This was always going to be something that came up, however, we may not be discussing what you think we are. I could also start by saying that all three authors here at 6 Inch Move are involved with members of the opposite sex, two of us being married for a number of years. My intent here today is not to discuss the abject look of horror that crosses most ladies faces if they have to step foot in their local Games Workshop while every face stares at them in confusion as to what this figure is that has invaded their sacrosanct domain. No, more about the way in which the female form is represented through various mediums in game terms. We’re going to touch on stereotypes for sure, it would be difficult not to considering the genre and the male bias that our hobby most definitely caters for.
As you are more than likely aware if you check out any of the plethora of Fantasy movies that came out during the 80s (to be honest, probably the only good things to come out of the 80s were a lot of sci-fi/fantasy movies) women are portrayed in one of only a couple of ways. These include; being draped over some (no doubt well paying) gent, a girl who has no idea of the outside world and is therefore completely dependant on the hero (normally she’ll end up naked at some point too) and the warrior women that can kick anybody’s butt and normally does it while half naked and without getting so much as a scratch on her. OK, I’ll admit that Conan doesn’t wear much but if you read Howard’s work it fits the background, although in most of the stories the chicks are the second type listed and they pretty much are all naked half the time.
You may notice a theme developing here, this is no doubt down to the fact that products in the Fantasy realm are normally aimed at the male half of the population and are also created in the majority by those men. Now, I’m not dumb enough to postulate that these characters fulfill the whims and lusts of the creators who have a lack of experience in dealing with the female half… I don’t think that’s it at all, even though we can all picture a stereotypical gamer locked in his parents basement fantasising about conquests with amazingly hot women. We’ve all been teenagers after all. Yet, being in my third decade upon God’s Earth I obviously have different sensibilities than when I was younger and still, even though I know a large portion of gamers exists these days that are not in their teens, many have even left the confines of parental subterranean domiciles, we find that a large proportion of models showing females are less protected than might otherwise be reasonably expected. Whether this is a mere continuation of something that has existed since gaming first crept from the fiery chasm whence it came or a deliberate design philosophy is not something I am in a position to declare, but in Fantasy in particular, this theme occurs again and again. I know of a great many companies that make astoundingly detailed models and yet when you get down to representations of women, well, they must spend a lot of the time a little on the chilly side. My wife tends to be cold when we set our central heating to “African Summer” so I can only imagine what these poor model ladies go through if their physiology matches that of my wife and other ladies I know.
In Sci-fi things get a little better. The Sisters of Battle for 40k are equipped in the same kind of armour that protects perennial GW favourites the Space Marines, but even here we have a unit of silk shrouded lunatic chainsaw-wielders in the form of the Sisters Repentia. Filling a stereotypical need? Maybe, the models are good but the rules suck so you don’t often see them. Privateer Presses Iron Kingdoms universe with its Steampunk theme also means that we get women who wear a little more, however, as anyone who plays Cryx knows, that doesn’t hold true for all factions. Most of the Cryxian Warcasters are a little less armoured than other factions and we even have a triumvirate of teenagers with side-boob capacity the envy of women twice their age.
Is it purely down to male flights of fancy that all these female figures are defined by a pretty standard set of guidelines. They are invariably thing with large chests, many of these bosoms on display as part of the model, sometimes even fully exposed rather than just a prodigious cleavage. Is there a need for it? I don’t think so, I am sure that sales of female figures would not dramatically decrease if we suddenly saw a reduction in the output of such things. Do we want to see fat chicks modelled? Well, probably not, we play in a stylised environment that is heavily male dominated. Male figures with wang all over the place would not be nearly as endearing to the female audience as busty beauties are to men. We use these games as an escape from our humdrum every day lives and therefore having scantily clad babes all over the place caters to the most base of male instincts. It’s amusing that a hobby that has matured over the years still sticks with those themes that may have piqued the interests of those of us who still play during those formative teenage years. Things probably haven’t changed to entice a new generation of players. It amuses me though that we can still stick to these things that inevitably draw criticism from other quarters regarding the portrayal of these characters. Now, it may be that women in the universes we play in are happy with their lot but if we want to encourage ladies to engage in our hobby and not feel objectified as soon as they step into a store perhaps we need to change how they are portrayed upon the tabletop?