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Game Like a Girl: Male Fantasy

While writing last week’s Critical Role recap, I looked up the DnD 5e stats for a succubus. It was relevant to the story, and I wanted to have them for my own reference. I don’t think it was an official Dungeons & Dragons description, but I found a stat block for the creature that included her height and weight: 6′ and 125 lbs. The accompanying picture showed a creature who was most certainly not 125 pounds.

125 is what I refer to in my head as a “hot weight.” It’s a number that people find attractive, but doesn’t always translate to a healthy weight for many women. A woman six feet tall and this weight would be fairly thin. The picture, however, featured a very curvy woman.

I get comments from people arguing that realism should not be a factor in criticizing games, especially for fantasy games like DnD. The argument (as I understand it) is that, since games are a form of escapism and set in a fantasy world, it’s okay to have the characters be a masculine or feminine ideal. However, there are some issues with this logic: namely that it isn’t a general fantasy, it’s a male fantasy. Cultures like gaming culture are as prone to male influence and patriarchy as any other subculture, and it comes through in these ways.

Nathan Drake seems to be the default when comparing men demanding hot women in games to women demanding more representative characters. This further confuses me. I’ll compare replace Nathan Drake with Indiana Jones for this argument because Indy is more well known and the characters are somewhat similar. In the case of both Indy and Nathan Drake, they are still a male fantasy. While many women in various types of media lack personality beyond a cup size, men rarely get the same treatment. Sure, Indiana Jones is played by Harrison Ford, who is a good-looking dude. But the focus is on Indy’s accomplishments. He’s an archaeologist and great adventurer. That’s what the story is about: his adventures.

Indy runs through caves and finds treasurers and defeats bad guys. He’s a certifiable badass. And, at the beginning of the first film–after his cool action sequence–he has college co-eds fawning all over him, even though he’s their teacher and much older than him. I don’t understand what part of this is a female fantasy. Many women can take the place of Indy and envision themselves on cool adventures, but how many women can really relate to the lovesick college student? Essentially, the expectation is that women–even in the media that’s meant to be for them–are expected to be passive participants.

The other issue I have with this argument is that the only way to escape is through perfection. It’s not a problem to have a character that’s good at fighting, always has a one-liner, and is dashingly handsome, but that’s not the type of character everyone wants to play. And not everyone’s idea of “hot girl” will be the same. Insisting that others are wrong or lying when they want diversity in their fantasy is a particularly annoying form of gatekeeping. The only answer is to have the fantasy world be somewhat like real-life in that you have to just let people be. Fantasy and escapism are built upon real life, whether the abilities and situations are the same or not.

Does that mean that I’m arguing that all characters in gaming should be some kind of hideous woman? No. The issue is rarely with individual characters. Rather, the issue is with a trend. The “hot weight” myth is prevalent throughout our culture and has permeated gaming. This is simply an example of it. Weight is sometimes mechanically relevant in DnD, but this is evidence of obsession with a number for a person or group of people who are both cohorts in perpetrating and victim to this hot weight myth.

The real fantasy here is that a very tall woman can somehow keep to a particular number on the scale while having large breasts and a round butt. Neither of those two things are weightless. They contribute to a person’s total weight. For a succubus, who’s role is to be a feminine sexual ideal, this body type makes sense. It’s a societal default for sexiness.

Fiona L.F. Kelly (@FionaLFKelly)
Fiona L.F. Kelly is a professional writer and editor living in Cleveland, Ohio with her partner, cat, and many house plants. She is the current editor-in-chief for Project Derailed. She has published numerous articles about all things gaming and pop culture on websites all across the internet. She was also a writer for the latest edition of Trinity Continuum: Aberrant. In addition to her writing and editing, she has also been a guest and host on several podcasts. She hosts the Project Derailed podcast Big Streaming Pile and plays the githyanki pirate Rav’nys on Tales of the Voidfarer. Buy her a coffee: ko-fi.com/fionalfkelly

2 Comments

  • saurio says:

    I think this is an interesting and important topic to be thinking about, so I wanted to add a couple of thoughts.

    I agree with your overall premise, but, as a guy, there is generally a lack of information out there about women’s weight. Growing up, I was taught that it was about the most taboo subject in the world…that you never ask a woman about her weight. As a result, I think the only place a guy is likely to learn anything about the ratio of a woman’s weight to her height is the information sheet of a Playboy centerfold, where the stats of the curvy Miss January are very well likely to be 6 ft, 125 lbs. In all probability, those are very loose estimates, the same way a football quarterback can be listed at 6’2″ when anyone who had ever met him knows there is no way he is over 6 feet tall. But it might be the information that is in the mind of the developer who is trying to create a sexy succubus.

    Being married, I now know that most women weigh much more than I otherwise would have been led to believe. I am not sure how many women or married guys work at D&D. It would probably be good if they had a woman editor who could look at that stat block and make it more realistic, such as modeling it after the stats of a WNBA player, whose height and weight is readily available on the web (though, again, there could be fudging),

    Of course, since a Succubus is actually a fiend and not human, who knows what is actually inside of them. Maybe they have bird-like hollow bones that makes them weigh less while maintaining a human shape? The 6’0 ft., 125 lbs could be for their natural fiend form and not their shape-changed human form.

    • Fiona Kelly (@FionaLFKelly) says:

      Thanks for reading! I’m glad you left your thoughts here 🙂

      I think that you’re absolutely right. Many people (women included) aren’t really good at judging the weight of women. However, I think that a big part of that is the “hot weight” myth. There’s a lot of numbers that are “good” numbers regardless of height (not just in weight, but also in clothing sizes, which can vary greatly from designer to designer, and bra sizes, which most women judge incorrectly on themselves) and “bad” numbers. Ideally, it shouldn’t be different from height: some people are certain sizes and some people are others. However, just about everyone falls victim to believing this stigma because it often isn’t challenged. In my Game Like a Girl series, I try to challenge these things because, you’re right, they aren’t always made clear to everyone.

      There’s clearly a specific body type that these designers were going for. I thought it was interesting that this “hot weight” came up in a place that I didn’t necessarily expect it. Perhaps I should have, but it surprised me enough to inspire this post. To reiterate from my post, this was a random website that had added their own description to a DnD5e stat block and not an official Wizards of the Coast description. They’ve actually been working to include more body diversity in their art, which I love!

      There’s a lot of room to debate if we can put these real world criticisms on fantasy. I tend to be of the opinion that you can and should. Especially in this case, I don’t think that this was the game designers having a mechanical or story reason for including this. Rather, I think that they were including a weight that they think attractive women are. It doesn’t make them bad people or anything like that (like you pointed out earlier, many people simply don’t know what a curvy 6′ tall woman weighs), but it is absolutely worth examining. I think intent is very important here, and it just doesn’t seem like they intended to make a point that a succubi’s anatomy would be so different from a human’s that it would affect weight in a substantial way.

      Again, thanks for you thoughts!

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