It’s fantasy, and I can indulge in it

November 28, 2009

My Avatar -- 100% not like me and 110% impossible IRL

After writing this week’s Anti-Aliased and looking at all of the comments (and how many hits it’s getting, hoo-boy) I started to think about how all of this pertains to me as a person.  Why did I choose this argument?  Why am I not offended by women with huge knockers?  What does this say about me as a trandgendered person?  Do I want to be like those women on the video game boxes?

When I looked into myself, I found my answer.  I back up these unrealistic depictions because they are unrealistic depictions.  Shit, I’ve even wrote some into my stories on purpose and I’ve certainly made my share of breast-tastic characters.

In short, I like fantasy because it’s fantasy — nothing more.

I wouldn’t want a cup size of 34FF in real life, but I have to say it’s fun to be able to create something like that and enjoy it temporarily in a virtual world.  Just like I wouldn’t be an extreme, cold-hearted bitch in real life, yet most of my MMO RP characters are cold-hearted bitches.

It’s an escape, and it’s a fun escape.  When we keep trying to see something bad in these things, we’re only really destroying the dreams of ourselves and others.  I guess I put it on the same level as someone who tells me not to read Harry Potter because it’s about witches and warlocks.  It’s silly.  Certainly you may not like it, but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t read it / make avatars like that / enjoy my imagination.

As an aside — one of the commenters on this week’s Anti-Aliased said that I would be offended if transgendered people were shown in an exaggerated manner in video games, simply because  it would “finally hit home” that exaggerated depictions are bad.

To answer that, um, isn’t that how transgendered people are normally portrayed in the media?  We’re always these super sexy girls who try to lure men into dirty, penis filled traps.  We’re never normal women.  Yet, you don’t see me rioting in the streets over that issue.  Honestly, I’m usually the first one laughing at those jokes because I know it’s exactly not how it is depicted.

Maybe I’m a weird person who isn’t easily offended by anything.  All I know is that I love fantasy.  I love using my imagination to draw up fun characters, and I never, ever want to sacrifice my imagination simply because the masses say I’m wrong.


  1. Some people view that gaming can reflect real world social issues, and that fantasy, gaming, media depictions can have a negative effect on the real world perception of marginalized groups. I’m in that group of people.

    I used to talk like you and say “I don’t care, because its fantasy.” But in fact, many people DO care. Many people are affected by it, and many people do get upset about the sexification of women in gaming. Why is it, that in the FANTASY world, women are judged by their looks? Why is bigger always better in video games? Why do avatars and media depictions have the thin, large breasted women as spokesmodels? Why does everyone want to monetize women as objects?

    Gaming is exactly the same as TV and other form of media portrayals. Just like I’m not a fan of the way women are depicted and treated in BET rap videos, I don’t like the way women are objectified in video games. Just because you’re not personally offended (I can’t say I am..) doesn’t mean that you should discount the feelings and thoughts of other women and feminists, and of the power of video game “fantasties” and real life progress.

    • “Why is it, that in the FANTASY world, women are judged by their looks?” Uhm, women have always been judged by their looks.

      I’ve struggled to come up with a response to this, because there is no gentle way to put it: people are going to form whatever image they want of you, no matter what the influences are. Magazines, movies, books (Harlequin, ha!) When people are bothered by how other people portray them or think of them, isn’t that just as bad? You are letting other people shape your self-image, by letting them get under your skin.

      Isn’t it better to just turn the channel, instead of fighting against something you will never ever change? For example, let’s say that you that you somehow get rappers to change their style of videos… and lyrics. So who next? Hollywood? Every single sexist writer in the world? How about countries that are extremely oppressive towards women (and generally everyone else that isn’t a “normal” male?)

      I’m not saying that you’re wrong to feel that way, but that I think there are better ways of spending your time than being bothered by the way someone else imagines you. But if that’s the windmill you want to tilt, I’ll personally hand you your lance. 😀

    • I said this on the Massively article, but have you ever considered, Cuppycake, that you’re objectifying women as well by only seeing those exaggerated female characters FOR their physical traits? As the article says, many of these characters have a lot TO them.

      What’s worse? The idealized female character who has a deep backstory and a pivotal role in a world-altering storyline, or a plain Jane who has absolutely no content, no worthwhile dialogue, and whose only purpose is to be saved by the burly male hero?

      Food for thought.

  2. […] talks about the use of large-breasted women in video games.  Her viewpoint there (and in her follow up post on her own blog) is that it’s just a fantastical depiction and therefore she isn’t offended.  She also […]

  3. Seems you were featured on Kotaku. :U Way to go Sera.

    Fantasy is alright, but … there’s a line, for me personally. I usually stay pretty realistic with my avatars.

    • And as long as we have that choice, that is the most important thing. ^_^ *hi-fives Shikujiru*

  4. Good article, the quote below made me laugh. I have a few TG friends, and it’s a little silly how closed-minded people in this world still can be.

    […] isn’t that how transgendered people are normally portrayed in the media? We’re always these super sexy girls who try to lure men into dirty, penis filled traps. We’re never normal women. […]

    I know it’s probably never going to be like, say, Star Trek where people will accept something completely alien (like Worf with the bumps and spikes in his head) but, c’mon, people are people!

    And for those who are concerned about fantasy, they shouldn’t. It’s a safe outlet, that doesn’t hurt or harm anyone else. If you like large or small, boy or girl, it shouldn’t matter.

    I think the people who complain about the fantasies of others should just get a life. *Laughs*

  5. Sera…

    you raise an excellent point about how you are NOT offended by the portrayal of TG people in the media. It seems we are all a little quick to be offended by fiction. I appreciate your perspective on this.

    The truth is there is nothing realistic at all in these games… I mean come on, in RL I am a middle aged paunchy male that runs around in game as a guy who apparently can bench press an elephant (and it seems the women have no problem with that weight either).

    thx for the insight 🙂

  6. I do thank you for broaching what is, without question, a difficult matter for many gamers to confront save for in the most superficial of ways.

    I cannot say I entirely agree, however.

    It has been pointed out that men are objectified in these games as well. Such things do have an unpleasant effect on men’s body images and do promote unrealistic idealisation to a point, yes. But simply because of the ongoing inequality between men and women it’s just a lot worse for us than it is for men. An objectifying image just has less impact on how men as a whole are perceived.

    But that’s not really the central matter. It’s, at heart, a question of being at least somewhat representative. You made the choice to play that cute Second Life avatar, and good on you. What annoys a lot of us is that we *don’t* get a choice in how we can build our characters. I actually like chainmail bikinis in some situations but I wish there was a way you could do both: have access to realistic armour and the really skimpy/sexy kind.

    In other words, a choice. Same with breast size.

    You do not have to be perfectly chiselled to be the hero and we can most definitely see that there’s room in the marketing for less stereotypical imagery. Big boobs aren’t all there are.

    What’s more the other problem is that since such imagery is pandering to straight men in a very blatant way it does lead many women to understandably feel unwelcome in gaming environments. Even if many of them do log in or pick up the remote, the sense of being an outsider as a woman is often palpable. Sometimes you find a good social group that will insulate you from this, yes, but this is the exception and not the rule.

    Nothing is realistic in these games but I have to ask where the harm is in portraying normal women on a regular basis? That is, perhaps, the most powerful rejoinder to this argument. Where is the hurt? Does it impinge on the quality of the escapism? I don’t really think so. The escapism is, in part, environmental. Secondly, your character can still be more powerful, awesome and kickass than anything in real life.

    Yet you have the *option* of making them look more realistic. Where’s the harm? Dragon Age did a fairly good job of this, actually. The women were attractive but not supermodel-ishly so, and the armour was armour (well, save for leather which got a little excessively divergent from its male counterpart).

    Do you remember NWN? Some of the portraits from there, and from the Icewind Dale pack are a good example of awesome, dignified fantasy women. Of course, others are quite sexy and sexed up, but yet again there is that wonderful choice involved.

    Thus, with marketing, put more than one face on the game. Where is the harm in doing this?

    Lastly as a trans woman I also can’t say I empathise with the lack of offence you take in the ugly ways trans women have been portrayed in the media. One wants to laugh, certainly, but when you recognise the connection between the obstacles and violence we face and the ugly notions promulgated by these films (that we’re deceivers, false, out to get men, hyper sexualised, that we’re not “real women”) I really cannot find it in myself to even titter.

    But as I often say, it wouldn’t be so bad if we had a lot of *positive and accurate* portrayals of us in the media. If we did, the badness would be easier to brush off. Yet we don’t, and that bothers me a lot. Things are getting better, but they’re only getting better because we stood up and said “hey, you don’t know a damn thing about us and we’re not going to leave you alone until you get it right.”

    (Lastly, thank you again for starting this discussion, it’s been very useful and thought provoking. A good challenge to a commonly held belief never hurts either and I was past due for re-examining this!

    Forgive me if my tone seemed overly strident.

    Also, I’m not sure if you received the email I sent you a couple of weeks back but I just wanted to reiterate here, you have inspired me and you do me proud, sis! Keep up the good work.)

    • And I welcome your non-agreeance and I’m happy to see that you’re willing to disagree with me and be kind about it! You make me so happy when you disagree like that. ^_^

      I wish I had played Neverwinter Nights. That’s a dirty little secret of mine — I somehow missed that game. I feel bad for that, and I wish I had time to go back and devote to it.

      As to the larger argument… our games are usually so far wrought in fantasy and the fantastic that we forget to ground them once in a while. You know, I would love to see nothing more than more Mass Effects, more Dragon Ages, and more Uncharteds. These are fantasy games that have a grounding to them, not just a far-flung fantasy that involves oversexed and over done everything.

      And yes, choice is everything. I feel the same way in some games when I don’t get my way with the character creator, but it seems more games nowadays (like Aion, for example) are offering better tools for us to truly express ourselves. Very cool. I hope more games take the offer of choice further, so then we don’t have to feel so left out as sometimes all of us feel at one point or another.

      And, finally, as to your e-mail, I’ll have to go back in check. I probably got it, and I think I read it (it sounds familiar) but it probably got lost in the wasteland that is my e-mail inbox. I’ll go back and look for it though. ^_^

      • Of course. Unless some one makes a very personal or visceral attack I always do my best to disagree politely; debate is about sharing ideas and it does no good if we’re all shouting. 😛

        Don’t feel bad about NWN. I consider myself a proud girl gamer, yet I missed quite a few classics myself!

        Lastly, I sent it to the email address that is listed on Massively if that helps.

    • “Nothing is realistic in these games but I have to ask where the harm is in portraying normal women on a regular basis?”

      The answer lies in the bottom line. The mainstream gamer – at least as calculated by executives at these companies – is male, white, and straight. They’re going to do whatever they think is necessary to appeal to that demographic. They’ll get some stragglers (i.e. those who don’t fit that demographic but still like those images) in the process, too.

      It’s for the same reason – and also because the majority of game designers and programmers etc are straight white males themselves – that we don’t see more characters of color in games, and why when do see them they are stereotypes.

      Now before you make the argument about how a lot of games are made in Japan – or in the case of Blade/Soul, Korea – it’s more or less the same beauty standard (see anime).

      I have written quite a bit myself on the lack of representation for people of color in video games, but it’s like an echo in the alley. There are a few people willing to discuss it, but at the end of the day, gaming is an industry, and what’s done is enthralled, again, to the bottom line.

  7. Hi Seraphina,

    I’m still mulling over your anti-alias post. I’ll comment over there in a bit. But I had a few questions. First, when you say you’re “transgendered”, what do you mean exactly? I know what the term means, but I’m asking, I guess, in which “direction” are you transgendered? I ask because I think that may have a lot to do with how you feel about this issue.

    Actually, since your mere existence as a transgendered person blows “standard” notions of men and women to smithereens, I think there is a larger conversation around gender in games that this article has only just begun…

    The second question is simpler. What game is that avatar from?

    • Well, to answer your first question, I’m male-to-female transgendered. That means that I’m a male who feels more oriented to the female gender. I feel more feminine than masculine, although I certainly exhibit traits from both to the Nth degree. Bayonetta has me sent all a-twitter for those reasons. She’s hot and she has good taste in shoes. What more can I ask for?

      The second question’s answer: Second Life. Just that simple. 🙂

      • Do you suppose that to whatever degree you are “male” in your thinking that it desensitizes you to female concerns? That’s what I was alluding to in my first comment. In any case, I agree with what you’re saying in the anti-aliased post.

        And…yeah, it would be Second Life, a game I refuse to play!

      • I think it could… yes. I am very much a lesbian, as I’m still very much attracted to the female form. But a complete desensitization? No. I’m still subjected to a few things that women are subjected to, and one of the main issues I have is the way people look at me when I’m dressed up.

        Some guys have this way of looking at you that completely undresses you. And while I’ve gotten more use to it, it’s still a very awkward thing to have done to you. It’s things like that that make me completely understand why women don’t want to be viewed by their physical nature alone. You feel… like a piece of meat. Sheesh. I shiver just thinking about it.

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