Video games' "breast physics" issue

Video game breasts are one of the video game industry's albatrosses.

If you weren't aware of the commercial sector's long and storied history creating ways to make cartoonish and often unbelievable forms gyrate alarmingly (or milkshake oddly but gently in place), Patricia Hernandez has written a fascinating piece on the software, tools and cultural landscape around "breast physics" in game development.

Of particular note: The guy that recommends devs watch porn so they can learn about where a woman's nipple goes.

Full disclosure: While it's not the kind of thing I feel like I should bring up at Women in Games Luncheons, I do preserve a secret affinity for the alien and often-lewd character designs of Soul Calibur. For me personally, exaggerated body forms in fantasy media is never going to be the "hill that I'm gonna die on," so to speak. I've still got friends who, when they hear I'm a "video game feminist," think my primary quest in life is to cover up all the boobs and make sure all the dragon fantasy armor is realistic for battle. While I respect where folks are coming from — discomfort is fair — I sometimes worry that those well-intentioned lines of conversation bring the focus back onto women's bodies as somehow The Problem, especially in the context of games or comics that are intentionally silly or joyfully stupid to begin with. It's not like folks are commonly taking mature and respectfully-nuanced female characters (or male ones, for that matter) and simply making them look weird physically.

But importantly, the video game boobs issue peels back a deeper layer in the relationship between women's bodies and traditionally male-dominated commercial spaces. Making breasts jiggle becomes a tech issue, a way to show off the capabilities of a new engine or to demonstrate proof of the onward march of fidelity and sophistication — women's breasts as the avatar for men's progress, even. And that's without even asking the question of how the women in the office may feel when their coworkers are gathered around a screen plucking virtual nipples to watch for the right skin ripples. Or studying porn, "for realism."

As Hernandez added on her Twitter later on, "women become a tech problem", where the focus becomes on improving the movements of their artificial flesh, rather than, y'know, improving them as characters.