Lingerie is not armor


Who knew? The latest Tropes vs. Women:

Sarkeesian dissects and exposes the ludicrous rationales gamers use to justify keeping female characters running around half naked. Expect an eruption from the usual suspects any moment now.

Comments

  1. says

    Wait… I thought she stopped making this and people who never donated weren’t getting what they paid for?

    At least that’s what I kept hearing on Twitter and comments sections.

  2. =8)-DX says

    The best argument here is “I like boobs in games and games cater to me.” Alongside “but what about large breasted gamer women who want a character they can resonate with!” Yeah, missing the point.

  3. Akira MacKenzie says

    It’s one thing to be scantily clad (or less) in a love/sex scene, or in a tropical climate. That makes sense.

    However, outfitting your female characters from the “Chainmail” department of Victoria’s Secret probably means you have unresolved issues. Stay away from game design.

  4. Gregory Greenwood says

    Once again Anita Sarkeesian absolutely fillets the gamer-bro arguments in defence of sexism in gaming. The examples she chooses are entirely on point, though to be honest she is confronted with something of an embarrassment of riches when it comes to examples of sexist costumes in computer games.

    She made an especially good point about the recent trend to try to characterize misogynistic female character designs as ’empowering’ on the basis that they amount to a female character ‘taking possession of her own sexuality’ as if an animated character created by a team consisting almost entirely of men for the primary consumption of what is clearly assumed to be a majority male default gamer demographic can somehow possess agency as a woman.

    No matter how capable, powerful or deadly that character is depicted as being in the fiction, it still functions as mere titillation intended for a male audience. It still enforces the male gaze and still renders the worth of women down to their secondary sexual characteristics. Appealing to a ‘kick-ass chick’ male sex fantasy is not all that much better than appealing to a ‘damsel in distress’ or ‘woman as hero’s reward’ male sex fantasy – it is still all clearly aimed at gratifying men, or rather gratifying what the developers assume (often erroneously) are the desires of the stereotypical male gaming demographic. No meaningful effort is made to develop the character in question or reach out to any gamers not subscribing to a narrow interpretation of the tastes of men aged 18 to 24.

    It is just another slight variation on the same old, same old that has stunted the development of the gaming medium for decades and serves to reinforce misogynistic mindsets in the popular consciousness every day. Fortunately, gamers and the industry are slowly becoming aware of this issue due to the efforts of people like Anita Sarkeesian, and are slowly starting to take action to rectify it, bringing in a wider range of more layered and interesting female characters, which is precisely why the various angry gamer-bros are so desperate to do all they can to tear down and discredit Sarkeesian and all the other feminist voices in gaming; they know they are loosing ground, and it terrifies them.

  5. Gregory Greenwood says

    Akira MacKenzie @ 5;

    It’s one thing to be scantily clad (or less) in a love/sex scene, or in a tropical climate. That makes sense.

    Which makes it even more jarring when the concession made for female characters in cold climates is… a fur-lined skimpy bikini.

    Apparently, if you keep the ‘goods’ warm, the rest takes care of itself, or something.

    Then again, apparently making sense is not even remotely required in modern game design. In this very video Anita points out the example of Quiet from Metal Gear Solid 5, and the utterly ludicrous pseudo-scientific justification Kojima wheels out to justify why she wears almost nothing.

    Not only does it make no scientific sense, but even in terms of in-universe continuity it falls down, since back in Metal Gear Solid 3 there was another sniper character capable of photosynthesis that allowed him to remain still and in position for extended periods of time, a character called the End. He was an extremely superannuated man who was holding on to have one final sniper duel with the player character for some reason never fully explained.

    Oddly enough, this aged male character, despite supposedly having very similar (and equally unscientific) hybrid physiology to Quiet, was not inclined to run around almost naked, and indeed was always depicted wearing fully covering combat fatigues that left only his head exposed. Can anyone guess why the two characters were treated differently, I wonder? I am sure the gamer-bros would claim that there is some reasonable plot based reason, but I can’t think of one.

    Even better, Kojima had the gall, when called on the misogyny of Quiet’s design (before the full details of her character arc came out), to claim that there was a super good reason why she was dressed that way, and all the feminists would totes be eating their words when they saw it. And then he brings out… a weird and nonsensical excuse based on a muddied understanding of plant biology, and apparently we are all supposed to fall to our knees in awe of his genius.

    However, outfitting your female characters from the “Chainmail” department of Victoria’s Secret probably means you have unresolved issues. Stay away from game design.

    College Humour has got you covered…

  6. says

    Surface area of the lungs: ~60m2.
    Surface area of the skin: ~1.5m2.

    Lungs are also hugely vascularized on their epithelial surfaces, quite unlike skin. At the very least, Quiet should have had thin, nearly transparent skin, covered with a thin sheen of mucosy slime, and with a dense network of blood vessels visibly reticulating beneath it. Even then she’d be so oxygen starved, she’d have to at least take off her pants.

    That was goddamned stupid. I’m sure all the science-minded anti-feminist youtubers pointed out how ludicrous that was.

  7. cartomancer says

    As someone who teaches actual 16-19 year old males classical literature (among other things), and thus gets to hear them discuss ideas about gender and character in a little depth, I have always wondered where media people get the idea that they are basically cartoon troglodytes. It is a very unfair characterisation.

  8. Rob Curtis says

    Anita rocks. I need to go back and watch her videos again. And perhaps make my 14 yr old watch them too. No, definitely have him watch them.

  9. says

    I want to be able to play my male character in high heels if I want to, or a female character in huge chunky space armor, if I want to. If I want to have a mage dressed like Tim Curry as Frank-N-Furter I want to be able to rock the DPS (“it’s just a step to left…”) It’s another way for gamers to express their characters and attach to their in-game selves.

    Game designers that want to sell games already get this issue. There’s gonna be the usual bleating from the misogyny clubhouse but that shit’s gonna change, permanently, soon, and there will be nothing for them to do about it.

  10. drken says

    @tabby #1:

    Well, I’m pretty sure a significant portion of Anita’s donors were doing so because they wanted to make GamerGaters heads explode. For them, it’s money well spent. I’m sure I’ll be hearing on Reddit why this video is the worst thing ever.

  11. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    I’m glad I watched the vid before entering my stupid comment. She addressed it as the most common justification for the scanty armor. In order to distract the male character opponent. (got me)
    I wanted to add flexibility and the athletic nature of the combat being hindered by bulky armor. As in in might be reasonable to clothe them like gymnasts or dancers. She addressed this also with examples of female athletes and how their clothing is functional rather than sexualized. With the karate artist as a brilliant example.
    The only thing I kept waiting for (but not disappointed), was discussion about how absurd the male characters are clothed. Bulky and mechanical; just the opposite of skimpy and sexual for the female characters.

  12. Gregory Greenwood says

    PZ @ 8;

    Surface area of the lungs: ~60m2.
    Surface area of the skin: ~1.5m2.

    Lungs are also hugely vascularized on their epithelial surfaces, quite unlike skin. At the very least, Quiet should have had thin, nearly transparent skin, covered with a thin sheen of mucosy slime, and with a dense network of blood vessels visibly reticulating beneath it. Even then she’d be so oxygen starved, she’d have to at least take off her pants.

    Vaguely scientifically credible Quiet sounds a damn sight more interesting than excuse-for-misogyny Quiet.

    *** SPOILER ALERT***

    In the game, Quiet wound up the way she was after an incident that resulted in her suffering severe burns and the near total destruction of her lungs, and subsequently a weird parasite creature was used to regrow her skin (don’t ask), so her entire dermis being so radically changed actually fits in with her character arc perfectly.

    Even if you fudge a few things, and just had thin, transluscent skin covered in a heavy layer of mucous and heavy, visible vascularization, it would still serve to put a heck of a crimp in the animated sex doll aspects of the character, and would have the added benefit of actually following a frankly stupid idea through and dealing with the consequences, which would have educational merit for the game developers if no one else.

    Even better, it could also have been used to examine society’s conceptualization of beauty how it can act as a straight jacket, and issues of societal tolerance and acceptance, especially of a character who exhibits such marked difference from the human norm. The character is surrounded by suspicion in the game story line, so you could have worked that back in to how much of that suspicion is justified and how much is born of fear and revulsion for someone who is different largely through no fault or choice of their own.

    However you slice it, it would have been a better treatment of the character… and that is why game designers should probably study biology.

  13. cartomancer says

    I don’t think it’s a problem in and of itself to have stylised, exaggerated or unrealistic costumes for characters. That what these characters are wearing is not practical or effective in a real-life combat context isn’t the issue – sometimes quirky or stylised is an interesting aesthetic choice. In the classic N64 Goldeneye game James Bond charges through warzones in a dinner jacket and tie for instance…

    The problem is that the costumes are heavily sexualised and feed into unhelpful misogynistic thought patterns in our cultures. That Ivy from Soul Edge wouldn’t be protected from actual sword blows in the baffling contrivance of belts and garters she has been dressed in isn’t the point – pyjamas, slippers and a dressing gown would offer just as little protection, but wouldn’t send a blatantly objectifying message.

  14. numerobis says

    Gregory@7: that college humor video is perfect, especially the denouement when credits roll.

    The armor issue is old — the artwork is inherited from at least the 70s if not earlier — what’s new to me is the examples of doing it right.

  15. rpjohnston says

    I’ve been enraptured with this series since Sarkeesian began and it’s been so transformative for me in so many ways.

    Something I noticed: she brings up that many times, female characters’ outfits are justified as being “to distract her male opponents”. This reminds me of a skit in Tales of Xillia: The party members ask Milla why she’s wearing…the thing that she wears. Milla is, apparently, the human incarnation of the Lord of Spirits, and was essentially raised in a shrine by her handmaiden, Ivar (a guy), with most of her human contact being brief contact with worshipful villagers. Personality-wise, she’s a DETERMINATOR dedicated to her mission to protect humans and spirits, regardless of damage to herself, and eschews emotional distraction for a laserlike focus on pragmatism and forging ahead. Milla cheerfully replies that Ivar picked it out the outfit for her, and it’s very comfortable; in another cutscene she says that “the whole reason [she] assumed this form was that it was effective against men, half of the human population”.

  16. microraptor says

    One of the things that I liked about the Dragon Age series is that, with a couple of exceptions, characters tend to wear more practical armor so my female Qunari Warrior has an outfit that covers her better than most of the men’s outfits do. Also, in Inquisition, the relationships were very deep and had a lot of content, not just choosing a few flirtatious dialog options followed by the obligatory sex scene.

  17. crosswind says

    Count me among the male gamers who finds the ludicrously revealing female attire to be a stupid tradition that needs to die. The pathetic excuses trotted out to defend it are just sad, and I’d have a lot more respect if the game designers just straight up said they wanted scantily clad women in their games; I’d still think it’s stupid, but at least it’s intellectually honest. For me personally, I’ve got a passing interest in medieval arms and armor so having semi-realistic male armor showcased next to grotesquely impractical female “armor” is a real immersion breaker. Realistic armor looks cool, and it looks cool regardless of whether the body inside is male or female.

  18. Vivec says

    I feel conflicted and I feel bad for feeling conflicted. On one hand, I agree almost completely with Sarkeesian (not a big fan of Mass Effect as an example of “female characters just sex as reward” for the same reason microraptor likes DA:I), but I also like having games with characters I’m attracted to dressed in ways that I find visually pleasing? I don’t know, maybe it’s just a lizard brain vs reason sort of thing.

  19. says

    Vivec@#22:
    It’s not an issue with the better games. Consider, for example, Diablo3 – you can dress your characters pretty much how you like: lightly clothed and armored, or extra chunky. Ditto World of Warcraft or Destiny or .. Etc. the big A-rated titles are all offering a wider variety that is pretty stereotype-free, but if you want to transmog your kit into a bikini go find the bikini components and have at it.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Sarkeesian on this, but I’m optimistic that this particular problem is being addressed pretty aggressively and the big successful game companies are on the job. I was at blizzcon a couple years ago and the CEO said very clearly that gamergate’s campaign of harassment had helped get a lot of these issues on the radar screen and Blizzard’s response was inclusiveness and embracing their entire player base – i.e: “thanks for bringing this to our attention, now you lose.”

    We should expect some backlash as usual but Sarkeesian is clear (and right) that this is part of what defines bad games. If someone decides to make a “politically incorrect” game deliberately to go up against properties like those coming out of the big studios like Blizzard they’re going to vanish without leaving much of a trace, because the premier titles can add egalitarian features; they have the creative bandwidth and funding. Consider Mass Effect, which (while it’s not perfect) was doing good stuff regarding gender issues a decade ago. The next Mass Effect is due in spring 2017 and it sounds like they’re going farther in the right direction. Not because it’s the right thing to do but because it makes better and more successful games and oh yeah it’s the right thing to do.

    If your only clothing options for the female characters are slinky outfits, Blizzard’s gonna eat your lunch because they get it and if you don’t get it you’re not going to be a gaming company that makes A rated titles, which means you’ll be a footnote.

    I’m not a Blizzard fanboi but you can’t play Diablo 3 without being impressed by the armor and clothing and character design, how you can recolor, transmog, and all the component options are beautifully designed to hang together. World of Warcraft, ditto. Some of us (cough, cough) have been known to grind for a specific piece of gear for our look – whether its a slinky robe or the massive Bulwark of Azzinoth (took me a month to get that one!) there are options and they can be employed to represent beautifully (or tastelessly) your character design, incorporating gender presentation and body shape as you see fit. That’s not the state of the art – that’s years ago. The state of the art is face creator tools like those in Dragon Age which let you not just dress where you want in terms of chunky/nonchunky clothing and armor, you can recolor your skin, raise or lower your cheekbones, the width of your mouth, legs..
    A rated titles aren’t going to regress now that the bar has been set where it is.

    PS – some of the character face editors are really amazingly fun by themselves. But you can hit “randomize” and jump into the game if you’re not into it.

  20. says

    The main tank in my old WoW raid team was a female goblin, whose tanking gear basically made her represent as a small ball of armor with a huge shield and sharp bashy tools sticking out all over the place. There really weren’t any gender cues at all visible through all that plate. She looked like she was an invulnerable scrap-heap (yup) that could shred anyone from the knees down (yup). It was an awesome character design. That was years ago now. The games that have a more social element have lots of players that set up their “elegant” look their “party” look or their fighting look and use in-game loadout management to switch outfits for appearance Under the player’s choice and with a huge range of options.

    I have long felt that games like World of Warcraft that have those kinds of options, also have player-bases that feel more connected to their in-game personae. Blizzard seems to feel that way, too.

    It’s different between games where you’re going to play through and then never play the game again, and an MMO where you may present the same character for years. The more a game is trying to attract and hold a longterm player-base, the more likely it is the game developers will pay attention to character customization (and clothing/armor/weapons) because anything that keeps the player feeling engaged with their online persona may keep them online for another month.

  21. leskimopie says

    Look, Quiet breathes through her skin, she NEEDS to be nearly naked, I mean its not sexual and its not just cause shes a woman. If there was ever a man in the Metal Gear universe who was an elite sniper who breathed through his skin, he would be dressed in the exact same gear…Its not like you’d put a dude who breathes through his skin into a giant ghille suit covered in leaves.
    Oh wait, I just remembered, there was one, so we can directly compare, lets just see what The End’s outfit was in MGS3:

    http://img03.deviantart.net/ac8a/i/2015/107/c/0/the_end_in_quiet_s_tactically_sound_sniping_gear_by_voidburger-d7c5bih.jpg

    Noice.

  22. says

    Ps – re Quiet in Metal Gear Solid…
    And Kojima’s gone. Konami had creative differences with him over exactly that kind of thing (and the bloviating dialogue and endless cut scenes) and booted Kojima. Konami gets it. Kojima doesn’t. Now he doesn’t have to because he won’t be making any more bad Metal Gear games.

    The game producers who don’t get it won’t be producing A level games much longer. The MMOs have had this down for years, things are acellerating in the right direction. I hope Sarkeesian’s valuable work has been a factor, but I suspect its World of Warcraft’s subscriber numbers compared to Metal Gear’s insignificant replay value that did the trick.

    As a gamer I’m just happy because I have more better games to choose from.

  23. Vivec says

    Upon reflection, I think a bit of my taste for the kind of designs maligned in this also has to do with alleviating my dysphoria vicariously through the characters in question.

  24. lanir says

    There will always be a place for games that sexualize females. I honestly have no idea why the people who disagree with Anita Sarkeezian are in such a tizzy. The only difference is those games will be labelled as what they are. You won’t randomly buy a popular mainstream game (or a Microsoft product!) and find you’ve picked up a blue virtual exhibitionist who magically chose to be naked, young and conventionally attractive to… do something… mutter… mumble… insert justification from the magic 8 ball here. Instead stuff like that would be sold with other niche games.

    I guess an analogy would be like the difference between what we have now and a world where you had to watch what drink you ordered at a fast food place because almost everything had alcohol of some sort. And it was assumed to be prevalent so no need to label it either. It would take effort to avoid in that sort of situation. Obviously in the real world, adults who want an alcoholic drink have no problem finding one.

  25. says

    She addressed it as the most common justification for the scanty armor. In order to distract the male character opponent.

    But there’s proof it totally works…

    https://youtu.be/HGNoG30pGa0?t=1h27m30s

    If nothing else, the clip proves the trope is nothing new, and not limited to video games. Sometimes, when looking back, all you can do is cringe with embarrassment.

  26. laurentweppe says

    And Kojima’s gone. Konami had creative differences with him over exactly that kind of thing (and the bloviating dialogue and endless cut scenes) and booted Kojima. Konami gets it. Kojima doesn’t

    No.
    Kojima was fired because the guy who own Konami is an old man on the early stages of senile dementia who decided on a whim that he would become the Japanese Sheldon Adelson and ordered the scuttling of the video-game studios to turn Konami into a pachinko manufacturer.

    That doesn’t mean Kojima doesn’t have creepy psycho-sexual hangups -he most certainly does-, but that’s not the reason he was kicked out: don’t come telling me that the company which greenlighted this fuckerygets it

  27. Gregory Greenwood says

    laurentweppe @ 31;

    don’t come telling me that the company which greenlighted this fuckery “gets it“

    Imaginary Sky Fairy damn it Konami – really? Honestly, at this juncture I just want to fit game designers with shock collars that administer jolts every time they design something offensively misogynistic. That might at least encourage them to be a bit less creepy and a bit more creative.

  28. Zeppelin says

    Maybe I’m weird, but quite apart from any ethical considerations: I don’t want to be titillated while playing a game (or doing pretty much anything else, for that matter) — either it’s not arousing, in which case it’s just kind of embarrassing…or it is arousing, which makes it distracting.
    If I want to be sexually aroused, I look at porn. It’s like living in a world where a huge proportion of video games include lingering shots of gourmet foods, and stage half their battles next to giant buffets. What’s the point of arousal, or appetite, if I’m not going to act on it? Does the presumed straight male audience enjoy getting unrequited boners while playing Halo?

  29. parrothead says

    I have to wonder how much is simply cultural, not just society but in-game culture as well. When I was in Europe it was common to be around topless beaches or to see women (and men) in commercials on TV completely topless and no one cared. The commonality of it took away the sexualizing of it. Same thing I’ve seen in MMOs… you very quickly forget about what someone else is wearing when the boss fight starts, and before long you don’t notice at all. Scandalous styles from a hundred years ago wouldn’t get a second look today in the real world.
    The only MMO I dabble in now is Guild Wars 2 which is much “tamer” than some others in the sexualizing aspect. I’d be much more curious seeing studies done on communities of games with the skimpiest of armors. More precisely, after a period of time to the regular players even notice or care that much anymore. An outsider to the game looking in and picking the “worst” there is to find probably isn’t the best source to go by when considering the effects the armors (or lack thereof) actually have on the long time players of the game.

  30. Gregory Greenwood says

    parrothead @ 34;

    I have to wonder how much is simply cultural, not just society but in-game culture as well. When I was in Europe it was common to be around topless beaches or to see women (and men) in commercials on TV completely topless and no one cared. The commonality of it took away the sexualizing of it

    Normalisation of nudity is not the same thing as the normalisation of the sexualisation of a particular group within society.

    Scandalous styles from a hundred years ago wouldn’t get a second look today in the real world.

    This isn’t about some outmoded prudishness or an unavoidable shift in the sense of style prominent in society – this is not a gender equal representation of people; this is the specific, calculated sexualisation of women, and women only. Sexualised images of women created by and for men that impact upon broader social attitudes about the worth and social standing of women. This is hardly the same thing as getting fainting fits over seeing an inch of ankle.

    The only MMO I dabble in now is Guild Wars 2 which is much “tamer” than some others in the sexualizing aspect. I’d be much more curious seeing studies done on communities of games with the skimpiest of armors. More precisely, after a period of time to the regular players even notice or care that much anymore. An outsider to the game looking in and picking the “worst” there is to find probably isn’t the best source to go by when considering the effects the armors (or lack thereof) actually have on the long time players of the game.

    So, you are saying that only people marinating within a community were the sexual objectification of women is normalised are qualified to recognize when sexual objectification is problematic? Really? Isn’t that a bit like saying that only members of White Nationalist groups are qualified to say when racism starts to become a probelm? If a given subculture is poisoned by a harmful and discriminatory attitude, it is exactly the people who do not find such attitudes to be acceptable and normalised who you need to shake the in-group out of its complacency.

  31. ck, the Irate Lump says

    laurentweppe wrote:

    That doesn’t mean Kojima doesn’t have creepy psycho-sexual hangups -he most certainly does-, but that’s not the reason he was kicked out: don’t come telling me that the company which greenlighted this fuckery “gets it“

    Agreed. Konami doing the right thing here was entirely unintentional, and they clearly have no problem with sexualization of women as the video you linked clearly shows, and have been busily destroying their legacy by making gambling machines based on the properties they were once known for.

  32. parrothead says

    @ 35 Gregory

    So, you are saying that only people marinating within a community were the sexual objectification of women is normalised are qualified to recognize when sexual objectification is problematic? Really?

    No, I’m not saying that at all. I’m simply wondering out loud how subjective sexualization is. If one community (including all sexes) doesn’t see something as sexualization that a different community does, who’s right? If the women in a game that don’t see the armor as sexualizing them, are they being sexualized? Who determines that, by what standards?

    Isn’t that a bit like saying that only members of White Nationalist groups are qualified to say when racism starts to become a probelm?

    No, I think your Godwinistic example is the exact opposite of what I’m wondering.

  33. Dunc says

    If one community (including all sexes) doesn’t see something as sexualization that a different community does, who’s right? If the women in a game that don’t see the armor as sexualizing them, are they being sexualized?

    Given the absurdly defensive reactions whenever the subject is brought up, I think it’s fairly safe to say that this definitely is about sexualization – if it weren’t, then the howls of outrage would have a very different character, and be coming from women rather than men. It’s abundantly clear that this is about eye-candy for dudebros. Also, most of the criticism and complaints are coming from women who actually are in those communities. This isn’t a question of the rest of the world looking in at gamer culture and making judgements, it’s a question of women gamers not wanting to be objectified all the fucking time.

    I mean, sure, you can wonder about some hypothetical alternative world in which that isn’t the case, but it’s clearly not the world we actually live in.

  34. parrothead says

    @ 38 Dunc

    Also, most of the criticism and complaints are coming from women who actually are in those communities.

    Actually, this is exactly what I’m wondering about and looking for. If true, then the companies should strongly take this into account and have that reflected in game. You have sources for this? I’d like to take a look at them.

  35. Dunc says

    @39: Well, no, I don’t have a demographic survey or anything, but that’s the whole reason Anita started this project, plus that’s the impression I get (very strongly) from reading around.

  36. Rowan vet-tech says

    Hey parrothead, woman who plays an MMO here. Specifically world of warcraft. A while ago I got a random green drop, and because I do transmog my character I naturally looked at it.

    It was plate, supposedly. And it was a bikini top. Literally. A gold bikini top and the stupidest, most pointless thing I’d ever seen as clearly its only purpose is to sexualize. If a *male* character equipped it, it was a full breastplate. On a female character… it was certainly ‘breast’ plates, alright. Breast plates and a bit of chain.

    I sold that lv 40-something green item on the auction house for 2,000 gold.

    So don’t tell me that sexualization doesn’t exist or isn’t happening.

  37. parrothead says

    @ 41 Rowan
    Wow, haven’t played WoW since Lich King and they completely changed builds. I’m not saying it doesn’t and isn’t happening. I’m saying (from my experience) that most of the community doesn’t find it as big of a deal as outsiders seem to make of it. You found a piece of armor with a look you wouldn’t want on your character and you made a nice profit off of it. I’ve known women gamers that would like that look and others that go for the full plate look (GW2 has those options). I’ve never, in the guilds I’ve been involved in, heard complaints however about sexualism. That doesn’t mean the complaints don’t exist. Of course, this is GW2 where two of the main (NPC) characters are a lesbian couple, so maybe the community between games has varying degrees of tolerance for a variety of issues, I don’t know.

  38. Dunc says

    I’ve known women gamers that would like that look and others that go for the full plate look (GW2 has those options).

    The complaints are mainly about games that don’t offer other options (and about the sexualisation of NPCs).

  39. cartomancer says

    I suppose I come at this from a slightly weird angle as a gay man. I often wonder just what it must be like to experience these sorts of games as a straight man or as a woman of any sexuality. Sexualised images of women do nothing for me erotically – they just seem silly to my eyes. But I do not relate to them as a distortion and harmful misrepresentation of my gender either, as a woman probably would. At most they just make it a lot harder for me to relate to female characters, because I have never found it easy to think of women as sexual beings at all. So this whole debate is somewhat tangential to my lived experience.

    Rationally, though, I know it’s a big deal. I really am curious as to what it must be like to go through a game either expecting mild titlation as a matter of course or grimacing at how my gender is being disparaged all the time. It doesn’t sound very fun in either case. I suppose I do have some inkling of what the latter must be like in that a lot of mainstream video games tend to trade on ridiculous and demeaning macho power fantasies that I find an insult to my gender, though it’s not quite the same thing.

  40. says

    @Rowan vet-tech #41
    So don’t tell me that sexualization doesn’t exist or isn’t happening.

    I don’t think anyone is saying that. I certainly am not.

    The question, I think, is whether sexualization is being forced or not. If the only options for female characters where to wear chainmail bikinis, that does pretty much suck. But there’s a wide variety of gear and players quickly make their choices and have their own looks. I’m sure you know that there is plenty of gear that doesn’t sexualize – it doesn’t all turn into chainmail bikinis – not even a majority of it does. The reason, in fact, that the chainmail bikinis fetch so much on the auction house is because they are rare.

    Otherwise the complaint amounts to “female characters can be represented as sexualized” Well, yes, they can. I guess the question is whether the complaint is about the possibility or whether they are forced to.
    If someone wants to hunt up a chainmail bikini transmog set for their character, I don’t see a problem with that. If the game only offered chainmail bikinis, or there was nothing else available, I’d see a problem with that.

    Also: I am not saying Blizzard is perfect. Perfection is not going to happen overnight. But can we agree that the trends in the big A rated MMOs are going in the right direction? I dropped Destiny a couple months after launch (boooooring!) but the character designs and outfits seemed to be leaning a bit too far toward the “anonymous post apocalyptic people who wear helmets even when they sleep” axis. I haven’t tried Overwatch, and I won’t but now I am curious. What’s the costume options and character customization like in there?

    @ck, the Irate Lump#36 and Gregory Greenwood#32 and laurentweppe#31 and probably others who schooled me about Kojima: yeah, you’re right. I think I have been so temple-clutchingly hopeful that Konami would stop letting Kojima screw up some really great game-play and artwork and jumped to the wrong conclusion. I have been waiting for them – for yeeeears – to say “Hideo, man, you are not a movie director. Make good games and stop the crap.” so I assumed that was what had happened. I was wrong. Damn.

  41. Vivec says

    Irt overwatch: each character has emotes, voice lines, poses, and 10 skins. 4 of the skins are simple recolors, 2 are more significant recolors, and 2 radically change the character’s outfit. on the whole though each character is a named person with a fixed design.

  42. Vivec says

    Oh, the remaining 2 are recolors of the fancy “radically change appearance” skins. I had a brainfart.

  43. Crimson Clupeidae says

    One thing I liked about the Neverwinter nights series is that the armors were almost interchangeable from the male to female characters. The worst offense NWN has (and it is pretty annoying) is that on the female characters, even when wearing full plate armor, their boobs would jiggle ridiculously.

    One of the players used to make her characters wearing skimpy armor (the armor customization was pretty amazing). I would often copy the armor onto my (male) character for laughs. It looked pretty ridiculous.

  44. says

    I am not saying “what about the menz!” but … as a male gamer who personally prefers to represent as a certain “look” I don’t like it when my only options are “great big beefcake” either. Perhaps there’s some toxic masculinity going on sometimes, as well. (I like my mages to look like they can run fast and are fragile and squishy and I like my tanks to look big and tanklike)

    Does it affect gameplay? No.
    Does it affect satisfaction with the game? Yes.

    I enjoy the “Hey Ash whatchoo playing” episode in which they talk about the body shapes and options in Saints Row IV. And, yeah, when they did that episode I think it was a couple years ago, and there were some character creator tools that hadn’t hit on the idea that people might want to adjust their skin color. … That’s also getting better. I really liked how DC Superheroes Online MMO did it – there were a range of body plans within each gender, and a lot of options for clothing, and you could also be a robot. Domo arigato! You can play a super villain robot and mutter “kill all the humans!” How good is that?

  45. says

    @Vivec#46: on the whole though each character is a named person with a fixed design

    That seems utterly bizzare to me. How do they expect their players to develop any sense of identity with that. Uh, interesting experiment, Blizzard.

  46. bojac6 says

    The opening bit about the Perfect Dark commercial could almost be its own episode. The warrior suiting up is pretty common, there’s a Halo 2 trailer that does it and the shots of Batman putting on his gloves, belt, and picking up a gadget are fairly well known. Of course, notice with the male characters, it’s gear and guns that they are putting on, not a shower and lipstick.

  47. Gregory Greenwood says

    parrothead @ 37;

    No, I’m not saying that at all. I’m simply wondering out loud how subjective sexualization is. If one community (including all sexes) doesn’t see something as sexualization that a different community does, who’s right? If the women in a game that don’t see the armor as sexualizing them, are they being sexualized? Who determines that, by what standards?

    There is such a thing as the internalization of a misogynistic narrative – the fact that women who exist within a community that normalizes sexist imagery do not find a particular image sexist is not some kind of absolute defence against the charge. That said, and as noted by other commenters, there are women from within these communities who do object to the sexual objectification inherent in the character designs. Indeed, much of the momentum for change is coming from just such women.

    No, I think your Godwinistic example is the exact opposite of what I’m wondering.

    The Nazis were a famous example of a White Nationalist group, but not every White Nationalist groups can be called Nazis, so this hardly amounts to godwinning the thread. I am merely pointing out that people who are saturated by a subculture that normalizes a form of discrimination cannot be held up as the only people able to judge whether or not that form of discrimination is problematic, which is the implied corollary of your suggestion that people from outside these gamer communities are essentially seeing sexism when it isn’t there because they aren’t familiar with the mores of the group.

    If you aren’t arguing that people outside the group are poorly placed to judge the sexism of these images, and thus those within the group are better able to do so, then what the heck are you trying to say?

  48. slithey tove (twas brillig (stevem)) says

    re 51:

    The opening bit about the Perfect Dark commercial could almost be its own episode.

    maybe why I kept flashing back to the short-lived series Dark Angel

    IMDB summary:

    A group of genetically-enhanced children escape from a lab project. Years later we meet Max, one of the escapees who now works for a messenger service in the post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest.

  49. says

    She made an especially good point about the recent trend to try to characterize misogynistic female character designs as ’empowering’ on the basis that they amount to a female character ‘taking possession of her own sexuality’ as if an animated character created by a team consisting almost entirely of men for the primary consumption of what is clearly assumed to be a majority male default gamer demographic can somehow possess agency as a woman.

    Hmm. Well, fit off – absolutely, to everything stated there.

    That said.. I am left wondering what reaction a game based on, say, the Anita Blake novels would get, or others like them. Geek and Sundry way back had a series where a mostly female group reviewed books. One comment they had on Anita Black was, “Too slutty”. This was despite the fact that her behavior was a) well explained, b) something the character had limited understanding and control over (and not resolved in some simple jump of logic and discovery during one chapter, or even book), and c) was, eventually solvable… well, mostly, more or less.

    Seems to me that… there is a narrow line one would have to follow with some characters, regardless of the circumstances. Its possible that the “breathes with her skin” character mentioned followed a totally logical progression of ideas, which ended up being something bloody stupid and unintentionally sexualized, for example. One of my own imaginings, is a kitsune (I have a bit of an obsession with Kitsune) that has perfected their art of illusion to such an extent that they don’t bother much with clothing, they just shape their tails into the illusion of what ever they need for the situation they are in, and rely on the magic in them to armor the result. Now.. as I see it, this, on one hand, could be done 100% without any nudity, or sexualization, or anything remotely like that, even hiding the changes in a flurry of fur, so you never see the body, when changing clothing. Then again.. a primary attribute of Kitsune *is* sexuality, and succubus/incubus like abilities. So.. It would be irrational to not include at least some cases of the ability being used that way, and his/her sexuality being specifically used to influence events. This might even include total nudity (perhaps to completely transform into fox form).

    But… walking that line, without someone complaining you crossed it. Not sure that is quite so easy, especially in a medium where “some” of the characters may be bit players, or the focus of the story is only partly connected to the love relationships of the character, instead of like.. everything else going on in the game.

    None of this being an excuse – none of these developers seem to bloody try hard enough to do it right, and they definitely have a bloody lot of really absurd excuses for why they didn’t.

  50. says

    Oh, and.. maybe the clowns at word press could add an “edit button for comments, for the first 5 minutes”, like some places have? lol Realized I lost a few letters right in the first bloody sentence and didn’t notice. But then, what am I saying, they can’t even get stuff, according to PZ, to post right, so letting you edit/delete something yourself, withing a few minutes of posting.. would probably cause a black hole in the center of the server center, or something… ;)

  51. microraptor says

    Kagehi @55:

    That said.. I am left wondering what reaction a game based on, say, the Anita Blake novels would get, or others like them. Geek and Sundry way back had a series where a mostly female group reviewed books. One comment they had on Anita Black was, “Too slutty”. This was despite the fact that her behavior was a) well explained, b) something the character had limited understanding and control over (and not resolved in some simple jump of logic and discovery during one chapter, or even book), and c) was, eventually solvable… well, mostly, more or less.

    Anita Blake is an absolutely terrible protagonist. She’s literally murdered characters just because she didn’t feel like trying to arrest them- just walked up and shot them in the back of the head, no warning, in the middle of a public place. She also is an unrepentant rapist who forces men to have sex with her just because she needs sex “now” while they’re begging and trying to force her to stop. Don’t try to hold her up as any sort of feminist ideal.

  52. ck, the Irate Lump says

    Marcus Ranum wrote:

    I enjoy the “Hey Ash whatchoo playing” episode in which they talk about the body shapes and options in Saints Row IV.

    I believe that one was Saint’s Row the Third. It’s sad, but a game that has you steal a shipping container of women sold into sex slavery, and makes you decide between selling them back to the people you stole them from, or keeping them and forcing them into prostitution yourself was somehow one of the more progressive games of the time.

    Saint’s Row IV was significantly better in this regard, though. Just as absurd (and completely gave up all pretenses of being serious), but less explicitly sexist.

  53. says

    ‘But there’s proof [charging into battle naked] totally works…’

    Actually a thing. Google ‘General Butt Naked.’ A rather horrific story … but charging into battle naked to distract the opponent is a real thing that actually happened.

    That bit about the sex scene being a reward for ‘completing a quest or picking the right dialogue options’ kinda bugged me, though–especially in reference to Mass Effect, which I thought handled romance pretty well as a series (though it’s been a while and I never played 3). She seems fine with having something happen over the course of the story, so what’s the difference if the story is a ‘choose your own adventure’ where the choice is made via dialogue? I mean … how’s it supposed to work? To stick with Mass Effect, literally everything is accomplished via some combination of 1) shooting things, 2) quest completion, 3) minigames, and 4) dialogue options. Objecting to quest completion and dialogue options leaves … minigames and shooting things.

  54. emergence says

    About Quiet, does anyone know how much energy photosynthesis could provide to a human? Would having something like those sea slugs that steal chloroplasts from algae provide any sort of significant benefit to a large mammal?

  55. emergence says

    As an addendum, would it help absorb sunlight if the mammal had large flaps of flattened skin like a frilled lizard or dimetrodon to increase their surface area?

  56. microraptor says

    andrew @59: I think the issue with reward romance is where it’s just kinda thrown in as something extra that you get for choosing a couple of dialog options. In ME1, the romance options were just flirting a couple of times followed by an almost-kiss and a sex scene right before the big battle. It wasn’t much beyond “choose this option to see Liara’s naked blue ass.”

  57. says

    She’s literally murdered characters just because she didn’t feel like trying to arrest them- just walked up and shot them in the back of the head, no warning, in the middle of a public place. She also is an unrepentant rapist who forces men to have sex with her just because she needs sex “now” while they’re begging and trying to force her to stop

    Right…. Not sure where you got that I was trying to hold her up to some feminist ideal. That said… this is a serious mischaracterization of the character, or the context of events. She is as much about how the world and circumstances have changed her, as her regrets over those changes, and a desire, despite all of it, to not become an even worse monster. So.. Ok, maybe it was a bad example. There are a few others, with similar themes, and the similar issues, without the more questionable bits you are objecting to though. Jane Yellowrock, for example.

  58. microraptor says

    She is as much about how the world and circumstances have changed her, as her regrets over those changes, and a desire, despite all of it, to not become an even worse monster

    Yeah, she’s always very good at coming up with justifications for her actions that we, the reader, are supposed to agree with. But she’ll unhesitatingly kill anyone who does the same thing regardless of what their justifications are and we, the reader, are supposed to agree with that as well. And then she’ll run to her man-harem and whine about how evil blondes are and maybe cry a few tears onto their devoted, manly chests over how nobody will ever love her before having sex with seven or eight of them and taking a few cheap-shots at the character who was based on Hamilton’s ex-husband. The “greater good” argument held true in the older novels when the series was still marketed to teens, but since the turn of the millennium it’s been a lot more of just vampire sex and Mary Suedom with occasional interruptions by plot.

  59. microraptor says

    ThorGoLucky @64:

    I want the same scantily-clad options for my male characters.

    There are actually plenty of scantily-clad male characters in video games. The difference is that their lack of costume is more to emphasis how powerful they are. Like in Street Fighter: Zangief wears a lot less than Cammie but the camera doesn’t focus on his junk the way it focuses on Cammie’s butt.

  60. says

    The “greater good” argument held true in the older novels when the series was still marketed to teens

    When the heck was the series marketed to teens, never mind starting out about the “greater good”. I seem to remember her starting out as a white picket fence, “Wait, my boyfriend’s a werewolf, and this creep I will probably be paid to stake soon vamp is trying to get in my pants too. Ick!”, workaholic, who couldn’t keep here ability to raise the dead in check. Its later on that she manages to convince the legal system to stop killing vamps who where mind fucked into doing their master’s bidding (while the masters get by with it), working to set up a sort of collective of shifters, and a mess of other things. Many of the worst things have been done to, or through, her, not by her, and its inside a world that doesn’t play by our rules, at all. I would love a run down on what alternative choices would have even been possible in many cases, but… seriously. One of the biggest freaking problems with characters, and the same comes with role playing, is, “What would this character do, since they don’t bloody know a damn thing about what we know about the situation, and are just working with what they *do* know?”

    Not that, mind you, the character in question is a really good example of this. If I was going to pick one for that, it would be the protagonist from this series: https://www.amazon.com/Charlotte-Powers-1-Power-Down-ebook/dp/B004NIFW30

    The whole series is “specifically” written with the idea in mind of, “What are the consequences, if the hero of the story has to, like real people, rely solely on what they can, and do know, while the key things they need to know are scattered, in the hands of everyone else, and inaccessible to them?” Nearly all stories, and I mean **all** of them, metagame – i.e., they have the hero leap to a conclusion, make a discovery, perform an action, or decide on a choice, based on it being the “right” one, and “completely” justifiable. They just somehow “know” the right thing to do. They don’t have biases, human flaws, angst issues, or make decisions which turn out to be wrong, in retrospect, but seemed like the only choice, based on what they knew at the time, and their own inclinations.

    Heck, Anita bloody flat out refused, for like 3 books, to actually talk to, or pay attention to, anyone that could tell her what the incubus ability was, what it really did, or why she couldn’t control it. She just wanted to, somehow, bloody get rid of it, chain it up, lock it in the box, and go on like normal, just like she did when it was only the tendency for her necromancy to leak out that was a problem. But, turns out, it was like a wolf on a leash – the guy holding the leash a) is just going to piss it off, more and more, the longer they try to chain it, and b) failing to feed the guy holding the leash (i.e., not eating, or sleeping enough, like she always did), just made it easier for it to get loose. There wasn’t much “choice” there.

    Things like what she did with Nicky.. wait for a rescue? Maybe that would have worked, but maybe it would have killed the people connected to her. Her captors didn’t have a clue what the barrier they where using was really doing to her ability, or anyone connected to her. So.. did she know people where coming? When they would show up? How bad off those that where connected to her where, or how long they had? She didn’t, at the time, know she could have used the incubus to hit everyone there, or how to use it in a more subtle way. This isn’t, “These are not the droids you are looking for.”, its, “I am sure you really want to do what I want lover!” Or, it was, at that time.

    This is a humanly flawed character, who doesn’t pull just the right, or acceptable, or even always sensible, answers out of her ass, when ever there is a problem. And, she, on some level, fears herself, and what she might do, because of it.

    But, again.. I pulled her as an example without considering the implications, in context. And, as I said, there are other examples that are a bit better, where nudity is “incidental”, but not so easily dispensed with, for the character. Where they sometimes find themselves having to play parts, which they might not otherwise. And where its possible that the clothing choices, and other factors would be griped about anyway. I can easily see, again, using Yellowrock, or maybe Mercy Thompson, as examples, someone whining, “Why couldn’t they just stick a bush in the scene, so she shaped changed behind it? We didn’t really need to see her ass, right?” To which the reply would be – “There wasn’t a bush in that scene, and, in fact, it mentions her ass in the book, and she had the same snide reaction to the guy who stared too long at it. Why the heck wouldn’t it be the same in the game?”

    As I said.. its not always clear where the lines are, and yeah, sometimes it “is” a reasonable thing to go, “Wait.. its a fictional character, so.. yeah, that is sort of the point as to why we ‘can’ have them decide to do something like that, as apposed to arguing that being fictional its not them ‘deciding’ to do it.” But… if you can make 30 bloody hours of game play, you bloody well ought to be able to spend 5 minutes coming up with a reason vastly more sensible for their choices than the 30 second flash back, or 10 second of dialog, or what ever it is, that is actually bloody used to try to do so. Even more so when no attempt, at all, is made to explain things.

  61. John Morales says

    [OT]

    Re the Anita Blake novels:

    Anita Blake is an absolutely terrible protagonist.

    [discussion]

    As I said.. its not always clear where the lines are, and yeah, sometimes it “is” a reasonable thing to go, “Wait.. its a fictional character, so.. yeah, that is sort of the point as to why we ‘can’ have them decide to do something like that, as apposed to arguing that being fictional its not them ‘deciding’ to do it.”

    Category: Kick-ass Mary Sue went Porno.

    I actually read the first few of those books, but gave up quickly.

    In the very first, I was struck by how the narration (informed attribute) claimed she wasn’t fussed about clothes then immediately segued into a lengthy description of her consideration of said clothes and of their effect.

    (It got worse)

  62. microraptor says

    When the heck was the series marketed to teens,

    Most of the 90s. The first six or seven were typically on the Young Adult shelf in bookstores at the time.

    The whole series is “specifically” written with the idea in mind of, “What are the consequences, if the hero of the story has to, like real people, rely solely on what they can, and do know, while the key things they need to know are scattered, in the hands of everyone else, and inaccessible to them?” Nearly all stories, and I mean **all** of them, metagame – i.e., they have the hero leap to a conclusion, make a discovery, perform an action, or decide on a choice, based on it being the “right” one, and “completely” justifiable. They just somehow “know” the right thing to do. They don’t have biases, human flaws, angst issues, or make decisions which turn out to be wrong, in retrospect, but seemed like the only choice, based on what they knew at the time, and their own inclinations.

    And Anita doesn’t ever get called on her actions except by Richard, who by the time was just the contrarian who was treated by everyone else as being always wrong because his character was modeled after Laural K Hamilton’s ex-husband and she was feeling rather vindictive after their marriage ended. People only doubt or question her actions if they’re in the wrong and will quickly be punished for their views. And there literally were a couple of instances where she killed someone because, according to her own thoughts, she just didn’t want to bother taking the time and effort to deal with them non-lethally and everybody once again went on to tell her how justified she was.

  63. says

    Hmm. Ok. You do have a point there. Guess I tended to focus more on her abilities and the background, especially in later books, behind the vampires, and the rest of the supernaturals in the series, so not enough on aspects of her.

  64. microraptor says

    To be fair, that was the major focus of the earlier books. I think the previously mentioned Mercy Thompson would make a good choice for your original idea. Just as soon as the artist who does the cover art can be convinced to stop doing pinups (because that was seriously disturbing for the novel when she was busy dealing with the realistic consequences certain events in the previous novel. Trigger warning for anyone not familiar with it who looks it up).

  65. says

    Snort.. Admit, didn’t pay huge attention to the cover art, but then.. to be perfectly honest, I have seen so much cover art that is the visual equivalent of the lazy shit you sometimes see on TV listings, for what a show, or movie, is about, and which its bloody obvious that the author had little or no real say in choosing that.. You know what I mean, right, like Harry Potter – “A young boy finds himself going to a new school, where he meets a giant, and finds new friends!” Err… yeah, I suppose, sort of, did you people even bloody read the freaking IMDB entry, or like, look at the box, or watch more than five second of the movie? lol And, yeah, I have seen much, much, much worse versions of this – not to mention seeing cover art that is similar, in a few rare cases, where the story is only vaguely suggested, the characters on the cover are only in the most vague way related, and then often dressed, posed or even, for the love of Zod, grouped so that one of the good guys is with the bad guys, or vice versa.

    Yeah.. no idea who picks the art on these things sometimes, or, like I said, how much, if any, input the author really gets… And, since they sometimes change it from printing to printing besides… Yeah.. Its rarely worth bothering to pay “that” much attention to it, most of the time.

  66. Saganite, a haunter of demons says

    Well, it’s been ages since the video has been released, but I finally got around to watch it. As usual, she makes correct – but very basic – points. I never understood the outrage that Feminist Frequency caused, because most of what she says comes across as very obvious to me.
    One bit about the beginning of the clip, though: She points out how Perfect Dark’s ad highlights the character’s body, desirability etc. and she’s right on that. Except for one thing, I think: The line “What are you going to wear?” would seem to be in there to poke fun at the idea that women would be obsessed with how to dress, instead pointing towards her huge selection of different guns she could “wear” for the job. It’s basically saying that she’s not concerned with clothes like the stereotype would imply, but with what tools of war she needs for her job. So while the rest of that ad is somewhat iffy, I actually really liked that line.
    What miffs me is the inconsistency. I don’t mind skimpy outfits, but usually it’s full plate armor for the male characters and chain mail bikinis or armor with specific boob windows for the female characters. That’s inconsistent. If everybody was walking around like strippers, I’d be fine with that, but that’s very rare in games.
    The rest of the video I don’t really have much to argue with.

  67. microraptor says

    I never understood the outrage that Feminist Frequency caused, because most of what she says comes across as very obvious to me.

    Because she’s a girl, and how dare she have an opinion on video games, which are clearly the domain of penis-havers even if over 50% of the market is now women.