|what will make my cause seem legitimate, i know, slurs used against homosexual men|
Since many authors, especially in the world of game development, are straight and male, it's obvious that most instances of objectification are done by male designers with female characters. With that said, it's not impossible for men to be objectified - it's just done far more rarely. People who don't quite understand what objectification means tend to look at attractive men in games and go "yes, that's what objectification is". People compare Conan the Barbarian with Red Sonja - after all, they're both scantily clad. But of course the difference comes down to context and intent, not just "what they're wearing", which makes it a partially subjective and therefore strenuous issue.
But what about the men, though? Surely in all of gaming it's impossible to think that there are no examples of men being victimized, dehumanized, or sexualized. This is true. Male objectification does exist. But it's a little more complicated than certain groups would like it to be. So let's get started.
Men Dying En Masse, Screaming And Gurgling, With Blood Issuing From Their Mouths;
or, Who Will Weep For The Veterans Of Simulated Wars
Games love murder. Damn, do they love murder. Murder is fuckin' fun as shit. Games love fucking killing the shit out of human beings. God damn. And who gets murdered? Most of the time, it's men. Oh, sure, sometimes it's women, but women generally get murdered "specifically" - that is, as characters with actual backstories, for specific reasons. Men get murdered en masse. Men get shot and stabbed and pureed and sliced and diced and burned and frozen without so much as a whiff of regret or a last dying quote. We accept this because, shit, we have to kill somebody, might as well kill the sex we think is capable of fighting back.
And that's it. That's the reason. From a gender standpoint, men are strong aggressors, women are weak and incapable. The same logic that prevents many gamers from accepting female protagonists in action games also affects their view of men in a negative way. The expectation that men are stronger and less emotional is great - that is, if you're coming from a culture that values stoic strength. On the other hand, if you have moral qualms with the expectation that men need to bleed and die for their country, that a real man needs to be a killer, that death is the business of men and they have no right to complain about it...well, it gets fucked, doesn't it?
Masculinity hurts men. More than anything women will ever do, masculinity is what hurts men. Masculinity creates damaging stereotypes and enforces harmful expectations of what men should do. Men can't cry. Men can't run. Cowardice is wrong. Weakness is wrong. Men fight. Fighting is cool. Killing is cool. Killing men is cool, because the men you beat are either weak or cowards, and those things are wrong. Don't be a pussy. Don't be a faggot. Get strong. Get powerful. Kill or be killed; if you're killed, you're wrong. Be the best. Every moment you're not the best, you're losing. EVERY MOMENT. BE THE BEST.
|DULCE ET DECORUM EST PRO PATRIA MORI YOU FUCKING LOSER|
Three things fix this. First, we accept women in action roles, both as protagonists and antagonists. Allowing women to join men on the front lines of video game murder eases the burden of war-murder by making it so that the horrendous acts of death are not limited to the male sphere. Second, we accept men in non-action roles; games can be about all sorts of things, not just things where aggressive and assertive characters need to be the protagonists. Third, we stop accepting games where we casually kill people by the truckload. I mean, if you care about not objectifying people, it's pretty obvious that "turning people into gratification-corpses" is one of the most severe types of objectification there is. So let's stop doing that, right? It's fucking creepy.
The Automaton Cannot Love You Back, No Matter What It Is Programmed To Say;
or, Press X To Elicit The Feels
This is going to be a short section because I don't think the concepts are particularly advanced. Dating sims are traditionally designed for both men and women - for every Tokimeki Memorial there is an Angelique Trois, for every Ashley there is a Kaidan, for every Morrigan an Alistair. Dating sims are bad at depicting relationships, and it's for relatively simple reasons: they don't exactly go out of their way to try to depict realistic human behavior or simulate any sort of agency. In games like Mass Effect you can basically say whatever you want to a person and still end up sleeping with them, because otherwise the game's not fun. Both sexes in dating sims end up as automatons, existing solely to dispense sex once enough coins are put into the machine. They're shallow representations of humanity given only enough character to provide emotional gratification when fake-sex is achieved.
Of course, a notable contextual aspect is that men and women are treated differently with regards to promiscuity. A man casually picking up a woman for sex is accepted, whereas the inverse is less so. A man is expected to take the lead in a relationship, while a woman is expected to be the lesser part of the relationship. Terms like "who wears the pants", which are still used in the Year of our Lord 2013, suggest that the gender concepts of superiority/inferiority still hold traction. Male characters are not shamed for having sex, while female characters implicitly - if not overtly - are. While the situation is "equal", that doesn't magically make the results equal.
The solution to this is to stop having dating sims or romantic relationships shoved into games that don't do them well. Stop including characters like Alyx Vance, who fall in love with mute murder-machines. Stop including simplistic dialogue trees that serve to offer no real choice or options of failure. We make characters emulations of human beings to elicit emotional reaction, but part of that has to include the illusion of agency or else you might as well just be having sex with robots.
The Beautiful Boys, Whose Tunnels Are Already Opened;
or, Would You Trust The Greeks To Make Your Games
I'm going to start this section off with a short bit from Grimoire Nier, a guide released alongside the "dual game" Nier. In one version of the game, the titular character was a gruff adult; in the other, the titular character was an effeminate, beautiful teenager. The relationship with the character Yonah is changed; old Nier is her father, young Nier is her brother. Despite these being the only changes, some radically different moments of characterization ensued; things that affected Dad Nier weakly affected Brother Nier far more strongly. They also had different pasts. Dad Nier did jobs around town to make ends meet, since he was a competent adult. Brother Nier, on the other hand, was forced to resort to prostitution to pay the bills; only later, when he was more capable, was he able to take the Dad Nier role of odd jobs and hunting.
I said that extremely casually, but I want you all to understand it clearly. Brother Nier, the effeminate bishonen, was forced into prostitution (with both men and women) as a young teenager. This is a heavy plot point, and it adds an extremely sinister undercurrent to the way he's treated in the game and as a result of his design. Specifically, it affects a line that comes from this interview.
-Which scene does (Novelist Jun) Eishima like?
(Director) Yokoo: Eishima is definitely satisfied with just watching young Nier’s back while he roams the fields, since it’s zettai ryouiki and whatnot.
Eishima: I did get satisfaction from making him run like crazy.(laughs) But you see…when I get really happy watching that, my high school son would just pass by and say “But, haven’t this kid’s tunnels been opened up already?”, popping my bubble.
This is objectification of a male character in a video game. The novelist Eishima knows about and acknowledges the traumatic past of Brother Nier; in fact, she was partially responsible for writing it, although the idea wasn't hers. She even expressed some disgust at it and the tonal dissonance of a "shonen adventure" that also features such dark material. And yet she sees Nier as a piece of meat, a beautiful young man to view sexually, and her reverie is only interrupted by her son - HER SON, mind you - reminding her of his "lost purity". This is it. This is the equivalent to Quiet from MGS5 or the B&Bs from MGS4. This is male objectification. This is a man becoming meat, his agency and feelings and experiences thrown aside for the sake of empty, uncaring lust.
In my last article I talked a bit about the nature of cultural standards - how we expect murder to be treated as a normal part of a story rather than a serious event in the same way that Romans and Greeks would casually depict rape and pedophilia. If our video games were written by the Ancient Greeks, things like this would be incredibly common. Look up Ganymede, whose visage - often engaged as a bottom in acts of homosexual intercourse - is plastered across many a Grecian vase or urn. The idea of not depicting sex acts involving young, beautiful boys would strike the Greeks as being as prudish and "out of it"; not dissimilar from the way many gamers view complaints about sexualized female characters.
Quiet?* What if the author was revealed to have a Vore fetish - would you think differently of scenes where Link is swallowed whole by monsters? The important factor here is vulnerability. An attractive character is one thing, an attractive character designed to be viewed as a "victim" for purposes of sexual appeal is another. This is why Nathan Drake and Marcus Fenix are not "objectified" - because society doesn't view strong men like them in the same way that it views attractive, feminine women. It's not about beauty; it's about the implications, and how those implications affect how people are treated. A character that exists to be emotionally mistreated and belittled for the gratification of the player is objectified; a character who is "good looking" is not.
*I acknowledge that Kojima also designed Raiden to appeal to women, but this decision was far less explicitly about "sex appeal" and additionally less related to sexual vulnerability. If it was, then there would be reason to have concern over Raiden's nude torture scene in MGS2 - but as it is, it came off as a goofy joke, where Raiden is reasonably competent and in-charge even as he's forced to cover his genitalia with his hands. It's reminiscent of the way that, even as a child, Nathan Drake is still a hyper-competent individual at no risk of dying; even at his most vulnerable, Raiden is still a badass ninja who can cartwheel the fuck out of armor-suited guys.
One last note about Quiet: I've noticed people saying that it's ridiculous to complain about Quiet in MGS5 when the game contains child soldiers and torture, both of which should provoke more outrage than "a girl is sexy". Let me teach you something about Tone, readers. Tone is what gives Hideo Kojima the credibility necessary to say that he's going to make a serious game about child soldiers and not be laughed out of the industry. Tone is what suggests that a game presented in a serious and realistic way should be able to handle child soldiers as a reasonable topic of discussion, in a way that will enlighten and inform players. Tone is trust. Quiet being a sexy, unrealistic sniper for the explicit purpose of appealing to the teenage male crowd breaks tone. It means that the game now exists to be fun and enjoyable and lighthearted. Don't worry about the details - this is a goofy game with sexy babes! Everyone knows MGS games are goofy and fun. Now kill those child soldiers we talked about. Kill them. Put a gun in their mouth and blow their fucking brains out. Fucking murder them. This is a serious game. This is a real game. This is art. Okay, now back to the titty babe. You can blow her brains out too if you want. It's all in good fun.