But when I look at what I do now, when I look at how I constantly work to better myself, when I try to look at myself, I see the influence I tried to avoid has seeped in through the cracks. I have wonderful childhood memories of playing videos games, alone or with friends and family, and I love so many games as they were and as they are, but while they have changed me for the better in many ways, I also recognized that they have manipulated me negatively as well. I can say that I do hold a view of body dissatisfaction, and the feeling that my physical appearance is a project that needs to be worked on. While body dissatisfaction is clearly a useless negative way of thinking, I recognize it. I’ll never have the bodies of the women I played as, I’ll never be Lara, but that also doesn’t mean I can just stop trying. In contrast to some extent, the idea of being a project that I myself work on doesn't feel bad at all. It feels empowering at times. I read a story about Marcus Dickinson a while ago that made me feel great about the way games can inspire people. If I want to emulate the women in games I grew up viewing as heroines, I need to work at it. I am a project that I won’t let fall by the wayside. Lara was intelligent, physically fit, and successful. None of those attributes seem like things I should not work towards. So, I am taking the good with the bad because I know both exists and neither is fully exempt from the other.
|Lara Croft: Tomb Raider|
I know the case of Marcus Dickinson is different from what most women face. He had the capacity to become a fit and physically strong man through natural means. Women sometimes, if not most times, face physical impossibility, such as a waist too small to physically support all the space for human organs, or modifying chest size (without artificial means). These common depictions of women in games lead to those popular aliments Downs and Smith described, and it will take some time for the video game industry to right these problems.
I hope to examine Lara more extensively later on, but I would like to make one note here first. While Lara is called a Sex Object by many, she doesn't have to be. The mods that show her nude, the increased attractiveness of the Lara model over time, and other actions taken to turn Lara in to the Tomb Raiding Babe were taken by people who wanted to see her like that. But I choose to see her the way I saw her first; as a little girl wanting to see a confident woman shoot a few baddies every once in a while. Can we really base a character off of a popular opinion shaped by just a portion of anonymous gamer males? Maybe she can be reclaimed, this time on our side, ladies.
PS: To take a look at the study for Downs and Smith:
Downs, Edward & Stacy L. Smith
2010 Keeping Abreast of Hypersexuality: A Video Game Character Content Analysis. Sex Roles. 62:721-33.