such as Rayne from BloodRayne rendered topless.

Even when women in games manage to stay clothed, their breasts often remain a point of fixation. Rosemary from Metal Gear Solid 4 speaks seriously while you use the Sixaxis pad to quiver each of her breasts, just for kicks. It’s an Easter egg that veers perilously close to being a humiliating fondling simulator. Only rarely are breasts emphasised in a strong or maternal light, as in the case of Princess Gwynevere from Dark Souls, whose imposingly copious frame transcends sexualisation like an ancient fertility icon.

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