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The Devolution of Female Characters in Video Games

I recently picked up Final Fantasy IX. While the game left a very good initial impression on me, I decided to not keep playing it as I found the random battles in the game too tedious, in particular given the long loading times of the PlayStation. I perked up a few times in the drawn out intro sequence as the narration is rather light-hearted, but then a pre-rendered sequence was played that perfectly illustrates that we are not moving towards a better future. I first wanted to capture it from a playthrough online, but then I found the following thumbnail:

This is princess Garnet, seemingly flirting with the main character as she gently smiles at him. This is exactly the scene I was looking for. Moments ago, she looks at him with a blank expression but then she coyly smiles at him. A lot is told in those two seconds. I found it masterful. Without wanting to spoil anything, the context is that you want to kidnap her, so you do not expect her to smile at you at all. It is probably telling that Sony chose this particular scene as the thumbnail for advertising the PS4 release of this PSX classic. No matter what your particular preferences for women are, we can probably agree that princess Garnet is, at the very least, pleasant to look at (and has a nice chest, too).

Now fast-forward 20 years, and you get this:

When you take an exaggerated male character and slap a female face on it, you get Alloy from Horizon: Zero Dawn or its upcoming sequel Forbidden West. It is absolutely baffling that we now no longer put attractive women in video games but women who are not even just average. Instead, you get to look at genuinely off-putting female characters in your video games nowadays. This is one reason why I am not overly interested in modern games anymore because there is little to be had in terms of escapism if you have to look at ugly characters on the screen. It is worse than reality in many cases, if you consider the cast of Cyberpunk 2077, for instance.

Thankfully, there are still companies around who put attractive characters in video games. However, those are normally not mainstream companies whereas it was not too long ago that AAA games had you look at attractive male and female characters. To look at how far Square-Enix, the company who made Final Fantasy IX, has fallen, check out the main character of their upcoming game Forspoken:

This is the ugliest female character in a major release to date, in my opinion. I thought that we had hit rock bottom with Control (middle-aged woman with square jaw) or Returnal (granny with wrinkles and a saggy ass) but this takes the cake. Strangely enough, the real-world model this character is based on is relatively attractive. It seems the current process is to make absolutely everything ugly. Oh, and if you watch trailers of the game, you will hear the main character curse like a sailor and even speak of a “muhfuggin’ dragon”. It is as cringe-worthy as it is off-putting. Man, can you even remember when we taught women to not swear?

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5 thoughts on “The Devolution of Female Characters in Video Games

  1. This is the last place I thought I’d see a discussion of Final Fantasy IX. It became my favorite game after playing it recently. Indeed it’s no surprise that that image is one of the more iconic ones from the game. I suppose if they wanted to bring their advertising more in line with the rest of the industry, they could instead use a screenful of Queen Brahne’s ugly mug as the thumbnail. FF IX came out at a time when people still had a predominately aspirational attitude towards exceptionalism, such as beauty and achievement. Today we now have to contend with the fetishization of ugliness and mediocrity which has spread unchecked like a disease amongst the average to below average majority in Western populations.

    I think it’s worth mentioning that beyond being pretty (something the game goes to great lengths to emphasize and contrast with her mother who is fat and repulsive) Garnet is also a decently written character that manages to break the helpless princess trope without being an obnoxious piece of work who can do no wrong. In fact, almost everything she tries to do on her own fails spectacularly and she suffers greatly as a consequence, so in that sense she’s an anti-Mary Sue.

    You can find more examples in the other Final Fantasy games from this era. It seems the developers understood that good looks are a good way to pique a player’s interest, while a good personality is necessary to maintain that interest long term (as is the case in real life). Ironically, it’s often the people who complain about the objectification of women and whatnot who fail to see beyond the appearance of attractive game characters, automatically dismissing them as shallow eye candy fan service for their mostly male audience. (That males enjoy looking at attractive representations of women is of course problematic, and any move to cater to that desire is thus wrong.)

    I suppose in their minds, there must be a trade off between physical looks and personality. This preserves a delusional hope that while they themselves may be ugly and unpleasant to behold, they at least, by virtue of their ugliness, have a personality, which is ultimately more important and which the world will (some day) come to properly recognize as such.

    To acknowledge the reality that a woman can have both a pleasant personality and a pleasant appearance would shatter their wishful thinking and delusional hopes and force them to accept the fact that there are women who are better than them purely on the basis of their physical looks, and conversely, that their own ugliness does not guarantee them a winning personality.

    The bitterness of the Black Pill is such that it drives men and women alike to concoct grand illusions to shelter themselves from harsh reality. I guess these fools think that if only they can convince (or coerce) enough people to join in on their illusions, that they can change reality itself. Of course beautiful people have no incentive to join in, so they must be eliminated from the equation, via suppression, shaming, or coercing them to make themselves ugly; the same must be done with all positive representations of beauty in media. The message across all spectrums is clear: what’s beautiful and exceptional is bad; what’s ugly and mediocre is good. Agree and comply, or face our wrath.

    Whew. Anyways, I hope you return to Final Fantasy IX in the future, it’s a good one that’s worth finishing.

    1. We have discussed the fact that better looking women have more pleasant personalities a few times. This is easily observable in reality but we can no longer acknowledge it in our media, it seems. It is quite ironic that unattractive women tend to be really unpleasant as well. In fact, whenever a girl talks about her “personality” on a dating profile you can deduce that her pictures are heavily manipulated and that she is a pain in the neck to have around. Mediocre-looking women tend to have an incredible amount of pent up anger and frustration. They really hate good-looking women. Unfortunately, women are much more susceptible to herd opinion and it is therefore tragic whenever a few uglies manage to bully a slim, attractive woman into shaving her head, getting tattoos, or becoming fat.

      I have been thinking about why Final Fantasy IX is so beloved and also how I ended up keeping it in the back of my mind for over 20 years. As you said, it is most likely related to the absolute beauty of this game. The backgrounds are absolutely phenomenal. I particularly like the medieval city you explore at the start (and probably return to at some point in the game). People travel from all over the world to visit the medieval towns of Europe, so why would they not also want to visit beautiful virtual worlds as well? Also, the soundtrack is incredible; I have been listening to it for two decades, and I still have not grown tired of it.

      On the issue of FF IX, I found an edited play-through online that cuts out the filler but leaves the story intact. In total, it is about 14 hours long, which is only about 1/3 of the entire game. I intend to watch this bit by bit as I am much more interested in the story than spending dozens of hours fighting trash mobs. Here are the links for anyone curious to check out FF IX:

  2. Since it hasn’t been mentioned yet, and to add missing context, Alloy is clearly modeled after Ygritte, a character from Game of Thrones, and the first love interest of the protagonist Jon Snow. Coincidentally, both actors ended up marrying in real life. The actress, named Rose Leslie, is far from being a universal beauty but is certainly appealing to a sector of redhead lovers, I can attest to that, yet they made her more rugged for the role (as the book character she’s based on is supposed to be, it must be said), and this doppelganger is more rugged still.

    1. Thanks for pointing this out. I have not watched Game of Thrones, so I was oblivious to this connection. I just looked her up, and was quite taken aback by the similarities. In fact, I am surprised Guerilla Games did not get into legal problems for basically copying the GoT character. When you search online for the name, you get one shot after another where she holds a bow in a rather similar manner to Alloy. Also, Ygritte has rather pleasant facial features in some angles, albeit not nearly at the level of princess Garnet.

    2. Not only *redhead*, but *ginger* lovers, actually. If you don’t like gingers, you probably won’t find her very attractive or pretty.

      I must add thay much of this trend of ugly strohnk womens was heightened by Game of Thrones’ popularity. Much has been said and written about how the creators went out of their way to butcher the book material to get their girl powah moments, among other show-only tripe.

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