Women's Appearance in MMORPGs - East vs. West

by Daniel Reynolds, June 17 2010

Even in the earliest MMORPGs, players have had a choice to play female characters. This would initially seem to be a strong example of equality for women, but a closer examination of the female character shows a disparity, not only in the male and female gender within MMORPGs, but also in the way that females are depicted between eastern and western MMORPGs. Not only is the MMORPG clothing different, but even the body types of women are presented differently in the different styles.

One of the two major styles of MMORPGs are those developed in Asia. These MMORPGs tend to have an animation style that is reminiscent of Japanese Anime. The characters tend to have Asian features (which makes sense considering where they are developed), and the women are given very scanty armor. This can make for a very sexy MMORPG, if not a completely realistic one. After all, the chances of stopping a sword with a thong for armor are pretty slim. The other style of MMORPG is the Western MMORPG. These are games that are created mainly with American and European players in mind. The female characters in these games tend to have more realistic armor that covers a larger part of the body and looks much more substantial. While there does seem to be some degree of sex appeal in this games, it tends to be much more subtle than in their Eastern counterparts.

The difference in the MMORPG clothing for male and female characters is immediately evident in a game like Lineage II. The male armor covers most if not all of the body, and has a look that screams PROTECTIVE ARMOR! Female armor in Asian MMORPGs is significantly more flimsy and very scanty. MMORPG clothing for women doesn't resemble armor as much as it does lingerie. The pants are usually two parts consisting of a very small thong and hose like leggings that stop considerably short of the waist. The upper armor for female characters in Eastern MMORPGs usually resemble bras more than bronze. While this type of armor creates a very sexy MMORPG, it leaves female characters looking very vulnerable.

Lineage II ladies make Britney Spears look like a prude

In Western MMORPGs, the clothing is significantly different from that of Eastern MMORPGs. In World of Warcraft, the armor that female characters wear looks similar to that of the male characters. For the most part the armor covers the majority of the body, with the exception of a strip of skin showing near the waist (there has to be SOME skin showing, right?). The MMORPG clothing for female characters in World of Warcraft also resembles armor. It looks rigid and solid, just what you would expect metal armor to look like. This isn't to say that it is impossible to tell the difference between male and female armor in World of Warcraft. The female armor is tightly molded to their bodies so that there is no question about the gender of the character behind the MMORPG clothing. It is just a more realistic look if you were envisioning what the character might wear for armor.

Modesty is all the rage in World of Waracraft

This disparity in MMORPG clothing between Eastern and Western games can also be seen in earlier titles. Two early MMORPG games, EverQuest and Ragnarok Online show a major difference in the way that female characters are both represented and dressed. Even in a 2-D game like Ragnarok Online, the it is immediately clear which characters are male and which are female. Not only because the body types are much different, but also the clothing in this early MMORPGs can already be seen trending toward the revealing nature of its predecessor. The female dancer below wears knee high boots, no leggings, and is barely covered up top, giving her a look reminiscent of a erotic dancer.

Even before MMOs went 3D, summong scantily clad women was still a high level spell developers cast to attract players

The female character in EverQuest looks much different than the above female characters in Ragnarok Online. The clothing that the female characters wear covers most of the body. And while some skin is showing, mostly it is on the arms or the side. The female body is also rendered differently in EverQuest than it is in Ragnarok Online. The female body in EverQuest is more androgynous than in Ragnarok. Where Ragnarok characters tend to have overstated female features, the female characters in EverQuest tend to be more realistic in measurements. Posture is also another difference between the two games. Female characters in Lineage II and Ragnarok, besides wearing revealing MMORPG clothing are also posed in decidedly female poses, with hips flared. The below female character in EverQuest shows some of the same hip flare, but it is much more muted.

A high level EverQuest female tastefully showing off her gear

Does this mean that Ragnarok Online is a sexy MMORPG while EverQuest is not? Well, it all depends on what your definition of sexy is. There is no doubt that the Eastern MMORPGs have really pushed the boundary of sex with their development of female characters, but a woman doesn't have to look like a Barbie doll to be considered sexy, and the understated feminine traits that are on display in Western games can also be a good base for a very sexy MMORPG.

Women from the West's Guild Wars (left) and Asia's Perfect World (right) may dress differently but underneath they are pretty similar

There is another issue when it comes to female characters in MMORPGs that goes beyond the clothing that they wear. This is the physical construction of the characters themselves. Female characters in most MMORPGs will be created with overstated feminine parts to one degree or another. They will tend to have larger breasts than would be expected for real women, their hips tend to be tapered to a great degree, and they will usually have larger thighs. It is almost like game designers decided that the normal woman has measurements close to those of the aforementioned Barbie. This is probably a reaction to the target audience of these games; males age 16-30. It makes sense that if you are trying to sell a game to a young adult male audience, making it a sexy MMORPG gives you a much better chance of moving units.it takes to download then follow these simple seven steps. It won't do much to change your life but hopefully it can improve your future gaming experiences.