Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Mass' Effect: Why Are Fat People Vilified In Video Games?

Description: Screenshot from Silent Hill 2. A fat, white man
with blond hair wearing a backwards baseball cap & striped shirt
points a finger towards the camera, with the subtitle "You've been
laughin' at me all along, haven't you?" displayed at the bottom.
As a fat guy, I've gotten a lot of strangers commenting on my right to exist in public space over the years (and I have it easier than a fat woman or person of color). The way fat people are pilloried as character in the virtual space of video games is pretty gross, too. Producer and essayist Anshuman Iddamsetty looks at the multi-billion dollar entertainment industry that is video gaming contributes to this in "How Video Games Demonize Fat People" for The Outline. Idamsetty's essay goes into a deep dive in speaking with professors, motion-capture actors, game players, game developers and others connected to the industry to take a long look at both the root causes and the effects, intended or otherwise, of demonizing fat bodies.

Here's an excerpt:
if the fear of alienating a player is so great that lazy tropes are somehow safer, this alone doesn’t account for their frequency — if a fat body appears at all.
Sunset Overdrive was released in 2014 by Insomniac Games. Part zombie shooter, part Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, the Xbox One exclusive boasted a robust customization system that let you be whatever you wanted — except fat. “We wanted to put our time into wild outfits instead of technology to bloat up people or bloat them down,” Sunset Overdrive director Drew Murray told Kotaku. (“Bloat” — what a word to describe my body. )
Later in the piece, a shape emerges. “You have so much other complexity in all the things you can wear, the hair, the animations,” said Insomniac CEO Ted Price. “We had to pick our battles, and that was kind of where we chose to draw the line.”
The essay is a bracing but necessary look at not just the history of video games as technical development, but also as popular entertainment, and how certain story telling and design decisions in video games as a medium seem baked into the process from the beginning. Please, give the whole essay a read.

I'm also interested in hearing from other gamers-- have any of these examples ever made you feel a certain way? Do you have any to add yourself? Sound off in the comments.

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