Sometimes I’m embarrassed to call myself a gamer.
It’s not a big secret that the video game industry has a real problem with the way it portrays women. Firstly, there’s really not a lot of them. At a recent E3, a whopping 9% of games had an exclusively female protagonist. Credit where credit is due, that gap is shrinking in recent years, but that only makes way for the second problem.
Most female characters in games are “stereotypically” hot. I’m talking supermodel features and six-hour-a-day-at-the-gym toned bodies.
Even a game like Overwatch, which was praised for their diversity in the character designs, falls into this trap with the majority of female characters also looking like super-models.
Before I go any further, there are a something I need to pre-emptively say to quash the usual arguments, and that is – Yes, I am generalising.
Not every female character is a goddess of beauty. However, most are, including some of the most gaming’s most iconic leading ladies. Individual examples do not break the trend.
And that leads me nicely onto my main topic.
Sexy-Shelob is gross and weird.
Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor was a neat little game. The Arkham Asylum inspired combat was made all the more visceral by being able to see your enemy’s viscera as you disemboweled them. And the Nemesis system added a lot of depth and personality to your enemies. All in all, great game. Glad it’s getting a sequel.
I was also excited when I heard that Shelob was going to be in it. And as a significant character, no less. The idea of routinely having to seek out a giant spider for guidance was pretty unique in my book. But then I saw the trailer.
Look, I get why they did it. I guess consorting with enormous arachnids is a little out there for the general public. And I understand that sometimes you have to adapt the source material. But did they really have to be so cliché about it?
The excuse that the developers give for Sexy-Shelob is that the spider queen is taking a form more pleasing to Talion, our protagonist. And that form just happens to be a hot, goth, Morrigan-wannabe.
The real problem is that Monolith Productions had the opportunity to do something unique and interesting with a female character. They could have just kept her as a talking spider and that would have been cool. Or if they really needed to roll out a human form, they could have chosen something more alien and disturbing. You know, kinda like if a giant spider giving its best attempt at passing off as a human.
That’s what hurts about all of this. The lost opportunity. The developers could have taken a risk. Tried to do something new and interesting with Shelob. Instead, they took the safe route. Which in this case made the one interesting female character into a generic sexy lady.
I wish I could say I was surprised.