A grand old tradition in Electronic Gaming Monthly magazine was to create an annual Buyer’s Guide issue so readers could spend their hard-earned dollars carefully. (After all, brand new video games were ridiculously expensive in the 1990s.) This Buyer’s Guide was also a place where EGM‘s staff could lampoon the gaming industry at large, poking fun of the ludicrous ads that had graced their pages that year and weighing in on hot-button topics of the time. Thumb through any of these issues and you’ll get the feeling that Buyer’s Guide editorial oversight was much more lax than that of a standard EGM issue.
It’s easy to forget that the “Women in Gaming” issue was a landmine in 1998. Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft would release that year — marking the third year in a row that would see a major Tomb Raider release — and Lara Croft had become one of gaming’s first sex symbols (possibly the very first) by then. Along with this came endless rumors of “nude codes” and discussions of the role of women in gaming.
In their 1998 buying guide — released in January-ish of 1998 — EGM took a timeout from the “Women in Gaming” discussion at large to offer their own tongue-in-cheek solution: Just make Lara Croft a cow. In doing so, developers could justify prominent “teats” while dodging accusations of creating an overly sexualized character. They claim: “If Lara were a heifer, we obviously wouldn’t have this raging debate over sex in video games.”
This was almost certainly meant to be taken as satire — their proposed solution was absurd by any standard — but it’s interesting to see an article go to print in the early months of 1998 that already expresses fatigue over the conversation. After all, there are a lot of people nowadays who pretend the “Women in Gaming” discussion only began within the past couple years.
Whatever your take on the issue, it’s fun to look back and see an article like this one. Especially when it contains such choice phrases as “human discrimination” (as opposed to cow discrimination?) and “female human mammary gland accessories.”