So You’re A Tough Guy: Male Stereotypes in Video Games

These days we have been talking a lot about the stereotypes and the depiction of women in video games. Although a very worthwhile topic, something that is not as often discussed is how guys are portrayed in the same games.

Video games are a type of media that has the potential to have a great impact in our views as a society – both as children and adults. Unlike movies or others in the same notch, a game allows you to physically perform actions instead of just witnessing them.

The Face Of A Hero

Guys in video games tend to be very muscular, rugged, and since I am a girl I think I can get away with saying often pretty damn hot. In many games – especially in FPS – the main guy protagonists look a lot a like. Take the below two images from Splinter Cell and Fuse. These guys could almost be brothers. Thick, muscular arms. Slim build. Dark hair. Rough battle worn face. A sort of piercing Dirty Harry kind of glare to their eyes…

 

And they aren’t the only ones. Male main characters (heroes) have a tough, heavily muscular, good looking body type that seems to be the template for Hero.

Uncharted Character

Just Cause Character

No matter the game, you often see these main characters with an extremely athletic body type that are complimented by their made-for-movies face. Face-wise the nose structure, check bones, eye shape, and even the cringes or lines in their faces all seem to mimic each other quite often. Sometimes hair style or color changes, but a lot of features can often be similar. Let’s also add in the fact that usually (feel free to correct me in the comments if you feel I’m wrong), they are often of the same age range and ethnicity.

Even in Halo or other characters with armor, when no face is actually seen you are still able to know that the male character is strong, slim, and fitting in well with the rest of his fellow ass kicking soldiers. It seems somewhat impossible to me that a guy can be that thin while wearing what I only assume is at least slightly thick armor, but hey maybe it’s my inner girl-ness channeling out hidden envy that is to blame for this opinion.

There are many other games besides these, but most of the time they still involve the same build. Even the really strange characters still retain this like Enslaved’s monkey boy:

I’m pretty sure that these characters will very soon have their faces stuck that way.

I find it absolutely intriguing how Enslaved’s main character can be humorous in his characteristics and yet still unrealistically built up. I mean, he almost has a tail! And his name is literally Monkey! But they wouldn’t want you to think he couldn’t handle himself because obviously a main character would be only a capable hero if looking like this. As if it was a normal human feature to have arms that thick and a face capable of making gorillas run away with a whimper of utter despair.

They basically take the formula of upside down triangle, add some huge hands, and stick it on two legs.

Well, that may be a little extreme, but you get my point. Monkey boy isn’t the only one of his kind. For starters, you might as well throw him into Gears of War, because he would fit right in. Not all video game characters have a physical appearance that is so exaggerated,  but even the ones such as Uncharted or Fuse above, which are closer to reality, still portray a specific body type.

Having A Hero Isn’t A Bad Thing…

Having an idol, even one who is unrealistic, can motivate or inspire us to reach further than we might otherwise have. We want to play good looking characters so long as it’s done right. I believe that a lot of people play games because they want to experience something. Maybe it’s saving our planet from a horde of aliens. Maybe it’s surviving a zombie apocalypse and keeping your character’s daughter safe. Maybe you want to be Yoshi and squeeze giant eggs out. We put ourselves into these roles in a way that no movie could ever accomplish. We become the hero. The survivor. The one in charge. Often, when I think about the heroes I emulate they are beyond any human capability. When I log into my Xbox or PC, I want to become something extraordinary. These video game heroes are an illusion; much like all heroes tend to be. They are more about characteristics we admire than anything else.

The same occurs when we look into our past at the Hercules, the Jane of Arks, the William Wallaces of our legends or histories – and we see something incredible. Something so much bigger than ourselves that it impassions us. What they do isn’t possible for us mortals, but that is why we like them. Why we admire them.

…But we need to make sure we aren’t in danger of forgetting these characters aren’t real.

No matter what, having other options shows people–very often kids and teenagers–who play these games that this isn’t the only thing that is out there. Such as games that allow us to customize our hero’s physical appearance, or even better a game like Half Life which has the pleasantly surprising glasses wearing Gordon Freeman as a main character.

Proving that yes, you can be smart and look smart, but kick ass too.

That you don’t necessarily have to have a million muscles, be super slim, have crazy broad shoulders, or have a certain kind of face in order to save the world from total destruction. Or from zombies. Or interns.

These physical characteristics we see so often come from obvious reasons. Doing something physical requires a lot of strength. However, a lot of these characters go beyond that into the extreme. In ways, video games can reflect the physical appearance and characteristics that we admire, like a lot of media, but they also have the ability to influence what we admire just as equally.

It’s important to remember what things really are worth this admiration, and what things are not. More important than any appearance is the person behind the character – the player – who might do a little better to have more varied heroes in their games.

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4 responses to “So You’re A Tough Guy: Male Stereotypes in Video Games

  1. Yes! Thank you for this! Stereotypes exist on both sides. Especially since there are men out there that don’t see themselves as “man enough” due to societal views!

    • 🙂 Def! I think on a certain level we need gender identities (in part perhaps in order to stay sane, and also because I think it’s just a natural behavior), but we shouldn’t let them stop us from keeping an open mind and judging each other based on those things alone. I wrote this because I wanted to look at the other side; try on another pair of shoes and walk a ways. It’s easy to look at things from my own perspective. It’s a whole other to try to understand someone else’s!

  2. Good post! Other gaming news sites have written about this topic too. They noted some video games seem to have a the same character design. White men with square jaws and shaved heads typifies this design.

    “…usually (feel free to correct me in the comments if you feel I’m wrong), they are often of the same age range and ethnicity.”
    I’d say you’re probably right about ethnicity. Every now and then there are exceptions, like the main character in Starhawk or some characters in the Walking Dead.

    • Thanks! Yea, I would def like to see a bigger range of characters out there. I think people these days are becoming more and more conscience of these things, and I hope that eventually this leads to expanding what we have traditionally used.

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