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Austin Chronicle Mother, Jugs, and Speed

What It Takes to Win at Video Games

By Kate X Messer

DECEMBER 20, 1999:  My 11-year-old son and I have this little routine whenever we go to check out the video games at Northcross Mall. As we head to the entrance, I'll stop and turn to him, and with a most serious expression put my hands on his shoulders. "What?" he'll impatiently ask, eager to load up on Player's Guides and test his thumbs against the latest brain numb-er. I pause just to see how testy he gets. "I'm sorry. I don't care how much you beg, son," my eyes narrow as I state in earnest, "We are not going to Hooter's for dinner tonight."

If there's one thing an 11-year-old hates worse than hearing mom make stupid jokes about sex, it's hearing mom make stupid jokes about sex at his expense -- well, that, and encroaching on his video game time. But the ultimate irony of our little Hooty in-joke is that our real destination -- Gamefellas video game store -- offers so much more in the way of those round ample orbs named for owl sounds than that goofy restaurant ever will.

Let's face it. Tits are everywhere. There's just no getting around them. As long as we live in a culture where men insist on reducing themselves to idiots and their $50 bills to singles just to worship at the areola altar, boobs will rule. There are worse monarchs, I guess, but for most women, who, by nature are intimately acquainted with the things, it becomes a tedious ritual: Just having them as calling cards means that about 50% of the population (and some women, too) will rarely "look you in the eye."

So in an industry that has been traditionally populated (behind the scenes and in front of the screens) by dweeby guys who have hard times getting dates, it stands to reason that most human-based characters in video games will have idealized bodies dripping with exaggerated endowments and impossible proportions. This is sometimes the case with male characters (check the shoulders on James Bond or the cut on some of those NWO and WCW dudes), but is always the case for the females -- fantastic mammaries are a given. What is most amazing about these stacked mamas is that many are cast in action-adventures requiring Herculean strength, speed, and agility. As you ponder this, visualize most Olympic women gymnasts and the 1976 East German women's swim team, or heck, even the Lady Longhorns -- you know, athletes in the real world.

Are triple-E cups realistic in the realm of kicking ass?

Apparently gamers think so -- at least in the home console games the kid and I have encountered. The message in most of these games is this: Triple-E cups are necessary to kick ass. Gams up to here and tits out to there are essential for survival.

Expecting women to be able to kick ass first and take measurements later is not without historical precedent. Women have winced for years at how the bodies we've finally learned to love and accept are still ridiculously portrayed in the comic book world. Wonder Woman and Catwoman vary little in their painful proportions.

So who is the target market here? Has the recent upsurge in the number of female action characters drawn more women into the home-game fold? Was that even an intention? Who do these new modern ass-kicking amazons appeal to?

You check out this list of female action game characters, and you decide:

Tomb Raider's Lara Croft. What's up with those jugs and hot pants? For chrissakes, she's supposed to be raiding tombs, not sending horny, weak-hearted men to early graves. At least the Austin Powers Fembots' boobs are functional. You'd think that the geniuses behind Tomb Raider would at least outfit Croft's 44" rack with some .44 calibers.

There's the cool new Xena: Warrior Princess for PlayStation (the N64 version has not yet been released). And yes, she is stacked. Ai-yi-yi! At least the subtext of the show (you know, the "L" word) is somewhat honored, since our swashbuckling she-ro saves her "buddy" Gabrielle from giant spiders, minotaurs, gorgons, and a freaky chick named Kalabrax who's sacrificing Gab to usher in the New World Order.

Regina is the foxy Asian woman with the cropped-red hairdo starring in the "survival horror" game Dino Crisis. As quoted in the Player's Guide, creator Kazunori Tazaki answers suspicions that Regina was inspired by Lara Croft. "We have an image of spies being sexy, and Regina is a product of that." At least the only skin showing is her face and shoulders. The rest is covered in (what else?) a skin-tight body suit.

Another survival strategy game, Final Fantasy IV, involves a team of teens and twentysomethings battling (what else?) evil in (what else?) skin-tight outfits (to be fair, some of the guys have baggy pants and trenchcoats). The interesting thing about the entire FF series is how darned androgynous the male characters are. If you didn't know that the standard for girl characters in video games is at least a DD, you'd swear these dudes were ladies. One way you can tell the girls from the boys is that the girls usually have wider, doe-like eyes and a hint of a smile, even in the face of great danger.

The games above are similar: Characters run through different challenges, battle anything in their way, and eventually confront some major monster in a last climactic scene. The games below are different: They are purely for ass-kicking pleasure.

Few "fighting" games (two or four characters square off in a regulated setting, like boxing ring or wrestling mat) include female characters. The Ready 2 Rumble game includes two woman characters who have the appropriate sneer like real lady pro boxers, albeit with boob jobs.

Dead or Alive is a popular title in the Mortal Kombat vein. Players may assume the identity of one of three comely lasses (with huge ta-tas). I loved that teenage boys across America and Japan are clamoring for the chance to "be" a girl -- that is, until I learned about a very interesting feature: You can toggle a setting to make the women's tits jiggle -- and that's putting it mildly. Think chin to tummy.

The coolest fighting game I've seen is only available as an import in the states. From what I can tell, it is called The Legend of the Empress (though the Gamefellas sticker accurately summed it up: "Crazy Chick Wrestling"). Apparently based on an actual league of women wrestlers in Japan, all the characters are drawn from real people -- massive body types, dyke-y hairdos, and KISS-style face make-up included. Wrestlers the size of Rosie O'Donnell face opponents the size of Jennifer Aniston. Who would you root for?

Until there's a market for similar real-life-meets-fantasy games here in the U.S., it looks like we are stuck with massive mammaries. Until there's a market for WNBA or U.S. Women's Soccer-based games, for example, game developers will cower behind demographics to justify their infantile fantasies.

Don't get me wrong, I like a good set of knockers as much as the next guy, but variety is the spice of life. Ummmmm, "spice," that reminds me --

Wonder what the special is tonight at Hooters?


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