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  • Writer's pictureIndy Goodwin

I Can't Believe I Need To Keep Saying This, But Put Fat People In Your Game

Sigrun Engel from Wolfenstein 2
Sigrun Engel - a badass fat lass in Wolfenstein 2

You’ve maybe heard about the way Alice: Asylum – the third Alice game by American McGee – is being developed. Taking donations from Patreon and selling merch to fund development of this eagerly anticipated game, there have been elements of crowd design. In theory, this is a great idea. Give the fans the game they want! Unfortunately, human beings are terrible.

McGee posed the question on his Instagram: “Should we address or avoid body representation in our game?”. The responses were as fatphobic as you’d expect, not that I think that was McGee’s intention. From the “don’t change Alice, she’s hot/I want her to step on me” – because people are only worth acknowledging if they meet some bullshit attractiveness quota – to “The only people who care about this issue are SJWs who don’t even play games.”

Hi. I’m an SJW who plays games. That’s kind of my gimmick. There are many people like me interested in games culture who care about the information games put into the world, seeing games as a social communication device. Much like every other piece of media ever. Video games aren’t isolated from the impact they have on their audience and it is idiocy to think so.

Although McGee may have not intended for a more fatphobic reaction when he posed the question, he also didn’t seem to do much to moderate the comment threads. There were some wild arguments going on, including one reproba- gentleman, who made sure to threaten McGee with losing all of his fans if he made the white man the enemy in the game. Threads like this really remind me how toxic the gaming community can be.

The thing I find most offensive about this question is the fact that he felt he had to ask it. This man, who has worked in the games industry for many years, is only just now thinking about body representation. Like this is a 2020 problem. Fat people have been unrepresented or badly represented since the industry started. The lack of awareness of his privileged status as someone with a voice in this industry is disheartening to see. The reality here is that McGee is only thinking about his media critically now because the voice of the dreaded SJWs is getting louder and more difficult to ignore. Score one for us.

Body representation has never been more important as the industry grows. The games industry is the largest entertainment industry in the UK in terms of spending. The larger the industry the more care should be taken to represent people accurately. Sofie Hagan, an unashamedly fat comedian, used a brilliant term in their book Happy Fat. In the chapter named “We need a fat Disney princess and how to actually ask for one” they use the term symbolic annihilation. By not representing fat bodies in this media we are telling people that consume it that fat bodies and the people that inhabit them aren’t important enough to exist in this world, they’re a detail that can be easily missed out.

This also feeds into an individual’s comparison matrix, a measure by which someone may judge their own body by what they see around them. If all they see in the media they consume is thin bodies and they do not have that very specific thin body, this is going to cause a disconnect in the person and a lot of dissatisfaction in what they look like. Dr Peyta Eckler of the University of Strathclyde wrote a brilliant paper on it here, and article I wrote featuring the interview I did with her on the subject can be read here.

Body representation is important. If you choose not to represent all bodies in your game then you really need to be asking yourself why. There’s no good reason not to include fat characters in your stories, and a million bad reasons. Fat is nothing to be afraid of. Normalising fat bodies will make all the difference.

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