It’s no surprise to many who follow the Feminist movement that video games can be one of the biggest cultural contributors to misogyny in the 21st Century; from the overly sexualised and violent ways you can act towards women in Grand Theft Auto, to the domestication and belittling of potential protagonists in games such as Pacman, Super Mario Bros and Red Dead Redemption.
The most recent of these games to take sexism to a new level is Elden Ring. I’m sure we’ve all seen the dramatic advertisements with a surprisingly catchy musical score. This is only a distraction from what is one of the most disgusting portrayals of women in modern media.
George R.R Martin is notorious not only for his sexualisation, objectification and brutalization of women in his book series, but also his strange sprinkling of transphobia in the form of “eunuchs”. This is a prejudice which can only be matched by fellow British author JK Rowling… Noticing a pattern?
While it can be argued that it is understandable as his world building is centred on “historically accurate” medieval England, much of his world is purely fantasy.
There are no white walkers in the world, nor fire breathing dragons with kings riding on their backs. Everything in the books conveys George’s own subconscious dreams. Why then, is the glorification of sexism necessary and how does George justify it?
I took it upon myself to research this video game by playing it to completion, despite the numerous triggering moments that I faced throughout. One of the first encounters to note is Fia, the deathbed companion; a “Non-Playable Character” (NPC – which, unsurprisingly, consist of most of the female characters in the game).
Fia’s sole purpose it is to comfort your character by embracing them for an uncomfortably lengthy period. This forced embrace will eventually bestow a buff to the player. This is an obvious and disgusting debasement of women – it implies that their sole purpose is to provide physical comfort at the whim of the main character. Unsurprisingly, my research has shown that 97.3% of Elden Ring’s player base are in fact male.
The one aspect that I was looking forward to in anticipation of Elden Ring, was getting to encounter one of the female bosses in the game: Malenia, Blade of Miquella. However, my interest was swiftly stunted by the 2nd stage of the fight, in which Malenia is programmed to disrobe and expose her nipple-less breasts and naked body. This sequence entirely undermined the glorious warrior archetype she had been built up to be in the expanded media and dialogue of the game.
Biologically, nipples were formed so that women could feed their children. The removal of them by Elden Ring developers is their way of purely sexualising and objectifying breasts for the male fantasy. Breasts are not meant to be sexual or to bring arousal.
Melania ends up as just another spectacle for the male player, reducing her to an objectified and sexual object rather than a strong, empowered character.
These archetypes are portrayed in a pathetic, offhanded manner. Elden Ring does not offer any redeemable pathways over the course of the game for these women, rather brushing them aside as soon as the quest relating to them is over. In addition, the player is often rewarded for participating in female objectification, one example of being in the case of the Malenia boss fight.