March 31st, 2008

Bulky? Muscular? Skinny? Effeminate? What’s your type of video game hunk? Chances are you’re probably not thinking of pyramid head here…

This recent (somewhat shoddy) list of the Top 25 Hottest Men in Gaming got me thinking about male bodies. The bodies of female video game characters have undergone a lot of male gaze scrutiny. They appear on the covers of magazines wearing skimpy outfits and become the subject of endless fanboy drool-fests. Male characters, while their bodies may be just as sexualized by design, hardly ever attract as many hungry eyes–or angry voices when they don’t meet standards of beauty. So I say let’s turn our gaze on those occasionally sumptuous male bodies and see what we find.

The first thing we notice is that there’s actually a wide variety in the body types of male characters. If we focus just on the top 10 “hottest” men on the list, we come up with at least four distinct categories:

Muscular but limber: I’d say Solid Snake and Altaïr Ibn La-Ahad best represent this body type. You wouldn’t say they’re enormous, but you would say that could kick the shit out of you.

Slim and effeminate: Link, Alucard, Sephiroth, and even possibly Dante fit into this category. They may be tough, but they also have slim waists, delicate faces, and all-around sleek figures.

Bulky (and even bulkier): Talk about bulky, and you’re talking about someone like Siegfried. He has a sword, but does he really need it? Look at those massive arms. He could probably crush woodland creatures between his fists.

Average Joe: Think Henry Townshend. Yeah, he can do things you can’t–but that’s ’cause he’s in a video game. Besides that, he could live in the apartment next door to you. Heck, for all you know, he has little love handles.

Proportionally cartoonish: No one in this category makes it into the top ten, but there are plenty of examples we could think of: Mario, for one. It’s hard to gaze longingly at the body of an impossibly short, plump plumber.

Too young to drool over: For the sake of decency, we won’t compare the sweaty figures of characters like Pit or young Link. Not only is it “wrong,” those kids just aren’t developed yet. When they get some pecks we’ll start criticizing them…

Straight-up bizarre: This category might explain how Pyramid Head somehow made it into the top 10. There are a lot of male characters we couldn’t call human, but there’s also a strange in between land where a monstrous character has a distinctly male form. And sometimes that form is ripped.

So, who what body type do you prefer in your male characters? Which do you prefer playing vs. looking at? Are there ones we’re missing from the list? Personally, I’m an Alucard girl all the way. Put on that much make-up and you can suck my blood any day…

Tags: game characters

31 Responses to “From Buff to Bizarre: Male Video Game Character Body Types”

  1. Scott Jon Siegel Says:

    Yeah, Alucard FTW. And let’s not forget Leon S. Kennedy!

    Also, forgive my ignorance, but who is Henry Townshed?

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Ah, sorry, referring to the characters on the list. He’s from Silent Hill 4.

    Also, Leon Kennedy should so totally make it into that top 10 :).

  3. Gaming in the Media Blog » Links - 3/31/08 Says:

    […] Heroine Sheik – On Male Videogame Character Body Types  This recent (somewhat shoddy) list of the Top 25 Hottest Men in Gaming got me thinking about male bodies. The bodies of female video game characters have undergone a lot of male gaze scrutiny. They appear on the covers of magazines wearing skimpy outfits and become the subject of endless fanboy drool-fests. Male characters, while their bodies may be just as sexualized by design, hardly ever attract as many hungry eyes–or angry voices when they don’t meet standards of beauty. So I say let’s turn our gaze on those occasionally sumptuous male bodies and see what we find. This entry was posted on Monday, March 31st, 2008 at 2:09 pm by Latoya Peterson. It is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site. « Links – 3/26/08 […]

  4. Joe Tortuga Says:

    For the first half of the game or so (and I hadn’t done any fiddling to see his face), I was convinced that Atair was actually a girl because of the way he swishes when he walks.

    I think my wife still isn’t convinced:)

    So I’d put him in a different category than you.

  5. Scott Jon Siegel Says:

    Joe: that would actually be a pretty cool twist/gimmick in a game; if the camera never let you see the main character’s face, and eventually you figure out their identity.

    Okay, now that I mention it, it seems a little like what Portal pulled, but cooler! Because it’s in third-person! Take *that* Valve!

    lol jk hire me pleez?

  6. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Well, it could be interesting if the character’s gender was deliberately hidden–i.e. if they went in drag, or in Sheik-like cover. Then later you figured out you’d been playing a woman instead of a man, or vice versa. I could be wrong, but it seems to me usually the information that gets revealed about characters as a game goes on is rarely info about the player’s avatar. I can see why it would unsettling (though cool) to get new info that would make you feel uncertain/unsteady with the very person you’re playing…

  7. Duoae Says:

    Hmmm. Actually the type of male body doesn’t enter my mind when playing a game. What annoys or interests me is the overall artistic cohesion of the character. If the character doesn’t fit the role that he plays very well, if the voice actor sounds terrible or if the clothes and weapons seem misplaced in the world or clash with each other it annoys me :)

  8. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Duoae, you bring up an interesting point, which is the split between a character as a purely aesthetic object (what he looks like in screenshots, art, etc.) and the character as an active part of play. I’d have to agree that, at least some of the time, a character’s physical appearance gets lost in more important, immersive play elements. However, I’d say this was true for female characters, too–and players still manage to split them off as aesthetic objects and drool over them :).

  9. Mutant for Hire Says:

    One of my big problems with World of Warcraft is that there is only one bodytype for each of the races/gender. I have a problem with a mage who looks like they’ve been raised in a weightroom on a diet of steroids.

  10. Sam Says:

    Perhaps I just have odd tastes then — but I was commenting the other day to my boyfriend that Altair is perhaps the first male game character I’ve found attractive in any way similar to the adoration my male friends show to females. (In his words: ‘If he showed up at the door, would you do him?’ ‘If he wasn’t there to kill me…’)

    But I saw his gait as more of a cowboy-like swagger than a girlish swish, too.

  11. The 25 Hottest Men in Gaming « Token Minorities Says:

    […] 25 Hottest Men in Gaming April 2, 2008 So Bonnie over at Heroine Sheik posted an interesting breakdown of the “types” of men generally found in this […]

  12. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Ah, Sam, that’s another good question: who would you do :)?

    Mutant for Hire, I hear you all the way. I’m not a WoW player myself, but from what I’ve heard you can attempt to alter your character and end up with a body build that’s identical anyways.

  13. The 25 Hottest Men in Gaming at Racialicious - the intersection of race and pop culture Says:

    […] found in this (admittedly rather lackluster, this-post-is-worthless-without-pics) list of the “25 Hottest Men in Gaming”. Do you like your men brawny? Slender and effeminate? Pyramid-headed? And so […]

  14. Falyne Says:

    Scott:

    Hmmm, I think there was a game that did that once. Didn’t sell too many copies. Don’t know if you’d have ever heard of it… Metron? Netroid? Something like that. I think the main character was “Seamus” or something….

    (I kid, I kid. ;-) )

  15. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Wow, ok, so very right.

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  17. miffy Says:

    most of the time it seems that the non human charachters have better bodies most of the the humans are to feminime for me out of this list pryamid head would be my pick

  18. J. Says:

    I must say, the lack of the Prince from Prince of Persia makes me sad. His look in The Two Throne is unbelievably sexy–even when he’s a sand monster. ;) He even runs around shirtless!

    As for my likes, I usually waver between “muscular but limber” and “femme.”

    I think the diversity of male bodies on the list is very interesting in comparison to the list of female bodies linked in that post. The female bodies seem to be diversified mostly through breast size. The men, however, are diverse in height, weight, age…

  19. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    I totally agree, J. The variety in male bodies is just fascinating, compared to the similarity in female body types. It makes me think about all the different types of female bodies that *could* be in games…

  20. Vierge Says:

    I agree with the way you’ve divided the top ten men on the original list into these categories, though granted, we must agree that there are occasional “gray areas” between types, especially when we start talking about aesthetic definitions. Personally, I think Solid Snake’s a bit too muscular to be included in the “muscular but limber” category, and could actually be bordering on the “bulky and bulkier” side of things. And Dante might be a bit on the lower end of the “slim and effeminate” category and might actually border on “muscular but limber.” You think maybe a sliding scale of sorts might be better than solidly-defined categories? Sorry, I’m being a bit obsessive-compulsive.

    And thank God for all this variety for male bodies, as opposed to all the cookie-cutter variants for female bodies that have come out in video games. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. A cousin of mine agrees, and says that, as a man himself, he doubts women gamers will ever become the “aesthetic drones” some of his buddies have become.

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  22. Ember Says:

    Hmm…I absolutely love Pyramid Head. I don’t think he’s particularly attractive, I just love him. But as far as male body types go, I’d have to say I like Altair’s body type. An effeminate body type would just be weird, bulky guys are kinda gross, and Pyramid Head isn’t exactly…human. But Altair is just perfect. He’s not superhumanly strong, but he can still kick some serious Templar butt.

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